Friday, June 24, 2011

On Captain America

With the live action movie starring Chris Evans coming this Friday, I feel like now is about the best time to put down some thoughts in regards to Captain America. The prompting of this is fairly simple. I feel like many people see the costume and hear the name and judge the character without any other thoughts. This is, of course, unfair to any character of any medium, but as I was once guilty of this with Cap, specifically, I wanted to put down why this has changed for me and why I think it should for others.

So basically, the reasoning is very similar to my general talks on comic art and the medium: Why does it mean and why does it matter?

The best place to start is, of course, at the beginning. Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1941, part of Timely Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. The basics of the character are pretty simple. A young, weak, skinny kid named Steve Rogers wants to fight in WWII like everyone else his age, but isn't allowed to sign up due to being so weak and small. Instead, he is given the chance to take part in a top secret project, Operation: Rebirth, with the goal of creating the perfect soldier. Rogers is selected as the first test subject, and it succeeds, transforming him into the a strong, perfect human specimen, but the project is sabotaged leaving him the only Super Soldier created by the project.

From there, Cap goes to fight in WWII. He servers as a symbol to the troops and fights Nazi super soldiers and mad scientists during the war, until being presumably killed in action attempting to stop an experimental plane late in the war. In fact, Cap is not killed, but falls into the ocean and is frozen in the ice until being found in the 1960s, then joining the newly-formed Avengers with Iron Man, The Hulk, Wasp, Giant Man, and Thor, and that's when the more typical super hero things begin.

Since then, the usual insanity of a 50 years of publishing serialized stories has occurred, with Cap having done everything from fighting aliens in space, giving up the mantle of Captain America, and even the requisite super hero death and return.

There have even been others to take up the Captain America name, most recently his former sidekick Bucky, but the fact remains that Steve Rogers will always be the Captain America we think of the most. Any detours from this path tend to be temporary and mainly to explore other aspects of the character.

And that, right there, is what I want to get into. The character of Steve Rogers.

It is extremely easy to dismiss Captain America as a jingoistic, overly-patriotic anachronism. Hell, his costume is pretty much the American flag. But that is very much judging a book by its cover. While draped in those colors, the real focus is not on patriotism or some nationalistic push, but instead what it is to be good. Steve Rogers, at his core, is a good man. He does what is right because it is right, not for some political ideal. Cap is, or at least should be, above politics and nationalism.

He is the American ideal, yes, but he's also more than that. He is a human ideal, and not just physically. In many ways, he is comparable to Superman. They are the pinnacles of good in their respective universes, the role models that everyone looks up to, and the ones that never flinch in the face of evil. They are, put simply, true heroes. But while there are countless similarities, a key difference that truly defines Captain America remains.

Superman is an alien. He is from another planet, has powers we can only dream of, and is simply not human despite how close he may seem. Captain America is human. He has all of our faults, yet through it all is able to remain good. His powers are super human, yes, but to a degree that one could argue is attainable more than things like flight or heat vision or anything like that. Captain America is us. He is an ideal that is within reach for the common man in some way.

That is because the essence of what makes Captain America what he is does not come from the super strength or the costume or the title. The essence of it all is Steve Rogers. The kid from Brooklyn that always had the strong convictions and good heart that made him the hero he became. He may have been a scrawny kid, but his true strength comes from his desire to do good. And even with all the powers, that is who Steve Rogers has remained. That is why no one can really replace him as Captain America.

And that is why Captain America matters.

He may fight Nazis, aliens, super soldiers, mad scientists, and a few random criminals, but he is what we should all attempt to be in the end: A good man.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How Comics Are Made

I'm to the point of wanting to start diving into specific artists, but before doing that, realized it would be best to nail down the process behind things first. Talking in detail about how great an inker is doesn't do much good if the reader doesn't have a knowledge of inker that extends beyond 'tracer'.

