This is a thing I wanted to explain for awhile–since back when this blog was known as “jispylicious” in fact–but just, I could never find the words for it.
You see, I’ve touched on some of the more obvious issues comic books have–continuity problems, retcons, macho attitudes, pithy attempts at “maturity” that are little more than hormone fantasies, writers who don’t understand that its a visual medium and they don’t need long paragraphs explaining what we see in the panel or metric tons of dialogue balloons, the amount of times I’ve had to re-read panels and even entire pages just because they were arranged in a counter-intuitive order rather than according to the natural flow of one’s eye–but all of these are basically, chocolate chips. They’re not the cookie.
If my problem with comics was just a few clueless writers, I’d eventually find one I liked. I’ve come close a few times, but its never lasted. But I’ve never been able to find a way to explain why, never a word that would sum up what the problem is.
A conversation last night revealed to me what the full extent of the jam is, and helped me find that word.
The word is introverted.
I’m gonna have to use a few examples to illustrate, so bear with me, even if it seems like I’m off on a tangent at times.
During the development of Resident Evil 4, one of their early plot ideas involved an actually paranormal threat, and was more psychological horror akin to Silent Hill. Now, there are plenty of people who saw previews and actually liked this direction, but even so, series creator Shinji Mikami vetoed it because he realized it was so out-of-touch with the series identity. (And while I have criticized RE4 in the past, I can not ever deny that it is a legitimate continuation of the series).
In one episode of Sailor Moon, the story involves animators who are working on an upcoming “Sailor V” movie. One of the animators gets possessed by one of Nephrite’s youma, and on the spur of the moment decides to change the movie’s ending, so that Sailor V dies. Everyone else is horrified, and tells her, “would you really crush children’s dreams?”
Now, for contrast:
The first (or maybe second or third) issue of the MLP comic has Queen Chrysalis killing a kitten, specifically to traumatize the Cutie Mark Crusaders. Everyone I’ve talked to who ever defended this scene said “I liked this direction,” or else “It made sense from the story’s internal logic.”
That right there.
American comics are written in a vacuum. They care only about themselves. They act like the world outside does not exist.
A person who does that is a sociopath. A story that does that is equally sociopathic.
STOP RIGHT THERE!!!
If you reply WITHOUT reading the part below, I will delete your comment without hesitation
I know what you’re gonna say. People on the internet always reduce a person’s meaning to the barest, most simplistic concept they understand. In doing so, they often miss the point entirely.
What you’re thinking right now, is “Oh, so Moe is totally against individual creativity and completely in favor of charts, trends and focus-tests.”
No. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is understanding how it will come off to the people you’re showing it to.
For example, Back to the Future part III had a deleted scene where Biff Tannen’s ancestor (I forget his name) shoots the sheriff dead in front of his son. Director Robert Zemeckis realized that upon seeing this scene, audiences would expect Tannen to die in the film’s climactic showdown, and would feel cheated if he didn’t. Since that wasn’t the movie Zemeckis wanted to make, he instead just excised the scene in question.
It’s the same principle, really, as any sort of social tact. Its all about listening to yourself, understanding what you’re saying, and understanding what the person you’re talking to is gonna hear.
And its something comic book writers just don’t get.
In fact, to a large degree most American media just doesn’t get it. Sadly, America has been too indoctrinated with Public Relations spindoctoring that tries to tell you that crap is actually quality, just misunderstood. We get “it’s originality” or “I’m doing my own thing” from people who are too lazy or egotistical to actually try to improve. We get “art is subjective” from terrible artists who want so much to believe the problem isn’t that their painting sucks, its that the rest of the world isn’t open-minded enough to appreciate them.
America does have artists who know what they’re doing, just not in the comics field. That field went to madness and insanity long ago, and there’s no hope in sight.
If I haven’t been clear enough on any point, feel free to ask.