Comics, like poetry or music, has a set of clichés and expectations which must be broken down if any progress can be made. In order to do this criticism should be focused more on language; on the choice of every word in every panel. To that end, I have chosen a group of bad examples, just at random, off the internet. It took me about 10 minutes to find a dozen terrible pages. Let’s take a look.
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Okay…let’s ignore the larger problem with the theme here. I don’t really care about Superman being…un…re…dead. Let’s look at the language as poetry. “As well as anyone,” seems a fairly useless idea, as does “to make sense of it all.” It’s not necessarily cliché, but it is trite, as is ‘mirroring’ death. ‘Mirroring’ is a fairly overly used concept, especially in dark, psychological concepts. I have a hard time buying someone actually saying this conversationally. There’s a lot of repeated terms as well. Death. Science. I got it. Overall, this whole thing should be more conversational. I can’t imagine these two having this conversation, or anyone not attempting to explain the concept of undeath. This is a hard example since the actual theme of the conversation is so…stupid.
Okay this one suffers from the same thing as a lot of Wonder Woman monologues. It’s dark, but falsely so. It calls on the gothic language without doing anything original or honest with it, so it falls flat. War calling to blood is shallow. I would like to have some actual imagery built up. In poetry we often say we want to ‘see’ what the author is talking about. That may seem like a redundant movement in a comic, but I think it’s needed. The point is not to replace a picture, but to create a sense of synesthesia. Something that gives us the sense of the brutality of the moment. “What have you done?” may have had force the first or 50th time it was used, but now it’s just a filler. Same thing with “Nightmare Future.” Is this really the best you can come up with?
Okay this one is different. In this one it’s the sound of the language that bothers me. The multiple ‘r’ sound one after the other just seems awkward. Try saying it outloud. I don’t think anyone would even say it that way. It simply won’t roll off the tongue.
This is a rather quick overview of the comics as poetry idea. If I happen across a few more I will discuss those as well. I will keep my eyes out for particularly good examples, as well. The basic idea, however, is that more attention needs to be paid to the intricacies of thought, language, and communication. I believe my professor, Mr Ryan Claytor, once expressed an indifference to theme in deference to interpersonal relationships. I have to agree with him. I would like to suggest, however, that these relationships exist in the dialogue and word choice. This is as important as the position of a hand, a word bubble; a frame.