Comics -- Using Poetry, Abstraction, and Digital Methods to Create Stories
Photographs and renderings stand still, while comics are a sequential narrative. They are stories that move forward visually, and have been used as a medium since the start of recorded human history on cave walls and pyramids. I am interested in how such narrative can be abstracted, either in the language of description, or the direction of the story, or the images being seen. This interest has crystallized in a publication that I edit along with Alexander Rothman and Paul Tunis, called Ink Brick. In one of our most detailed interviews on the topic, this is probably my favorite excerpt:
Comics poetry is a dance between the formal visual language of comics (panels, pages, composition, rendering) and the tool-set of the written language (words, letters, meaning, narrative). It is the space between two practices, which we believe creates a language of its own, and allows new terrain to be discovered. Comics poetry can lean to be very visual, abstraction in its treatment of perhaps time, composition or character. And it can also be closer to poetry, playing with symbolism, pacing and relationship. Or something completely melded together. One thing it is not, however, is an illustration of poetry. The combination of the two genres often alter or sabotage the meaning of the other, leading to unexpected discoveries.
Today, we have many languages — from analytical ones (Excel), to engineering ones (Python), to informal spoken ones (English), to emotional languages (Art). Art, whether in music, virtual reality, or poetry, helps us transfer emotional content to others, to infect them with feeling. Comics poetry is special in this regard because it can focus on this space in between, the space of not looking at something directly, but feeling its hum and mystery. How else can you describe nostalgia, or memory, or regret. Comics poetry allows us to see from the corner of our eye something that may be too embarrassing or crude to put into any other language. Elsewhere, it would shatter and break. But here, it can be universally translated.