Friday, August 21, 2009


I’ve been thinking a lot in the last 6 months about the effect of comedy on people. I love comedy and I would certainly never want it to stop,, but I’ve been unable to laugh at a lot of the jokes I used to laugh at,, as I think a lot of them have the power to spread really negative effects in people. In comedy you can make sweeping generalisations, be shallow, childish and downright unpleasant because comedy is almost never 100% reasonable/fair and that’s okay. It is not supposed to be full of water-tight arguments,, but my problem is that people drag all these attitudes into everyday life and there are comedians like Bill Hicks who reinforce this self-righteous but relaxed behaviour that sounds like “Everyone is an idiot and ruining this world except for us”,, I believe that attitude makes all the problems even worse. When you have scared ultra right-wing people making unwise decisions and saying silly things,,,, the last thing we need is an army of politically “enlightened” people telling them that they are stupid idiots who will never understand anything.
Every time you attack someone like that, the less likely they are going to open up to anyone elses ideas but their own kind of peoples ideas,, you are helping them close their minds. If people were to be kinder and more persuasive in a friendly way, you would get so much further if you convinced them that we really all do want basically the same things. Yes, some of these people are extremely stubborn and some of them would never listen,, but the long hard perhaps near-impossible road is always the best road with more lasting success.
One of the things that helped me see this was in my paranoia about censorship,, there were lots of people including myself calling the newspapers/censors/parents/groups “nutters”, but our hostile reaction only makes us look bad to them and only hurts our causes and their causes too. With lots of patience and kindness we could help them see how they are wasting their time attacking us,, and help them find the far more important things which need to be focused on if we are to build a safer place to live.
I don’t hate Bill Hicks, I think his heart is in the right place, but that is the same with a lot of “nutters” (certainly not all of them,, some of them really are sadistic)). And I can imagine people saying “don’t spoil my fun, I want to point and laugh at right wing people”, but I think this fun only prolongs the suffering,, lots of types of fun come with dangers,, and I wouldn’t ask for comedy to become safe and gutless,, but we can be smarter than this,, humour shouldn’t stay cornered with cynicism and dismissiveness. You need to let people know when you heavily disapprove of something,, but you cant act like you’d rather attack them,, than offer help.
Do you ever think when you are reading some comics,, that it feels too much like hard work? Seems like the comic just doesn’t even function properly? I think that a great bulk of comics run counter to the way our eyes pick up information and the way our minds process that information.

Most cartoony comics work just fine because you are not made to explore the images for any length of time. But most of the comics I read have so much unnecessary writing,, then I just end up saying “screw it! I’m just going to look at the pictures”.
Among a lot of the older artists in the comic industry,, there is an attitude I always notice saying “everything has to be blatantly obvious and hammered into the reader”,, but I think those guys were wrong,, because I have read their comics and they did not function properly. I think one of the biggest problems in comics is that they are patronizing and they spoonfeed information to you in a way that becomes so frustrating that you just give up reading.
When you see something in a panel and then you are repeatedly told that same thing you have already seen,, and they repeatedly do that in every panel, your mind is bound to wander away from the comic,, because your mind does not stick to things that repeatedly repeat themselves,, because the mind is constantly searching for new information and it will switch off when fed the same thing too many times. It should be more like a trail for a dog, where every drop is not overstated, so you are eagerly sucking up each piece of information you get,, wanting to know more. A trail that controls you.
I’ve been looking at a lot of my Gene Colan comics,, and I’ve never seen a comic by him in which the dialog added anything good to his artwork. I was surprised by how good his Dr Strange work is but whenever I read the dialogue,, the writer just spoiled all his mystery and drama. It made me think about my own comics,, and that I have been writing too much dialogue too. I did that because I wanted to hammer in the anchorage of certain ideas that I was worried the reader might not comprehend,, but when they are confronted with both artwork and writing to appreciate the full meaning of,, the artwork is likely to overwhelm the writing. All those things I was trying to nail down in the writing wouldn’t work properly, because the art is too dominating. So I’ve gone back to thinking that for artists like myself,, minimal writing is for the best. And I think that I should try and take most of the writing away from the images so you don’t have two elements fighting for attention,,, like putting the words on the side of the page or at the bottom, or perhaps even putting the words on a separate page, if those words have to evoke something even relatively complex that could be rudely interrupted by the art.

