For a reader, even one devoted to comics as a form, to admit that the best book of the season is a collection of comic strips is to admit that there is something missing on the bookshop shelves.New York Press
has some interesting things to say about comics, fiction, and the boundary between them, paying particular attention to long-time Backwards City favorite
Chris Ware and absolutely the book of some arbitrary length of time
, The Acme Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Rainy Day Saturday Afternoon Fun Book
Click the [+/-] to reveal one particular passage I thought was very on the money.
Ware does not share this mania. Perhaps his best recurring joke is in the strip “Tales of Tomorrow,” in which an old man, recognizable from any coffee shop or bus station, is seen wearing an absurd futuristic outfit and attempting to take advantage of technology’s promise that it can replace human intimacy. In one such strip, he looks out from his window in one of the linked skyscrapers of tomorrow, linked by roads hundreds of feet over the sidewalks, sees a brick wall and slumps his shoulders. He sits beneath a giant bladder that puffs air as part of the process that allows him to call in to an audio message mailbox system; he is sad as he realizes there are no messages for him. He listens to an old record on a gramophone; he falls asleep in his chair as night falls. Later, he hurriedly races to the phone under the bladder and calls again; there is still no message. The bright colors out of a Sunday comics supplement, the rigidity of the panels and the note-perfect retro design of the strip’s title are all sleight-of-hand; the joke works because beneath the charmingly old-fashioned world of the future is an imaginary past where old men were deceived by the promises of Victrolas and rotary telephones and Louis Sullivan buildings, all of which form the visual points of reference.
Any fashionable novelist seeking to express a similar idea would doubtless have used as analogous points of reference a sleek glass skyscraper and an iPod plugged into an expensive computer. The music and the computer and the city would have been specific, so as to situate the character socially. In focusing the picture too tightly on the particulars, though, most novelists would have lost the iconographic comedy and missed both the absurdity and the despair that Ware creates. [+/-]
Aside from (mostly) praise for one of my writers and artists, there's some intriguing thoughts about the relative capacities and limitations of both genres. Click this [+/-] to reveal another longish blockquote.
Ware’s ideas and techniques are attuned to the anxieties we all feel, and that’s enough to mark him as worthy of special regard, but most important, and basic, of all is that he works with the primary building blocks of fiction—characters particular enough to be universal, and logical action. Quimby Mouse calling a girl he had a crush on in third grade after having a dream about her; Rusty Brown, whom we come to know as a grotesquely imposing and seemingly insensate man, seen as a child curled up on a bed clutching a teddy bear and sobbing about how much he hates his best friend, or falling to the ground as bullies pelt him with snowballs; these work not because of the schematism of the page layout, or the color choices, or because of the references made to classic cartoon icons, but for the same reasons that any effective fiction is moving.
Fiction and graphic fiction shouldn’t be in competition, as there are things that only Ware can give us and others that he can never give us, that only the novelist could offer. The danger is that comics, with their new and hard-won prestige, will begin to force novelistic ideas into panels and word bubbles too cramped for such usage—and that novels, already anxious about their worth, will try to transport the comic’s rendering onto pages that ought to have inward, not outward depth. We’ll never see the effusive, dithering pronouncements of the mind given the depth in a comic that they can be afforded in a book, which is good—to attempt it would ruin the comic. Some ideas and emotions can only be told in stories through indirectness and aside, ruminations and the illusion of time unique to the printed page. The novel is still the only way to assay everything too vast and equivocal to be reduced to pure symbol and formulation. It ought to be groping with those mysteries that can’t be handled elsewhere. [+/-]
Check out the whole darn thing. (via Boing Boing