The Culture of Comics Part 3: Comics As Serious Art
In parts one and two of the Culture of Comics series, we looked at comics’ place in society as well as the way subcultures are reflected in the medium. For this third and final installment, we’ll be switching gears a bit to explore how comics and comic book makers can be just as impactful to the world of art as any other art form.
An undeniable truth about comics is that they just don’t get the same credit as other storytelling mediums for being high art. It’s really quite baffling if you think about it. Yes, many associate superheroes with comics, and that fact has a significant impact on how people see comics as a whole, but what about film, for example? The number of lowbrow poorly made films out today by far dwarfs the amount of indy art-house flicks available to the average viewer, yet no one would deny that intelligent well-crafted films are a serious art form. So why doesn’t this apply to comics?
For nearly a century, comics have been closely associated with entertainment meant for children. At least, for now, there is just no changing that. That doesn’t mean, however, that comics aren’t and can’t be serious art.
As a writer of comics myself, I can tell you that for many working in the comic’s industry today the consensus is that it ultimately just comes down to people’s ingrained public perception. For nearly a century, comics have been closely associated with entertainment meant for children. At least, for now, there is just no changing that. That doesn’t mean, however, that comics aren’t and can’t be serious art.
What should good art do? Although people might have conflicting opinions on this answer, it’s fair to say that no one is going to argue that quality art should always make you think a little deeper about the world around you and in some occasions, plant seeds of inspiration to help usher change into the world. Here are just a few examples of groundbreaking artists who understand this concept quite well and chose the medium of the comic book to execute their narrative visions.
In the history of comics, few illustrators have made an impact in the quite the same way as the late, great French artist Jean Giraud (aka Moebius). Beginning in the 1950’s illustrating western themed comics, Moebius’ long and illustrious career would come to encompass many genres within the comic book medium. It is his work in sci-fi and fantasy, however, where he truly made a name for himself as one of the most prolific illustrators in the history of comics.
Always cutting edge and highly imaginative, Moebius’s work set a high water mark…
Not unlike Salvador Dali, Moebius’s works hovered somewhere between the surreal, the psychedelic, and the abstract. Always cutting edge and highly imaginative, Moebius’s work set a high water mark to which all other world-class sci-fi and fantasy comic illustration would come to be judged.
Alan Moore is another megalithic figure in the world of comics. Moore is a British writer who originally made a name for himself in the ’80s writing for DC Comics with such titles as Swamp Thing and Batman: The Killing Joke. Although these books are legendary in the canon of comics, it was his development of titles such as The Watchmen and later, V for Vendetta, which launched Moore into another class all his own.
When considering arts ability to bring change to the world, it’s arguable that no other title has done this more in history than Moore’s classic, V for Vendetta.
When considering arts ability to bring change to the world, it’s arguable that no other title has done this more in history than Moore’s classic, V for Vendetta. The book (which was later made into a feature film), exposed the world to the revolutionary and martyr, Guy Fawkes, who attempted the famed (and failed) Gunpowder Plot in 1606, which was intended to destroy the British House of Lords. The book’s anti-totalitarian influence echoed through pop culture, eventually finding a home with the global underground hacker community, Anonymous, and later the face of the “Occupy Movement” protest in 2012 which unified hundreds of thousands of people worldwide under the banner against global wealth inequality.