Thursday, April 23, 2015

Guest Post - Stone the Heretic!

Doug: Cartoonist extraordinaire pfgavigan is back with us yet again with thoughts...


Martinex1 said...

pfgavigan you continue to impress. Bravo. Both the art and topic are spot on. Perhaps it should have been called Ice the Heretic in honor of the Chicago suburban creators of the wonderful treat and the Blackhawks!

I agree with you and perhaps comics benefit from being a fringe art form. Perhaps as you suggest the desire to use the medium and push its boundaries encourages " better" art. And perhaps that can only be achieved if the form has an underdog status.

Comic creation is difficult because of its hybridization of the arts ...literature and art. Comics are also time consuming to create. And comics unless truly from a multi talented auteur usually require a team. That labor and talent requirement complicated by commercial deadlines and printing techniques is under appreciated. For some reason it is not considered "art" or "adult" by the mainstream. I don't believe it is necessarily the fanciful storylines of the comics, or in other forms Harry Potter, The Hobbitt, Narnia, and Rembrandt's or Dali's work would not be appreciated. Somehow, in my opinion, comics have been branded as easy, simple, childish, non complex, buffoonish, and lazy. There was a time when newspaper strips were considered insightful, but somewhere along in history it all got labeled as kiddie fare. I see that changing now but it may take a generation to re appreciate, but the challenge is that readiness of technology and instant gratification work against the creative timeline for comics.

Again I have to say seeing your work appear is very enjoyable. And I look forward to the Alan Moore rant. Kudos.

Rip Jagger said...

Nicely done sir.

Your point is certainly valid. Comics as a medium as taken itself too seriously since the fanboys took hold of the reins in the late 60's and elevated their nostalgic adoration to cultural significance.

By that time, the original creators, the guys who cobbled together the comic book grammar from the husk of the pulps were reaching retirement. To them it was a job of work, a way to get food on the table. It was art, but not really. To the next wave it was all that and more.

Now Hollywood has come knocking at long last and again thrill rides are confused with complex narratives and iconography is substituted for characterization.

I love it. But then I would, since I liked the source material. The movies are now in my estimation superior to the comics that gave birth to them. The universes of DC and Marvel have become sprawling swamps of overripe imagination spewed over decades of steady creation, but the movies still have the luster of coherence.

As to your other points -- I am also confused by the seeming universal disdain for the Star Wars prequel movies. Nostalgia is glowing quite warmly for the fan base I suspect. Shake it off - those are decent flicks with flaws for sure.

Rip Off

Redartz said...

Another fine job, pfgavigan! You brought a big grin to my face to start the day; thank you!

You make some very good points and observations. The concept that comics as a medium do better when not taking themselves so seriously has some validity. Of course, to some degree, this is a phenomenon particular to the USA. Consider the recognition of manga in Japan, or the effects of comic art and editorialism in France recently. It seems the relatively recent successes in film and tv (Walking Dead, Flash) have really brought the comics medium to the forefront of popular attention. And yes, the corporate influences upon Marvel and DC have made their print outputs much more conservative, at least in regards to new character creation. Yet the smaller, Indie companies seem to have picked up the ball and run away with it!

And Martinex, you also have a good point in that the comics are a team effort. Unlike other artistic endeavors, comics require at least a very widely skilled array of persons who can write, draw, prepare text, print and distribute. The great thing today is the widespread availability of comics art and story, whether by print, digital, reprinted editions, or by a couple guys working out of their basement. There really is a huge variety available out there, if you look beyond the big two. The medium seems healthy; at least for now. Of course, eventually the public's taste for comic films may wane. What happens then? When the respect and attention fade, there will still be those trying to tell a good story...

Doug said...

I don't want to say that we have an in-crowd and an out-crowd around here, but I will say that I enjoyed pfg's sense of community in some of the humor displayed in today's strip. This is a good place to be.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't the term "graphic novel" invented just to give comics some gravitas ? I regularly listen to two arts shows on BBC radio and they've both featured graphic novels on the show - in fact a recent graphic novel was up for an award amongst proper books as I recall. I stopped reading my beloved Marvel comics in 1983, when I was 17, not because I wanted to but because I thought I "should" - but I eventually returned to comics in 2007 and though I only read a fraction of what I did in my youth I've got no intention of ever giving up comics again, I'm with them to the end now. And a comic-book can tell a story in a way a movie never can - for proof compare the magnificent Dark Phoenix saga in X-Men 132-137 to the crappy film version in "X-Men: The last Stand". And a comic doesn't have to worry about the CGI looking really dated in 10 years time :)

Edo Bosnar said...

