The Karate Kid and the graphic novel

14 books into my graphic novel research for winter quarter, I have read commentary and analysis on form and mechanics, layout and design, aesthetics and narrative from comic critics, film critics, academicians and philosophers. I have studied the works of WIll Eisner, Joe Kubert, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, and Frank Miller — just to name a few. And then there are the contemporaries, Scott McCloud, Dave Gibbons, Howard Chaykin, Moebius, Mike Mingola, Enki Bilal, Alex Ross and that’s just scratching the surface. There are literally hundreds on the list of comic artists who’s work is not just important for their unique style but for their contribution to the story. While critics and analysts may not agree on much when it comes to the art form of the sequential narrative, on one thing they to seem to converge: the art is a combination of sequential art and written narrative, more of the former and less of the latter. In this regard then it is the work of these prodigiously talented comic artist s that told an enormous part of the stories of Superman, Captain Marvel, Dick Tracy, Watchmen, Hellboy, The Spirit, Batman, Spiderman and more. Sometimes they wrote. Sometimes they drew. Sometimes they did both. What is clear is that these artists propelled the story, captured the essence and defined the emotion that the writing could not capture — and wasn’t intended to. These artists were, in large part, the true driving force behind the art form that has bent and twisted itself into what we now see as graphic novels— not to mention the continuing world of comics themselves.

Today there are dozens of new and unheralded talents creating the new forms and conglomerated genres that make up the category of sequential narratives; good and bad. So what does this have to do with my own quest toward a graphic novel? With eight books to go this quarter, I find myself chomping at the bit — like the (original) Karate Kid — wax on, wax off. I’ve been taking copious notes. I’ve made a good start on my annotated bibliography, written several reports and even established a few of my own theories along with a sizable list of what I want to try, the beginnings of an outline, I know the rules I want to break (or at least bend), and the parts of the envelope that I want to push. Now, like the aforementioned Kid, I can’t wait to start kicking something.

But I know, discipline is good and basking in the light of the masters never hurt anyone.

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