Comic Books, The Great Gatsby, and Friendly Hypnosis
Reading through this graphic novel adaptation of The Great Gatsby reminded me of how stupid public school is. American “education”. Even if the original book is a great American classic, why on Earth should a 21st century teenager care about what a bunch of overly dramatic rich people from the roaring 20’s are up to? I haven’t read this book since high school. But, this colorful, abbreviated version makes a bit more sense now.
I never liked comics. I never understood them. I loved books, I loved reading, especially fiction. Narrative. Story. But… A picture book… Why? As a child, of course, I indulged in Dr. Seuss and the like. But, a growing young man cannot subsist on baby books. Seriously “reading” comics? Never did it. Totally foreign to me. I read big boy books with chunky paragraphs. Beyond 3rd grade the only books with pictures I saw were textbooks.
How do you even read a comic? Am I suppose to imagine, visualize the pictures in motion, like a cartoon animation? Should I linger on the words, hell, how do I even follow the words? Panels, speech bubbles, strange, weird, pointless in my mind. “Why not just write a book?” I thought. The worst of motion pictures, and the worst of literature! A terrible combination. The pictures don’t move, and now the words are all unorganized, messy, and confusing. You either have a story with words or you make a movie with images. Simple! Or… Is it?
It wasn’t until I began writing my own stories and studying art did I realize my mistake. The wonderful, vivid displays in my mind felt so distant. So far away. I couldn’t share them with anyone or maintain their idyllic presence in my mind. I envied artists who could project their mind perfectly onto a page… Or so I thought. The more I learned of visual artists, and my own art in writing, I realized the power of suggestion.
No artist can ever flawlessly reproduce an image in their mind into perfect reality. That perfection is a quality reserved for the creator Himself. But, what we as people can do, is adapt. Use what we are able to do to express emotion, character, and story. Even, if not especially the mistakes! With this realization, I finally understood comics. They are a vehicle to aid in imagination. Just as in writing, you can only help guide someone’s imagination and not project perfectly into it, comics achieve this same goal.
So in a strange way writing a beautiful story, making a beautiful picture, or both is like a friendly hypnotism. Hypnosis being the power of suggestion and our consent to it. A story can never be a passive experience no matter the medium it is in. And any tool to aid in connecting the mind of the author with the mind of the audience is a good one. But, everyone should be aware of this subtle power. It extends far beyond fiction, if you catch my meaning.
“So, Michael, what’s the point? What are you getting at?” Asks the astute reader.
Hmm. Well, honestly, that’s it. I like comics now. I think they are cool. When done intentionally, they can give so much life and detail to a story expeditiously, without feeling rushed or wasting your time. This uniqueness, versatility, and brevity is something that greatly helped me solidify a writing style. Small, pick up and play chapters any cracked-out social media addict could have the attention span to read… But can also build to something so… So much greater.
And for that, I thank you comics. Because now I have a new world of stories to explore, and renewed excitement to do so. As much as I enjoyed reading fiction, that enjoyment has largely become past-tense. My lowered attention span, the “quality” of modern novels, and so many other distractions. But now, I see a way back in through this often underappreciated art form.
If focused, quick, imaginative, snappy stories are something you are into, check out my audiobook I write and narrate myself. Every word has it’s place, and I hope to build this fantasy story into something… Wonderful.
Originally composed 12/28/21