Not a week goes by without me reading somebody paraphrasing my blatherings and getting it all wrong. Last week I read:
I'm not sure if I agree with Eddie Campbell's assertion that we should consider illustration art to be a type of comics (or graphic novel or whatever you want to call the medium).
I can't even unravel that back to what I conceivably could have written.
This week it's this:
"Eddie Campbell voices in on the not-so-contentious debate about what to call graphic fiction. Is it a genre? A format? In addition to a very generalized journalist bashing (seriously, there are a few of us who aren’t nitwits!) Campbell sides with form. Personally, I just call it a medium. Seems simple enough."
Since I reject the notion that there is a great big shapeless field of activity that can all be gathered under the one name (here 'graphic fiction', a term I have never once used) then I could hardly have said or meant that, could I?
I always choose my words and cut my phrases carefully. I guess most people just don't READ with a similar care.
Anyone who HAS been reading with care will know that I have no interest in naming anybody's medium and I just stand on the sidelines and illuminate assorted moments of verbal befuddlement, just for the sport of it, and also I suppose in some vague hope that those who write nonsense will start to think more clearly.
nevertheless if you insist on paraphrasing me, a glossary:
comics: Since McCloud defined this term as being exactly equivalent to 'sequential art' through all of time, it behooves anybody who disagrees, such as I do, to stop using the term.
sequential art: Not all 'comics' is sequential art and not all sequential art is 'comics'. Saying that "all sequential art is comics" is like saying the world is a suburb of Brooklyn; and saying it with a Brooklyn accent. (update 17 nov)
comic book: One of the useful words, because everybody knows what it means. American style comic books. They know what it looks like and can point to industry sales statistics. Comic books are clearly objects that exist in time and space. Since the things that happen in comic books follow a set of rules and involve activities that don't happen elsewhere, one can use the term to indicate a genre of popular fiction. Comic books can be formatted in different ways, thus a 200 page comic book is still a comic book. But there's a lot of stuff that doesn't fit here. e.g. Posy Simmonds, Maus, Shaun Tan's the Arrival to name but three just to establish the picture. When I say 'comic book,' i'm not thinking about them (or myself most of the time, though i ocasionally moonlight in comicbookland).
genre: "A genre is a loose set of criteria for a category of composition. Genres are formed by sets of conventions, and many works cross into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions. The scope of the word "genre" is sometimes confined to art and culture, particularly literature, but it has a long history in rhetoric as well. In genre studies the concept of genre is not compared to originality. Rather, all works are recognized as either reflecting on or participating in the conventions of genre."
comic book culture: that body of knowledge applicable to the collecting of comic books and other artefacts of the cuture surrounding the subject, which ordinary people don't possess and have no interest in possessing. eg comic book culture includes but is certainly not limited to: knowing what an inker does, why an issue of Spiderman drawn by McFarlane is worth more than one drawn by Mooney, that a figurine is not a doll, and being able to make an educated guess as to when precisely 'the golden age' ended. (some commenters have understood me to imply a juvenile aspect to 'comic book culture', which has never been so).
Cartoons, newpaper: The newpapers include and have included an array of different types of cartoon, including editorial cartoon, strip cartoon, panel cartoon, etc. These form a completely different medium from the comic books, even when sequential pictures are involved (you can disagree with this, but I am not the only one to say it, so while disagreeing you can acknowlege a contrary school of thought, as I have just done).
gag cartoon; The one-liners in the new Yorker etc.
manga: A Japanese word used long before it came specifically to mean comic strips or books in that country. Now it means Japanese style comic books whatever the country, i.e. a style.
Bande-dessinnee: It's French. so, whatever they say. But it's always amusing to see them mystified by our insane semantic confusions.
caricature: the art of mocking by drawing a person's likeness. This was invented in the 1500s but one can retroactively see the same thing in cultures with a strong tradition of portraiture such as ancient Rome. However, it's misleading to use the term in relation to the Bayeux tapestry (where personages are only emblematically represented), as I have seen twice in the last months, including in Bryan Talbot's book.
graphic novel: variously and confusingly used to indicate 1)all comic books, 2)a specific format of comic books, 3)indeed the physical object itself (as opposed to the work it contains), 4) what would in prose be a novel but illustrated as a comic, 5) a new form of pictorial literature. Since it is not much use for the purposes of communication, my feeling is that it's better to ditch the term altogether though of course it's much too late for that. However as an overview, I feel that posterity will come to see it as representative of a certain ambition to make something grand out of the elements of the strip cartoon. Its failure will be due to its inability to escape out of comic book culture. Will Eisner's personal story illustrates this struggle as a series of steps forward and backward. He 'coined the term' (don't argue in this small space) and pitched his first 'graphic novel' with a book publisher, his second was serialized in the Kitchen Spirit comic mag, which was a step back. When Kitchen went bust he landed at DC. Finally he went to some trouble to remove all his books from comic book publisher DC over to book publisher Norton, which was a step forward, even if it ultimately doesn't mean or achieve anything.
graphic other (eg graphic memoir etc): this seems to me like folk playing cards unaware that the boat has been taking on water for some time, but whatever, everybody to his own.
format : 1. the shape and size of a book as determined by the number of times the original sheet has been folded to form the leaves. Compare duodecimo, folio (def. 2), octavo, quarto. 2. the general physical appearance of a book, magazine, or newspaper, such as the typeface, binding, quality of paper, margins, etc.
'trade paperback' is an example of a format, being an oversized paperback that originated from the trade practice of putting a dummy cover around the innards of the hardcover to show customers what the upcoming paperback (which traditionally followed the hardcover) would look like. Anybody who says 'trade paperback' holds meaning other than oversized paperback (as I know many do) runs the risk of sounding like a complete twat.
form: Method of arrangement or manner of coordinating elements in literary or musical composition or in organized discourse: presented my ideas in outline form; a treatise in the form of a dialogue.
A particular type or example of such arrangement: The essay is a literary form. (as are novel, short story, etc.). (note that in literature the novel is a form but in illiterature the graphic novel is not a form but a format. I'm just pointing this out, as the Library Director should have done a few posts back, but I'm sure everybody has already taken it into account.)
illustration: a) any figurative art is often described as illustrative from the fine art point of view, even when the work does not relate to something outside of itself as in b . b) pictures drawn or painted to accompany text, whether fiction or non-fiction. Comic books can be described as an illustrated text. Even if there are no words.
authorial illustration: A concept of renewal and revitalisation in the field of illustration, in which the illustrator is applauded for creating his own projects. Edward Gorey, Ralph Steadman and Chris Ware among others are held up as successful examples (Note Ware's presence. I like this because it is one area is which so-called 'graphic novel' is perceived as a discipline outside and unrelated to comic book culture. Here it is seen as just another type of illustrated book.)
definition: precisely fixes limits and boundaries. it's usually about excluding something, throwing out the riffraff.
The lowbrow colonisation of culture: Seeing ourselves as so important that everything in history was just a preparation for our magnificence. Thus the Sistine chapel ceiling and the Bayeux tapestry are 'comics'. (not) (I had to add that before i get misrepresented by the guy who just read this at eighty miles an hour)
medium: there are several mediums mentioned above. If you say that I have suggested that we should call the medium this or that, which medium exactly? And don't presume I'm in the one you're talking about. Well, actually you can say what you like, but don't attribute it to me.
Labels: comics crit 1