5 arguments against overt, negative criticism of super heroes and comics

How respectable are comics, really? Comic book movies attract millions of people to cinemas. But what level of respect do these characters in costume receive?
Some might answer:
Yes, they are a respectable character archetype.
It’s not about the money the films garner.
The characters have meaning for the audience. We can look up to their example, if we want.
But others might argue that a man or woman lifting a car overhead, wearing bright colours, is disrespectful. Childish, and meaningless: a shallow stories punctuated with special-effects.
For situations where the criticism is negative in the extreme, there are several valid replies.
Here are five arguments against overtly negative criticism of super heroes and comics

1. Comics cross generations. Comics are stories that have the Same impact to an 80 year old as an 8 year old.

You might here someone say, or imply, that comics are for children. Comics connect with people of any age, or at least have the potential to reach people of any age. And media that unites generations is valuable.

2. Comics show ideas Of justice. Abstract concepts like justice become concrete and meaningful in comics.

Justice can be abstract. Abstract concepts are difficult to understand. A well researched and pitched comic story can act out and demonstrate abstract justice. They make justice concrete. And concrete concepts are easier to grasp.

3. Comics speak out against oppression.

Many different productions – novels, TV, and theatre- speak out against oppression. But comic books have gained a large platform. With that platform, they can speak out against oppression. Comics have supported the disenfranchised for decades, going back to the stories of Marvel’s X-men in the 1980’s.
Of course, no media is free of problematic issues. Some comics arguably maintain oppression. This point falls beyond this article’s scope, but is a fair point worth discussion.

4. They show us that caring about values and communities is fun.

Comics such as Ms.Marvel tell stories about thriving communities. Super Heroes in comics can care about their community. Comics tell stories that represent core values (humility, compassion, empathy) in a fun and engaging, playful way.

5. Superheroes in comics embody Communities. We follow their journeys, and gain a modicum of empathy.

By representing diverse communities more and more, audiences gain an insights. They get to know other people, and other communities we are not familiar with. Like argument number 3 above, other media can achieve this. Comics combine words and pictures, however. They can give insight in a unique and engaging way not found in other media.
These arguments were gathered from a talk held at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) on super heroes and the real world, which I wrote about in a previous post.
For more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

The best Marvel comics to read if you’re enjoying Marvel’s movies.

It’s becoming harder to find a place to jump in and start reading the comics that inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. A new movie arrives almost every three months.

However, there is one solution:

Listen to comic book experts for their advice on what’s worth reading.

The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Brisbane hosted a panel discussion on comics in the real world last Sunday, May 28. The panel is part of the Marvel exhibition in Brisbane. The guests shared their expertise on comics  and the Marvel Universe – in print, and on screen.

The GOMA website summarised the career of each guest:

  • Professor Jason Bainbridge, Head of the School of Communication, University of South Australia
  • Ryan Griffen, Creator of sci-fi television series Cleverman
  • Dr Naja Later, Sessional Lecturer in Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne. And Sessional Academic, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
  • Dr Paul Mason, Lecturer in Art Direction, Griffith Film School, and comic book illustrator on Kid Phantom (Frew Publications)

I was excited to see Ryan Griffen, the creator behind the new Cleverman series, share his thoughts and expertise. The season one story arc and plot were excellent.

Dr. Paul Mason is the skilled artist behind the new Kid Phantom comic from Frew Publications based in Sydney, Australia. It is always worth listening to Paul’s insights.

And for the first time, I thought it was exciting and interesting to listen to Dr. Naja Later, Prof. Jason Bainbridge, and the panel MC Scott Stephens.

Goma Panel Guests shared which comics are excellent “jumping in” points for new readers. Here’s their recommendations:

Ryan Griffen – Black Panther And The Crew (2017)

Paul Mason – Fantastic Four 1960’s collected editions or omnibuses

Naja Later – Bucky Barnes as Captain America (2004 – 2010)

Jason Bainbridge – The original Secret Wars (1984)

Four excellent recommendations for any Marvel fans who are enjoying the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

You can find more comics content on the Wallflyer and you can follow me, Joe, on twitter @thewallflyer.

Editing, scene transitions, and making comics

I saw a great video on film editing language late last week. I noticed a link between the content, and what goes into making comics. This post is a walk through what I learned. The link between film and comics is obvious, since comic creators have drawn parallels between film and comic making since the early 1990’s. I noticed one specific connection.

Dan Olson produces high quality videos for his channel Folding Ideas.

Scott McCloud is an expert of what makes comics work. His most well known book is Understanding Comics. What makes McCloud’s work so well know is his ability to accurately critique and describe the complexities of comic book panels and word combinations using comics. Some might say it is very meta. Olson similarly uses film to occasionally educate about film, while providing critique and commentary on key films. Since comics and film create stories with mechanical and structural aspects in common, I immediately thought of Scott McCloud’s books when watching Olson’s latest video on editing.

Olson mentions Aspect-to-Aspect (cross cutting) scene transitions. He then mentions the anime film Akira as an example. This was exciting because McCloud talks about examples of aspect-to-aspect panel transitions in comics using the Akira manga. I was happily surprised at the convergence of ideas here.

In a comics scene, imagination from the reader fills in the gaps between these single panels and images. We make the story as we read it. This is called “Closure”. It is one aspect of how comics spark imagination. Film similarly invites imagination.

Using aspect to aspect editing, filmmakers tie together multiple scenes, transitioning to different characters and places. Cross cuts invite the viewer to imaging that the events are happening at the same time. They fill in the gaps with imagination.

Closure seems to have a small place in film making, as well as aspect-to-aspect transitions in comics. In Comics, focusing on Aspect-to-Aspect transitions builds atmosphere in a scene. They create a sense of size and place. McCloud describes how comics from Japan – Akira for example – use Aspect-to-Aspect panel transitions to build atmosphere, a sense of place. To use the editing languagethey cross cut to events happening at the same time, warranting a sense of simultaneous action.

You can watch the Basic Cuts video at Folding Ideas, and see more of their content at the Folding Ideas Youtube Channel. Scott McCloud has a website with a list of published works.