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March 23, 2013Print This Post         


From From Hell, by Alan Moore, 1999. Illustrated by Eddie Campbell

From The Comics Journal:

I have in my l life met one or two people who were so well brought up that they had never read a comic. They tended to have an underdeveloped sense of humour. Whether there is a correlation between naughtily spending your lunch money on a Betty and Veronica Digest and having a well-honed grasp of the funny, I will leave to another time. But I have also met people, pictorially literate and unfazed by contact with the vulgar, who do not know what to make of a modern day comic book. I sympathise. The fact of the matter, make no mistake, is that I am on the side of the perplexed and mystified. Most comics today are visually unintelligible except to a few.

It could well be that you are one of the few, that you feel that comics publishers should not be pandering to the general public and that comic books are just how you like them, with their forty plus years of stylistic inbreeding and complicated continuity. Perhaps you are a kid and, like me, you think kids owe it to themselves to keep loads of stuff secret from their parents, and the secret language of comics is a part of that. Great. Comic book publishers love you. However, with the shrinkage of the market for comics, these same publishers are trying hard to get back that general readership they lost a long time ago.

Occasionally I see a well-regarded comic wander across the view of a regular person. It happened on my travels recently when I was a houseguest of a friend, a 70-year-old lady who makes her living as an artist. While I was there she was working on some etchings to go into a limited edition anthology of poetry on the subject of war. I mention this simply to show that this person understands pictures. The mail arrived and among it there was a volume of Bryan Talbot’s Grandville, which her husband had bought. She opened it and checked it, in order to let him know by phone that it had arrived. While idly looking at the pages she confessed to me, after putting down the phone, that she didn’t know how to read these graphic novel things. I took a quick look and said, “My first thought is that I can completely understand what you’re saying, because I can see that the author in this case has broken at least three of the basic rules of comprehension.”

Rule #10: Remember to put at least one pair of feet on every page.

“Campbell’s Rules of Comprehension”, Eddie Campbell, The Comics Journal

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