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  1. #1
    Mild-Mannered Reporter
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    Default CBR: Shelf Life - Jun 16, 2011

    Ron Marz asks - and answers - the age-old comics question regarding the importance of story and art, using Gibbons, Williiams and Kirby to prove that the two should work hand in hand.


    Full article here.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Steve Broome's Avatar
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    The silliness that I feel is in the question art OR writing (when it's clearly art AND writing) is duplicated whenever people argue digital VERSUS print.

  3. #3
    Street Legal Baby Fabio13's Avatar
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    On the surface, this is actually an incredibly easy question for me to answer. But when you look deeper into it, it's actually a very excellent one to ask.

    On one hand, you may have a writer who delivers a fantastic script, yet have an artist who can't exactly deliver what the writer is driving home about in his story telling for one reason or another (be it his art style is incompatible with the story type, the two are on different wave levels, or the artist can't keep up with the talent of the writer) While on the other hand, you may have a writer who relies on his artist to do the heavy duty chores of making the book "readable".

    If I HAD to choose one or the other, it's definitely story. But there have been situations where the art has killed a perfectly good storyline and situations where the writer's plotting/dialogue/etc has killed the amazing pencils of the artist.

  4. #4

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    I think its the art that draws you in, pun intended. And it's the writing that keeps you there.
    Last edited by Bsavini781; 06-16-2011 at 04:52 PM. Reason: mispelling

  5. #5
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    It actually puzzles me when people say, "I'm reading for _____'s art". I mean, if its just the art you're after, hit 'em Google Images. If the actual plotting/dialog/characterization/etc is terrible, not even God/Frank Quitely himself can save it.

  6. #6
    Senior Member jsf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NickFury90 View Post
    It actually puzzles me when people say, "I'm reading for _____'s art". I mean, if its just the art you're after, hit 'em Google Images. If the actual plotting/dialog/characterization/etc is terrible, not even God/Frank Quitely himself can save it.
    I thought the same thing until I saw that Jack Kirby page. Then I realized that i'd re-read every bad story Kirby ever wrote just to look at the pictures.

    If the man drew pictures of phone book entries it'd still be awesome.

  7. #7
    X-Gene Positive cookepuss's Avatar
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    I'm not sure that this is an either or situation. You can have the most amazing art in the world, but if the story is boring or rehashed then it's just a collection of pretty pictures. Conversely, you can have the most brilliant script, but if the art isn't up to the task then it's just awkward or difficult to look at.

    At the same time, how well each element holds up is open to argument.

    What looked jaw dropping in 1971 might not look so hot in 2011. How we see the world and our collective visual likes change all of the time. The fashion changes. The visual gimmicks evolve. Even the definition of beauty changes. Those rising star artists that shook the industry 5 years ago might look played out now. So few of these hot commodities end up being industry legends.

    Likewise, writing is most certainly a product of the times. The slang changes. The level of character development or story architecture changes. The socio-political reference and allusions act as sign posts and mark each era. The work of Stan Lee was amazing and complex for the 1960s, yet fails to captivate today. Our love for it today is more out of respect for what it represents, compounded with a little nostalgia.

    You can go decade by decade and watch the evolution of comic story telling. Do legendary runs like Claremont's Uncanny X-Men still feel fresh and exciting today? Does it feel relevant? Has it dated itself? Have more modern stories surpassed his epics? Again, it's all open to interpretation. However, like artists, I feel that each writer has a "shelf life" - that period in which they are most relevant. After, they somehow lose touch, start remixing their greatest ideas, and begin to feel "classic."

    It happens to the best of creative types, in any industry. There was a point in the 1980s where writer/director John Hughes could do no wrong. Everything he wrote or directed turned to gold. Mr. Mom... Vacation... The Breakfast Club... Sixteen Candles... Weird Science... Pretty in Pink... Ferris Bueller's Day Off.... Home Alone... Then, suddenly, things take a weird turn and he's doing stuff like Beethoven and Flubber. Our tastes changed as moviegoers and his proficiency changed as a writer. He went from relevant, the voice of a generation, to somebody who was content to (poorly) adapt Dennis the Menace.

    Ultimately, the best comics, the ones we remember for years to come, are the ones where the art and writing complement one another. The stories which remain relevant and/or timeless are the ones which have the optimum level of balance. Can you ever imagine Frank Miller's TDK with anyone else's art? Would the Fantastic Four's origin feel so classic without the refined elegance of Kirby's pencils or Lee's simple and innocent script?

    Again, it isn't about which is more important, art or writing. In the end, it's all about striking that chord and finding a yin for a yang. Those are the comic stories that last. Those are the creators we remember. Sadly, this is a rarity in comics. For every perfect Bendis & Bagley Spider-Man pairing, we're subjected to dozens of unbalanced Chuck Austen & Kia Asamiya types.

