Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
AAAAAHHHHHHH! THIS COMIC! IT IS SO BAD! SO! SO! SO! BAD! GAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! LET US GATHER TOGETHER AND CLEANSE THE UNHOLY DAMNED THING WITH FIRE! IT IS SOOOO BAD! SOOOOOOO BAD! BAD BAD! BAD! BAD! BAD!
I have a vision, people.
I have a vision that the writer of Joe the Barbarian # 1 looked at his script, thought about all the time he’d put into it. Then looked down at the trash can. Sighed, just once. And did what needed to be done.
I have a vision.
That the artist of Joe the Barbarian # 1 received this script, and responded with a sharply worded e-mail, demonstrating his famous, amusingly tactless outspokeness.
“Fuck you. I’m not drawing this shit-log. I can go work for Kodak of something. Find another patsy.”
Something like that.
I have a vision.
That the editor of Joe the Barbarian # 1 received this script, and spoke thusly unto the writer: “Your page 20 needs to be your page 4, and the first 19 pages are TOTAL DAMN FUCKING DAMN_ASS BULLSHIT THAT SUCKS LIKE SUCK FLAVORED ASS DAMMIT TO HELL. Try again, sport..”
I am not a fan of warning labels.
Never did care for Tipper Gore.
But in this case, a simple Parental Advisory: Jesus Christ, this Book Sucks, Buy Something (ANYTHING) Else placed discreetly on the front of Joe the Barbarian # 1 would be warranted, appropriate, and appreciated.
Now, y’all may have perceived that I am a tad upset.
This is true.
Now part of the reason I’m upset is that I’ve read Chick Tracts that were better than this comic. But that’s only part of the reason.
If you go into the process of creating a comic, it seems – to me – to be an act of bad faith to assume that everyone reading your comic is… if not STUPID, at least completely ignorant to the nuances of pop culture.
Were I a comic writer, I would assume that most of my readers had seen more than three movies. I would also assume that some of them had, at one point in their life, watched television. Many may have even read a significant number of other comics.
If so, these people have, for all practical purposes, already read the first 18-or-so pages of Joe the Barbarian # 1.
Kid gets picked on. Kid is alienated. Kid goes home. That’s it. You’ve all seen this, right?
In my stack of (three) comics purchased this week
I have Brave and the Bold # 31, which, lo-and-behold, tells a variation of the exact same “kid gets teased” story as Joe the Barbarian # 1.
Now Brave and the Bold # 31 also sucked like a finely aged wine that tastes terrible, but it was better than Joe the Barbarian # 1, ’cause didn’t wantonly and almost randomly waste space.
Here! I will prove. Here are the first two of a FIVE PAGE! Sequence where Joe walks from the school bus into his room.
I shit you not.
I can’t figure out how to make a space between the two pages, so you get this worthless text instead. Let’s pretend it’s symbolic.
No character development. No plot development. All we’re doing here is establishing setting. And, hey, it’s suburbia. We’ve all SEEN suburbia. If suburbia is only implied in two small-ish panels, hey! We understand! Wasted. Space.
But if you liked this, boy howdy! We got three more pages!
(This reviewer, who has had a hard day, is tempted to repeat “five pages” over and over again for another several hundred words. But we’re all adults or smart children here. And I am (ever so slightly) above trying to inflict the pain of reading Joe the Barbarian # 1 on the rest of you. You’re freakin’ welcome.)
Now, I basically, on some twisted level, understand the logic employed here. Many modern creators seem to view the individual issues of a comic as unimportant.
The creators’ argument here is going to be “Yes, this sucks. Some things are unavoidable. But you have to view this as the first eight of a trade.”
Sidenote: I read that one of the creators decided the series should be six issues, rather than eight. PUNCHLINE! Because he needed more space to tell the story! AHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH! Get it? HE WAS LYING or else INCOMPETENT! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
But, sure, what the hell, fair enough. The comic I paid good money for is worthless in and of itself, and only has value when combined with seven other comics.
If I was reviewing this comic as the first eighth of a collected edition, I would say this:
“Man, this first eighth of a trade is like getting puked on by a fat dude in 120 degree heat while wombats have violent sex in your underthings. It is terrible. The creators did not need to waste the entire first eighth of this trade on bullshit establishing shots. I hate them.”
