Posts Tagged ‘kazuoumezu’

Who Understands the Comics?

January 25, 2009

understanding comics by scott mccloud“Understanding Comics” was an incredible read. In the first two or three chapters alone, McCloud legitimizes the medium of comics (opposed to bolstering its status as the “bastard child” of fine art and literature) in a comprehensive and well worded / drawn argument. Having interned with a development office in a major studio for two summers now, I have been sadly accustomed to the treatment of comic books and manga as pulp-y stepping stones to the “higher art” of cinema.

I recall one especially depressing moment in which I was handed Kazuo Umezu’s THE DRIFTING CLASSROOM (adrifting-classroom particularly gorey and markedly sexist manga from 1970s Japan that, in one of its “tamer” sequences, features the horrific vivisection of a fourth grader in the mandibles of a large mutated space insect) and was told that a neighboring production company wanted to option it in hopes of developing it as a light family romp in the vein of early Spielberg. The integrity of the work was obviously being compromised (or wholly neglected), and I really didn’t know how to feel about that.

I understand why as of late, stacks of graphic literature (“sequential art”) have adorned the already crowded desks of Hollywood producers and their Creative Executives. Comics is a hip, fresh, and fun media that is raking in a mainstream following and box office dough.  With its inherent commingling of visual art and text, many might believe that comics may easily be transferred to the screen. And considering the recent influx of these “comics movies” in American theaters, it seems as though this belief has been widespread and firmly rooted amongst both Hollywood shot-callers and their audiences and benefactors. Does this in turn affirm the illegitimate status of comics? How could it not?

“There are things that we did with Watchmen that could only work in a comic, and were indeed designed to show off things that other media can’t.”

– Alan Moore, on the eve of the release of  Watchmen (dir. Zack Snyder, 2009)

don't be surprised

a very possible future

While McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” was published in 1993, way before the current “comics movie” craze, I am curious as to how he would respond to it. Additionally, while his book undertakes an incredible analysis of the comics medium, it does so from the visual angle much more than the narrative / story angle. In the context of our class, I was looking for hints at what kinds of stories suit the medium of comics versus that of film, literature, theater, music, or any other. While I understand the profound differences between comics and other mediums, I am left wondering why these differences matter, and more importantly what kinds of stories can utilize these differences the best.