Good shot, HB! That'll teach that heresy-spoutin' PFG to go spoutin' off his heresies!
And Karen, you should really watch your language - and you shouldn't encourage her, Doug. So much for this being a family-friendly blog...

(Seriously, though. Another bang-up job, PFG. I don't really have any bones to pick with your main point. In fact, I actually find your last two little quips more contentious. But that, as they say, is grist for another conversation.)

J.A. Morris said...

I can think of some obvious non-nostalgia based reasons why the prequels are disdained.

1.Jar-Jar Binks. It's not just that his speech patterns border on an ugly stereotype. It's that he and gungans in general are just not very interesting visually.

2.Hayden Christensen is not a good actor.

3.Jake Lloyd is not a good actor (even by child actor standards).

4.The Padme/Anakin romance is as compelling as watching paint dry.

5.It's a bit difficult to root for the "hero" of the prequels, knowing he will grow up to be a mass-murdering asshole.

6.I remember walking out of the theater after Phantom Menace, a friend said "there was no Han Solo-type character." What she meant was that no one was relateable and all the characters talked in stilted Lucas dialogue.

7.Nute Gunray is an ugly stereotype.

8.Anankin's "immaculate conception" is stupid.

9.Miti-chlorians are a silly addition to the Force that ad nothing.
I could go on, but I'm already highjacking this thread as it is.

Having said that, I don't hate them, every prequel had something, at least one "set-piece" that made it worth watching. The pod race, the duel with Maul, the Harryhausen tribute gladiatorial scene, Obi-Wan's detective subplot, Yoda & Palpatine's sabre duel. And each prequel was a little better than its predecessor You could edit the good parts of the 3 prequels into an excellent 2.5 hour movie.

Martinex1 said...

J.A. I think you underestimate Jar Jar. He is obviously the true puppet master of the whole dark side movement. He is the Keyser Soze of the whole series.

Other than that I agree with you completely.

Please don't throw a Flavor Ice at me, because that is the type of twist I need in Star Wars (either that or Chewbacca unzips his fuzzy fur suit and reveals he is really Han's sister Hanna, and admits that Obi Wan is THEIR father).

Edo Bosnar said...

Well, J.A. opened one of the cans of worms to which I alluded, so I have to say I also agree with his point-by-point rundown. I would probably add the horrible misuse of really good actors, like Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson, by casting them as mostly uninteresting characters with poorly-written dialogue. And I still think he was being a bit too charitable summation of the good things - although I'll acknowledge that I liked the Yoda saber duels, as well as Obi-wan taking on Grievous. In fact, the only parts of those movies I sort of like are the cartoonish action sequences like those, which doesn't speak well for them.
By the way, J.A., since you mentioned that the prequels would be better if edited down to a single 2.5 hour movie, apparently it's been done: the actor Topher Grace apparently edited all three down into a single 80 minute feature. It can't be released, obviously, but he's screened it privately for friends and acquaintances, all of whom reportedly say it's rather good.

Humanbelly said...

Blast, Blast, BLAST--
Can't believe I mistakenly dropped a Green into the launch chamber-! Totally meant to send one of those lousy Purple Grapes (give 'im what he wants, sez I-!). What a flippin' waste of a beautiful FreezePop. . .

You've totally given us a perfect TEDTalk here, pfg! It's an aces example of how a potentially dry topic can be wonderfully enlivened by attaching even a simple visual narrative with a, uhm, friendly face. (Well-- a face, at any rate. . . ) Ha-- am I correct that the very discussion that your premise is likely to generate will serve as an example of how too-seriously we might be taking the comic book medium? That, if we didn't take it that seriously, we wouldn't bother to engage in discussion/debate about it? Mind you, I don't necessarily disagree-- but I don't think that it's something inherent to the art form of comics alone. Pretty much every branch of the performing arts is HUGELY susceptible to this sort of focused elevation on the part of the creators of the work's importance and relevance and inherent value and worth. But y'know-- I think that's what it takes. That belief in the work's importance-- true or not-- is the foundation of the integrity of all honest artistic endeavors. Keeping it in perspective, however, and keeping a tight rein on the seductive impulses of ego-ism-- ah, THAT'S where the balance and the juggling come into play.

As has been pointed out, comics are very much a gestalt art-form-- which is rather an anomaly in the literary world. BUT-- they are very much aligned with the likes of film or theater-- where it takes a solid bunch of creative specialists to realize and produce one final, single work (or product)-- a movie, a television show, a musical, a play. . . or a comic or graphic novel. And as such, they share some of the same challenges and pitfalls. (But that's a different discussion-)

Gosh, your whole piece here has about a zillion points worth yakking away about-! Ah-- but the scene shop calls--- got a proscenium cover what needs primin' . . . (the mental challenges of my job are simply unending. . . ).

