Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Art Will Not Save You

I’ve been deluding myself. Some of the graphic novels and trades in my collection had been bought on impulse, and I point my accusing finger at the artists whose work I’ve revered or at least admired. Since I’m not familiar with a lot of comics writers save Moore, Morrison, Gaiman, Claremont, Byrne, Waid, and other household names, it’s the art that catches my fancy first, unless the book comes highly recommended. Sadly, the fantastic art gets overshadowed by unforgiveably horrid writing, making what should be an enjoyable comics reading experience into a head-splitting chore.

The latest culprit is Batman: Hongkong. The art of Tony Wong definitely took my breath away (though I’m more partial to Wing Shing Ma’s stuff), but Doug Moench’s writing asphyxiated me to delirium. (I haven’t finished reading this medusa; any more reading might turn me to stone.) And it’s a purchase that ranks up there among the most regretted buys. Sorry, Tony, but your art did not save this book. And it sure didn’t save my money.

Now I’m not familiar with Doug Moench’s writing at all. All I know about the man is that he’s one of the more respected writers in the industry, and I think I’ve seen his name in many-a-Batman adventures, and it's definitely unfair of me to judge his abilities based on one work. (He won't be in the business for the past decades if he didn't have the guns to tote.) Maybe I was just unlucky with Batman: Hongkong, and hypnotized by its lush production values. Maybe Moench was attempting to capture the writing style of Cantonese manhua, a cross-cultural comics experiment.

Or maybe I’m deluding myself again.

So for those who intend to write comics. Please do everyone a favor by learning to write first. And write well. Because you’ll save yourselves a lot of frustration (like Chuck Austen), and because mind-blowing art won’t save you.

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