Sarah Horrocks had a great comment about sci-fi and horror in comics (and out. It’s reprinted below.
I’m miscommunicating if I’m putting across that I don’t think sci-fi genre work is as good as anything else.
I’m still reading Dune on the first go through, but there are lines in this book so magical that they are already amongst my favorite. Game of Thrones is an exceptional work. Prophet blows my mind every month. I obviously feel pretty passionate about Druillet’s work. I love Giger and Beksinski’s sci-fi/horror paintings.
And I say all of this as someone whose background in education IS the study of literature.
I think what upsets people about sci-fi is that they feel it’s “merely” escapism, and they’ve been taught to view anything remotely escapist as a pejorative. But it is these fantastic other worlds that most bend and expand your mind, and allow you to change expectations and ideas when you end the work and come back to reality. Sci-fi as a genre is a world shaper. We probably wouldn’t be having this conversation on this thing the internet without science-fiction and it’s mind altering qualities. Sci-fi is good drugs.
And Druillet and Moebius are for me masters of it. I find their works hugely inspirational, and full of ideas that are even today fresh and interesting. Even just technically what they were able to pull off was virtuoso work. There are certain mechanics within western comic art that they absolutely are the gold standard for.
Corben is I feel something of a different beast entirely. I see Corben more in the horror mold–though that’s shaped because most of the Corben I’ve read, and continue to read is horror. And I think horror operates with a completely different set of rules from any other genre but porn. I think great horror is not plot based at all, but rather about generating a particular mind state within the reader–like the example I always use is in the film Texas Chainsaw massacre–the original–there’s this section where he’s chasing the girl through the woods with his chainsaw, and the night is blue, and there’s almost an impossible amount of branches that keep getting in the girl’s way–and leatherface is always like just inches behind her no matter how fast she runs–and the forest actually morphs within this scene and elongates from how we had previously seen it in the film. Suddenly it changes into this seemingly neverending labryinth. She stars running across the screen in directions and at distances that should get her out of the forest–but don’t. In terms of realism it is a failure. But what the work is engaging with is that creepy dream logic that infuses all of the best nightmares.
Most horror work in film and comics of the last 20 years have been failures because they do not understand that this element is what makes horror work. The plot and the realism is what detracts you from the sublime horror moment where art melds with dream. Similar to the moment porn melds with fantasy.
Horror, particularly in comics I think, should be less interested in plot and story compared to any other genre of comics–and be interested in creating these nightmare images and scenarios that come off of the page. More horror comics creators need to be surrealist pornographers.
This got off track. But horror is I feel an instance where adherence to plot and characterization rules that work in other genres produces spectacular failures of horror. The only thing you are left with in a horror work whose focus are those elements is a gore-fest, and trying to out-shock the last person. But true horror is not just gore, or shock–it’s much more subversive than that. And so horror is a huge indictment as a genre of this particular approach.
For me an excellent work of true horror did come out in comics this year, and it was done by Richard Corben. It was called Ragemoor. I remember reading the opening pages of that book and that section where the castle history is being explained–gave me chills like a comic hadn’t in a long long time. I think Corben has always had the chops to do great horror, and sometimes he has–but when he has failed it has been because of writing which is overly concerned with itself. Which is why it is hard to explain to people Corben’s place in comics history–because he truly is one of the greats–but he has very few works that are masterworks–and if you don’t get Corben art, and can’t focus in on what he’s doing visually on the page–you won’t understand.
Druillet and Moebius are different in that I think both of them the writing is in concert with the art–probably because they are handling both functions.