That means this post is dedicated to breaking down the different types of things that go into making comics. Now, the focus here is on American comics, as the techniques and some roles don't exist in other types of comics around the world. And even then, this is generalized. Not all comics use all of these roles. Some are painted, some aren't inked, some are silent and lettering isn't necessary, etc. You get the point.

Attached we have examples of various stages (script, inks, and colors) to help show how things change and look at various stages. These are from a book from Marvel a few years back: Immortal Iron Fist #1. It was written by both Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, and the pencils and inks were handled by David Aja, with Matt Hollingsworth on the colors. I apologize for not having the pencils to compare but Aja handled both the pencils and inks, and my best efforts to find the pencils have failed. Still, this should give a good visual idea of how things work, especially from the script to art stage. And I highly, HIGHLY recommend clicking the thumbnails to get a better look at the images. The thumbnails really don't do Aja's art any justice.

So I'll start at the 'usual' beginning.

: A writer does about what you'd expect in comics. They write. Shocking, I know. What's worth mentioning here is the how, as it can vary from writer to writer. There is no standard form of a comic script. These days, it isn't uncommon for a writer to use a screenplay style very similar to movies and television scripts, but it is in no way universal. Many writers break things down as simply as a basic panel description of what they want the artist to draw, and a few lines of dialogue, with little else. Some, like Alan Moore, can writer pages on how the mood and feel of a single panel on a page should be.

It really comes down to how the writer and artist work together. Some artists love a stricter breakdown, while some love the freedom of just being told "They fight, have fun" in a script. This is taken to the extreme in what is called "Marvel Style", called as such because of how common it was during some of the earlier days of Marvel thanks to Stan Lee. With this style, the writer just gives the artist a basic plot outline for the entire issue, with no real breakdowns, and then the artist sends back pages and pages. With that, the writer THEN puts in the dialogue. With Marvel Style stories, the artist is much more intimately involved in the writer process, and it's something that some people swear by.

Layout Artist: This is one of those roles that is many times wrapped under the label of penciler. But there are some artists that simply take the script and do breakdowns, or layouts. Sometimes it's to save time for the penciler, sometimes not. Some pencil artists like to have another hand to help them break down panel shapes and the overall way a page flows.

Pencil Artist: Here's the artist that usually gets the most attention. This is the person putting down the final, well worked pencils that determine pretty much everything. All the art on the page is based off of what happens here. If there is no layout artist, this is the artist who truly sets the flow for the page. A good pencil artist is essential to a readable book.

Where the writer sets down the words and the idea, it's the pencil artist that sets it all into motion. In some terms, they could be seen as the director of the movie, putting their vision onto the page from the framework of the script. But there is more to it: The penciler is also all the actors, the set designer, and everything else. This is a stage that can truly make or break a book in how you relate to the characters, or simply if you can read the panels in the correct order.

Storytelling ability is king here even more than rendering the art perfectly.

: This is not the 'tracer' as some would say. In every single way, that is a failing to understand what an inker actually brings to a comic. Years ago, inkers were credited as an Embellisher, and that's still a very good way to look at this step. An inker takes the pencils and renders them in solid blacks and whites, sometimes with tones of grey depending on the medium they've chosen to use.

The importance of the inker is in bringing to life and shaping the forms the pencil artist has already put down. Solid, strong blacks are a staple of American comics, and balancing those on a page is a subtle and essential art. In many ways, this can be seen as a type of extremely nuanced and very important shading on every aspect of the art.

: Here is another more self-explanatory person in the making of a comic. The colorist, obviously, colors. But this goes further than simply keeping in the lines and making things pretty. All the fundamentals of color theory apply here and are vital to making or breaking the overall work.

The inker has already given a strong pass of blacks and whites, which can help to determine where the shadows are, but a good colorist can make them even better. Color pallets make or break a story, just like they do for any other work of art. Sometimes a flat coloring style is used that resembles the older, four-color process that we're used to seeing in the comics from the 60s and 70s, but other times the art is fully painted: be that digitally or traditionally.