I have a theory. It’s based on reading Scott McCloud’s UNDERSTANDING COMICS one of many, many, many fine comics, or magazines, or books you could choose to read instead of Joe the Barbarian # 1.
Writing comics is all about writing the space between the panels. If you want to write comics well, you must cherry-pick the very most interesting moments of the narrative and show those. And ONLY those.
Ya needta be trimming, trimming, constantly trimming. Cram that thousand words into every panel. Define character. Every page. Advance the plot. Every Panel. Trim ANYTHING that won’t keep the audience riveted.
DO NOT UNDER ANY MOTHERFUCKING CIRCUMSTANCES WRITE FIVE PAGES (FIVE PAGES!) OF A KID WALKING FROM THE SCHOOL BUS TO HIS ROOM IN A TWENTY-TWO PAGE COMIC FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY!
(Sidenote: For Best Results, Go back and read that last sentence and imagine it was written by Chris Farley.)
Now, as a special treat, I will open this up to questions from the audience.
Audience: You just don’t realize the subtle genius of the writer!
Shut the fuck up. Seriously.
Audience: Dude. It’s only a comic, and it only cost a buck. Chill!
YOU try being calm after a swirling vortex of liquid is transpondered into your brain so it can Sap Your Very Will To Live. I have to EXIST on a PLANET with this comic! For the rest of my life! I don’t need that kind of pressure added to my life, gnawing at my brain in the tenderest of moments!
I mean, sure. You have a point. I do tend to get a little bit worked up about this crap.
I probably have childhood issues.
I acknowledge this, which is the first step to getting better.
BUT JESUS GOD LORD THIS SUCKED SOOOOOOO BAD!
FIE UPON YOU WRITER!
FIE UPON YOU ARTIST!
FIE UPON YOU DC COMICS!
I HOPE YOU ALL GET SHAT UPON BY HERBACEOUS TREE-WOMBATS!
If God is a comics fan, y’all are going to have A LOT OF DAMN FUCKING EXPLAINING TO DO at the pearly gates.
NEXT! You there. In the back. Edging towards the door and looking worried.
Audience: But… but the ART is nice, isn’t it?
The art is quite nice, especially in the fourerfive pages that are interesting. And the cover: Quite striking, quite good. But if I charitably give this comic a 2 out of one hundred (2 %) for the writing, and a 100 out of 100 (100%) grade for t the art still leaves is an average of 51 %. (E)
Audience: So is this the worst comic you’ve ever read or what?
No, with a but. I’ve read a lot of mini-comics – And that means a lot of shoddily illustrated non-rhyming poetry about why THE ARTIST’S girlfriend doesn’t understand THE ARTIST. You’ve pictured how bad this is in your head, yes? Now imagine it’s even worse.
Ha! That scared you!
But in terms of wasted potential from creators who have done ood, even outstanding, work in the past? Yes. This is the most egregious example of squandered talent I can think of.
Next…. Hey. Gosh. They all left. I shall talk to myself.
MARKANDREW: I know you’ve said that you dislike psychoanalyzing creators or trying to figure out the reasons why an artist created a piece of work. Why don’t you break your number one rule and try to explain what the writer was thinking?
I’d be glad too. There are two possibilities.
Possibility one: The writer’s last project which sucked was (rightly and justly) criticized for being a skeleton of a story rather than an actual story, throwing plot points at the audience so fast they couldn’t begin to keep up. Marc Singer sneered it best, if you’ve got some free time.
So, possibly the writer was responding to criticism. By making sure that this project which sucks moves extremely slowly, and spelling out every plot point or potential hint of a plot point or not actually a plot point at all in excruciating detail.
The reason? Spite. Or it’s a form of revenge on the people who hated his last project that sucked. This doesn’t seem quite fair, though, as many of those same people liked his last project that was good.
Possibility two: The writer is trying to sell the project as a film, and make fat-ass cash.
This is understandable.
I, too, like fat-ass cash
So what he’s written isn’t a comic. It’s a set of storyboards for a film. And as a film, given proper lighting, actors, and soundtrack, Joe the Barbarian # 1 might make for a great first five minutes.
On opening friday I will be there ticket in hand. Front row. Popcorn. Seventeen dollar box of malted milk balls. Whole nine.
But I’m not doing is reading past issue one of this terrible, terrible comic. Lord.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.