It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to read an American comic book.
In my younger days, I mooched off of my older brothers’ collection, thumbing through Uncanny X-Men, The Amazing Spiderman, Wolverine, and Wild C.A.T.S. over and over until I could practically recite the dialog. (My siblings and I have a great love of Jim Lee‘s art because, well, he’s Jim Lee, duh.) Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to read any Batman comics. I loved comics. The stories were compelling, the characters solid and engaging, even if a lot of the plots devolved into Marvel VS. Capcom scenarios just to see who could beat up who in any given situation.
There were really only two reasons that I stopped reading them. One, my brother took his collection with him to college, and two, the climax of The Trial of Gambit. Gambit is my favorite X-Man. He always will be. Something about the rockin’ Cajun and his accent, ability to rock magenta and that fallible, troubled personality just buries itself a special place in my heart. When Rogue (whom I had also loved as a character, despite her Superman-esque invincibility) abandoned him to die in Antarctica, I called it quits.
Well, not really. I gave up comics for a year and then picked up the Gambit comics for a couple of issues. Suffice to say, Jim Lee had spoiled me. I found the Photoshop colored, clunky images really off-putting and just couldn’t get into it. Somehow, the whole comic just felt cheap. The story was still great (one of the best opening scenes to a comic book series ever, in my opinion) but the presentation of it was just… meh.
So ended my affair with serialized comics.
Until my first graphic novel. I picked up one of the Sandman graphic novels, The Dream Hunters, because it was illustrated by my all-time favorite Japanese artist, Yoshitaka Amano. Talk about gorgeous. And as if that weren’t enough of a reason to buy it, it was also written by Neil Gaiman. I don’t think there’s a proper way to say how much winning that is without sounding cliché.
Skip ahead several years. I’m in Japan now, and while a million and one comics are at my fingertips, its their American counterparts that I find myself craving. I miss real characters. Real stories. Death. Rebirth. Obstacles. Subdued romance. So I sign up for Marvel.com’s digital reader, buy a new X-Men comic (X-Men Vol. 4, Issue 1) and prepare myself to sink right back into Nostalgia-Land.
The art is beautiful. Olivier Coipel has a style that is reminiscent of the old, ‘glory’ days. I love the new costumes for the women- it’s sleek, but not spandex. Psylocke finally looks like a ninja/spy and not a pole dancer. Storm and Rogue (hiss…) are rocking their classic looks and Phoenix finally looks like a character I could come to enjoy. The only thing that bugged me about the art were the women’s side-profiles. Coipel seems to struggle with noses, for whatever reason.
The story? Well, it just flies by. I read fairly quickly, and even faster on digital formats, and I don’t get the same delight I used to with paper editions because there’s no ‘experience’ in the format. It’s consumed and then it’s over. Not to mention expensive. It was a little disappointing. I haven’t bought another issue since.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Madefire, a new startup in the digital comics world, announced earlier this year that they were partnering up with Deviantart to create a sort of ‘motion comic’. The idea is a new and exciting one: a living comic, with sound, small animations and artistic presentation of each frame. The term ‘motion comic’ was already taken though, so they went with ‘motion books’.
I’ve got to say, they’re pretty rad. There’s only a small sampling of them right now, but the range of technique and genre-possibility is really awesome. Just thinking about flash fiction, serial novels or short stories converted into this format is pretty appealing. They’re also free, but that’s bound to change. All in all, I’m really looking forward to seeing where it all goes.
Of course, with any new technology, there’s a few things to be desired. For one, the interface can be a bit clunky on some of the offerings (text too small, art blurred or buttons unresponsive) and the majority of what’s available now has a lot of gore. But as it all catches on, I see the potential outweighing the irritations. I’d sure love to see some comics on there, forcing me to read it slow and take it all in; setting the mood with transitions, music and sound effects. It wouldn’t be the same as the real thing, but it’d get pretty darn close.