Over the last month or so, I've encountered a few people who claim they dislike the graphic novel form because they don't like having the world and all its images presented to them; they would rather use their imaginations to create their own picture of the events of a story. (I would ask these people if, by this same logic, they refused to go see the Lord of the Rings trilogy because, gee, wouldn't the images on the screen interfere with their own imaginings of Middle Earth? No, no, that would have required people to be consistent and make sense.)
I just finished reading Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. It is, of course, a fabulous piece of work, dense and powerful; more than once I had to put the collection aside and give my brain time to decompress and process everything I'd just read. But I bring it up here because this work is the most potent argument for the validity of the graphic novel as a medium that I could conceive of. The written words are well-done, of course, but I speak specifically of the way the art and the text interlock to create a rich, nuanced story, constantly playing with and off of the reader's expectations. The art is not the prettiest, but more than once I found myself pulling the book closer to study the panels, Where's Waldo style, trying to pick up on every little detail.
It's true that in many graphic novels, the art does nothing more than illustrate, or worse yet attempts to distract the reader from sloppy writing. Watchmen, however, shows what is possible when text and image work together inextricably and organically. In this case we have not merely scenes but a world, with all the mad, self-referential detail and thickly layered meaning of a dream.
So then I ask myself, can I do something like that? Can I put together elements and make them fit together with the organic precision of an ecosystem? Can I do it while working alone?
I think I'm gonna need more coffee for this.
Crossposted to grailquestion
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