The Voice is All: A Manifesto (Of Sorts)

Hello Revuers. As I am sure you have seen already, there is a new kid on the block. That kid is me. I am that kid. By way of an introduction, I thought I should write a few brief thoughts on comics. What I think of them. What draws me to them (or not). What I look for in a great comic. My plan is that this post will set the tone a bit for my contribution to this site. Andrew (who was so kind as to ask me to write for DR) will continue all the great stuff he is doing – the week to week stuff, the interviews, the cons, etc. – while I will tend to gravitate toward the bigger picture, both literally and figuratively as I will be writing about comics, writ large, graphic novels (and trades), and about comic book films, which have turned what was once a throwaway entertainment to one of the most popular mediums in the world. This is my first post here, so thank you for reading this far. I’ll try not to lose you.

I would describe myself as a comics agnostic. I am not a zealot, and I do not think I am a heretic (though some may disagree). There is a ludicrous amount of comic books, and comic related films, produced each year. Some of them are good. Some even exceptional. Most of them are not very good. This is true of every artistic medium, especially in an age when we can create something and then release it to the world in mere seconds.

So here is what I love: Sandman, Calvin & Hobbes, Fables, Watchmen, Essex County, Blankets, The Long Halloween, Peanuts, Kingdom Come, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Persepolis, Marvel 1602, Hellboy, The Far Side, All-Star Superman, Tintin, Maus, The Dark Knight Returns, Bone, Garfield Minus Garfield.

I love Jacques Tardi. I love Sam Raimi’s Spider-man. I love Nolan’s Batman. I love del Toro’s Hellboy. I love Ang Lee’s Hulk. I love Donner’s Superman. I love Batman: The Animated Series. I love The Incredibles.

I love that Miles Morales is Spider-man. I love that Riri Williams is Iron Man. I love that Amadeus Cho is Hulk. I love that Jane Foster is Thor.

What unites these things, and what separates them from the many comics I have read and merely liked, or read and not liked at all, is the strength and singularity of their creators’ voices and their unwillingness to play by the usual rules of comics. They mess with tradition. They forge new territory. They take creative risks. Above all, they tell good stories. Comics as a storytelling vehicle works best when a strong, individual voice, meets a distinctive visual stylist. This is why Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther is so exciting and wonderful. It’s why things like a prominent essayist for The Atlantic writing a mainstream comic book should happen more often. Call it an auteurist theory of comics. Call it heresy. Call it whatever you like. I call it comics at their best.

Forget the canon. Forget what comics are “supposed” to be. Once we begin to reach uncharted waters, that’s when I start to get interested.

So that’s what I’m here to write about. And hey, if you know where to find more good stuff, I’m always looking for recommendations. I’ll be around.

 

-Ian

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