HB (ugh. . . Hulk hates stupid Purple pops for lunch. . . )

Anonymous said...

Pfgavigan, that was fantastic! Funny, too, which is even harder than "good."

I both agree and disagree with you. If you're talking super-hero comics, then you're pretty much right. Maybe more people read them than they did pre-movies, but they're still seen as For Nerds. There is one obvious exception, Watchmen, but it is seen as an anomaly. Even after it's release, there hasn't been a comparable super-hero comic despite some imitators.

Anyway, super-hero comics don't need to be taken seriously. At heart, they're disposable entertainment. We readers give them value if we choose.

The medium as a whole, however, should be taken seriously. As pointed out by many posters, a lot of talented people produced a lot of great work. Jack Kirby alone deserves his own museum. And how much of our current entertainment has it's roots in the structure of super-hero comics? Look at how serialized tv shows have become!

Then there are non-super-hero (and other "trashy" genre e.g. horror, sci-fi, crime) comics. Maus, From Hell, Ghost World, Fun Home, Love & Rockets, etc. I believe there's significant literary value in some of the artier comics out there and that they could and should be sought out, read, and discussed by non-fans.

Right now, we're experiencing a middlebrow Rennaisance. Image is pumping out decent genre comics by the ton. Bone is a hit with school kids. We went through a manga craze a few years ago, and the echos still linger. If comics become more widespread, I believe it will be through comics like those.

Great topic, thanks for the food for thought!

- Mike Loughlin

J.A. Morris said...

Forgot to say earlier, another great comic strip, pfgavigan, and I agree with you about Moore.

Garett said...

Another interesting, funny, and well drawn strip pfgavigan! I think comics need some scrappiness, just like rock music needs a roughness to have vitality. When things get too smoothed and polished and known, they get boring as well. Perhaps the monthly schedule of comics generate that scrappiness, while the big budget movies are less likely to have it. I like how you turn the tables on people and ask them to name 5 artists--it's true that time adds respectability. Look at the Impressionists, or Picasso, etc. who started as rebels or underdogs.

I also like your positivity about the medium of comics and the kid out there now who will create great comics in the future. People are always saying that it's the end of comics/art/music/movies, when in fact it's just the end of one era and the beginning of another. The Renaissance moves into the Baroque-- yeah there'll never be another Michelangelo, but instead you get Rembrandt. Then there'll never be another Rembrandt but you get Monet! And so on...same thing with comics and music. If you step back and see it in the long term, the medium revitalizes itself with new creators, taking new chances.

Looking forward to your Alan Moore strip. I'm rereading Watchmen now, and finding it very well written, if somewhat downbeat. I've tried reading later Moore comics though, and couldn't get into them.

Anonymous said...

Great job, pfgavigan! At the risk of sounding like a snob, I agree that art can suffer in quality if it gets too "mainstream"; maybe trying to please a wider audience waters down the content, taking away whatever made it compelling in the first place.

It's hard enough to satisfy a majority of fans when you're in a niche market, but it's pretty much impossible in a mainstream market, unless you reduce the work to its most basic elements...losing the flavour along the way.

Mike Wilson

The Prowler said...

I'll start with an echo and then ramble around in no particular order until I finally run out of steam........

I LOVED THE STRIP!!!! It was not only insightful but I could almost picture early man huddled around a fire as different tribe members came up with stories to the pictures painted on the cave walls. You could tell the Byrne ones.......there was NO BACKGROUND!!!

I agree the Kirby museum would have many of his great works of art, but would any of his stories make it? What would be the top 5 Kirby stories? And I mean, written and drawn by?

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, Yamaha had a sequencer that could do oh so many things. One of the features was the ability to play in a melody and the machine would do the rest. You would pick a style of music, the number of musicians and the instruments they played, press a button and viola, instant completed song. There was even a feature that would "make mistakes" when you were performing live to give it that "live" feel. Why, I don't know? Why bring this up? To pick up on the thread of the interplay of creative people. When the writer, artist, editor colorist and inker, word typey guy come together, they all add something. Start reducing the number of people involved and, I believe, creativity dies. (What the heck is the word typey guy called?)

And now for something completely different..... I think it depends on the comic. There are "superhero" comics that are just product. They serve to tell the story of the hero and get you to buy more. Then someone make take the same medium and use it to tell the story of how their family survived the Spanish Civil War. And the caveat: If done well, then any form of the art becomes elevated.