    Balance, people. Balance. I've been collecting comics for 30 years and, to me, that's what separates a good or even great story from a classic one. If you're an editorial type, the decision to hire isn't about how hot this artist is or how edgy that writer is. It's about, how well will one fit with the other. How much synergy can you create. How can you best get one to feed off of the other. This symbiosis is what made Stan & Jack what the were. This is how you hire. Know your lineup. Know how to make the puzzle pieces connect for that Tetris.
    Last edited by cookepuss; 06-16-2011 at 06:24 PM.

  8. #8
    a nasty piece of work Let's Kill Hitler's Avatar
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    I'll read a great comic despite bad art. I've never read a beautiful comic despite bad writing.

  9. #9
    comic fan from Slovakia Hromovlad's Avatar
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    For me it's clear
    The story!
    I'm from middle-Europe.
    This is where I get my comics from.
    My experiences with comics are different than yours.
    Live with it!

  10. #10
    Junior Member starsonfire's Avatar
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    Good art will draw me in everytime, same as bad art will repel me from picking up a comic. Then if the story is great, it will def keep me reading.

  11. #11
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    so many false assumptions in this article.

    I'd start by saying art vs story is the wrong question, It's quality that matters most. I'm not surprised by Marz's conclusion given that he writes for Topcow.
    (not trying to dis the guy, we all know the exceptional work he's done in the past, and I liked his advice about 'wanting to spend a whole day drawing a page).

    Not that it matters since both art and story are completely subjective, but...
    The answer to the original question is that it depends on what audience you want to appeal to.
    There are people that just want to look at pretty pictures... and other people that buy comics about NY hipsters doing their laundry drawn by a left handed lobster.

    Marz cites examples where the creative team were married to the work, the days of Stan&Kirby or Claremont&Byrne are over, it might still work on a micro level with some small(er) press publishers, but not with the big 2 (they're lucky to keep the same team on a single story arc).

    My conclusion, there is no need to agonize over this age old question. If you are still confused then your editor will tell you what your priorities are.

  12. #12
    New Member indietroy's Avatar
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    The art and the story are complimentary, but the story is more important. That said, I'll never read a Rob Liefeld or Larry Stroman comic.

  13. #13
    Inventor of Velcro DannyWetts's Avatar
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    Bad story, great art...well, I could stomach that as a kid, but as a grown-up (albeit, a very immature grown-up) I just can't do it. I know JRJ is not everyone's cup of tea, but I grew up on his stuff -- I thought World War Hulk had satisfactory art, but it was the first book I ever threw -- physically THREW across the room. The story was that bad. It poisoned the art.

    Bad art, great story...this is where my immaturity shines through. I've had V for Vendetta sitting on my shelf for about seven years, and I still can't get farther than about halfway. The art rubs me the wrong way. I just can't digest it -- there's no proper comparison. Rarely does a movie come on where the actors, writers, and director knock it out of the park and the cinematographer just destroys it. Hand me a banged up paperback novel with a sh*tty cover design, but if the book is really good, well..the book is good.

    Remember, tastes change. I stayed away from Watchmen for years, because, as a kid, I thought the art was boring. I thought Kirby was just weird. Now, here I am, 20 years after picking up my first comic, and a single day doesn't go by where Kirby's art doesn't affect me profoundly.

    A tricky subject, worthy of debate.
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  14. #14
    Inventor of Velcro DannyWetts's Avatar
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    Actually, I just thought of a comparison -- a 'modern' one --video games. Beautiful, crappy games are produced all the time. And there are plenty of games that do NOT wow in the visual department that are horribly addictive. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play a couple rounds of Warlords on the Atari.
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  15. #15
    -NOT REALLY BANNED- hotrodx's Avatar
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    I think we need a distinction between aesthetically "bad art" and simply "bad art".

    Some "bad art" stem from the way a certain artist draw people or objects that some may not find pleasing to the eye. Nevertheless, the foundations are sound.

    Then, there's Bad Art. It may look nice, but the artist got the basics wrong: the layout, the pacing, misuse of techniques.

    It's a cop out to pick Story over Art. We all know story is fundamentally important to any storytelling medium. But if story is the only important thing, then go read a novel.

    But this is comics, and an important distinction of it from novels is the artwork. IT IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR COMICS. That does not mean the story can be shitty, but artwork makes comics comics.

    Some people say they can read a good story with bad art. But what they were referring to is simply the aesthetically "bad art". If they were reading the truly "Bad Art", then it would ruin the story, and nothing good will come out of it, except maybe the "story premise", which isn't the story itself.

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