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.