In class we have approached the debate surrounding “What defines a comic?” by looking to the formal techniques for answers. Should comics have words and images, or only images? Can a comic be only words? In our last class we looked at cave paintings which put into question the idea that comics can take on many physical forms.
The Importance of Content
However, what we haven’t discussed in great detail yet is whether the content can determine a definition, or in other words, are there certain thematic elements that could be used to define comics?
When I was a kid and someone said the word comic to me I would instantly envision a superhero, which would range from batman to ninja turtles. In my mind comics would include a good guy vs bad guy, both cloaked in some cool costumes. As I got older and more knowledgeable about comics I realized that there are multiple fusions of genres and ultimately pointing to one would be impossible. The one thing I am certain of however is that comics are meant to be outlets used for the power of speech, often from the author’s point of view.
Are there controversial topics that do not fit into the concept of comics?
If defining comics based on a particular genre is not an option then its important to acknowledge topics that challenge people’s idea of “comicness”. The subject of Religion is a tricky one to approach because it is viewed in such extremes on a spectrum that ranges from belief, fantasy to propaganda.
To be considered a comic should there be boundaries regarding the type of content being expressed and could religion be one of those? I would like to look at the Stations of the Cross as an example of a relic that could be considered a comic due to its technical characteristics, however thematically it expresses not a story but a belief system.
The Stations of the Cross as a Case Study
The stations of the cross are a series of artistic representations that depict Jesus carrying the cross. The traditional images were displayed as 14 sculptures or pictures presented in a chronological order without words, and the more modern images are printed on cards with words and sold as sets.
In my mind there is certainty a good argument for why The Stations of the Cross could be considered a comic, due to its serialized depiction of actions. However what makes it less of a comic and more of an excerpt of the Bible is that the context of the scenario is one that requires a background in order to fully grasp the narrative. Considering that religion is taught not as a story but as a faith infused in our culture it is hard to understand the true significance of the images without believing what they represent. Also if the reader were to try and interpret the images as a fictional story or real life experiences of Jesus Christ they would be unable to separate them from its religious discourse. Ultimately the audience either views the images as a fragmented fictional story or one deeply rooted in the Catholic Faith. If a comic is meant to embody the author’s individual vision then how can we label the Stations of the Cross as doing the same thing when it is meant to express a spiritual movement rooted in our societal norms.