Sep 30, 2011

TREND | Comics | More Than Cartoons

Brian Azzarello, The Joker, 2008

In the past twenty plus years comic books or (nerd time) "graphic novels" have successfully put their sword in the sand. However in the past decade comic books have really set themselves apart. Once thought to be a "simple" childish activity, it has grown into something different entirely. The motives behind comic books have shifted. They have become a choice for many writers and artists to convey a message, to captivate an audience, and  to present  artistic styles. So even though Hollywood  can come into my niche and make some of the worst movies I've ever seen, I can assure you comic books are here to stay. It's not just about "blue tights" and "civic duty" anymore. Comic books have crawled from the depths and worked their way into our culture, solidifying itself as a true "sister art form".

Out of arguably a "golden era" for comics, one writer that stands out is Brian Azzarello. Post Frank Miller and Alan Moore ( we will get to that later) Azzarello chose artist Lee Bermejo to tackle one of the hardest tasks in the comic genre, The Joker. In the novel above, Azzarello moves away from the typical " clown prince of crime" to show a more gritty realistic image of what a man like the Joker could be. Presenting readers with such a real and dark  image of one of the most iconic characters in history. It wasn't the cookie cutter funny man people were use to seeing, it was a rapist, a drug addict, and a schizophrenic instead. In this depiction both Bermejo and Azzarello try to examine their subject mentally, giving a look inside a "criminal" mind. In doing this we move away from "saving the day" and "learning valuable lessons" and instead think about the comic more critically. We side with the Joker because he can't help doing what he does. He's insane, but is it a excuse? Why do we care? Did Gotham (society in general) create people like the Joker?Azzarello got the opportunity to write The Joker after his critically acclaimed series 100 bullets.

Brian Azzarello, 100 bullets, series 1999-2009

100 Bullets is one of the most captivating works I have come across. The concept is heavy. A single man, origins unknown approaches individuals who have been severely wronged. Gives them a blank gun with 100 untraceable bullets. The individuals have the option to take revenge, or do nothing, but their lives will never be the same. So instead of selling this idea to Quentin Tarantino ( Probably add two hours of unnecessary dialogue) Azzarello has decided to print these stories in a comic book format. With artist Eduardo Risso, Azzarello puts his readers into the social environments of these various characters. Bringing to the table issues like racism, government injustices, and social hierarchy. In doing this he asks the question " what truly is right and wrong?" Azzarello successfully erases the notion of "outer space beings sent her for the greater good", and reflects on our society. His work is sometimes seen as just comic books, but why can't it be an art form? He is able to comment on our humanity while opening our eyes to different aspects of the world.

Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns, 1986

I want to go back were it all began. One artist by the name of Frank Miller. Miller created one of the most well renowned comic books of all time. The Dark Knight Returns helped solidify the word "graphic novel" and is still seen today, beside Watchmen by Alan Moore, as two of the most important comics in history. I'm going to focus on Miller's work because it has become main stream, and helped the comic book medium establish itself in the present. In the mid 80's comic books were dead. Miller was given the task to revive Batman, once a thriving character but on the verge of cancellation. In this task he was able to basically do whatever he wanted, and that's exactly what he did. The peaceful vigilante before most notably played by Adam West, was now a 55 year old alcoholic facing his demons. Batman doesn't only battle foes like Two-Face and the Joker, but also the Cold War and Superman( representing Ronald Reagan's Government). This wasn't just a comic book anymore, but a look into contemporary life at the time. The comic is still produced today, and Frank Miller has integrated his comics into movies. Novels like 300 and Sin City were adapted into movies, and Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy plays heavily on Miller's Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns. What does this mean though? Have comic books become too mainstream?

Brian K. Vaughan, Y: The Last Man, series 2002-2008

I want to leave you with one series I have just started to look into.  Y: The Last Man, is about a man who along with his pet monkey are the only living male mammals on earth. All other mammals with a Y chromosome have died off. So while society is doomed and infrastructures fall, women take control of the government and the world. What lies ahead is our extinction. Are women capable of running the earth, how will it be done, what will happen? What social critique are the artists trying to compel? Go down to Comic Relief on Aquarena Springs Drive and see for yourself! ( senseless plug)

-Luke Cisneros

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