Comics are sh*t.

DUMain
Easily the coolest storyteller in the history of cool storytellers’: Quentin Tarantino  is a formidable force in the wonderful world of favourable fiction.

His fans love him almost unconditionally and why shouldn’t they?  His work often has funny, cool, smart and beautiful things crammed inside it all at once and it’s unquestionably its own animal.   His more recent work has seen him succeed in beating history to death with a genre shaped movie-stick and he’s made us all laugh, cry and gasp in the process.  His casting, music choices, cinematography and dialog are stand-out and the end result is cult-classic after cult-classic.  His movies are also starting to receive the appropriate amount of wider critical acclaim too and it’s about time.

I’m a fan.  Plain and simple.  I’m interested in anything this man says or does and I hope there’s plenty more to come.  Django Unchained is his latest release and — lucky for us — there’s a supporting comic book this time around.  Score.

Quite intentionally, I haven’t seen the movie yet and I may not allow myself to see it until I’ve read the whole story on printed page.  The comic book is the original screenplay in its entirety, complete with unseen set-pieces and scenes that were deleted from the movie in the interests of saving time.  It’s the whole story as initially intended…  in a comic! again, score.

Having read the first issue, the book is… as you’d expect, an accomplished read.  Teasing narrative and glorious dialog draped in professional, familiar storytelling and confident poise.  Tarantino knows what he’s doing, we’re in good hands.   The art is pleasing and seems to compliment the words nicely, it’s equal parts scratchy and clean with a nice amount of ‘serious’ thrown in for good measure.  There are a few panels that sell the more… cartoony side of Guera’s range but, that’s OK.  The flashback panels make for a welcomed contrast stylistically and the colour palette is clear and honest defining the 3 main sections in the first issue nicely.  Light and dark are employed intelligently too and a good amount of time is gobbled up by night and day.  It’s a good start from the artists.

When an accomplished storyteller starts on down the road of story, the superior telling is achieved by use of patience.  Have a point and make it without deviating.  Give every single moment inside the story an increased value by sharing that ‘point’ throughout the piece and then conclude it.  We’re simply downloading some of the creators brain from (in this case) a comic book and as is the case with a lot of comic book writers these days, they were fans of comics first, read only comics growing up and now they write comics, for comic fans and to be honest, a large chunk of what’s being printed right now is amateurish and lazy.

When a comic book is treated to the chiefly abilities of a great storyteller, a true literary artist capable of executing an impressive result, legitimate product is produced and will be recognised beyond and outside the comic book crowed.

The moment-to-moment reveal of knowledge, character and circumstance is perfectly planned in Django Unchained #1, giving extra weight and value to both large and small pay-off moments throughout the story.  Very basic storytelling tools are rarely employed by comic writers these days, often due to available time and space between the ‘action’ no doubt.  A truly talented writer — usually with no editorial restraints — will take the time to really explain the stakes, giving story-beats down the road a bigger payoff, or   they’ll tease the obvious thing and twist you toward the un-expected.

For example:  In a story… imagine the moment two people are sitting across from each other at a table and one rolls an apple to the other.  Fine, got it.  The end.  In a story (told by a true artist) time would be taken to explain the stakes and the potential circumstances that could be built into a moment like that.  Say, the two people are prisoners of war and haven’t eaten properly for weeks, they could also have feelings for each other and are not able to share that properly as they’re chained to the wall.  Prior to our main apple rolling moment, we might be treated to a similar event where another prisoner is caught giving a piece of bread to a child (whom is also chained to the wall) and as a result of being in possession of food and attempting to share it, the prisoner is marched into view of all and their hands and feet are savagely sliced off by the POW guards in an overwhelming and bloody show, without a moment’s hesitation.  Now we know what’s at stake… and when the apple is finally rolled across the table between our two lead characters, you’d be invested.  The suspense and anticipation would shoot through the roof as the imperfectly shaped apple rolls, exposed and slowly across the jagged and uneven table in plain sight! for all the sword wielding guards to see if they happen to be watching.   It would meander its way toward the open, shaking and starving hand of our heroes teary crush and an otherwise dull moment is seasoned with emotion, meaning and danger.

