People are born to tell stories, and over the course of human history they have developed myriad ways of doing so. Oral traditions had their heyday, as did the written word. But word (spoken or written) is in many ways merely a vessel for inspiring the senses; through words, we seek to touch, to hear, to taste, to smell, to see. We learned quickly that a picture outpaces words a thousandfold. Stringing them together takes us even further. And so sequential visual art — the comic and motion picture, animation (hand-drawn or digital) — has quickly become the favored way of doing that thing we were born to do: tell stories.
This is a place for discussing that visual storytelling: the graphic. Moreover, on occasion, it is a place for exploring the impact of medium on story, the uniqueness of comic versus film versus game; in a word: the novel.
Nearly my entire life has consisted of studying the written word, culminating in a Bachelor’s degree in English and Communication Studies. Yet while the core of my coursework focused on novels and poetry, I quickly grew attached to the art of bringing stories to life: theatre. Alongside my theatrical work I flourished as a semi-professional photographer, gaining a dual appreciation for moments frozen in time and the futility of trying to capture a life ever in motion.
Yet my life’s passion has always been video games, a sort of interactive theater that, at its best, recognizes the active role a theatrical audience must always play in making sure the show goes on. This love for games drove me to graduate studies just as I began, for the first time in my life, to really read comic books. For two years, I took a serious look at the way our stories engage and impact our lives, from the way video games cause us to rethink our own morality to the way a comic book character or movie star can become as meaningful to our lives as the people we see and talk to every day.
I turn my attention now back to the questions that galvanized me into academia in the first place. How do these stories impact us? What makes some stories so exemplary in their medium? What happens when stories are adapted from one medium to another?
And then there are the new questions. Fans killed Jason Todd. Fans redeemed Mass Effect 3. Fans made a Deadpool movie happen. Where is the line between creator and community? And where should it be? In the era of Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, are audiences customers or are they patrons? How should the responsibility of the artist to remain true to her vision be reconciled with the responsibility of the salesman to deliver what his customer has paid for? Which new issues do new media present, and which issues only seem new (but are in fact perennial)?
These are the sort of questions one spends a lifetime pursuing. I will only scratch the surface of them here. More often than not, my attempts at scratching will leave the surface unmarred. But on the bright side, whether I succeed or fail, we’ll have at least one thing for sure: a story.