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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:51 pm 
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I've discovered that I don't know how to read comic books. I know, it seems weird, but I've never even tried before and now that I want to, I find it very confusing.

You see, the story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is continued in comic books, so I thought I'd try since Joss Whedon is apparently writing these himself. So I sent off for the first volume of "Season Eight" as they are calling it, which consists of 4 or 5 comic books in a real book binding-- and when I was done reading it, I was so confused I had to go to the wikipedia summary to figure out the story I'd just theoretically experienced. :oops:

I feel so stupid. Once I read the summary, I could see how what I'd read added up to that-- but I totally didn't get it when I was going through the pages. I got confused by the order the frames were presented in- as it varied and lots of times couldn't figure out which stupid little word ballon was supposed to be read first. And scene changes were confusing as well. You know the feeling? "Wait! How did we get here? Who are these people?"

I don't think I can adjust to this medium, no matter how much I like Buffy's story. :( My husband says I should look at the pictures more carefully, as that's where the story is really told, but I'm so attuned to the printed word I'm finding that hard. In a book, the words are what's important. In comics, apparently words are secondary.

Is there a "Comic Books for Dummies" book out there?


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:03 pm 
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In a book, the words are what's important. In comics, apparently words are secondary.


That varies a lot from comic to comic, I've found. I've also found that some artists are better than others at making the visual flow more intuitive and natural while others make panels a confused mess. Also, in general, the more you read, the more attuned you get to the visual "rhythyms" and get better at naturally following. So don't give up yet. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:56 pm 
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It think appreciating them is more dependant on active imagination than with books. With books, you are presented with every action, description and word and build it in your head the way you've been told.

With the comic book, for instance, there was a single frame with no words, just showed a boot breaking through a bit of a door shown in the previous frame. From that, I presume, I'm supposed to imagine the door exploding off the door frame, the sounds, the crash, the splinters flying, the expression as the person steps through the door, AND the reactions of the bad guys.

I'm not sure I'm up to all that. :(


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:06 pm 
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I don't think you need to imagine all of that to appreciate wordless panels in comics. Try taking comics at their surface level. Don't look to read deeply because you may be over-working yourself in that regard.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 4:36 pm 
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I did surface. Didn't get much out of it. Some people really like these things, and these particular comics got really good reviews on Amazon,*click* so I assume they are good examples of the art-- but I'm just having trouble with the medium.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:01 pm 
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I read a lot of comic books when I was younger, but when I've tried to read graphic novels that have been hailed as the best of the best (Watchmen, The Dark Knight), I just can't stick with them. Trying to follow them is wearying. The ones I read as a kid (DC and Marvel classics) were much more simply drawn and easier to follow.

Maybe it's not a lack of imagination that gets in our way, Maria; maybe it's too much and too stubborn of an imagination! After all, when we read a scene described in words, how we imagine that scene is our choice, and if the writing is good, that imagining is both easy and enjoyable. Whereas with a graphic novel, we're supposed to see through someone else's eyes, but in a medium that (unlike film) doesn't flow for us; we have to follow it from panel to panel, and if we find the process aggravating, we get tired and frustrated and (often) confused.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:49 pm 
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Part of the problem is that comics have become ridiculously convoluted. Not only do we have eternal 'continuing stories' within series, but they also cross series boundaries from one group of heroes to another, who periodically swap characters, so that it really does take some sort of guidebook to keep straight who's in love with who, and who used to be in love with who (before she died/turned evil/had a sex-change), and who used to be what other character, and that isn't the original Geckoman but the replacement Geckoman who used to be Tyrannotron's sidekick Lizardboy in the Fantastic Avengers League series until he joined the Q-Men.....


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:58 pm 
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Prim, you should reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally give Watchmen another shot.........

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:19 pm 
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I know, but I have to get it back from my son first.

It still may not work. It's possible that one reason it didn't work for me is that I didn't like and couldn't root for any of the characters. I'm pretty un-modern that way. :blackeye:

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:22 pm 
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You couldn't root for the psychotic murderers?? :scratch: Weird.

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Last edited by yovargas on Wed Aug 28, 2019 1:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 6:31 pm 
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I know. Old fogies today! What're ya gonna do?

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“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 1:32 am 
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My wife and I discussed this same topic after seeing the Watchmen film. The visual style of the film mimics comic books and she just couldn't get into it. It's just too visual for her. After talking about it we concluded that when she reads she visualizes the story in her head and I don't. So I have an easier time with allowing the author to supply all the visuals. She'd rather provide her own.

It could be that this medium just won't work for you. But if you want to try, I'd suggest focusing on the visual first, then the words (captions or balloons). At the risk of stating the obvious, start at the top left and go right and then down. This applies going from panel to panel on the page and within the panel itself (which is why some captions are at the top of the panel and some on the bottom.) And let your imagination cover any gaps in the action naturally.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 5:36 am 
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I'd say reading a comic (like Watchman or The Long Halloween) would be a little closer to looking at a painting (not equal). The scene is painted for you. The interpretation comes from reading the imagery rather than the words. The words are important to understand the characters and narrator.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 7:12 am 
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Reading a comic is more like watching a movie, except that a single frame is taken for each shot.

In the example that Maria gave, it would not be uncommon on TV or in movies to have a shot of a a door, and then a following shot of a boot kicking in a door.

I am in fact certain, I have seen such scenes, in movies or TV.

