Can Art Be Comics?

No, I’m not asking whether comics can be art — that’s a tired question that I think has been decisively answered in the affirmative. But if we look at Scott McCloud’s basic definition of comics, “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.” Does that include, for example, gallery exhibitions?

After all, what is an art gallery but a collection of juxtaposed pictorial images? Perhaps not all are in deliberate sequence, but at least some consideration is paid to how the pieces are arranged. And of course that’s to say nothing of paintings or other visual arts meant to be displayed in a sequence, such as the sequence of images in The Scrovegni Chapel and Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (to name the first two examples that spring to mind).

McCloud would seem to include art in his definition. He mentions hieroglyphs and Max Ernst’s “A Week of Kindness” in Understanding Comics. But overall fine art doesn’t get much attention. McCloud seems to imply throughout that comics is about storytelling, but his definition doesn’t include narrative, and surely there are examples of non-narrative comics.

Other definitions, such as David Kunzle’s would seem to exclude art (as well as hyroglyphs) like by definition. According to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Kunzle’s prerequisites for a comic strip include the following: “The medium in which the strip appears and for which it is originally intended must be reproductive in nature; that is, in printed form, a mass medium.”

That definition would toss gallery art right out then, since even though it may be reproduced on posters or in coffee table books, those aren’t the media for which it was originally intended.

But defining a medium by the intent of its creators is slippery, especially in an age in which artists may expect their work to be printed in some form. And what to do about the existence of art exhibitions that are deliberately created to be comics, such as Daniel Duford‘s Sleeping Giant (pictured below)?

daniel duford sleeping giant

It’s not a terribly important question — I’m not interested in seeking “legitimacy” from the arts establishment anyway. But I think it’s an interesting one.

Interview With Study Group Comics’ Zack Soto

The Comics Reporter interview with Study Group Comics publisher / Secret Voice creator Zack Soto:

About 10 years ago, I was sort of helping Tom Hart with the brainstorming part of setting up his old Serializer site, which was part of this webcomics ring called Modern Tales. I think I was sort of supposed to be his assistant? I didn’t do much aside from a couple of site graphics, though. That was interesting to be on the periphery of something like the early days of MT, but it seems like a million years ago, which it sort of is in Internet time. For a long while, I really sort of ignored webcomics, other than reading the occasional Achewood or what have you. It wasn’t until the one-two punch of Dash Shaw’s Body World webcomic and Jordan Crane’s What Things Do site that I sort of “got it,” or more precisely, that the content of webcomics sort of hit my particular interest zone. Both of those efforts really seemed to get at what the medium could be in a way that spoke to me.

The Comics Reporter: CR Sunday Interview: Zack Soto

Also, The Comics Journal ran a piece on how the print version of The Secret Voice was reformatted for the web that includes a short interview. Here’s a sample comparison:

Print version of The Secret Voice "bucket scene"

Web version of The Secret Voice "bucket scene"

XKCD Creator Randall Munroe On Making Physics Fun

XKCD creator Randall Munroe on his work, including his new What If? series.

First things first: Why did you create What If?

It actually started with a class. MIT has a weekend program where volunteers can teach classes to groups of high school students on any subject you want. I had a friend who was doing it, and it sounded really cool — so I signed up to teach a class about energy, which I always thought was interesting, but which is a slippery idea to define. I was really getting into the nuts and bolts of what energy is, and it was a lot of fun — but when I started to get into the normal lecture part of the class, it felt kind of dry, and I could tell the kids weren’t super into it. And then we got to a part where I brought up an example — I think it was Yoda in Star Wars. And they got really excited about that. And then they started throwing out more questions about different movies — like, “When the Eye of Sauron exploded at the end of The Lord of the Rings, and knocked people over from this far away, can we tell how big a blast that was?” They got really excited about that — and I had a lot more fun doing it than I did just teaching the regular material.