That’s ‘story’ and so often in comics, we don’t see it.  A story is about something and is told through moments that happen. In comics, we only ever seem to get a bunch of things that happen, with no ‘about’…  and that’s is a waste.

Taking the time to explain the stakes in the interests of a pay-off further down the line is typical of an accomplished storyteller.  They know the whole story and they know the point of that story and they make that point in the most extreme and intense way possible resulting in our engagement from start to finish; where the point is made.

It’s honestly quite refreshing to find a piece of material in comics that’s intelligently put together and challenging as a reader.

New readers of comics could be people whom consume all sorts of stories already and appreciate good fiction in general.  They shouldn’t all be imagined as dumb kids whom like fighting because it looks cool.

Printed and Digital comics as a platform to tell and share stories, will only reach a higher level of exposure when they are good enough.

And right now (as a whole), they are not.

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Danny Champion
Danny Champion is a freelance writer and artist. Follow CandyAppleFox on Twitter.
Articles: 104

35 Comments

  1. No mention anywhere of who wrote the comic, including the credits of the first issue or DC’s website.

    It just says “Adapted from the original screenplay by Quentin Tarantino” and “Based on the screenplay by Quentin Tarantino”.

    Somebody had to adapt it: wonder if Tarantino’s deal with DC publishing the comic was that the writer or “adapter” would not be credited.

    Plus, for the first time I can remember, there are no credits on the cover for the creative team, just “The new film by Quentin Tarantino”.

  2. As to your overall statement as summarized in the title, and based on your past columns, it seems your comic reading is mostly mainstream superhero titles and mostly DC and Marvel, to which I would agree with you.

    Luckily we have Fantagraphics, IDW, Cinebook, Humanoids and a wealth of comic material that goes far above and beyond tights and capes.

  3. If you have suggestions of specific books to read where my mind and soul will be challenged then, I’m all ears. The best art — in my opinion — appears under the big 2 publishers (mostly) and as an aspiring artist, that’s where I need to aim.

    That’s also where I’m interested in seeing good stories replace bad ones… as it’s the biggest stage in the industry. It’s too easy to claim that the best books are the secret ones.

  4. To quote Quentin himself in the foreward: “What’s really cool about doing Django Unchained as a Comic book is that it’s the entire script. So, even though things may have changed from the script to the finished movie, it will ALL be in the comic. The comic is literally the very first draft of the script.”

    I’m not so naive as to think that Quentin prepared the dialog directly panel-for-panel but, it is unquestionably his dialog. I too would be protective over my story if it had to filter through a publisher. I have done that in fact.

    What we’re buying into here is Tarantino. The creative team are credited on page 3 including Editor and assistant editor Jim Chadwick and Sarah Litt respectively. Though, the editorial role on a book like this is surely more of a Project Manager one. The art was probably heavily managed but, editing the actual story content is off the table as Quentin points out above. And I believe that.

  5. Well, I mentioned four publishers above. I suggest you take a look at their sites or read the reviews on this site for more information. We’ve run several article about expanding your horizons from a comic reading perspective, including one from Anthony last week.

  6. Danny, despite what Scott and Anthony like to say from time to time, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a preference for DC and Marvel. They think they are helping to expand the so called “medium”, so they mean well… but it’s a free world so your welcome to read what ever you like… without shame or guilt.

    Personally I think Tarantino is over rated. I do like some of his movie but I don’t think he’s all that… **snap fingers**

  7. So, you’re not sure that there are actual books under these publishers that will challenge my mind and soul?  you seemed quite confident before.  I will basically read whatever I’m drawn to.  Whether it’s capes or not.  I need to be inspired and it’s not important how that happens or where it comes from.

    I read Anthony’s post and respect his opinion greatly, just like I respect every other persons opinion.  I assure you my horizons are broad.  I’m an artist.

  8. I think it’s important to keep an open mind.  But reading anything should be an indulgence.  What don’t you like about him? specifically.