Letterer: And now, with all the art down and, hopefully, finished, another important person in the process comes in. The letterer adds nearly all the text. Word balloons, captions, title pages, etc. All of that is for the letterer to do, as are many sound effects that aren't necessary integrated into the art by the pencil artist.

While all of this is, obviously, important, the letterer does something else that is more subtle but is arguably one of the most important parts of a comic book. In placing word balloons and captions, the letterer will show the reader how to read the book. A good letterer will bring your eyes along the image that the pencil artist has already set up, from one piece of text to the image to another. This can go in traditional, left to right manner, or, if done with skill, back and forth in nearly random patterns that follow the art.

Everyone Else: And that is in NO WAY the entirety of people needed to make a comic, but those are who we're focusing on. Beyond them? You've got editors holding the communication lines between them all and making sure the book actually comes together, assistant editors trying to keep whatever they're assigned to straight, cover artist (usually a different artist than those working on the interiors of a book), graphic designers to help with everything from logos to organizing cover designs, to the interns helping wherever they're ordered to and hoping to one day turn the internship into a job. And even THAT isn't everyone, but you get the picture.

Comics come about due to the effort of a great many people. Sometimes. Other times? One person does it all. Sometimes there are only two. But one way or another, most of these things tend to be necessary for a comic to happen. Sometimes the same person does multiple parts of the process, as we see here with David Aja penciling and inking the work. Okay, we don't see the pencils, but you get the idea.

I hope.

Once I get to talking about specific artists, we shall see if this very brief overview has done any good.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gender and Comics

I'm going to divert away from the direct talking about Art in comics to get into something that's been rising it's head more and more over the last few years. When it comes to comics, gender has been an issue for a very long time: Be it in relation to what female characters wear, how they are portrayed, how many exist, how many female creators there are, and the overall makeup of the comic-reading audience.

Part of the reason this has come up on other blogs and on twitter and any other place people discuss comics is due to DC's recently announced relaunch. In September, they are relaunching (nearly) their entire line of comics with new creative teams, altered characters, and somewhat of a clean slate. But as the 52 books being relaunched were announced, a rather glaring thing was noticed: Of the creative teams on all of the books, there is only one woman involved. Gail Simone, one of the best writers in comics, will be co-writing Firestorm and writing Batgirl.

Out of all the other books in the relaunch, the only other women involved are on the editorial and DC staff side. This isn't meant to belittle those people and their jobs, as they are extremely vital, but one woman working on two books out of 52 is a pretty damn small number. And the internet reacted as it does, with some insanity and some good commentary on why this is and why it's bad. So this is my stab at the whole thing.

The first, and arguably most important thing, to get out of the way is very simple: Comics do not appeal to men more than women. As I've stated more than once on this still-small blog, comics are a medium, not a genre. TV does not appeal to men more than women. Books do not. Movies don't. Plays don't. No forms of entertainment do. Mediums are gender neutral. They are simple ways to tell a story and have little to nothing to do with the actual content.

So we break it down further. When many people say women don't like comics, they actually mean women don't like superheroes. In many ways, this is also just as false, but it's possible this is more where the root of the situation is. Superheroes, as a genre, dominate the American comic market to the extent that saying 'comics' to many people just means 'superheroes'. So let's dig into this.

I will make the statement here that I firmly believe: Superhero comics do not inherently appeal to men or women. The current handling of superheroes may appeal more to men, but the idea itself doesn't. The problem, then, is somewhat of a circular situation. Because of the early days of the American comic market, comic books are marketed to the male audience. The comic market is small, so small that the companies cannot afford to risk losing what audience they already have. Sadly, right now, the audience is getting older and the stories are adapting in such a way that even younger audiences, male and female, are being slowly pushed away.

It is a very difficult position. Can these companies afford to take risks on different takes on superhero books? Things that may appeal to younger audiences or to female readers of any age? Every so often, it's attempted. Usually it fails. Sometimes it's never given a chance to get far enough TO fail. The comics business isn't dying, but risks are difficult to take by the larger companies that shape the market, and so we continue to see the same kinds of books over and over.

