We’ve had a few discussions in class over the past few weeks over whether or not art is the most valuable part of a comic. Some said that they would never read a comic with bad art, while others argued that they’re satisfied as long as the story is interesting. “Bad” art, here, is obviously not only subjective but also a word that depends on context. “Bad” art doesn’t necessarily mean “technically inept” – Gary Panter’s art may, for example, be ‘technically’ bad, but his grungy, sketchy also serves his stories effectively. “Bad art” can just as easily be ‘technically good’ art – though it may be capably drawn and well-proportioned, it could not work well with the story/genre or it may just be lifeless.
I’ve been reading some new stuff lately, Brian Wood (writer) and Ming Doyle’s (artist) new miniseries Mara in particular. Let me tell you: though I’m now pretty involved in the story, I had to slog through the first issue.
Luckily it improves in later issues, but the art in issue 1 of Mara is absolutely lifeless. Just LOOK at that page – this is a pivotal scene but it’s marred by static movement, static colour, and Mara’s dead eyes. To better illustrate how static this page is, I performed the same exercise we did in class, identifying the dominant shapes in each panel. Doing so, it was easy to quickly see the pattern that emerged.
And, well… that’s a lot of rectangles. Now, it’s completely possible that some of you will look at this page and go, wow! Look at that great, interesting artwork! Greg McElhatton over at Comic Book Resources raved about Ming Doyle’s art in issue 1, stating that, “This is the first full-length comic I’ve seen Doyle illustrate, and hopefully it won’t be the last. Her art continues to impress me; it’s energetic and has a flow from one panel to the next that feels effortless.” To each his own!
Would it be reasonable to say this is a case of “bad art”? To be fair, Ming Doyle’s art isn’t technically bad. Though her art style is certainly different from the sleek superhero art that’s usually expected from these kinds of stories, she can still obviously draw. But unfortunately, her stiff figures, boring panel progression and Jordie Bellaire’s dull colours combine for a generally terrible page, in my opinion. Does that make it “bad art”? Is “bad art” just “bad”, or can “bad art” be boring art? How about uninspiring art?
I almost didn’t even finish the first issue, I was so unenthused with the lifelessness of Mara‘s illustrations (the rest of the issue, well… imagine panels that look like these, broken up by paragraph upon paragraph of narrated exposition. Capital-d Dull.) Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m glad I ended up picking up the second issue, as well as the third. Mara’s story has hooked me at this point. However, I know very well that don’t continue to read this series because of the art. Instead, I’m reading it in spite of the art (and, relating to last class’ discussion of Neil Gaiman, because of the brand that is Brian Wood).
So I want to throw this out there for you guys:
1) What do you think of this page from Mara #1? Am I way off base?
2) Have you read anything only because of the art? Have you read anything just for the story, in spite of the art? And, if both cases are true for you, how did those reading experiences differ for you?
– Alex McKay