Not A Convert

Many of the people who have taken this class are (understandably) already comic book fans. Before this class, I had never read a comic strip/book in my life, so I tried to come into this class with an open mind.


Reading this blog, I have found a lot of defensiveness of the fans. To an extent, I understand why – if society was making insulting assumptions about something I loved, I’d be defensive too. I just can’t help but feel – even after reading and studying all these comics – that the offenders have a point.


The idea of comics is a good one, obviously proven by its popularity. However, I feel it is a bit silly to compare comics with either literature as art, since they can’t ever truly compare with either. The complexity of making one work of art (painting or writing) is hard enough on its own. Because comics need both, there needs to be a balance – the image-text relations need to complement each other, and if there is too much of one, then it is criticized. If a comic has too much text, it threatens to become a novel, and if there are not enough text, it becomes a series of images without enough story.


By doing this, both the writing and the drawing become simplified – you must “read” the pictures and “look” at the text all at once to get the desired effect. Since it is necessary for the art form of comics to simplify, I don’t think, even the most sophisticated comic book, could ever compare to a classic novel or painting. There just isn’t enough opportunity to expand the depth of either the writing or the drawing, because they need to be entertaining.


As with any newer media form, I believe comics is still trying to find its legs, and I do believe it’s possible for comics to come up with classic pieces (as we have studied, they are well on their way with comics such as Maus and Krazy Kat), but I think it is still in the making. Comics is something all its own – it isn’t prose, and it isn’t art in the classical sense either. To compare them, in my opinion, is setting up comics to fail.


–          Diana Harrison


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2 Responses to Not A Convert

  1. jes annan says:

    I think the problem with looking at comics in this way, is that we are always comparing to what came before.
    Why should we have a visual guideline and and literary guideline, instead of accepting each comic for what it is, the melding of both these aspects.
    I think until we stop trying to compare comics to other art forms, we will continue to miss chances to experiment without barriers.

  2. Steven Huynh says:

    You have a point. In many ways, comparing comics to high art is like comparing apples to oranges. It just isn’t an even comparison, and the more you try, the more you end up looking awkward while doing it.

    That being said, I disagree with the sentiment that comics can’t ever hope to reach the same artistic aspirations as classic literature and high art. While comics may never win in a direct comparison, I don’t think it needs to because comics in themselves present opportunities to convey ideas in ways that classic novels and paintings never can. Each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses that make it suited to conveying certain ideas and aesthetics better than others.

    For example, can there ever be any visual medium that can ever hope to convey Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury with the same kind force and devestation? Can any film or comic book ever do it justice? I say not, because the way it was written as a novel lends itself perfectly to the kind of story being told, and the kind of ideas presented. To turn it into a visual medium would be to deny the thing that makes it what it is.

    Would Alan Moore’s Watchman ever work as a novel? Would any text based medium ever be able convey the complexities in it’s characters and ideas, or the sheer horror of the closing chapters? Probobaly not because the artwork, the paneling, and the use of time and space all lend itself to what is being conveyed to the audience. Watchman works as well as it does because it is a comic.

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