This is not to say there are not women working in comics. While DC's upcoming relaunch only has one female creator, as noted above, editorial positions are much more largely diverse across the board. In fact, women have held editorial and corporate positions in comics companies for years. And it isn't as if there aren't women that write or draw comics. DC has had more than just one before, as does Marvel. Admittedly, the numbers are always skewed heavily to male creators, but female creators aren't nonexistent.

But not just that, there are even more women in comics when you broaden your scope. The world of manga in Japan is heavily occupied by women, telling all kinds of stories. During the early 2000s, manga was seen as the great way to draw in female readers to comics as a whole, and while it succeeded in part, the fad has since been dying in the states and female readership falling with it. So what does manga have that the mainstream American comics don't, that attracts more women creators and readers?

Simple: Manga is not dominated by a single genre.

And this is where the whole thing gets even trickier. As I've said already, superhero comics are not inherently more for men than for women, yet they are marketed that way and viewed that way by many. But looking at the larger picture, it seems more than superheroes, as a genre, are just as niche a market as Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, or what have you. It's not a gender issue, it's a genre issue. Superheroes appeal to some people more than others, and it's generally a smaller group.

The issue of women in comics, both readership and creators, is actually the same piece of a larger problem in comics today. Solving this one thing could, arguably, solve numerous other problems with the market all at once. And in many ways, it is already happening.

The advent and growth of webcomics and the way independent comics are rising today has given a voice to anyone that wants to tell any kind of story with panels and pictures and words. There are humor strips, fantasy epics, scifi space operas, detective stories, noir, romance, war stories, and a thousand other things out there in the world of indie comics. This is where the mantra that comics are for everyone shows through the most. And to bring this back around to the topic at hand, the indie market is flooded with as many women as there are men! They're telling all kinds of stories, just like their male contemporaries.

So here we are at the real point I see at the end of this long debate. Yes, there are problems still with how women are depicted in many comics. Yes, this applies to both what they wear and how they act in many cases. These problems and issues are, however, fading from even the superhero genre as a whole. We no longer live in a time where it's okay to have the Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four told to get out of the way while the three men of the team take care of the bad guy. Now, she's portrayed as probably the strongest member of the team, and this is just one example. The content problems are changing.

The next step, the step that extends beyond the content and is far more important to the survival of the comic industry as a whole, is to broaden the market as a whole. The means bringing in women, younger readers, and all those other men that still don't read comics because they just don't give a damn about superheroes. And the key to that isn't using a quota system or anything like that, as has been suggested by many who are annoyed by the discussion of women in comics.

Simply, we need a broader selection of genres on the bookshelves that can appeal to any and everyone. Amidst all the doom and gloom that one might hear about the comic market today, I think that this is not only possible, but already happening. And hopefully this will mean more women reading comics, more women making comics, and situations such as the current one at DC becoming a thing of the past.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Important Clarification

Okay, a small update to make an important point. I've already begun talking about why comics should be viable as a form of high art and all that fun stuff, and it's going to continue and only get stronger as I rant and rave more. Should be fun.

But I do believe I need to make it known that this is not out of any kind of hatred or dislike of the masterpieces of old. I do not believe that comic art is actually inherently better than any of the classic paintings, sculptures, or other works of art through human history. Instead, I just believe that it deserves the same attention, something that is now beginning to grow in small parts of the art world.

I firmly believe that the likes of Jack Kirby, Osamu Tezuka, John Romita Sr., Bob Kane, Herge, Will Eisner, and Mobius deserve a place in Art History with all the greats we already teach. These great artists deserve much, much more attention than they've gotten through the years, especially in academic settings, and should not be shunned simply because they decided to use their skills to tell stories.

So no, the point of these posts about comic art and the artists is not to throw out the old and ring in the new. It is one of inclusion. My real hope with this is to open the eyes of just a few of the teachers and students and friends I already have to these great artists.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Art and Comics

Okay. I've made an introduction, then given a light overview of comics as a whole from my view. Now it's time to get in depth. I've been told by more than one person that I don't ramble here as much as I worry about, so shame is going out the window and this is going to dive straight into it.

