Re: Film and Comic Books

From: Omar Willey (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Oct 02 2007 - 18:18:53 PDT

So Chris Kennedy said:

> Hmm... I probably should drop this, but I want to tease it out a
> bit more.
> I was looking less for comic artist theory and more for film art
> theory
> that could be brought over into the comic world to help formulate
> aesthetic theories. Admittedly, my friend is teaching a grad level
> course
> on comic books, so she's just the "threat" you're loathe to let at
> your
> 25-cent bin, but it is mildly engaging to think about.
> It seems to me that one of the interesting things that comics and
> films
> share is the space between images, where the construction is made
> in the
> mind of the viewer. I know this is basic film theory, but anyone
> have a
> good prime text for this? Also, teasing out ideas from assembled
> films,
> like A MOVIE or Robert Breer's work would be fun.
> best,
> Chris

I figured someone would mention Groensteen's bore, given the general
fetish with academic writing here on F-words...err..F-works. There's
also a Dutch writer who wrote some bollocks about the difference
between American and European underground artist using comparative
linguistics and the distinction between prototype and componential
analysis. The Dutch love writing soul-sucking nonsense. Whatever.
But, the bigger issue, Chris, is why in goodness' name would you try
to adapt film theory to comix? Is there some reason that comics
aesthetics can't come from within the practice of the craft itself,
rather than as some poor adjunct to another art form? Or am I
forgetting that film is oh-so-respectable and made more so by the
amount of academic drivel written about it, while comix are still a
crap art, quite removed from respectability and completely devoid of
intellectual practitioners?

While you're right to draw a certain level of connection in the idea
that comics and film both utilize elliptical space, film through
editing and comix through frame line, pursuing that too far will lead
you into a very dead end indeed. Film works more with time, comix
works with space in quite different ways. The very size and shape of
a frame in comix will determine a certain attitude toward time where
the film frame is regular in the extreme. Furthermore, if you're
dealing with film it is generally discrete images one before, one
after in series--not at all similar to comix, where multiple images
and multiple flows from one image to the next exist. Not to mention
the obvious fact that time in comix is subject to the reader's
literacy level as well as the simple ability to conjoin pictures with
static words. The very graphical nature of comix--pictures and text
laid out on a page--makes it substantially and essentially different.
And since I'm supposed to be some college-educated schmuck here,
William Ivins has already dealt with the fairly obvious (now)
difference between graphical syntax and photographic "syntax"--and
film is certainly photographic at its root. You'd find more
relationship between comix and the photographic work of Ray Metzker,
Duane Michals, John Baldessari, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and
Wright Morris, than you will ever find between Bruce Conner or Tony
Conrad and comix (though Russ Meyer would have told you his films
were an attempt to do "Li'l Abner" in a film format).

But hey, I'm not one to put you off a journey of curiosity. Try
looking through Carl Linder's _Filmmaking_, in particular his
discussion of expressionistic film. If you can find some of Stan
Vanderbeek's interviews he also has interesting ideas about
assemblage and multiple projection. "Compound Entendre" is collected
in "Film: A Montage of Theories," I think. See if you can find
something about multiple projected images and compare that to
multiple graphical images on a page. Or not.

While you're working on that, I'll be listening to Slayer.


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