I have taken a small leave from writing for EYC because life is ridiculously busy, and my fun limited to a few minutes here and there from day to day. And within the last year those small tidbits of time have been lavishly devoured by a heavy workload, and hundreds of hours of overtime trying to raise my sizable family. In fact only recently have I been able to delve back in to the world of comics, and nerd culture thanks in very large part to receiving a Kindle Fire 8 for Christmas.
I am nose deep into Thor God of Thunder Vol. 1, The God Butcher. As I am reading, admiring, feeling both admiration and jealousy at the artwork and presentation I am also wondering, “Why am I so engrossed?” It's a good story, yes. It would make a fine novel, indeed. I relish reading books on nearly any subject. It is my most coveted time.
Yet there is a difference between books and comics. I was inspired by the question, and I sought to answer it myself. I would like to share my insight into why we enjoy our comics, what appeal they have, and why they are such a unique and timeless art form based on this small meditation.
The first insight I was given is that we are visual creatures. We love a good story expressed in a single frame, full of action and light and expression. Such were the earliest works of art adorned throughout the world on the walls of ancient caves. A story of action, desire, admiration, and dare I say worship.
Visually the comic is stunning. Even in such simple forms as a single pen stroke. So much is spoken with so little effort. We are literally immersed in the story even without dialogue.
And that is when it hit me. In reading a novel it is up to the writer to lay out visuals for you, describing sights, sounds, smells, clothing, costume, weaponry, etc. and tying it all into the action of the moment. With the comic, however, all description is visually laid out for you. You need only read the dialogue or narrative and then glean from the artwork what you will. We do not do this consciously because we are still being told a story. It is being communicated to us by the words, action, and visuals of the frames. Comics have taken description from the novel, and put it in picture form before our very eyes.
This allows us to consume stories faster, and has altered the act of reading so that we can experience the moments visually. There is so much power in the visible. Pictures elicit emotion and touch our minds in primitive ways. Pictures can frighten, compel, inspire, give hope, raise awareness, enrage, cripple, drive, narrate, satisfy and alter your perceptions.
Comics bring to life new stories from our most beloved cinematic universes. Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica … Flash Gordon for goodness sake!
An entire story can be told by one frame. Were we to give each frame a mere moment with a critical eye we could see into the storyteller's imagination. Into their heart and thereby into their ambition.
We enjoy comics not just for the medium in which it is presented, but for the infinite variation of style, technique, and visual appeal. For this same reason they are unique in the narrative realm and will always be a highly effective, addictive, and compelling means of telling stories, and immersing us in worlds of infinite variety.