Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Dance With It

Alex Ness has an excellent interview with Grant Morrison over on PopThought.com. It's all good, but my favorite part is where Morrison defends the current level of popular acceptance of the comics medium and talks about why that hasn't translated into sales.

He presents the most reasonable argument on the subject that I've heard so far and if he's right, then the importance of a project like Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith's Fell suddenly becomes clear. Of course, getting prices down is only part of the problem though. Format and availability also need to be addressed.

AN: Is your use of metaphor the means in which comics will finally climb the gate and enter "accepted mediums"?

GM: Comics don't need to climb the gate and enter anything. We're having more fun outside in the sun.

As I said, metaphor occurs naturally in ANY story. The fact that Tolkien's Ring can easily stand in for the Bomb, or for Addiction, or for any number of things - which it can - doesn't seem to hamper people's enjoyment of the elephant fights in The Lord of the Rings, so metaphorical content shouldn't be looked upon as anything highbrow or unusual. I tend to see it everywhere, but that's just how I'm wired up. I don't know about you, but I can't look at Godzilla without seeing the atom bomb over Nagasaki, the screaming, hyper-enthusiastic shopgirls of Shibuya, Tokyo, and the devastating smile of the goddess Amaterasu, among other things, all piled on top of one another and representing the very same something.

Metaphor's there to be read or applied if you want to enrich your experience of art. It can just as easily be ignored if all you want to do is watch the action and look at the weird, cool pictures. The same is true of my comics, or anyone else's. There's subtext everywhere, but you don't have to bother with it if it's not your thing. Just dance to the beat of the story, and if you don't 'understand' everything, well, good. It'll stand you in good stead for the real world - a place filled with people and events you will NEVER entirely understand. You don't have to understand an experience in order to have it. You will, in fact, DIE not understanding most of what goes on in the world and why. Don't sweat it. Dance with it.

AN: By showing how the medium can be so multifaceted won't otherwise comic virgins be forced to admit that the medium is valid? And why, after your Doom Patrol run and books like Maus and Wilderness, is that still a valid question?

GM: Well, the way I see it, Alex, images, ideas and characters derived from comic books now cover just about every available surface in the civilized world. X-Men cereal! The Incredibles pajamas! Sky High! What more proof do comics fans need that the rest of the world has - at least for a moment - stopped laughing at all the crazy shit we're into?

Will we remain unsatisfied until every newborn babe has a Spider-Man logo tattooed on his head? Aren't Marvel and DC characters on the sides of buses enough evidence that the whole world has fallen under the spell of comics? Does every man, woman, and child have to swear allegiance to Captain America's shield before we finally accept that comics are already valid ? How much more validation do summathese goddamn fanboys need, for crying out loud!!

Everybody I've ever met thinks it must be great to do what I do for a living and I've met lots of people, including lots of famous ones. They all think comics are great. What more can I say ? They're not too sure about the more obsessive, stereotypical 'fan' type, but then obsessive fans of anything can seem be a little disconcerting whether they are fans of old skool hip-hop, football or Gwen Stefani. Otherwise, as far as I can see, just about every-bloody-body loves the idea of comics and superheroes. They would buy shitloads more of the actual books if the format, pricing and availability changed, but messages like that take a long time to get through to the brains of the big companies. Sell comics at cinema concession stands, for instance, and the sales would skyrocket shockingly overnight. Or rack them next to the week's new CD and DVD releases in Virgin megastores and pop shops. Manga size. They'd shift millions like they used to. All of this will probably still happen in one way or another before 2010.

Comics as an artform has done all right by me and my mates over the years, and, as far as I can see, everybody else is pretty cool with the idea that comics still get made. The people who can't stop whining about how the books are crap and all the writers are rubbish compared to 'real' writers, and all the artists aren't as good or as fast or as tall as they used to be, or whatever, are self-confessed comics fans, sadly. There's always a small hard core of 'Fans' who tend to despise, denigrate and insult comic books and their creators more than any other segment of the population would even imagine doing...

...in that good old-fashioned, ironic kind of way.

Read More Here.

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