Story-strips. It made more sense to me than a lot of other replacement terms for comics. It reminded me of the early childhood where the British comics I got were called “adventure strips,” or “picture libraries.” When the comics I got were called “boy’s papers.” To me, it speaks to a time when popular comics were about:
Alf Tupper, Tough Of The Track, welder and Olympic-level runner, powered by fish and chips and genetic-level hatred of coppers and the upper classes, overcoming constant crushing hardships to win every race and rub posh people’s noses in it. HOOK JAW, possibly the only shark with its own anti-corruption comics serial. Captain Hurricane, a soldier who frequently experienced berserker psychotic breaks, charmingly described as “a ragin’ fury.” CHARLEY’S WAR, the groundbreaking and well-loved World War 1 series by Pat Mills and illustrated by Joe Colquhoun, examining one young man’s experience of the war with a sensibility and political awareness not really seen before or presented with such passion. COUNTDOWN, the lead strip in the weekly anthology comic of that name, notable for using — with permission — all the design work from 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
(Hear that little Kirby Krackle?)
Of course, all the way through that, I’m using the word “comics.” It’s stuck. No Ninth Art or Graphic Narrative is going to dislodge it now. Even “graphic novel” — “what’s a graphic novel,” then?” “Well, it’s sort of like a big comic” — doesn’t really do the job. It’s not our fault that the prevailing use of the form, in its early commercial days, was for funny stuff. These terms don’t replace the word comics. But I think it’s important, or at least useful, to take the stance that they’re not actually supposed to. These terms introduce new ways to think about comics.
When Jack Kirby sat down and decided SILVER STAR was A Visual Novel, it must have affected the way he looked at the work. Must have done. Because it was the first work he devised that was intended to have a short, closed run — an actual novel, with a beginning, and, most crucially, an end.
These different operating terms can, if you invite them to, alter the way you consider the form. A graphic novel is clearly a different beast from a single, or a Picture Library, or a Sequential Art, or a Story-Strip. An Original English Manga — a funny marketing term that really just means a comic in English — nonetheless comes haloed with its own aesthetic payload. You know an Original English Manga is going to look and read a bit differently to a UKBD, even though the terms are essentially the same and both just mean “comics.”
Doesn’t a Story-Strip sound like a different animal to a Graphic Album, to you? It’s all still comics, sure — but it conjures different ways of doing comics. It’s the sort of thinking that keeps the form alive. Just one way. There are lots of different ways, and it’s not a binary process, you can adopt as many as you like at any time. Just so long as you’re aware that you can do anything you like.
Just like that man who sat down, after having conquered the superhero genre a couple of times, created the romance comics genre, having worked in animation and having designed a theme park… that man who sat down and said to himself, “A Visual Novel. Now how does that work?”
I want you to read WONTON SOUP 2, by James Stokoe. I haven’t read 1, and I don’t feel like I need to. It’s a GN from Oni Press, and it is the wondrous fusion of manga and anime, Euro sf comics, the videogame-related brain damage of the Gingerbox crowd (Corey Lewis, Brandon Graham etc), Jamie Hewlett, and, frankly, a lot of weed. It is gloriously funny and really very fucked up. You’ll like it. The “Sex Bear” scene alone had me in pain with laughter.
I can be sent things via Avatar Press at Avatar Press, 515 N. Century Blvd., Rantoul, IL 61866, USA, but I cannot promise a response or a review. You can email me at email@example.com, but I warn you, it’s a dump address, not my regular email address, so it can take me a few days to check it.
DO ANYTHING IS © WARREN ELLIS 2009, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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