Thursday, March 05, 2009

Ombudsmen

And now, a brief webcomics interlude.  (Explanation below for those who aren't familiar with this sort of thing.)

Whatever you think of Scott Kurtz and PvP, this sequence of comics is just plain brilliant.  Some of the best work he's ever done, hands down. 

The above comics are a parody of Watchmen mixed with a parody of today's newspaper comics industry, a personal hobby-horse of Kurtz's which I happen to agree with wholeheartedly.  If you haven't read Watchmen, the comics not only won't make sense, they risk spoiling the experience--so I suggest not reading them until you grab the graphic novel.  If you have read Watchmen but don't get the webcomics/newspaper syndication thing, here's a primer: Recently, (like, over the last two decades) a lot of the innovation in comics has been forced off of the printed page and (as the web has grown) onto the internet.  A number of the big newspaper comics aren't drawn by their original creators, and instead are a kind of 'comfort food' product, never changing, offering the same jokes over, and over again.  Because of this uniform blandness, comics on the printed page have a trouble attracting new readers.  And because these comfortable relics take up so much space on the comics page, it's very hard for new, innovative strips to find a market in newspaper comics.

On another note, I'm not certain what to think of PvP lately.  The new shaded art style is fantastic, and Kurtz has evolved a lot as a cartoonist these last few years.  At the same time, he's been experimenting a lot with his story and humor.  I respect an artist who does that--Scott Card does it to.  You never know what kind of book you're going to get next from Scott. 

However, because of the nature of experimentation like this, the product is less reliable.  There's more variation.  Sometimes it just doesn't work for me.  Sometimes it does.  And occasionally, there's true genius, like these Watchmen parodies. 

I guess that's what we get when we cry foul on the whole newspaper comfort product.  Reliability rarely leads to genius.  Boldness and innovation take us there--but when a creator is bold, sometimes those changes take him or her in a direction his readers don't like. 

This is an ongoing struggle for a creator like myself.  I want to try new things.  But I also want to produce things that my readers will enjoy.  I want to be on the cutting edge of...well, of what my readers want.  I don't know if that makes any sense.  One of the reasons I didn't turn Elantris into a series is because wanted readers to learn not to focus on one series of mine.  Instead of "That guy who writes the Elantris Books" I wanted to be "That guy who always writes great fantasy books with interesting magic systems."  The latter gives me more flexibility to go in new directions, but hopefully retain the readership.

We'll see if it work.  Warbreaker is different from Mistborn.  It's trying for the same things that Mistborn tried for--great characters, innovative use of setting, compelling and interesting plot.  However, it does each of these things in different ways from Mistborn.  And it's not a series. 

Part of me is excited to be releasing another stand-alone in this era of huge monster series.  But we'll see how the sales figures are.  It worry that people will feel they can wait for the paperback or the library on this book, since they're not driven to find the end of the series. 

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2:51 AM  

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