Doing it For the Art: Breaking the Mundane

It's been said by many that comic books are steadily declining in quality of their stories and everything surrounding them, and like a lot of people - I'm inclined to agree with them knowing all the negatives surrounding the comic book industry: despite that, it's not only comic books that are dropping in quality, but every form of media today, from music, to literature, to TV shows, and everything in between.

From comic books to music, from video games to TV shows, everything is steadily declining in quality yet increasing in revenue (most of it is at the least). Let me give you an example, take any popular cartoon of today – Adventure Time, and then compare it to cartoons like Looney Tunes, Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy. Any person with sense and foreknowledge of how you went about making a cartoon like these would be able to tell you exactly where these cartoons differ and it’s not in characters, nor is it in their storylines (or better yet their lack of a true story.) The differences between Adventure Time, and so many other cartoons is that today the process of making a cartoon is so much easier with things like flash animation, photo shop, and other similar programs the cartoons consist of mostly copy and paste frames where they are then changed and altered to simulate things like a character talking.

Yet back in the days of Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy and Looney Tunes, cartoons were hand-drawn where upon completion of production they had an ebb and flow that is lacking from today’s cartoons. Not to mention the fact that those cartoons were 30 minutes long, unlike the 15 minute clips people are putting out today. Is it the creators of Adventure Time’s fault that they live in a time period where it’s a lot easier to accomplish things like making a cartoon are so much easier than ever before? Of course, not, but that brings me to my next point.

Doing it For the Art

What do I mean when I say, “Doing it for the art”? Well first in order to properly explain, it would require me to explain in general what art is. Art isn’t something like a painting, a painting is a form of artwork, but art in general is anything that requires your imagination to complete. When you have to think outside of a normal mindset, that in turn is essentially art. So doing it for the art is anytime an artist will go those extra miles to ensure that their artwork will be as great as one could possibly make it. Take for example, Boichi, the author of the manga Sun-Ken Rock. In the story he’s always willing to go as far as possible to ensure his story is as accurate as possible. In a world where so many things are made easier by technology, going through the trouble of fine tuning any details is the epitome Doing it for the art.

The story takes place in Korea, but he’s Japanese so in order to ensure he has the landscape correct, he visits Korea constantly. Take for example a car chase that happens in his story, to ensure accuracy he had his staff ride down Yeong Deungpo-Gu and as they drive down he had them capture the streets and the sights. Or trying to capture a beer can exploding for the sake of a fight scene, note this is only for a single scene out of the hundreds in the 14 volume story.

Even in the video game Mass Effect, the same diligence is found in the lore and background of the universe of the story. The lore itself can fill out an entire novel, and to think this is found in a video game where most people are more concerned with beating the game than they are about learning about the story. Even though they know this, Bioware went through the trouble to still make all this detailed lore. This is what I mean by, doing it for the art.

It’s the little things that we see that make us realize that the creators of the artwork really do care about what they created. In a sense, “Doing it for the art” doesn’t affect things like a story it effects the quality of its effect upon us. When a person creates something for the sake of art, it’s not because he wants to make money off of us, or wants us to call him the greatest artist ever, it’s because he wants to add all these little details that may seem mundane and a lot of unnecessary work for the sake of doing it, nothing else.

Even though there is a lot of bad in the comic book industry—there are still people who truly care about the art and as a reader, I believe it is important to give these people the credit they deserve. This list won’t be long, just two people I believe deserve this recognition, but there are so many writers and artist who do care and for anyone out there reading comics who are thinking that these companies don’t care, worry not—there are people inside the industry that do care.

#1 – Alan Moore:

I remember a couple months ago when I was talking with a friend about comic book writers, I asked him if he ever heard of Alan Moore. When he said he wasn’t sure, I showed him a picture of Mr. Moore, and my friend said:

I’ve never seen him before, but he looks like he is the man.

I smiled, because Alan Moore is most certainly—“The Man”: With over 30 contributions to comic books as a medium under his belt, not even including his runs on some of DC’s most popular series like Batman, Superman, and many others. Alan Moore was the person that declared the comics of his time to engrossed in a single mind set, stuck in a lack of creativity that should be explored within the medium. So while most companies were releasing ordinary stories, Alan Moore was writing Watchmen, and The Killing Joke, so that the medium could expand and so writers could begin writing outside of the mold set before them.

And when he felt that the industry and the people at the top weren’t trying to evolve—he left. That’s what writing for the sake of art is in a microcosm, and it’s things like this that has made Alan More a man among men within the history of comic books.

#2 – Peter David:

I’ll say this, I am no expert on Peter David, nor have I read most of his works and I’m mostly basing this opinion on what I have seen in his X-Factor series, the only mainstream comic I read now-a-days. Before I start, I would like to say that doing it for the art is usually found throughout an artist’s career, so if one can find signs of it in one piece of work, it is safe to assume that it can be found in the majority of a person’s work.In an industry where all comics seem to blend together and counteract, X-Factor may be of a dying breed. X-Factor takes place within the same universe as Wolverine, The Avengers, the X-Men, and so many others yet X-Factor seems to take place within itself. It doesn’t interact much with other comic characters or books, and outside of its major characters – Layla Miller, Jammie Madrox, Siryn, M, Strong Guy, and Rictor – there are rarely many guest appearances. The story of X-Factor is so driven by its characters, who have been so amazingly developed by Peter David, just taking away one of these major characters would completely alter the entire makeup of series.

X-Factor is so well developed and thought out that most of it's readers don’t even realize this until we reread the series a couple of times. Take for example the scene in X-Factor #17 where on a off handed mention, the subject of the flavor of Ice Cream is brought up. This is relatively minor and goes without mention afterwards, at least until X-Factor 225 where after the events of issue 224, Raine is in pain and to ease her depression she goes and eats all the ice cream that was there since issue 17. X-Factor 17 came out May 1, 2007, issue 225 came out This year. That’s 4 years where the subject of this ice cream was sat upon, and to me that told me that Peter David has had this story and the events to unfold within it so thoroughly developed that he could make mention of little things like this where they serve no real importance but to develop characters 58 issues later.

Doing it for the art is how we as readers, come to know that our favorite writers actually enjoy what they do. As you all know, the two people I’ve listed are obviously not the only ones, there are so many out there that it’s nearly impossible for one person to truly and fully list them out. Do you have anyone that you believe are in the comic book industry for the sake of comic books? Feel free to say who they are and include an explanation why..

Edited by Renchamp

I've always thought this about Peter David. I don't really like his style, but I've always admired his ability to tell a consistently well written story, regardless of how hip it may or may not seem. (I'll never forget the genius of X-Factor #70 in the 90's volume.)

Posted by Amegashita

@Renchamp: I'm glad you can think of Peter David as this, even if you don't necessarily like his style. That's a very interesting view to take and I wish so many other people were able to take it. Thank you for your comment, it is much obliged.