Monday, 21 June 2010

Today I have been inspired to revisit the title of this infrequent little column as I've been reminded of the core tenement to which I adhere: FUN.

That's the word I don't hear mentioned enough but have always associated with the comic medium. Unbridled FUN. And this is not just because comics have always been a physical, unashamed pleasure in the Etherington household but because they have the power to infect the storytelling process with genuine entertainment through the simple addition of pictures.

This is an opinion that was highlighted today on the Guardian Books Podcast (which you can listen to HERE) in which Sarah Crown discussed the allure of Graphic Novels with Ned Beauman and Rachel Cooke. Ned put up a resilient argument for the importance of caped crusaders and super heroes, arguing that the pleasure of sequential storytelling is in the breadth of history associated to it's myriad characters and the huge, expansive nature of it's universes. Rachel however saw a genuine pleasure in the fact that graphic novels are a quicker read, offering a welcome break from traditional literature without a loss in quality. Unfortunately, the core of the show is aimed at the importance of more autobiographical and mature material, which is all well and good (I'm a huge Chris Ware and Craig Thompson fan) but in my opinion they sort of missed the point a little.

The main problem here really starts with their use of the term 'graphic novel'. Its a divisive title created initially in the late 1970's as a way of selling comic tales to an adult audience. Alan Moore once memorably stated that is was little more than a 'marketing term' and looking at the reading list connected to the podcast I can see his point. Daredevil sits beside Maus; Watchman beside Black Hole. These works are significantly different in content and tone but they can all be grouped happily in the same pot. According to this system if it's book length and told sequentially then it must be called a graphic novel.

Nah. They're all just comics, people, and their true power lies in how much FUN they are to read - an extremely basic emotion and an experience that the panelists failed to highlight.

Lorenzo and I began working with this art form because of this precise potential for entertainment. To illicit gasps and wide-eyes and cheers and groans and laughter. Nowhere else have we found that same combination of ingredients with which to create our particular story-telling stew, than on the comic page.

So, yeah, comics have never been so much fun ... and there's an awful lot more fun to come!