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Books vs Movies vs Comics

The Medium of Mediums – an illustrated story and captured frame!

JLA / Avengers vs Dark Phoenix - John Byrne

JLA / Avengers vs Dark Phoenix – John Byrne

We first suppose that the story trumps all. But! – the visual is the lure that elicits interest. Books are marketed with an excerpt that shows the literary style and depicts a dramatic turn in the story. Movies are marketed with a trailer, containing short clips of action or drama meant to build curiosity behind the course of events that lead to these glimpsed moments. Comics are marketed with a bold depiction of a character(s) and a plot-teaser related to the action or drama of the story.

 

 

For most, a book still represents one of the purest forms of storytelling. It is the shortest distance between two points: the story being relayed by the author and the mind of the reader who absorbs the words and translates them with their own experiences and imagination. If the writer describes an attractive character entering the room, the reader will translate the loose description and couple it with ‘what would make that person attractive to them’. You are always guaranteed to be on the same (sorry for this) page as the author. A movie, beyond budgetary concerns, has to deal with casting. They need to not only consider the character the author has depicted, but also take into account-  who the readers have created in their minds. What actor can bring this character to life? Who is enough of a draw to bring in those unfamiliar with the story?

 

A comic walks the line between both worlds. It is an illustrated story. Nothing more, nothing less. We may simplify a comic into being Idealized (or stylized) people in dynamic poses, but we miss the critical consideration. A comic must be successful at both story and art to survive. Where the graphic novel represents a full story designed to be absorbed as a standalone ‘cinematic’ experience, the comic book is a serialized episode and a small slice of the larger story. You must entertain the reader and keep them curious. You must display the story and events in plain sight, but also engage the mind and allow the blank spaces (or panels) to be filled in with imagination. You can’t grab the hottest actor or actress available (both in popularity and charisma) and cross your fingers. You need to depict them and convince your readers again and again- with every panel.

Penciler: John Byrne Inker: John Byrne

Fantastic Four, Issue 248, Page 6 Penciler: John Byrne Inker: John Byrne

The story is the origin, which is why so many of our most beloved franchises started from text medium. A written account is a near-perfect medium for the sweeping saga. The nostalgia and heavy imprinting was aided by our own imagination. We remember both the story AND the experience of taking in the adventure. Comics get their re-releases, special editions and reboots. A classic book isn’t necessarily re-written by different authors, but several versions of the same story are common. In the same way different writers and illustrators may visit the same material (usually the origin story) and add their own voice and version to the mix.

 

Competition affects and challenges comic books in a unique way. Movies are scheduled to avoid box office competition and it’s rare that similar movies arrive close together. Books, with their extended shelf life, can survive weeks moving up and down the rankings, on different selling lists and charts. Even if a movie is a weak contribution to its genre, the timing can be beneficial as it gets a run as the current offering. With comic books, it’s more than likely that the best example of an idea is STILL being sold and that franchise also has a current comic book for sale. So yes, a comic book must compete with EVERY book in its lane. And for so many comic books, focused on such a narrow subject-matter, the competition for your attention (and dollar) is steep.

 

The idea that ‘anyone can film something’ is pushed back by the gatekeepers of the industry and the studio system (that’s the reason six different companies are listed at the start of films). The open door of ‘anyone can be a writer’ is usually closed with the challenge of writing a good book. A good comic book is one that excels at BOTH story and art, which is why comics provide so much material for books and movies. Maybe that’s because a comic is both – the depicted word and also a captured frame of motion. A measure of appreciation can be earned from understanding the challenges surrounding the creation and presentation of a comic book.