CASB: What Part of 'Visual Medium' Don't You Understand?
Hello. My name is Mela, and I write. I'm not a writer, per se - I've given up on that pipe dream of ever being published. But I write an essay or review or a (in all honesty) fanfic there, and it's a hobby I enjoy. One thing I most definitely am not, however, is an artist.
That is simething that makes me sad. Art legitimately amazes me, and since so much of the media I enjoy is visually oriented, I wish it was something I could create. Painted, digital, pixel, line work... I love it all. And even if I think it's bad, I still respect the time & effort that went into making it.
It is because of this that I am really bothered by this trend in comics press & fandom to ignore and downplay the artists. As much as I love & respect & enjoy many comic writers, it bothers me when they're exclusively mentioned in reviews. For example, let's take Saga; there's a legitimately great series with amazing talent behind it. But mark my words, if you read the reviews, they'll emphasize Brian K. Vaughn's writing over Fiona Staples's gorgeous art. And that's if she's mentioned at all. It's not an isolated example, either. Comicdom has entered a sort of "celebrity writer" period that, while it recognizes some truly great talent, it does so at the expense of that talent's equally skilled partners.
Now, the heart of the question is "why". I think it stems from an effort to make comics seem more "literary" - if we downplay the fact that the pictures exist, maybe people will magically start taking us seriously! Well, no. You'd think by now comicdom wouldn't need constant validation, but it's probably never going to stop. We'll always deny what makes comics... well, comics by trying to "be taken seriously".
A comic is a partnership between the narrative and the art, and that's how it's designed to function. Think about how many times you've been bitterly disappointed in a visually beautiful comic with bad writing. Or (in an experience I'll be discussing in future reviews) how a really solid story is turned to mush by ugly, incomprehensible art. Think of how many times, especially in the 90s, when we were excited to see a book written by a favorite artist, only to learn that they needed that writer back at their old company they'd been dissing. Or how a beloved writer's work suddenly became a perfect storm of their worst tendencies because the new artist couldn't smooth them out like the old one.
Art is important to comics. Art is important period. Art requires just as much hard work and thought, if not more, than writing (look at how many great artists die young or get ill from overwork - it's more taxing on a body than you'd think). If I could make lovely art, I would; hell, I'd probably be enjoying my ultimate pipe dream of making my own comic. I may not be an artist myself, but it bothers me greatly that half of the necessary ingredients for a comic are considered optional, and I really wish it would stop.