You ever get a headache where it feels like hammers are pounding on your forehead, and there's an icepick being jammed into the base of your skull, simultaneously? I got that right now. I even know what the problem is, but I can't loosen my neck up enough to give it a good "snap, crack, pop!" to sort everything out. In other news, I enjoyed the beginning of PTI today, when Kornheiser said the first thing that should be on his "Bucket List" would be to tell Stat Boy TK is his father, if only for Reali's anguished "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" It made me laugh, even through the pain. Good times.
OK, enough skylarking.
I'm not sure where this post originates from. I think it's a general thing that I've been thinking about recently, based on different people's reaction to the same comics. I think it may have actually began with Diamondrock's post about his general disinterest in manga, and his comment that part of the problem was the art felt static, lifeless. In the comments, I had mentioned that with the manga I had read, it wasn't an issue of lack of motion, but perhaps of too much motion, or a lack of clarity in representing said motion. I don't have any idea if Diamonrock and I have looked at the same stuff, but I was curious about the different reaction. There have been a few other things that contributed, including Brian Hibbs description of the art in Punisher War Journal #15 as 'pretty stinky' (I'm too lazy to do any links, the issue came out last week, the review's part of a clump of reviews). In the comments, Tim Callahan expressed the opinion that PWJ #15 was one of the best-looking comics of the week. I've also seen people debating Stuart Immonen's work on Ultimate Spider-Man compared to Mark Bagley's. There are people who feel Immonen's lacking, that Bendis has had to add more talking because Immonen's art can't carry emotions as well, and there are others that think there's no difference, no dropoff from Bagley to Immonen. Personally, I don't think Immonen conveys the more subtle emotions as well, and his fight scenes aren't always as clearly laid out as I prefer, especially compared to Bagley, but there are obviously other people who feel differently.
So here's the point to all this. When reading a comic book, how much of the burden for following or understanding what is going on falls on the penciler/inker/colorist, and how much falls to the reader's ability to interpret the pictures in front of them? I know that with comic books, the writer plays a large role, since they can provide expository dialogue, caption boxes, or comments that shed light on what's happening, but for now I'm going to try and leave them out of it (good luck with that, right?)
When I really started to wonder about this, I started looking at my volumes of the Rurouni Kenshin manga and wondering if, when Sanosuke rears back to headbutt his opponent, the art was giving the sense of Sano throwing his head back in preparation, or if my mind was projecting/inserting the motion into the panel. Obviously, if I'm seeing actual motion, it's in my head because we're dealing with 2 dimensional drawings of things moving, as opposed to actual movement, but is the artist drawing in a manner that suggests the motion, or is the reader making that leap themselves? Is it possible for someone to illustrate in a manner which would evoke the proper response (assuming that the creative team is going for a specific reaction/emotion/image) in all people? Or do we, as the audience, each have our own blind spots, where certain styles simply don't mesh well with our minds, and so to our eyes those styles fail to achieve their desired effect, leading us to label the art as "ineffective", "poor", "ill-suited for the subject matter" or whatever adjectives we want to apply?
And if we do have "blind spots", then how much of the failure for the art to connect with the viewer is on the artist? Is it a case of them choosing the method or approach they think is best, and hoping that by and large, it strikes the right chord? I know there are basic rules that are generally followed (though I'm not real clear on what those rules specifically are), unless not following them serves a purpose in the story. I figure things like perspective, and not changing line-of-sight in odd ways, abrupt ways are kind of supposed to be observed, but beyond basic rules of art, how much are the artists responsible for?
As you can tell, I have no answers, just a bunch of questions. I figure somebody out there knows Art Theory better than me, and hopefully they'll speak up. Even if you don't know Art Theory, if you've got something to add, please do so. I'm gonna go lie down.