#1 Posted by Owie (3616 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm an artist and was discussing this with some other artists and writers (who also like comics) the other day. The question was, are there any comics that can compare to the masterpieces of other art forms?

So for instance, are there any comics, of any kind, that you would compare favorably with examples like Michelangelo's David, Monet's Water Lilies, Beethoven's 9th, Ornette Coleman's Shape of Jazz to Come, the Parthenon, Wright's Fallingwater, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, or Joyce's Ulysses? (These are just random examples.)

If not, what comics come the closest?

#2 Posted by Billy Batson (57753 posts) - - Show Bio

Maus? Acme Novelty Library?
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#3 Edited by Owie (3616 posts) - - Show Bio

Maus? Acme Novelty Library?
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Good choices for sure, in terms of the apex of comics as an art. I would also consider things like Persepolis or Asterios Polyp. But do you think they get near the best of other art forms? Even if we just looked at the best of those other art forms over the past hundred years? I mean I really like comics for both entertainment and artistic expression, but I have a hard time comparing even a Maus or something by Chris Ware against a Duchamp, Cezanne, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Joyce, Beckett, Pynchon, etc.

#4 Posted by Billy Batson (57753 posts) - - Show Bio

@owie said:

@billy_batson said:

Maus? Acme Novelty Library?
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Good choices for sure, in terms of the apex of comics as an art. I would also consider things like Persepolis or Asterios Polyp. But do you think they get near the best of other art forms? Even if we just looked at the best of those other art forms over the past hundred years? I mean I really like comics for both entertainment and artistic expression, but I have a hard time comparing even a Maus or something by Chris Ware against a Duchamp, Cezanne, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Joyce, Beckett, Pynchon, etc.

I'm sure you'll eventually find some comics that are quality of those... :p

Too bad the comic medium isn't as popular as the other media.

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#5 Posted by Owie (3616 posts) - - Show Bio

@owie said:

@billy_batson said:

Maus? Acme Novelty Library?
BB

Good choices for sure, in terms of the apex of comics as an art. I would also consider things like Persepolis or Asterios Polyp. But do you think they get near the best of other art forms? Even if we just looked at the best of those other art forms over the past hundred years? I mean I really like comics for both entertainment and artistic expression, but I have a hard time comparing even a Maus or something by Chris Ware against a Duchamp, Cezanne, Warhol, Rauschenberg, Joyce, Beckett, Pynchon, etc.

I'm sure you'll eventually find some comics that are quality of those... :p

Too bad the comic medium isn't as popular as the other media.

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Do you think popularity is the issue? I'd think there are probably a lot more comics out there in the world than, say, oil paintings.

#6 Edited by Billy Batson (57753 posts) - - Show Bio

@owie said:

Do you think popularity is the issue? I'd think there are probably a lot more comics out there in the world than, say, oil paintings.

Yeah but a good deal have a certain stigma against comic books unlike with other art forms.

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#7 Posted by MaccyD (3547 posts) - - Show Bio

You have to remember that art forms are considered brilliant in different ways and you compare the greatest comics different from the other art forms. Plus most of the art forms you mentioned have had centuries advantage over comics. Plus modern art in general is underrated. Another art form that originated around the same time is films and I'm surprised you didn't mention that. Video games is also being appreciated more and more every year as an art form.

#8 Edited by Owie (3616 posts) - - Show Bio

@maccyd said:

You have to remember that art forms are considered brilliant in different ways and you compare the greatest comics different from the other art forms. Plus most of the art forms you mentioned have had centuries advantage over comics. Plus modern art in general is underrated. Another art form that originated around the same time is films and I'm surprised you didn't mention that. Video games is also being appreciated more and more every year as an art form.

Well, it's true I didn't mention films, I just forgot. But I would put the best films up in there along with the other artworks I mentioned. It is true that most of the art forms I mentioned have had millennia or at least centuries to develop, and that does make a difference, I'm sure. I'm not sure what you mean when you say the art forms are brilliant in different ways, and I compare the comics with them differently. Video games are certainly an art form, as are many things. I'm just interested in why, in my opinion, the best comics--and I am obviously a comics fan--are not at the level of the best of other art forms. But I would also be interested to hear opinions to the contrary.

