Recently former Writer’s Digest columnist Nancy Kress wrote a review of the movie Thor. In it she referred to the production as a “comic-book movie.” Whether or not you agree or disagree is beside the point (I haven’t see it, so can’t offer an opinion one way or the other). What I’m interested in is the idea that comic books, movies, and novels seem to be converging.
Take, for example, Christian speculative author Robin Parrish’s Dominion Trilogy featuring modern day superheroes. Robin capitalized on the comic book nature of his story by creating comic-book type promotional materials which he turned into a graphic novel. We have yet to see if his books will make it to the big screen, but the potential is there.
What I’m wondering is this: has the comic-book crowd affected the nature of movies and books forever?
Once I would have identified distinct differences (besides the obvious) between the three media.
Comic books are snippets — of conversation, scenes, characters’ personalities. The result of this brevity is a loss of reality. Action seems overly dramatic, dialogue truncated, and characters flat (pun not intended). Uncle Scrooge McDuck, for instance, is a skinflint, Donald is a bumbling schemer and naive, and his three nephews — Huey, Dewey, and Louie — are rowdy but resourceful. What do readers know, however, of their doubts and fears? What are their internal struggles?
Movies, in contrast, excel in showing a story. The action is intense and very present. Consequently the emotions it generates in the viewers are tangible.
Then there are novels. These made the most of a more leisurely pace to flesh out characters. Without the limits of the camera-eye view required by (most) movies or the brevity of comic books, novels were free to explore internal conflicts and resulting heart changes.
With the amalgamation of the three media — or at least the borrowing of comic-book aspects by movies and novels — I wonder if readers and film buffs have gained or lost.
Some might argue that the Spiderman movie, for example, did for that superhero what the comic book could not — bring the story to life. Apparently the novelization by author Peter David, did what the movie could not — flesh out the character’s motivations. From one Amazon review:
What might not be translated on screen is the motivations and the incredibly well-written and fleshed out thoughts provided by the clever Mr. Peter David in this novel (A Customer, March 23, 2002).
The contemporary trend in writing, at least by some writers, makes me wonder if novels aren’t moving in the direction of comic books. I’ve read books in which the scenes are short and shorter, where the dialogue resembles sound bites, and the characters are as plastic as action figures.
Is this what the average reader wants? Are fully developed characters a thing of the past? Is “a quick read” to become the highest praise we can give a novel?
Just wondering, as summer reading season fast approaches.