  9. OR… I’m carefully selecting a provocative title to ignite some passion and spark debate.

  10. Am I to cut your meat AND chew it for you? I suggested some publishers that are producing excellent comics right now. Go into your local comic shop and ask for some recommendations. Forbidden Planet runs an excellent website that is chock full of British material from SelfMadeHero and Cinebook.

    Why don’t you provide a few books that you’ve read that challenged your mind and soul so we can get some criteria as to where your statements are coming from.

  11. Titles are supposed to get your attention and make you take action. Just check out the rags at the checkout counter or the nightly news. Call me an old fart but I haven’t read many good current comics that tell a great story. Many have a back story that if you don’t know your lost. Djanjo is an interesting story told well on the screen and in print.

  12. Scott knows full well about headlines… but as usual, he’s playing with semantics for the sake of being right. Currently CBD is little more then an open Facebook account. A little sensationalism wouldn’t hurt to help infuse some fresh commentary. I still believe that the comments are the true content for a site like this… That’s what being social is all about.

  13. The article is honest and real. The title is what I’m alluding to.

    Headlines in the media need to make the point of the article and they need to be on steroids to stand out. An exaggerated idea that demands reaction and opinion… is title. Honesty and point-of-view is the content. What I say and how I feel about something is by no means final or ‘correct’ it’s simply how I feel and that’s open to be discussed with people whom feel differently. And that’s ok.

  14. Scott: from above…
    No. Please don’t chew my meat. The last thing I read that challenged my mind and soul was The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. Sadly, there is no accompanying art for the utterly genius words in that book. I buy into comics because of the art. The frozen graphic moments — chosen specifically to tell the story in the most extreme and interesting way possible — are often mesmerising and monumentally impressive/inspiring. It’s the art that validates comics as a medium worth investing in (for me). My problem however, is not with the glorious and beautiful art, it’s with the storytelling. Comic writers need to up their game. That’s my point. Tell me a story. Don’t churn out a soap opera.

  15. The Urban Dictionary defines Meh as Indifference; to be used when one simply does not care. Example:
    A: What do you want for dinner?
    B: Meh.

    Wikipedia: Meh is an interjection, often used as an expression of indifference or boredom. It can also be used as a verb, (rendering something uninteresting, boring or useless to the beholder) and an adjective, meaning mediocre, boring, or apathetic.

    The Collins English Dictionary recently added the word, indicating that it is slang and defines it as
    1. (exclamation) an expression of indifference or boredom
    2. (adjective) mediocre or boring

    Hope that helps.

  16. Yes Kevin. Crystal. Again, your level of interest in ‘story’ is astonishing. Your living is made from selling stories is it not?
    The important question is…

    If this article didn’t make you feel “meh”, would you be able to afford a speedboat?

  17. Meh wraps up my feelings on this article, the opinions expressed therein, and the comic that it seeks to praise.

    I make my living researching cancer, I then spend it on owning and running a comic shop. No speedboats for me, or even vacations anytime soon.

  18. Scott and I have never suggested that there is anything wrong with having a preference for DC or Marvel. We have suggested that it would do everyone well to try new things, and yes, we do mean well.

  19. Kevin, I can’t seem to reply to your last comment above but, since you are a hero yourself, you now need to come to London and stay at mine… I owe you beer. I also tip my hat in honour of your real job. Goodness me.

  20. Danny, it looks like this thread was hijacked into a bunch of directions. I would like to address a comment you made at the start of your article. You said “(Quentin Tarrantino) movies are also starting to receive the appropriate amount of wider critical acclaim too and it’s about time”

    I have a little bit of issue with this statement. I think Quentin Tarrantino had critical acclaim right from the start. Reservoir Dogs was revolutionary and different right from the start. Plus following it up with Pulp Fiction, which was critically acclaimed and won him an Oscar for the screenplay, clearly shows that the public and the critics loved him right from the start.

    I think with movies like Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, it is re-creating his role in Hollywood and he is making edgy provocative movies that the critics and public love. Personally I didn’t like Basterds. The only thing that made the movie watchable was Christoph Waltz. He was great in that movie. The rest of it was barely watchable.

