Sunday, April 19, 2009

Getting to 599

Lord knows how I've managed it, but the next Rambler will be the 600th. Even taking out all the half-assed, one paragraph entries that basically amount to, 'sorry, no Rambler,' there's still an impressive chunk of writing in there. As a measure of quantity, that is. Quality has never been our concern here.

How shall I celebrate this trivial milestone? We'll see if something comes to me tomorrow.

In the meantime, I wanted to give a heads-out/shout-up to the new-ish reprint collection of Scott McCloud's Zot, a comic that I can only describe as 'quiet fun.' The series, which originally ran in the late 80's from long-expired Eclipse Comics, was one of the first to seriously bring the storytelling techniques and themes of Manga into American comics. The influence of some Manga had been felt earlier, most notably with Frank Miller (who it ultimately kind of ruined, I think, but that's a post for another day). Thankfully, the kind of stuff McCloud liked was the contemplative, introspective sort, and it made Zot into something unique. A nice blend of utopian techno-fantasy, superhero, high school drama and philosophical treatise, I can think of few new comics that do what McCould (admittedly, only sporadically) manages to pull off, here.

Twenty-five dollars for almost 600 pages of black & white comics, reduced to near-digest size to no doubt appeal to the current teen manga market (which really does make the art sing in some places, particularly in the brushwork). McCloud has a handle on both a sense of wonder and a desire to explore the mystery behind, which makes Zot probably the best young-adult comic of all time. Bear in mind, I haven't yet read Craig Thompson's Blankets, which has been praised as such a thing, but McCloud's almost anthropological approach to his 90% teenage cast is praiseworthy, both for the attempt to do something different and the surprisingly high success rate he has with the approach.

McCloud will probably always be best remembered long after he's gone as a more of a comics theorist than creator, and rightly so, but I'm really pleased with just how entertaining and enriching the whole enterprise is, and I really want to read more. American comics has too few personal visions of this sort, that are ambitious and deeply satisfying. (Finder comes close, though). Too many artists have gone to the unfiltered autobiographical well for their stories, and too many more have favored the disconnected short story approach over the novel.

If nothing else, the fact that each chapter is followed by an essay discussing his themes and methods (and also giving historical context), so seeing the person who has probably thought more about what makes comics work talk in-depth about making his own comic is a really nice bonus.


1 comment:

DSEZ said...

And here I was, under the impression that you thought manga as a whole held no redeeming qualities. Though I guess the trick here is that you seem to be praising manga's influence on an American artist, rather than praising manga itself.

About Frank Miller--it wasn't manga that ruined him, it was Miller's poor writing that ruined him. That, and he just got sloppy.