I think a lot of my criticisms could really infuriate a lot of people who have been doing comics for their whole life. But I think it is obvious that things are broken and need to be fixed. The question often gets asked “why aren’t more people reading comics?” but I think a part of the answer is that most comics just aren’t good enough. I enjoy the harsh slap of most people saying “the art is good, but the writing is crap”,, and I’ve heard that a few times. Comic readers have built up a tolerance for a lot of things that we forgotten used to bother us((some are more acceptable than others))). I can see the reaction to comics when “outsiders” look at them,, there is always something in their body language that tells you “I’m interested, but this is trying my patience and I ultimately cant be bothered”,, I’ve come to feel like a side of my comics reading history has been erased,, I’ve lost all my patience that I built up and I’ve become like a normal person and I think I’m wiser for it.
Complex comics could never be an effortless reading experience,, but there needs to be comic storytelling worked into a perfect science where all balances keep readers turning pages and forgetting that they are reading a comic. Now that I think of it, I think comic creators have one of the hardest jobs in the art world. Because every different artist will work differently in their combination of words and pictures,, getting the balance is something that needs to be taken far more seriously. Very hard work awaits us.
Interesting article on designer reality
I'm really taken by this animator called Alexander Petrov,, I didnt even know this type of animation was possible...


ULAND said...

Re: Bill Hick v. nutters.

I think the first mistake that the snarky left makes is in thinking that they don't have to deal with forms of rightism as though they are not sound world-views; that they are, in fact, a result of being "scared" , or "small minded". I think this popular form of bigotry toward rightism is behind both the let's make of the nutters, and the let's make nice so they'll see the light type approach. They aren't idiots and they ( as much as you can mass-man-ify any group today) will not "see the light"; they simply have a very different world-view than you do and the only way to deal with it is at face value.
If we're talking about idiots, they're everywhere, in every possible demographic. All of this kind of rhetoric stops us from discussing the real issues; it stops you from talking about why there should be no censorship and it stops you from hearing what the real concerns are on the opposite side of the bench.
I mean, if you were to present some of the material you're seeking to save from censorship to the lefties of even 20 years ago, they would like at you like you're mentally ill.
Also, the least likely to censor in the West would be Libertarians, who're ostensibly "right wing".It's not a simple matter.

Robert Adam Gilmour said...

Yes, left wingers in America look quite right wing to a lot of people in the UK.
I'm not a very good person to discuss these matters in depth, but I think the mocking of "the others" has really got to change so people can work together better.
I dont see myself sitting neatly in any specific side because I'm not a very political person,, but I do know that I've got on better with seemingly opposing people when I treat them respectfully.
One example of me being uncomfortable with some jokes is that it is pretty common every night on television to see christians being called morons from 9pm onwards. I just think about the christians whom I respect and wonder how they would feel about it.

Robert Adam Gilmour said...

I'd also consider lefties to be just as bad on censorship as the average church going right. The majority of the people proposing rules I disagree with are socialists and some feminists that are in our current government.
Labour and Conservatives look basically the same today.

ULAND said...

I hung out with a good friends' grandfather at his cabin a few weeks ago; This old man was very well educated, very well read; My friend's brother is studying literature so the subject was at hand and this guy spoke effortlessly of Kafka, Nietzche, Eliot, etc. He had a clear grasp of art, in the higher sense of the word, and was also very much a traditional Conservative.
It isn't so much that these political ideologies, right or left, essentially lead to censorship, or to "enlightenment". The reality is actually a pretty dry debate about the role of the state and mans' relationship to reality. I know that sounds obtuse, but this gutter-level rhetoric from both sides doesn't represent real thinking as much as it relies on peoples' self-image, and what is presented to them as being in opposition to it. It's not a real argument, in other words, it's just empty squabbling. There are hardcore rightists, like near-fascists, who'd censor evangelical Christians before any porn, and there are raging left Socialists who'd go after porn before anything else.
In every possible situation, those who're making work on the fringes of acceptable sexual mores are going to face opposition, and even those who're making it seem to throw their lot in with ideologues who only use anti-censorship as a way to position themselves as anti- whatever is happening at the moment.

Robert Adam Gilmour said...

What do you think of the designer reality link?

Do you like Cynic? I bought their Focus album and I love it. I've noticed a few heavy rock bands in the 90s having this idealist hippy-ish philosophy rather than the standard metal lyrics.

ULAND said...

Yeah, I like Cynic ok. I prefer Atheist in the prog-death realm though. I think Cynics picked up quite a bit from them.
Piece of Time and UNquestionable Presence are the good Atheist albums.
Necrophagist I like too, but they're more contemporary.