Monday, April 8, 2013

Imagination, with Retina Display

I was in that last refuge of civilization, Barnes and Noble, over the weekend when I overheard 2 teenage girls grousing at a boy in their group that he was a loser if all he wanted to do was hang out and read comics. Mind you I am the only person actually standing in front of the graphic novel section when this happened. I suppose this wouldn't have happened to me if I had squeezed myself into one of the few remaining actual comic book stores in my area, but I always get claustrophobic amid those tiny aisles and overflowing racks. There's always too much product and never enough room to organize properly.

As an artist, my brain is fine-tuned to the visual. Gorgeous art and a compelling storyline are as looked down in the literary world as movie tie-in books. It should be enough to enjoy the written word and let your imagination fill in the blanks, say Those Who Know. Illustrated stories are for immature minds who can't make that leap. Frack 'n frell on that, I say to Those Who Know.

If I had one of those Edwardian-era libraries in my house, mahogany bookcases lining each wall, I would most likely have a side solely dedicated to graphic novels. Please make the distinction between graphic novels and comic books. One is not a highbrow synonym for more sensitive souls. Graphic novels are comic books, just longer. Known in my circles as TPB (or trade paperbacks) - a graphic novel will usually collect a story that has been broken down into bite-sized chapters. They are collected after all the comic books have been released and look much better on a bookshelf. My collection of Angel: After the Fall series by IDW is even hardbound with one of those silk bookmarks.

I grew up a DC boy - entranced with the Justice League of America and Teen Titans. Individual stories never enthused me; I had to be involved with a team, with all the interaction and headbutting as personalities clashed (This was years before Dynasty would fulfill that need). Later in life, I was comic book reborn when DC released their Vertigo series and I discovered Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Death, as well as seriously mindbending dark stories like Shade the Changing Man and Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. Separate comic book issues became collected TPB Graphic Novels, and if very popular, something called an "omnibus", which is a big hulking collection of all of the graphic novels in a series, lovingly bound and accordingly priced.

During the late-90s resurgence of genre TV like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, graphic novels appeared that filled in the blanks: stories not told during the series run, showing events and creatures a low-budget CGI-starved television show could never. (Thanks, Dark Horse!) Later, after those shows had run their course, along with Firefly, Dollhouse and Farscape - the graphic novels took over the story, taking it to amazing places (and using actors' likenesses to boot).

So how does this all fit in with my 2013 simplification act? While I am hesitant to jump on the Kindle wagon, I may demur when it comes to digital graphic novels on, say, an iPad. With retina display, I can see a whole new world for my favorite tales. In fact, I may have no choice. Farscape creator Rockne S. O'Bannon apparently lost his way with the publishing company keeping his franchise going and had to pull it mid-series. The story continues as digital download only. And with my imagination (to fill in the blanks).

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