@owie said:

Do you think popularity is the issue? I'd think there are probably a lot more comics out there in the world than, say, oil paintings.

Yeah but a good deal have a certain stigma against comic books unlike with other art forms.

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Sure. But again it's not like there's no stigma against classical music, or abstract painting, or conceptual art, or jazz. Lots of people hate all of those things, although usually for the opposite reason that they have a problem with comics. They think comics are too low an art form, and they think the other things I mentioned are too high an art form. Either way, those media/genres don't attract a lot of participants or audience members. I'm not sure what popularity has to do with the excellence of the work, other than the ability to attract the best artists.

#9 Posted by teddy_the_god_killer (235 posts) - - Show Bio

@owie: Gaiman...Sandman and Lucifer series amazing. Such variety and beauty in the prose and artwork.

#10 Edited by MaccyD (3547 posts) - - Show Bio

@owie: What I meant was, though you compared them to the best of other art forms, you have to remember that they are great in different ways, the apples and oranges argument pretty much.

#11 Posted by Owie (3616 posts) - - Show Bio

@maccyd said:

@owie: What I meant was, though you compared them to the best of other art forms, you have to remember that they are great in different ways, the apples and oranges argument pretty much.

I see what you mean, and you can certainly make a Modernist argument that each art form does certain things better than others. But really I don't see comics as being that different from traditional visual art and literature. In some ways it should have an advantage over them because it uses both visuals and writing at the same time (as does film).

To a degree this gets into the question of how to define comics. I'd argue that they are not a medium (their medium is ink on paper, traditionally). And I'd say they are not a genre, since comics contain within them many genres--super hero comics, romance comics, indie comics, whatever. I'd say they're a format--a way of breaking a page down into panels and telling a story through that framing device. This all may seem unrelated to what you just said. But my point is that as a hybrid visual/writing format, they are capable of doing pretty much anything that can be done in painting/drawing/collage/printmaking as well as in literature. So at least from my point of view, they're not really apples when compared to the oranges of other arts.

#12 Posted by Billy Batson (57753 posts) - - Show Bio

@owie said:

Sure. But again it's not like there's no stigma against classical music, or abstract painting, or conceptual art, or jazz. Lots of people hate all of those things, although usually for the opposite reason that they have a problem with comics. They think comics are too low an art form, and they think the other things I mentioned are too high an art form. Either way, those media/genres don't attract a lot of participants or audience members. I'm not sure what popularity has to do with the excellence of the work, other than the ability to attract the best artists.

I think the thing I was going with was finding the most excellent work is somewhat easier in other media due to their popularity...

And indie isn't really a genre :p

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#13 Posted by SOG7dc (6713 posts) - - Show Bio

All star superman, to me, is definitely up there. Just as a wok of art. Comics have a unique advantage of combining left and right brain an that's what makes them a difficult medium to master. Add that to the fact it takes two separate people to come together and tell a story. Grant and Frank did as well as I've ever seen in All Star Superman. To me it is certainly up there with other elite art forms

#14 Edited by Extremis (3334 posts) - - Show Bio

Dark Knight Returns. It's a dark masterpiece.

#15 Posted by IrishX (2305 posts) - - Show Bio

I really don't care how cliche it is to say so I will say it anyway..... Watchmen is the greatest comic story ever written and the only one comparable to the great works of art in history.

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#16 Edited by Owie (3616 posts) - - Show Bio

And indie isn't really a genre :p

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Well I know, but people talk about it that way, like "alternative music."

#17 Posted by Killemall (18252 posts) - - Show Bio

At the end of the day it depends on who is reading it.

Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death, at least to me was comparable to any other books and stuff i have read.

#18 Posted by JediXMan (29545 posts) - - Show Bio

It's hard to say, because those things weren't really classics until their times had passed.

That said:

  • V for Vendetta
  • The Sandman
  • Death: The High Cost of Living
  • Maus