Learning from our older brother

edited August 2007 in Story Games
I just started Reading Comics by Douglas Wolk. It’s an interesting book. In the first chapter Wolk raises several points that I think have strong parallels with RPGs, story games and things that the Forgr/indie/story games communities have been talking about a lot ove the last few months. Here are 4 separate bits from the first chapter. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. I’ll just say this: there’s certainly value in making and learning from mistakes. But isn’t it wise to look at the mistakes of our older brother and try to avoid them?

-Jake (also posted on my blog here: http://jake-richmond.livejournal.com/25325.html)

“Any art with a bygone golden age is doomed to try to repeat it, and to repeat its failings. The big problem with the idea of the Silver Age is that, by definition, the Golden Age is follows is lost, and the people who use that name are working from the assumption that the gold belongs in the past. The cartoonists of the 30s and 40s and early 50s were, for the most part, desperate, underpaid kids and sleazy entrepreneurs. Sometimes they managed to make crudely powerful imagination bombs anyway, and a small handful of them were ahead of their time; they knew they could fob off any old thing on the children who were their audience- and did. All of them left their mark on the next generation of cartoonists, though, because they were the Ancients. For the next couple of decades comics either imitated the Golden Age’s artistic and storytelling strategies, developed improvements on them, or (occasionally) rebelled against them.”

“From then until the turn of the millennium, those three books (Dark Knight, Watchmen and Maus) became the standard against which comics that wanted to be important or meaningful were measured and the standard to which too many cartoonists who wanted to create something important or meaningful (but didn’t know how) aspired.”

“Another common error is to assert that highbrow comics are, somehow, not really comics but something else (preferably with a fancier name) –different not just in breed but in species from their mass-cultural namesakes. There’s a certain nose-in-the-air class consciousness inherent in this particular argument.”

“If you try to draw a boundary that includes everything that counts as comics and excludes everything that doesn’t, two things happen: first, the medium always wriggles across that boundary, and second, whatever politics are implicit in the definition always boomerang on the definer.”

Comments

  • Heheh. Great.
  • Heh heh heh.

    That's right, I forgot about that. There is a difference between genre and medium, and it's tempting to relegate the older, cruder, uglier genre of days before and forge ahead.
  • "That's right, I forgot about that. There is a difference between genre and medium, and it's tempting to relegate the older, cruder, uglier genre of days before and forge ahead."

    I've talked to a few different people about this and gotten wildly different responses, none of which matched my initial response. Which is interesting. I think the lesson here (for me) is that things that I see as a problem aren't necessarily seen as one by everyone (or anyone) else, or (more often) seen as a different kind of problem. In any cae, I've gotten some interestin discussion out of these passages, and as I continue to read the book I'm drawing more and more obvious parallels, not just with the text but with my own experiences as both a comics reader and artist.
  • I'm reading it as well and it (with some help) is already getting me into some great arguments.
  • That is a good one. I'm tempted to post another round of excerpts, as well as some interesting Dave Sim stuff I just came across. Again, I think there's valuable lessons that we (or maybe just me?) can learn here.
  • Jake, do post more.

    Graham
  • edited August 2007
    Posted By: misubaI'm reading it as well and it (with some help) is already getting me into some great arguments.
    Yeaaaah. Actually, I'd say that the book has very, very little to do with the arguments you've gotten yourself into. You've mentioned it once directly by way of example, sure, but I do think the reactions you've been getting have more to do with tone of writing and being open to criticism all around than the book at all.
  • It's informing my position, is all. I think the book's real value is as an example of how to do criticism that still respects the personal pleasure people take in whatever it is they like.
  • Posted By: misubaIt's informing my position, is all. I think the book's real value is as an example of how to do criticism that still respects the personal pleasure people take in whatever it is they like.
    That certainly makes sense. ;) I'll have to dig up a copy myself.
  • "Jake, do post more."

    As soon as I have a chance. There are a few things I came across in the book that I thought were very relevant, but now I'm having trouble finding.
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