It's time for me to hit on a point that, to me, has been one of the largest barriers against comics: The art world. It should be said that, for those that don't know, I graduated from Flagler College's Fine Art program back in 2009, and along with the making of art (and the varying levels of success that comes with when you still haven't figured out what you want to DO with your art) I also spent a lot of time studying History and Art History. I love it. I eat that stuff up. But as I found myself drifting to the world of comics, I ran into a very large problem. In that world, comics are 'low art' at best, and completely ignored at worst.

So what I want to get into here is what I wish I'd had time to get into back then. This is a long diatribe that I firmly believe every single art student and teacher and working artist should hear and absorb, whether they like it or not. Because, as I've touched on before, comics matter. Comics are more than just superheroes and spandex and those terrible sound effects most people think of thanks to the old Adam West Batman show. In fact, those things aren't really comics at all, especially not today.

In that vein, the first thing to do before continuing to read all of this mess is understanding what I mean when I say 'comics'. A good replacement for that is 'sequential art', a term from the wonderful Wil Eisner, but you can go even simpler than that. Not all comics are a sequence of panels to tell a story. Some are just in one panel. A story in a single image. In many ways, that is the same thing that a comic is. Visual storytelling. Cave paintings used multiple images to do this, and many of the painters we think of when we think of so-called 'High Art' only needed the one image. But the best always tell a story, except when they don't, but that's getting into an area of art this isn't concerned with.

We'll start by looking at one my favorite paintings, and a prime example of storytelling in a single 'panel'. This is The Raft of the Medusa by Theodore Gericault, and you should really click the image to see it larger. I'm not going to get into a strong analysis of the painting itself, as that has been handled by actual scholars much better than I ever could. But for my purpose, here's what's important: We have a single image that tells a complete story even if you don't know the even it is depicting. A group of men are on a poorly constructed raft, clearly suffering and some dying, while some wave to a tiny spec of a ship in the distance in hopes of rescue. That is a huge over simplification of the actual subject matter, but it's what one sees in front of them without anything else to assist. Looking further, a story can be seen. Some disaster can be easily inferred, considering that usually we don't sail the seas in those numbers on such a craft, as can many other small details. The important point here is this, though: It tells a story. In one image, there is an entire story for the viewer to find.

For this, I'm going to use something that might be surprising as a comparison. No, I'm not pulling out a beautiful Jack Kirby page or something else that might be expected. Instead, I'm going to use something much, much more modern. This is from S.H.I.E.L.D., the very first issue, that came out back in 2010, and just like above, you need to click this image to appreciate it. Unlike the above painting, this is a modern comic (clearly), and thus not just one artist is credited. The lineart that form the base of the image are by Dustin Weaver and the color is by Christina Strain.

So, why this image? For the purposes of this article, this page from S.H.I.E.L.D. is very similar to The Raft of the Medusa. Rather than use a comic page of multiple panels, I chose to compare a single image to another, both of which can tell a compelling story on their own. Though, obviously, this comic page has some story leading into it, it is ultimately not all that necessary to the point I'm trying to make. And the point is, finally, this:

What is so different between these two works of art?

Beyond the obvious differences such as the artist, material, and when it was made, shockingly little. So why does this page not count as art in the same way? Is it the giant, purple man in the distance or the glowing guy flying over 1580s Rome? Is it truly the material? Are oil paints just better and more 'artistic', in the end? Is it simply a case of attributing greatness to something that is old just because of it's age?

In some ways, all of those are at least partially accurate, but also reveal a striking double standard that we apply to the word 'art' and what counts as 'low' and 'high' art.

NO, the presence of a giant, purple and blue-clad man and a flying, glowing humanoid are not enough to discount this as art or worthy of praise. Many paintings and sculptures of divine beings and Classical Gods are just as ridiculous from an academic standpoint. Even the strange machine in the foreground is not enough to damn this piece on content alone.

