In this weeks column of ONE FAN`S OPINION Erik Larsen writes about how more and more writers don´t want to use sound effects in comics because they are too comic booky. He makes a very good point that there is no sense to it.
The same people who argue that it is unrealistic to have a character say : " Oh no, the DARK SCREAMER has deflected my power blasts with his zero gravity nullifier. I have to come up with a different way to defeat him before my hour of power is up and I´m mild mannered reporter Wimp Lame again. " because that doesn´t happen in the real world and just there to transport information to the readers the artist couldn´t bring across otherwise.....the same people think it´s a good idea to let people say : " Oh, the phone is ringing. I wonder who it could be. " or " There is someone at the door. I better open it. " just to avoid sound effects.
Well, let me tell you something : that´s also unrealistic and doesn´t happen in the real world. I never feel the need to announce the sounds around me I hear to nobody in particular. Another aspect is that sound effects are also a form of visual expression in comics and for me comics are just not comics without them. I don´t think walter Simonson´s Thor comics would be as impressive without the mindboggling sound effects.
There is this new trend of writers trying to get rid of all the things ( I´m not talking about Dan Slott´s series THE THING which you should be buying by the way - I want to read the big poker tournament issue ) that make comics unique and more like movies. Things like captions, thought balloons, footnotes and now sound effects. I don´t think it´s a good idea to get rid of the things that make comics unique. It´s right that sometimes artists don´t know how to use them properly and the results are mediocre comics. But in the hands of a real comic virtuoso they can be used to enhance the comic to new levels of literacy.
That they are not used very good by some people is not a good argument to get rid of them altogether. I mean there are a lot of people who are bad, yes, downright awful drivers but nevertheless nobody would get the idea to say : let´s get rid of cars. Or to bring a comic book example : you don´t have to use every X-Man in every issue of the UNCANNY X-MEN. If you don´t like Gambit ( which by the way is your duty unless you are an evil robot drone from dimension X......hhmmm, have to write this one up as a possible comic title ) you don´t have to use him in every issue. You don´t have to use him at all ! You can just say that he got his foot stuck in the cellar and leave it at that. But it´s a bit extreme to say all other writers should do the same ( as much as I wish that would be true ).
I just don´t understand why an artist would limit himself in a medium that is limited to begin with. There is no real movement in comics, there is no real sound in comics but do you have to deny yourself the few tools you have ? People say it is strange that people in comics have long winded dialogues in panels that take place in a few seconds. And that such a thing does not happen in movies. That´s right - because it can´t.
If Hollywood was able to pull this off they surely would do it. If there was a chance to get long winded dialogues into something that happens in mere seconds Hollywood would jump onto it. When you are writing comics you should not impose the limitations other mediums have. You have enough limitations in the medium you are working with you don´t need to add to them.
When writing a movie writers sometimes try to use thought ballons or captions. Don´t believe me ? Have you ever seen an episode of MAGNUM P.I. ? Throughout the whole episode the main character is talking to himself and we the viewers can hear this. It is called " inner monologue " and the movie version of thought balloons or captions. So while the comics themselves are trying to get rid of them other mediums like movies try unsuccessfully to copy them. Gives you something to think about doesn´t it ?
Another thing that bothers me about this whole debate is that in an interview I read not so long ago somebody said : if you don´t want to draw background or buildings or cars or normal people without spandex and just like to draw pin up type of pages or splash pages maybe you ought to think about it if you really want to draw comics. If all you want to draw are covers and pin ups you can be a good artist but you don´t really want to be a comic book artist. Which doesn´t mean that you are not a good artist. You just are not a comic book artist. Because being a comic book artist means that at 80 % of the time you will have to draw things you don´t like.
And if you don´t want to use captions, thought ballons, footnotes or sound effects maybe you don´t really want to write comics. If you are always bitching that the pictures in comics don´t move and that comics ought to be written more like movies maybe in reality you want to write movies. And if you don´t want to use all the mentioned things why don´t you also get rid of such unnecessary things like speed lines and panels and speech ballons. Just text and pictures. Which people call a picture book. Or why not go all the way, forget about those pesky pictures. But then you are not writing a comic then you are writing a book.
Anyway, what I wanted to say is I am hoping for a trend that tries to bring comics to new greatness not belittle them. A trend that draws from comics rich history and it´s rich inventory instead of ignoring it. Like Grant Morrison´s ALL STAR SUPERMAN. I have been reading comics for a long time now and there are some things that we could use in comics today. Wouldn´t it be neat if you hadn´t to use the internet because you have read a comic and want to know when Superman and Batman encountered the crimson menace the first time ?
If there would be a caption in the same issue you read that gives you that information ? I don´t know how many threads there are on internet forums which only resolve about such themes and how easily they could be redundant by simply including footnotes. Or letters pages. Some people say that letters pages are outdated and that internet message boards are far better and much faster. Yes, that is right - unless the message board crashes or all the old threads are deleted to make way for new topics. Hundreds of hours worth of time and effort gone forever. And it also takes a lot of time to sift through all the postings that are boring, or insulting or just plain stupid.
I like letters pages. Not only because a person with good taste selects the letters that get printed and saves you of hundreds of mails sayin : " You suck, you hack. Bring back character x or else. " I always enjoyed to read the explanations some people gave about things I didn´t know or the things that were pointed out that I had overlooked. For me as a comic reader in Germany who only got some issues with huge gaps between them in the beginnig of my comic reading days the letters page was always a good way to find out out what had happened in prior issues. There is just no replacement for the big discussions that made me think and sometimes reevaluate my attitude or belief about some things. I like the poems or pictures other readers send in and the sheer enthusiasm of some people. And everyone who ever got his letter printed knows that it is a special thing to have his own words saved for eternity. I can read a comic that is a decade old and maybe I can find a letter by some of my favorite comic writers when they were just comic fans like me. That is something that is lost by todays techno dependency.
Initially I wanted to write about the new solicitations and how you can save 23 bucks but I just had to write down my thoughts on this. So it is okay to use sound effects in comics. Or captions or foot notes or thought ballons. It´s all in the way you use them. So be bold and don´t let anyone put limitations on you. Making a comic book is like using the Green Lantern ring : the only limitation should be your imagination.
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