As I work on Held Up I ask myself why exactly it is I am interested in drawing comics? What about the medium attracts me? How does it suite what I am trying to communicate? This question is made ever more present by the feedback I have received from people who have read the first 2 issues. And the commitment that will be necessary to complete the entire series. Why a comic?
I very much appreciate Chester Brown’s answer to a similar question in the 2012 Best American Comics collection. He wrote:
“I don’t have an answer for this – sorry, anything I come up with just seems silly and reductive.”
I wish that I could give an anser like this, but instead I find myself giving one of 2 responses. Both of which could easily be described as reductive.
The 2 answers I give are as follows:
First, for Le Roman du Lievre specifically, Held Up is a complex system of mnemonic devices serving to record the marginalia, anecdotes, and free associations that surround a project that has become more and more blah, blah, blah, blah… I explain enough about this and the structure of the comic in the notes section of issue 1 and on this blog. This explanation is true, but formal. Also, while expressing a goal, it doesn’t really explain why I chose comics over film or audio.
Second, and probably closer to my real motivation, I enjoy how densely packed with information comics can be. Yet how easily they are read. That I can spend countless hours working on details, be they written or visual, while someone can pick up and work their way through an issue in a matter of minutes, jumping from one type of symbol to the next. I believe this readability is such that room is left for ambiguity in comics in a way that is not true of any other narrative medium.
What follows this second answer is a discussion about differences between high and low art and comics potential place in the middle, between the elite/conceptual and the easily digested. Then a comparison to film, a discussion of the cinematic nature of the medium, and debates about the differences between books and movies, active and passive audiences and relinquishing the control of time to the viewer.
After such a conversation I usually step back and come to realize that I am very interested in the point at which the comic narrative is just clear enough to keep the reader going, but that most of the rest of it is rhetoric.
It was during the research for this issue (#3) that I started to piece together a more honest answer as to why I had chosen the comic form. I read Introducing Consciousness, referenced on pages 18-21, and began to think a bit more about consciousness and dreams in relation to narrative. In our dreams we are able to gather together disconnected people, places, memories and piece them together into a sort story. Even if it is not coherent. It doesn’t matter. While sleeping we are not asking ourselves if the world we inhabit makes sense. We are immersed in it. Not until we wake up do we question the authenticity of our experiences. And it is the dreams incoherence, its ability to pull these disconnected parts together that makes them fascinating.
For me the comic form seems the perfect place to draw together all of the material I have gathered over the last 5 years. To let connections form and a narrative/world be built. Like a dream , the unique attributes of the comic, the way in which it can be so dense yet easily consumed, lends itself to this task. I hope that as long as the scale is not tipped completely in the direction of incoherence, the reader will be able to immerse his or herself in the panels of this story and accept whatever happens just as they would accept what happens in a dream.