Despite what many older artistic traditions would teach us, oil paints are not inherently superior. They are difficult to work with, have amazing possibilities once learned, and some of the greatest works of art of all time use them, but that does not make art that uses them better. To claim the material is better than a pencil or a computer or anything else used today would be like claiming that an older piece of literature is stronger than newer stories or books simply due to being handwritten.

How about age? Is that the true factor here? Do we only love many older pieces of work because they are older? In some cases? Probably. As a species, we have a habit of attributing the past with being better than the now, in almost every aspect of our society. This idea is patently ridiculous, and a moment's thought from anyone can prove this. Some people in the art world look down on comics due to multiple artists (pencilers, inkers, colorists) working on them, ignoring the fact that many of the old masters had entire studios assisting in their great paintings that were revere today.

But no, in this case, it is unfair to say that it's age is why The Raft of the Medusa is considered a great work of art. It simply is. There are a thousand reasons why, some insanely technical in regards to art theory and others as simple as how well the paint is handled and the emotion portrayed on the faces of the men on the raft itself. But this page of art from S.H.I.E.L.D. is not lacking in great technical skill, either. Rome of the 1500s is detailed beautifully, with an excellent use of perspective and scale. The detail is in the scope of the page, and it truly is a beautiful page that can be stared at for as long as any painting just finding new things to enjoy.

Just as with The Raft of the Medusa, this page presents a story we are only partially allowed to see. We can infer just as much and speculate in as many wild directions as we wish, and yet this is just a single double-page spread from the comic. But here is something where the comic page suddenly has a clear advantage. It is just a page.

For The Raft of the Medusa, we have but one image in one moment in the story that is being shown. With only the image, we can only speculate as to what could have happened to force those men onto that raft. Are they about to be rescued? We can't know. All we can know is they see something on the horizon, and clearly hope they will be. To learn more, that a shipwreck forced these men onto a hastily constructed raft and only 15 of the 147 men that crewed the ship survived, we must turn to a history book or some other source. In its time, this would have been common knowledge, yet still one would have to turn to another source. The image tells us none of this.

But for this comic page? Now we have the point where comics clearly find an advantage over so-called 'High Art'. This page is has pages before and after it. In page immediately before, we see that this is Rome in 1582, in the workshop of Galileo. This strange machine we see in the foreground was constructed by him, and upon turning the page, we learn why he built such a thing. Clearly, this machine has been built by Galileo to fight back this giant man that. I purposefully used a version of this page without text, as to more easily directly compare the two images, but this is another bit of information where we learn more of what will happen after without another source. Though there is no second page after this, the story moves on, Galileo narrates and tells us that this encounter with the giant is not, as he puts it " the world ends."

So why, then, is a comic page with such strong artistic aspects not good enough for most of the art world? It's a very simple thing: Elitism. The one great theme in Art History is the rejection of what is different to the so-called 'Art World'. Time and time again, critics and artists alike have declared what is and isn't art, and always history rolls over them and proves them wrong. In many ways, this is happening now with sequential art. There is a slow acceptance occurring in some sections of the art world, but it is still very small.

As I experienced first hand, even those my age see a comic and roll their eyes, expecting what they consider 'bad art' or something not worthy of their attention, all the while putting together pieces of art that are far more ridiculous. There are many that teach art that share this same problem, and that's why I do this.

I rant and I ramble and I continue on in circles over and over to say to those teachers: Comics are art. Comics are good art. And whether you believe it or not, you already accept many piece of art that are just single-panel comics.

Any good artist knows that art happens everywhere, you just have to look. So here I am, starting my crusade to make it easier for those that wouldn't look so hard. Because like I just said and will continue to say for the course of this blog, and likely the rest of my life...

Comics are art.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why Comics?

After mulling over where to really start with this blog, I've finally separated the various topics in my mind. Many of the topics I want to hit on require an amount of research that means I need to spread them out and not hit them all in a row. So I'm going to start in a logical place:

Why comics?

