Thursday, February 02, 2006

Examining aspects of Local and Nextwave

So, a while back I was given a copy of Local #1 for free. I’m pretty sure it was from Chris Tamari whose excellent Comic Bloggers Poll was fun to participate in, especially since I’ve been around less than a year (not in life but in blog form). I think I put up a quick review when I received it but I’m going to write a bit more now. In fact I’m going to write about Local #1 because I can and I’m too lazy to search my own archive or anyone else’s to see who sent me the book and whether or not I’ve written about it before.

When I got Local #1 I was quite happy. The election just started and this was a nice little distraction because it was sold out of all the local comic shops. I read it and while I can appreciate the work I didn’t actually like it. I can understand why people like it, and I can see how new and refreshing it is but it didn’t make me want to rush out and buy more. I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently, especially since Nextwave #1 came out as I think they fit into a weird pigeon hole I’ve created.

I guess the best way for me to describe how I feel about these books is that I don’t like or dislike them. I completely understand why people love them, I just don’t. I don’t think this is a bad thing. We all have something we don’t like that others love. I know someone who has never seen any Star Wars movies and doesn’t ever want to. I have a good friend who doesn’t like The Pixies but likes the solo Frank Black stuff. Or as my better half discovered with her friends, there’s Mr. Big fans and Aidan fans. You’ll get that or you won’t, don’t worry about it.

What happened when I read Local is that I kept thinking this would be much better as a movie. I liked Run Lola Run, but Local – not so much. To me it’s because Local is trying to use tools that work much better in another medium. I don’t think the remixing of a situation is impossible or wrong in comics, I just think it works better in film, television or stage. There is a tonne of literature that uses the same technique and the internet is the electronic embodiment (how many similar stories have you read on different blogs, websites and message boards announcing exactly the same thing with their own spin?).

When I was reading Local I had that feeling like I was getting distracted and continually reading the same line over and over. You know how it is. You’re reading something. Get distracted. Read the same line over. It’s annoying. Well to me it is and I don’t think that’s the feeling or message the author and artist are trying to convey. For me, this type of art works better with live actors; or in cool media when the same situation is shown from different character point of views. It’s not a criticism, just an esthetic choice on my part.

I think both the author and the artist succeeded in their goals. They presented situations that slightly varied and conveyed it. The characters are acting appropriately. The are distinguishable from each other and they emote well. Which is sort of the point of characters in sequential art (unless they’re meant to look alike, obviously). It just felt too static to me. I wasn’t emotionally invested in the characters or the situations. I do think that part of this was because the stories were remixed too quickly. I got to see a situation play out differently again and again in rapid succession but wasn’t allowed time to make any emotional connection to the characters. Then again, this is called Local. It’s about the place and not necessarily the people involved. This is all good and well if you have made a connection to this place but to readers who haven’t it left me with little to connect to the story. The characters are meant to draw you into the story, to connect you to the place. I felt like I was never given a chance to do it. It was like an autopsy of technique.

To me this read like an exercise in craft. I’m very supportive of any creator wishing to push the boundaries of the comic craft. This is defiantly an unique comic and an unique voice in a media that severely dominated by one form of expression. So I find myself a bit torn when discussing this book. I appreciate it for pushing the envelope and having the balls to try something new. On the other hand I simply wasn’t entertained enough to want to put my dollars behind it. I know that this is contributing to the dominance of men in tights in a medium I want to see diversify itself, but I won’t buy something purely on principle. Yeah, I’m a sell out to all the teenagers now, I did my time only buying indy music until I found myself listening to an album I bought and thinking I needed more music that had talent involved. So while I have punk rock roots I’m simply more selective in my methods these days. I hope to be the same with comics.

So this is like the science of storytelling as opposed to storytelling. We can go to science to see what makes human beings tick or we can go to the stories to see what makes life interesting. I like people not human beings. Characters not a bunch of character sketches. In other words, simply having a good idea isn’t enough for me. I want a good idea with good execution. I’m not setting up any hard lines here. It is purely arbitrary what I define to be “good.”

Local, like Nextwave, are two books where I find myself actually liking the art more than the story being told. For me, good comics are a combination. One needs to work with the other, however, I tend to forgive a lot if the plot, characters and other bits where the writer has more sway are stronger than the art. That’s just where I come from and what I bring to the medium. I’ve got too many English degrees not be drawn towards that aspect of comics. I can forgive artists a lot because I don’t feel overly qualified to critique them too much.

So yeah, Nextwave. If Local is the experimental indy film, Nextwave is the slapstick comedy. Again I think a lot of what made Nextwave funny simply works better in film or other hot media. Whereas in Local I was drawn out by reading the same dialogue repeatedly, in Nextwave I think a lot of the humour involved would be funnier if delivered by live actors. Again, not that it isn’t funny or that comics can’t be funny – but the humour seemed to be based around character acting. I simply think it’s best if the characters aren’t static. Yes I think the art is dynamic and awesomely so, but even dynamic characters can’t deliver a line the way an actor can. It’s left to the reader to interpret too much. So while I think the art is dynamic, it still can't help but remain static on the page.

I do think that Nextwave is like the ultimate comic insider comedy. I just don’t feel like enough of an insider yet to get it all. So while a few of you will now call for me to be expelled from comic blogdom, that’s my bit. I hope it gives a balance to the overwhelming love these books have been given. I felt like a leper or a communist for not liking them as much as what I’ve read out there. But hey, I like All-Star Superman. I don’t completely suck.

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