I have already talked about how everything in a comic book is made up of symbols in my symbolception article but comic books can, and most often do, mean more than just the smybols that make them up. Almost any story worth telling has a purpose, in most cases the primary purpose is to entertain but there is also a secondary purpose. Consider Daredevil, when Stan Lee created Daredevil fifty years ago he created a comic book designed to entertain but he also created a commentary upon disability.
When Daredevil fights the Kingpin and the world slowly seems to turn against him, as mobsters threaten and bribe those close to him, it makes for a pretty good allegory for disability and the feelings that someone suffering with disability can feel. Marvel comics and charcters have always been about thematic concepts like this. Fantastic Four was all about the formation of an irregular family unit reflecting the post-war death of the nuclear family and the X-Men are all about discrimination and segregation. Just look at this classic page from Matt Fraction’s run on X-Men a few years back:
Picture Source: https://arousinggrammardotcom.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/pixiexmenempath2.jpg [Acessed: 27/07/2015]
With a solid theme as a discusion point it becomes a lot easier to create something that is more poinient, engaging and entertaining. However, just because Marvel approach some interesting themes doesn’t mean that every single issue of every single book is perfect. Also if you look at most of the more beloved DC Comics characters they often have a much simpler concept, Superman is about an all powerful being living amoung normal people while Batman is about the true power of a single human with unlimited resources, intellect and skill. It’s also worth mentioning that when I say a comic is about one particular thing what I’m saying is that its my interpretation of that character, lots of writers have interpreted these characters differently over the years and many creators would probably disagree with me.
Would the panels I’ve presented have been more or less interesting if it had just been a generic goon squad Pixie was fighting instead of a hate group? It would have been boring right? I mean I know Fraction would have made it work but that’s because he would have found an angle, a reason why that interaction would have been key to the story and important for the reader to see. He would have served the theme of whatever story he was going to tell. It’s important to look at any piece of fiction in this way especcially as a creator, try to look at every scene in your story and work out what it’s adding to the overall purpose of the piece and if you don’t know the purpose of the piece there’s a very easy way to work it out. Ask yourself ‘why are you writing this story?’
You can ask yourself about the purpose of your creative work at any point in its creation. Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Crowshaw, writer of Mogworld and Jam, is quoted as saying that he only works out the them once he has written the entire book and found out where the characters journey was going to end. If you chose to work this way on your book, film script or comic book script then the next stage is to go through every scene and tailor it to fit the overall purpose. If you define your purpose before you start writing then you need to consider why you are choosing to write each scene you choose to write. In both cases you will find that your stories will be stronger and far more effective with some simple consideration of themes.
There is a lot more to say on the choosing of themes and thematic service so I am sure I will be revisiting this in another Grr(aphic) Monday but until then please like, share and comment as I want to hear what you think about comics and themes too. Check back on Wednesday when we are going to announce the winner of the BearSleuth Competition for this week!
Featured Image Picture Source: http://www.writeups.org/img/inset/Pixie_Megan_h4.jpg [Accessed: 27/07/2015]