It’s a good feeling

Yeah, I feel pretty good right now, as a critic. This is now twice where I have made criticisms on a comic, the artist took my advice to consideration, and improved their work.

The first was with my man Peter V over at 13 Seconds. A month or so back I reviewed his comic and said where I think it needed improvement, and he took heed. I’m watching to see what’s going on in that comic and so far I think it’s been improving. Also since, he and I have become decent colleagues.

This second time is with Cayetano Garza, after my… less than friendly criticism of his music-comic experimentation. I happened to come across his LJ, and found that he had made a revision to his experiment with musical comics. This time it was in the form of a QuickTime movie, downloadable for all to view at their convenience.

So I watched it, prepared to not like it. I mean I’ll be honest here, I’m pretty skeptical about this musical comic business, as I am with most experimental art in any form. So I watched it and I have to admit I was intrigued.

It made me think hard on what a comic is. I still stick to the McCloud definition of “Juxtaposed Pictoral and other images in deliberate sequence.” So, if we were defining Cayetano’s latest bit, it would not be a comic. It would be a film or an animation. If the goal were to incorporate music into a comic, a comic by definitive standards, Cayetano needs to figure out how to have his images juxtaposed with each other, laid out together, with the music in the back. And that is of course an immensely tricky preposition, because everyone reads a comic at their own speed, and rarely to a beat.

And this is experimental, and since the objective of experimental art is to get everybody thinking, I’d have to say this effort was a resounding success.

I just re-read Understanding Comics the other day. I hold that tome in a high regard, as I’m sure many of the rest of you do. Personally, I like McCloud’s definition of comics/sequential art. It just works for me. And every time I read that book, it influences the way I think analytically for a few days, when it comes to comics (mostly my own work, but others also).

Getting back to the topic at hand, I don’t think I really like what Cayetano’s making. Music and comics don’t mix well with me. But, I like where Cayetano’s going. The feeling this instills in me is similar to the way I often feel in my film classes when I’m watching something like, I don’t know, Battleship Potemkin or any other real landmark film. I think “Wow, this is really boring/uninteresting/lame, but I understand why it’s important.”

And that’s how I feel about Cayetano’s stuff in the broadest sense. I think what he’s doing is important, because if there’s a boundary that hasn’t been broken, then it’s worth breaking. In art, anyway (me, I just don’t usually enjoy looking at it until it’s all done and figured out). Music and Comics have not gone hand in hand, and if someone can figure out how to do that, then I 100% support that notion. Also, if anyone else is trying to do this, let me know. I’m terribly curious now. I want to enjoy the combination of music and comics.

But again, to make it a comic, in my eyes, it needs to feature juxtaposed pictoral and other images placed in deliberate sequence. That means the images are placed next to each other, rather than shown in a sequential order. That’s what makes it a film or animation (If indeed his goal is to make a musical comic. I’m only speculating at the moment).

So this will be me saying my official stance is “You’re on the right track. Keep it up, you’ll figure it out.”

And this, all this, is the most rewarding part of the criticism process. Helping other artists become greater. Art is cool and communal like that.

9 Responses to “It’s a good feeling”

  1. william G says:

    I cant remember who it was who tried it (I think Kean Soo), and I could never get it to work for me, but someone tried to set their comic to the song “Devil in The Kitchen” a few years ago.

  2. Phil Kahn says:

    I’d really like to see that Will, if you still know where to find it.

  3. I enjoyed it when ButternutSquash included a little music snippet inline to reference what the character is dancing to:

    http://butternutsquash.net/assets/pages/bns-comic73.html

    but if I had to silence my browser all the time it would piss me off.

    The other point I would make in response to this is that it’s good to have a formal definition for what comics are and are not, so we can make a meaningful distinction between animation and comics, we want to careful not to decry anything that doesn’t fit into that mold. It’s worthwhile for people to try and fuse the comics and music and animation because it’s how the medium grows and cuts new ground.

  4. Yep, it is Kean who did it, but its not available at his site at the moment because it apparently breaks the layout
    http://www.keaner.net/studio/?p=112
    He has several other ones that uses music though, if you’re interested in how he does them
    http://keaner.net/exitmusic/

  5. william G says:

    Okay, I was right. And that also explains why I couldnt find it.

    I have one simple rule for what makes a comic and what makes an animation: The reader controls their progress through the images. When I Am King used a number of animations, but they weren’t used to… um… move panels (for lack of a better term)… They were there to basically act as a punchline.

    An example, Broken Saints was not a comic, but a very slow animation because I didnt control my progress. At least the stuff I had the patience to sit through was like that. And while I like what Cat is trying to do (because, without guys like him, webcomics would be more dreary and one-note than they are now)I agree that his latest prsentation stepped past the line into animation.

    Maybe that’s the point. I’m not him, I have no idea.

  6. Phil Kahn says:

    Reading Cat’s LJ, he says that apparently McCloud says that if there’s animations interspresed within pages of comics, it counts as comics. I’m not sure I neccessarily agree with that one when it comes to webcomics, because the animation isn’t juxtaposed against other images in this case. Especially since it’s a standalone Guicktime file.

  7. william G says:

    well, in the latest installment of Magic Inkwell, I will agree with you. It’s just an animated music video. But, as I mentioed “When I Am King” used a number of animated panels without breaking the comic flow of it.

  8. I wouldn’t call that a comic (but in the nicest possible way.) It certainly is, as has been said, a music video with comic elements. The reader is not in control of the flow and I agree with William, he crossed the line into movie (music video, animation, whathaveyou) by turning comic images into moving comic images.

    It’s kind of like having books on tape. It’s still the same material but the presentation is different. You have someone else reading the words to you, someone else putting inflection into the words, maybe even someone else’s idea of moode music in the background.

    The other point I would make is that part of comics being so-called “sequential art” is that the images are presented sequentially on the page. I know, animation can be thought of as a kind of sequential art too but this is not the definition I am using here. Sequential art means, at the most basic, two images side by side that create meaning by their proximity. By rendering the whole “comic” in a single panel and running through time instead of space, we create animation and, thus, move away from what a comic is.

  9. Tym Godek says:

    Kean Soo’s Devil in the Kitchen is still up here:
    http://keaner.net/kitchen/kitchen.html

    I’m actually doing a work up on the combination of music and webcomics for (possible) inclusion in the next Webcomics Examiner. There have been a few ideas discussed that I think bear further investigation.