The interpretation is the same, but the comic generally shows only the necessary and sufficient elements of the scene, where the movie is extended in time, and therefore shows more (though the element of time, and the length of a shot also adds information. In comics, this might be shown by the size of a frame, or by the repetition or an image. In fact, movies use comics, AKA storyboards, to develop the shots. The LOTR EE editions have these for those movies.)

Watchmen and Dark Knight, are for the most part, fairly straightforward in their story-telling in terms of the storyboard.

Others from that era, like Matt Wagner's "Grendel" and Dave Sim's "Cerebus", Bikll Sienkiewicz's work on "New Mutants", Howard Chaykin's "American Flagg", even Miller's work on "Ronin" and "Elektra" and Daredevil 191 "Roulette" [which was the final summation of his early run on Daredevil that had made his reputation], were much more innovative visually (sometimes in a good way, sometimes to their detriment).

Watchmen's main innovation was the interleaving of straight comics parts with text.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:29 pm 
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Not to be too disagreeable, but reading comics is not like a movie, or a painting, or a book ;).

Reading comics is like reading comics. They are their own art form, and learning to read them and appreciate them is the same as learning to appreciate art or film or literature.

This is why I find it extremely frustrating when people recommend things like Watchmen or The Dark Knight to comic book novices (or those out of the genre for a long time). Those are books that are like the paintings that art students fawn over that I don't even get.

Maria, I would not recommend the Buffy books to someone having trouble with the balance between the words and the art. I myself did not particularly appreciate the style of those books and I'm a huge fan of the comic book and Buffy. Whedon is a long time Comic fan (and writer), and was trying to do something in those books that was unique and orginal, which I don't think was done particularly well myself.

Even if you went to some of his other comics (his run of Astonishing X-Men is one of my favorite) it might have the same issues.

Comics have gone from being heavily influenced by the writing, with the art simply being an extension of those words (an evolution from picture books and newspaper comics)... and they have gone in completely the opposite direction through the 80s and 90s, where only the art mattered, and the words and story were an afterthought. For instance, The Death of Superman comic in the 90's which is quite possibly the most widely sold comic of all time... has only one frame with dialog, and is a collection of full page panels meant to tell the story... (boring).

Right now, they've gone back in a more sensible direction, with concentration on a good story and good art that compliment each other. While it is essential to pay attention to the art, it should flow naturally from the dialog in words.

When I first began reading comics I was in my late teens, and an accomplished reader (if I do say so myself). I would often find myself reading a comic in about 10 minutes and thinking "I just spent 2 bucks on that?" because it was the height of minimalistic storytelling. It wasn't until I was able to get into older comics that I began to understand the evolution of storytelling through comics.

If I were to recommend a series to acclimate people to the comic book genre, I would recommend Ultimate Spider-man. You would have to like Spider-man, of course :), but he's mostly rather likeable. It's a retelling of his entire story from origin to modern times in an abreviated fashion, but it flows more smoothly than the actual history. Most of the series was done by the same artist and writer, and it is a good combination of art and story. Not to mention you can likely find it in your local bookstore.

And now I've talked about comics more today than in a couple of years... ;)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:40 pm 
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This is why I find it extremely frustrating when people recommend things like Watchmen or The Dark Knight to comic book novices (or those out of the genre for a long time). Those are books that are like the paintings that art students fawn over that I don't even get.



Hmm. Watchmen was maybe the second real graphic novel I ever read and I loved it. Think it's an utter masterpiece. I lent it to a friend of mine with both zero comic book experience AND a strong bias against superhero stories and he was blown away. So I think I gotta disagree in this case. The quality transcends the genre and medium, like many masterpieces.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:45 pm 
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Well, it works for some people :) I don't particularly like it at all myself, but I recognize it's importance ;).

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 6:58 pm 
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My girlfriend read Watchmen after I did (she isn't a fan of comic books per se), and she had no troubles at all, so I disagree as well.

Another less stylistic comic series is Planet Hulk which is in the middle of the long running Marvel comics, but I thought it was an excellent and simple read.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:16 pm 
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hal wrote:
Maria, I would not recommend the Buffy books to someone having trouble with the balance between the words and the art. I myself did not particularly appreciate the style of those books and I'm a huge fan of the comic book and Buffy. Whedon is a long time Comic fan (and writer), and was trying to do something in those books that was unique and orginal, which I don't think was done particularly well myself.


Thanks! Good to know: it isn't just me! :) I've ordered the other volumes already, though, since I've become addicted to the Buffyverse and am determined to muddle through this. Maybe if I re-read them many times, I'll start to get what others are getting out of the experience.

On the other hand, there's going to be an alternative for lame brains like me eventually: http://scifiwire.com/2009/11/weve-got-t ... on-a-n.php It's a semi animated thingy.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 6:48 pm 
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For what it's worth, the books are coming alive for me now that I'm getting the hang of the basics. I'm scanning the pics for clues as to what's going on that isn't mentioned in the dialogue, and am coping with the unmarked scene changes and flashbacks better now. Also there are lots of little conventions about the word ballons I wasn't getting the first time through, like: squiggly balloon tail means it's someone out of frame talking, while no tail at all means the main character musing to themselves ... sometimes.

It was kind of like trying to read a crochet pattern without knowing the abbreviations before. You can get the gist of what's going on, but you miss a lot- and you certainly aren't getting the full story that the author intended.


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