Monday, January 19th, 2009
Chuck Dixon has an interesting essay on the state of comics and storytelling. One area caught my interest
In genre fiction, plot separates the men from the boys. Come up with an interesting, engaging story with rising action built into it and then set your character in motion within that plot. Only a dullard repeatedly extrapolates on a character’s personality and calls it a story. Only a dullard would enjoy that. Sure, you can get away with it once in a while and it’s cool to reward readers with some new revelation or reaction based on the antagonist’s core beliefs or conflicts. Those are moments that thrill longtime fans and add depth to the character’s world for casual readers. But these Tennessee Williams plays that go on for years and reach no cathartic resolution are tiresome; especially when presented in a medium and genre where we want to see the hero and his cast doing something.
One issue I would take with this is Dixon’s use of either or reasoning. Perhaps the pendulum has swung to extremes in comics (I’d argue that much of his assailing is also true of “work-shop” short fictions as well, where too much in storytelling often relies on increased shock factors), where “ambiguity” has become “the new hip in comics,” but this doesn’t mean that there are only two modes: plot and character-driven telling. If we must have plot, we can strike a balance between what develops from intensive character development and interesting situations and problems. This is exactly why the Punisher example is precise and appropriate.