    The other thing that is odd with IG and DU, these are critically acclaimed movies that are remakes of 70’s B-movies. Quentin Tarrantino is reinventing a genre that was overlooked in it’s day.

  21. He won an Oscar for the screenplay on Pulp and also on Inglourious but, never received any Hollywood hi5’s for direction.  I think Django is nominated for 5 oscars but again, not for direction. 

    His films do well at Cannes and are beloved as cult-classics, not ‘best sellers’… His work is loved by the people whom love it.  The people whom don’t love it make no secret of that fact and as a result, prior to Inglourious, it was easier to review his work on the ‘hate’ side, which seemed to be the trend as far as I can remember.  it was more palatable to read a dismissive review maybe?

    I thought Inglourious was his masterpiece as the credits rolled, he even said so himself in the final line of dialog.  Love it or hate it, you can’t argue with his storytelling.  It’s a masterwork of suspense and plot-building genius and should be given to young writers to study.  So much about it is impressive and worth investing in.

    “Quentin Tarrantino is reinventing a genre that was overlooked in it’s day.” I can’t work out of you like this idea or not but, to be honest, he could remake any movie ever made and it would be worth watching, just to see what would happen in his world.  What would Tarantino do with this?…

    Auteur.

    He almost bought Bond before the Daniel Craig movies.  Fancy that.

  22. Ah ok, cool. His latest 2 movies are still a lot more tangible as serious choices for the academy to acknowledge (for whatever reason). Django 5 nominations, Inglourious Basterds 8.

    if Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Kill bill 2, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained all came out in the same year, it would still be Inglourious Basterds/Django that would scoop the most nominations. Which helps make my point about his critical credibility increasing as he continues on making stories. While his earlier movies were arguably more beloved by the fans.

  23. Way to kill a conversation Ed. By imposing the values and interests of a small group of people… CBD can never be more then what it is. I find that fact that you believe that CBD is an open forum to be an interesting study in social behaviour.

  24. I don’t think the title of this article is correct. It shouldn’t be “Comics are Sh*t” but “My love letter to Quentin Tarantino”

    You are comparing your (what seems like) all time crush to a stranger on the street.

  25. I’ll take that.  I’m happy to declare my love for Quentin.  He’s (obviously) one of my biggest inspirations and I’m quite happy rename the post to whatever you think it should be.  

    My feelings remain and I make no apology for them.

    I would however, ask you to explain your comparison as I’m interested to know why there’s a “stranger” in there? 

  26. I meant no insult by it, I always say that if you love something you should shout it from the roof tops.

    Stranger would refer to comics that aren’t the muscles and tights type but more dramatic. I don’t know you so I’m not sure what you read, but it seems like there is a whole genre of comics you are missing out on.

    Hopefully your love of Tarantino will help you branch out into other comic genres

  27. Please be so kind as to list these secret comics that are in fact the actual and true representation of the medium… so that I might read them and open my mind to a place so equally confident and content that, what I now know as a result of reading them… is far more qualified to ‘feel something’ than my previous version.

    I’m open to absorb art and story in ANY form and do so. My great loves in this setting include but, are not limited too: Quentin (clearly), Beatrix Potter, Damon Lindelof, Ernest Hemingway , Roald Dahl, Renoir, Stephen King, Alan Moore, William Shakespeare, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Pixar, Amy Winehouse, Edgar Degas, Alex Maleev, Daniel Lieske, Jim Lee, Sara Pichelli, Ivan Reis, LOST, Banksy, Grant Morrison, Olivier Coipel, Tommy Lee Edwards, Batman (generally), Ayrton Senna, Bryan Hitch, Gil Elvgren, Adam Hughes, Frank Miller, JJ Abrams, Claude Monet, Joseph Turner and so on… and so on… and so on… and so on…

    So if there is a comic book out there — that you know of and that I don’t – that will surpass my expectations for a piece of art or fiction, please name it now so that my world may be altered for the better.

    ?

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