Blah Blah Blah Comics Aren’t Just Words Blah Blah


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Comics Journal has posted the audio from the “Comics Are Not Literature” panel at San Diego’s Comic-Con, which features Dan in discussion with Douglas Wolk, Sara Ryan, Cecil Castellucci, Paul Tobin and Austin Grossman.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding and talking at cross purposes, and large chunks of the panel are excruciatingly dull, but I always find it amusing how consternated people get when Dan says even the simplest, most self-evident things about comics. It gets more productive (if that’s the word) as it goes along.

Apparently, this will be up until October.

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9 Responses to “Blah Blah Blah Comics Aren’t Just Words Blah Blah”
  1. BVS says:

    i had a hard time telling who was who when they were talking. it did seem kind of lame that on a panel about how comics are allot more than just words they couln’t include mabey just 1 person who draws, or is predominately working in the visual side of comics. dan deffinately sayd some stuff that needs to be said to the litterary/library card crowd

  2. dan says:

    I was a little grumpy that day. But! I do think the basic idea of the panel, that comics is not literature in the same way film is not literature (i.e. a different art form) and thus needs its own critical vocabulary just as film and literature each has its own, is important. This is the most important part of Douglas Wolk’s book. I don’t agree with most of his argument from there, but it’s good that it’s being said so publicly. The biggest problem with comics criticism right now is a simple ignorance of visual culture, as that panel proved. Everyone forgets the art, which is the only explanation for how Douglas can take most Grant Morrison comics seriously.

  3. BVS says:

    agreed. especially the part about Joss Whedon comics, that was a point needed to be made. I think that criticism can extend to any comic book drawn in the mainstream comic book style, it’s how to draw comics the domino’s pizza way, it comes in 2 flavors bland (everything mainstream) and extra bland (vertigo and oni style)
    no thought is even given to why should all the comics dc and marvel publish all look this way, it’s just taken for granted.
    it’s not even that the fans love it and it generates sales, if anything it’s a familiar comforting style and it makes people anxious if it changes in any way. why bother paying attention to the art work, it’s more of a font at this point.
    what’s exciting about seeing the justice leauge drawn by 10 different artists drawn exactly the same way.

  4. Brian says:

    Was that an “ugh” of disgust I heard upon hearing mention of Black Hole as a ‘gateway’ comic? That threw me for a loop.

  5. DerikB says:

    Listened to this yesterday, the make-up of the panel was a little… strange. Not a single artist?

    I have to say Dan’s comments were the most interesting, though I think a lot of confusion comes from people’s differing definitions of the word “read”: from “reading words/text” to a more semiotics (a la Barthes ‘ Mythologies) type of “reading”/decoding.

    It’s also amusing to hear people talk about comics as “literature” when even people who talk about novels as “literature” can’t really settle on what literariness actually is.

  6. dan says:

    Well, I think, as Douglas pointed out, “literary” is what people say when they mean “sophisticated”. It’s an odd slip.

    And I think the “ugh” at Black Hole was a jokey “ugh”. I love Black Hole, but it’s kinda like taking 3 tabs of acid as your first drug experience. Intense.

  7. dan says:

    And, bvs is right. The art is more like a font or something. With rare exceptions these days there’s simply no vision behind it and worse yet, it’s incredibly inarticulate — makes the words do all the work.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This panel’s make-up was sort of like one of those panels where they stick a bunch of odd “guests of honor” to get a second panel on them, and then give them some weird, broad topic like “the future of comics” or “making a graphic novel”.

    Except I don’t think there were more than 1-2 guests here.

    I would have made a point of seeing this panel if I had known Dan was on it, because he was exuding some serious grumpiness by about Thursday noon that weekend and might have been entertaining.

    And can that panel be the last time anyone has a gateway comic discussion, please? It’s such an odd, self-loathing idea.

  9. Jeffrey says:

    Haven’t listened to the podcast yet, so maybe this is covered, but:

    The one thing I never hear discussed is how comics have *written* words on the page, just like books (except, of course, most comics is hand-lettering while most books are typset) and so in this regard they are much closer to literature than to film or theater. The words are meant to be *read*, not *heard*.

    This affects what you can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) say, as complex words and ideas that are understandable (even if only upon re-reading) in written form may never work in spoken or heard form.

    In film, for example, I think the *tone* of voice and sound of the words is just as important as *what* is being said…

    Maybe this is obvious, but hey.

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