Comics’ Pollock or Hendrix

Posted by – April 10, 2009

So this Paul Pope video interview on Graphic NYC: Pope’s work has always had strange ways of getting me to re-evaluate everyday aspects of comics, whether it’s plot conventions or line functions. He had this great quote at the end of the interview here:

“The great thing with comics is we haven’t really found our Jackson Pollock yet or our Hendrix. We haven’t hit the end of it.”

It got me wondering what exactly that type of creator would look like for comics. For Pollock, I feel like some of Chris Ware’s massive pieces come the closest — distilling the page’s contents down to an experience based more on the overwhelming bombardment of visual stimuli and mechanics, like what Pollock did with the painter’s stroke. I feel like there’s a case there.

As for Hendrix, I’m a little more inclined to agree that that hasn’t occurred yet for comics. He took the electric guitar to a new level in popular culture, shedding its context as a derivative instrument and means of expression through the vocabulary of sonic landscapes and sounds that were uniquely and necessarily generated through amplifiers. This is probably where you have to decide, what does comics need to be parsed from to stand alone? Cartoons? Movies? Novels? Childrens’ illustration? I’m going to have to point to Alan Moore and Watchmen¬†for accomplishing that and the world missing the point with the movie this year. I hope someone does make that work in my lifetime though, that finally succeeds in bringing what Watchmen did for me the first time I read it to the masses.

The ultimate conclusion that should be stated as well is comics probably doesn’t need a Pollock or a Hendrix, as it is its own medium that will continue to evolve in its own way and have its own standard-setters. I’d like to think Gaiman is its Bergman, though, thrusting hefty literary bundles onto the form and upping the ante for depth of storytelling.

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