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March 2002, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 11 Mar 2002 17:19:40 -0500
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>I am looking for any academic papers on the topic of the comic book
>aesthetic.  I am interested on seeing how the comic book medium has
>influenced the content and form of film.  If you know of any movies
>that were originally comic books (besides the superhero movies) I
>would really appreciate it.

Probably the three key works on comic book aesthetics are Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics (itself a comic), Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art and Robert Harvey's The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History.  Harvey explicitly addresses the differences between comics and film (though oddly he uses "the camera" to indicate the viewpoint in a comic image) and if I remember correctly McCloud does so as well.  (For general comics history there's still no first-rate work as far as I know but ones worth reading for various aspects are Roger Sabin's Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels; Bradford Wright's Comic Book Nation; and Thompson & Lupoff's The Comic-Book Book.)  There's also a good bibliography in Jeffrey A. Brown's Black Superheroes, Milestone Comics, and Their Fans (the book itself is a bit shakier) which lists several articles about aesthetics from the Journal of Popular Culture that I haven't read.  Another excellent though by nature unfocused source is The Comics !
Journal which has very extensive interviews with comics creators of all types.

Comics aesthetics is a relatively unexplored area (most criticism at any level focusing more on story and a connoisseur approach to the art) and the relation to film even more so.  You might check the work of Winsor McCay whose Little Nemo is one of the early masterworks of comis and who was also a pioneering film animator.  The development of comics out of pulp fiction (in all its variety, not just Tarrantino-ish hardboiled) is often briefly mentioned but there's a connection there with film noir, serials and other B-movie genres.  (Though the hard-boiled approach never entirely blossomed in comics until decades later due to post-war censorship battles that culminated in the Comics Code.)  Comic strips in the early part of the century were popular in ways almost unimaginable now so surely most filmmakers were familiar with them; I'd love to know of any research into the connections.  Actual comic books didn't develop into a commercially stable form until the 30s, well after f!
ilm was established.  Though there are obvious similarities between comics and film they are also quite distinct.  Apart from the books above, there's a lot of information in less obvious places about this: in particular Alan Moore often talks in detail about the problems adapting The Watchmen to film (see for instance

The current hot comic-into-film is obviously Ghost World, possibly the first comics adaptation to get an Oscar nomination for writing.  From Hell is also a first-rate comic though I've heard conflicting reports about the film.   Excluding superheroes (but why?) there have been the two Fritz the Cat films (disowned by Robert Crumb who had nothing to do with their making), Prince Valiant, Casper, the Blondie series, various Dick Tracy, Annie (via Broadway), The Rocketeer, Danger: Diabolik, several versions of Asterix (including a recent one with Gerard Depardieu that was apparently a huge hit in Europe), the EC adaptations Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror (along with the EC-inspired Creepshow), Modesty Blaise and dozens of others.  (There's also been transmission the other way, ranging from long-running comic books starring Jerry Lewis, Tom Mix and John Wayne among other actors to numerous adaptations of individual films.  These are generally ignored by both film and com!
ic critics/scholars though obviously there's a lot of material relating to star image and cultural impact there.)

Japan has a huge amount of traffic between manga and anime, so much that it's sometimes difficult to tell which came first (or in fact how much they're considered separate).  But that's pretty much a separate topic since not only is the cultural importance much different than the US or Europe but even the basic elements such visual code, structure and narrative length often quite different (even beyond the obvious ones such as large eyes).  Anime moved into the US mainstream several years ago and manga is on the threshold of something similar (see


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