So I spent the second half of the class just solving problems like that in front of them. And then I was like, “That was really fun. I want to keep doing it.”

Full Story: The Atlantic: A Conversation With Randall Munroe, the Creator of XKCD

Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla

The Oatmeal, Tesla

Nikola Tesla would have been 156 today. You should celebrate by reading The Oatmeal’s comic on why Tesla was the greatest geek ever and his response to Forbes’ criticisms of that comic.

(Yes, I’m using the term “comic” very loosely here, it’s mostly text)

Online Comics Cannibalizing Print Sales? One Creator Says “Nope”

A few months ago I linked to Brian Wood’s post on how comic creators were caught in the cross-fire between publishers and comic shops over digital publishing sales.

But here’s some more evidence of what Warren Ellis already found out with Freak Angels. Jim Zubkavich, creator of Skullkickers from Image Comics, started serializing his comic online for free. The results:

Good news: Serializing the issues hasn’t negatively affected our sales one bit. Our trade sales through comic and book stores are up, steadily climbing. Making more people aware of the series has made them want the current material more, not less. Quality and good word of mouth is helping build our readership in shops bit by bit.

Better news: At conventions I’m selling a lot more. I’m not twice the sales person I was last year, but I’m selling more than double the number of books since we started serializing online. 9 times out of 10, I’m selling it to people who read the series online. I asked almost every person who came to my table if they’d heard of Skullkickers before. No word of a lie, when they said “yes”, 90% of those folks also said they were reading it online. It shocked me.

Jim Zubkavich: Everybody Wins

(via Comics Worth Reading)

This doesn’t mean, though, that paid digital downloads through tablets wouldn’t cannibalize comic shop sales, but this is indeed good news for creators, publishers and retailers.

Zen Pencils

Gavin Aung Than illustrates quotes from historical figures as comics. For example, here’s Hunter S. Thompson’s “Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride”:

The most popular are:

  • 12. CARL SAGAN: Make the most of this life
  • 17. FRANK HERBERT: Litany against fear
  • 40. CALVIN COOLIDGE: Never give up
  • 33. EDGAR MITCHELL: A global consciousness
  • 13: The DALAI LAMA answers a question
  • 36. BRUCE LEE: There are no limits
  • 41. AYN RAND: The question
  • But don’t forget the Bill Hicks one.

    It may seem that these skew towards touchy feel good inspiration and affirmation, but there are some darker ones, like George Carlin on assassination.

    I love how certain characters recur in the strips.

    Some of the navigation is confusing, but you can head straight to the archives to find all the strips.

    (via Metafilter)

    Beautiful Old Moebius-esque Nintendo Comic

    “Howard and Nester” was a comic in the magazine Nintendo Power. I read it as a kid but I’d forgotten how gorgeous the Moebius-style/”frenchmanga” style art was:

    Howard and Nester

    Nintendope has archived the entire series, but it’s not clear who drew these strips.

    Howard and Nester Comics Archive

    (via Brandon Graham)

    6 Essential Moebius Books

    Joe “Jog” McCulloch rounds up the top six most essential Moebius books that you actually stand a chance of finding in the U.S. His picks are:

    1. The Airtight Garage
    2. The Incal [with Alejandro Jodorowsky]
    3. Arzach
    4. The Gardens of Aedena
    5. The Long Tomorrow
    6. Mississippi River

    Six essential Moebius books

    What are your favorites?

    Video: Alan Moore Reads from His Forthcoming Book Jerusalem

    Also, there’s a long new interview out with Alan Moore by Kurt Amacker.

    (via Leah Moore)

    For much more on Moore, check out our Alan Moore Dossier

    New Electric Sheep Comic: First Word

    First Word

    Patrick Farley’s Electric Sheep is back with a new comic First Word, a psychedelic meditation on the origin of language.

    WARNING: NSFW and contains strobing imagery.

    Here’s a favorite old one: The Guy I Almost Was.

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