What's the point? Why do they matter? Most importantly, why should you care about comics?

Overall, these are fairly simple things to tackle on the surface. That, however, would be too easy, short, and boring. This place exists for me to rant, ramble, and never shut up, so I'm going to go in more detail than is likely necessary. Yes, all of this has been covered before. Hell, it's all been covered by people much wiser than I (Just to name two: Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and pretty much anything from Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art books). In no way do I claim to be more knowledgeable on the subject of comics than these two greats, but I'd like to think that I:

a) have a different, and much smaller, audience to talk to about the subject. Namely, well hopefully, former art teachers and working artists
b) maybe, just maybe, I might have something slightly different to say.

So, that's quite a bit of rambling already. What's the point, then? Why do comics exist at all? That one is simple: comics are simply a way to tell a story. Of course, unlike movies and even books, a very strong argument could be made that comics are one of the oldest ways to tell a story, right behind oral history. The idea of still pictures to tell some story has been around since man painted on cave walls, but today it is thought of, instead, as either something for kids, or just for nerds that sit in their basements arguing about whether Superman could beat Thor over the internet.

This dives straight into the real thrust of this post: Why should you care about comics? Yes, there are comics for kids and, yes, there are people that argue those topics on the internet, but the medium itself should not be judged on those things anymore than all novels should be judged by the large section of generally horrid romance novels in any bookstore. Comics are as diverse in subject matter as any form of entertainment, and while that's a plainly obvious statement to some, it is a shocking revelation to many of the people I went to college with. In many ways, this is not their fault at all, thus one of the reasons why I'm writing this right now.

So I circle around again to the why. What do comics brings to entertainment that movies and books can't? The answer isn't superheroes, because while that concept thrives in American comics, it is doable in any form of storytelling. Superheroes is a genre, not a medium. On the most basic level, comics run a middle ground between books and movies. But that is, again, too easy.

The real key to what comics bring is reader control. With panels on a page, no matter the layout, the reader may take as much time as they like lingering on an image. While it may seem that books achieve this, I would argue they don't. To hold a moment in a book, the reader must back up and re-read a passage, arguably turning back time in the story. Obviously, on the other side of things, movies just keep on moving whether the viewer wants them to or not. The presence of the series of still images in comics, however, freezes time in a sense. The story won't move forward or backwards as long as the reader stares at one single panel. It just sits. The best writers and artists learn to manipulate this sense of time, finding techniques to slow the eye and cause a reader to linger longer on a page, or quickly fly through a series of panels in faster paced sections. But even with strong techniques, it's up to the reader to determine how the story is read.

But a less wordy explanation to the question of "Why Comics?" that likely means more to people that don't care about the craft is something I've already touched on. Comics are a medium, just like books, movies, or any other form of entrainment to tell a story. Many times I've been told by people that they just don't read comics because they don't like comics, and I stare baffled. To me, such a statement is as absurd as someone saying they don't like movies or books or any kind of stories.

Just as there is a book for everyone, there is a comic for everyone. So I'm going to end this long, circuitous rambling post with just a few examples that run the gamut.

There are war stories (Sgt. Rock, Captain America, The Other Side), Science Fiction (2000AD, Astro Boy, Flash Gordon, Silver Surfer), Horror (The Walking Dead, 30 Days of Night, Swamp Thing, Hellbazer), Romance (Young Romance, Fruits Basket), Fantasy (Bone, Conan the Barbarian, Fables), Crime (Sin City, Gotham Central, Criminal, 100 Bullets), Humor (Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts), and, of course, Superheroes (Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The X-Men, and the thousand others you can name).

That's a tiny list of just quick bullet points. That's not even including the explosion of webcomics. There is definitely a comic for everyone, if the person is willing to look.

So why comics? Well, why books? Why movies? Why stories of any kind? Comics matter for the same reason everything else does. There is no reason to write comics off, and hopefully this rambling can expand some thoughts on the subject. I'll likely get more specific soon.