Monday, July 03, 2006

It's been a while, but I thought I'd mention one of my analogies:

Why the creative team of a comic book (writer, penciler, inker and colourist) is like a rock band

- is analoguous to the lead singer. Generally, he writes the story and dialogue (lyrics), and, especially these days, is seen as the primary creative force behind the comic, or generally the main reason to buy the comic. Aside from the character/title, which we'll equate to genre or musical style--e.g., metal fans buy metal records, Batman fans buy Batman comics. In both the comic and rock worlds of today, the writer/singer is the star.

Penciler - is the lead guitarist. Just like the famous singer/lead guitarist songwriting teams of rock (Jagger & Richards, Page & Plant, Tyler & Perry, Van Halen & Roth/Hagar), the penciler is seen as the co-creator of the comic, like the lead guitarist is seen as the co-creator of the band's music. Also, while the layperson can appreciate the penciler's work and recognize pencilers they like and dislike, generally the fine points of pencilling are only appreciated by other artist-types, just like a guitarist's technical skill generally escapes the typical fan, but is appreciated or critiqued by other musicians. There was a period in rock music, mostly the 1980s, when the guitarist became the star attraction, and many bands attributed their success to the technical wizardry of their lead guitarist (q.v. Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, etc.). Similarly, there was a time in the North American comic world when the art became more important than the story (the Image era of the early 1990s) and pencillers
were thrust into the limelight (Jim Lee, Tom McFarlane, J. Scott Campbell, etc.). Both these eras ended, generally with a lot of backlash (1990s grunge and alternative almost killed off the concept of guitar solos, while the late 90s saw the comic world get less flashy with the visuals and emphasize story more).

Inker - I equate the oft-neglected inker to the bassist. Many genres of rock build on the "power trio" format pioneered by the blues-rockers of the 1960s. The power trio as realized by Cream was quite influential, typified by the bassist doubling the lead guitarist's riff an octave lower (so when the guitarist broke off to play fills or solos, the riff was maintained). Basically, the bassist is playing what the guitarist is, only thicker and heavier, just like the inker traces over the penciler's lines. Yes, I'm calling inkers "tracers", just like poor Banky in Chasing Amy, but that's what most of them are. I'm also taking a dig at bassists, but since I am one, I think it's justifiable most of the time.

Colourist - I link the colourist with the drummer mainly because 1) drums are considered essential to rock music, much as colour is necessary for a mainstream comic in North America (black and white indies rarely get the same popular attention as full-colour mainstream titles), and 2) these days most colouring is done by computer, just like many drummers have been replaced by (or at least supplemented with) drum machines and sequencers.

So what about North American indie comics and Japanese manga, which are ostensibly written and drawn (with no colour and minimal inking) by one person? Clearly, these are analoguous to the lone singer-songwriter, a la Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and tonnes of folk singers.