What does it all mean?

(Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were Voodoo
The kids was just crass,
He was the naz
With God given ass
He took it all too far
But boy could he play guitar).

pfgavigan said...


I just wanted to take this opportunity to respond to your commentary:


Yup, this is a fringe art form alright. Not a bad position to be, especially since it's a commercial art form that has to resell itself every month. And you're quite right about the newspaper comic strips starting off insightful then losing steam during the Fifties, around the same time as the Great Comic Book Purge. The decade started with Mickey Mouse as a world trotting adventure and finished with him in Suburbia!

Rip Jagger

Yeah, the main-streamers are knocking on our door now. All those Westerns, Spy Dramas and Loose Canon Cop movies where the protagonists seemed to possess superpowers without the necessity of going through an Origin Montage are giving way to spandex.


Manga is something that I got into to such an extent that I wanted to get into what was behind it. The cultural conceptions that form the basis for the stories that made their way across the Pacific.

For me, that was a chilling experience, at least towards the mainstream product. A lot of their 'fringe' comics have a rebel element that rivals the best of our own.

Disney and Warner certainly will continue to produce comics, whether these are gentrified into plain vanilla yogurt remains to be seen. But if the Big Two keep the marketplace open a lot can happen.


This is a fun place to hang out, isn't it. And I hope everyone here will thank Karen for being such a good sport.

Colin Jones

Graphic Novel might have been coined for the specific reason you gave. Part of the 'rant' was about the creation of terminology to divorce comics from their origins but that had to go due to restraints of space. I was told it was also used to get said books into the big chains like Walden, Borders, and Barnes and Nobles. And I can't begin to describe the cold shudder that went down my spine when I reviewed that last sentence.

"cut due to length, continued next post"

pfgavigan said...

Edo Bosnar

How would have felt about this one: “And Rob Liefeld is not the Anti-Christ”?

J. A. Morris and Martinex1

Would you believe that I read something that retcon Jar Jar without any significant changes to the rest of the film and made him and his actions completely understandable. For my next post, should Karen and Doug allow me to darken these premises, would be an adaptation of a very small part of this work.


Nice pick up on your cues, should have known you have a theatrical background.

Yeah, the curse of relevance. Something can't just be enjoyable anymore, we have to be relevant for our times. I don't mind it from people involved with comics that much, but when someone who doesn't read them starts shooting off their mouths I get a little testy.

Someday we'll have to chat about painting sets. I wouldn't have minded so much when in college, but if you happen to demonstrate the ability to sight paint what the designer wanted you almost have to change majors to get away from it.

Mike Loughlin

I really don't have with taking comics seriously and I agree that we, those who appreciate and value the form, should honor those whose works gave us so much pleasure. My concern is that we lay ourselves open for ridicule when some of us advocate for mainstream acceptance and regard. I honestly believe that they will never give it, and am equally convinced that we don't need it. We are ourselves!


I wish you could have been there when one of my art teachers answered with “Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. The way his eyes bulged out when I stated that Michelangelo was the first of the great comic book artists based on his exaggerated anatomy and the fact that the ceiling frescoes was one of the first examples of sequential art was priceless.

Unfortunately, my grade suffered.

Mike Wilson

Yup, being in a niche market can be a good thing. I'm about to make a small donation to a Kickstarter campaign to print a new collection of a web comic that I read. Great way to support their efforts.

Thanks all and remember to tip our hosts.


Anonymous said...


Top 5 Kirby Komics:

1) New Gods 7, "The Pact"
2) "Street Code," reprinted in Streetwise (2000)
3) OMAC 1
4) New Gods 6, "The Glory Boat"
5) any issue of Mister Miracle 4-10

I realize Kirby's writing isn't for everyone but when he's on he's on. " The Pact" is one of the most emotionally-charged comics I've ever read.


I completely agree that we aren't going to get and don't need acceptance or external validation. If the rest of the world fails to "get" how awesome Steve Gerber or Gil Kane were, that's their problem.

- Mike Loughlin

Garett said...

Haha! Great Michelangelo story pfgavigan. : )

Anonymous said...

Great Post!
Just want to add that I think Alan Moore is great...BUT NOT to the extent that the 'intellectual comics press' make out...and the Bronze Age was an incredible spawning ground of new ideas and concepts; a dynamic and stimulating environment which has been sadly -and badly- missed over the last 20 years(!)...a bit like the 'Mannerists' that followed Micky Angelo and produced such a mass of very good looking but souless work.

Dr. Oyola said...

It's my job to take comics seriously.

William said...

Awesome job pfgavigan! Love your posts. Hope to see more.

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