Is there such a thing as an Ideal Comic, and would anyone be foolish enough to try defining it?
Sure, why not?
Here’s a working definition: “A narrative which functions most perfectly
within graphic illustration.”
Clunky, but it hits the main points: it’s gotta be at least slightly narrative (otherwise you’re doing numbers in a series) and it’s gotta be something that works best within what people awkwardly call “the medium.” Graphic illustration sounds like porno circa 1964, but is a broad catch-all that avoids a favoring of, say, ink washes over photo collage. You’ll note that nothing is said about the limiting term “Sequential Art.” Narrative ain’t sequence, ladies.
This ad hoc definition ends the never ending battle of ART COMIX versus SUPERHEROS by indirectly pointing out, that, hey, both sides suck. We gather a strange insight from Jack T. Chick who, upon seeing Mao-era Chinese propaganda comics, realized that something about the essential cheapness and their very low threshold of entry (a pen and very modest talent), allows a didactic directness and immediacy unavailable in other artistic forms. In essence, Chick sussed out an unfortunate truth: if you’ve got something to say, but no way of saying it, you can always make a comic. In rough terms, this is why present day superhero comics are usually movies made by Hollywood failures or people with no hope of directing, and contemporary art comics are often boring roman-a-clef novels or memoirs authored by people who can’t write.
Jarett Kobek is a smart man, and his five-part-so-far series “Comics: An Indiosyncratic Examination” is something that you all should make time to sit down and read (Parts one, two, three, four and five, so far including commentary on Phonogram, 30 Days of Night and Eddie Campbell’s Alec, amongst others). Just sayin’.