May 15, 2009

Viva "mondo scratcho"!

The other day I was re-reading Trina Robbins' excellent From Girls to Grrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines. One part really jumped out at me:

Zine art ranges from amazingly excellent to mondo scratcho, but the not-very-good artists don't care if their work is crude. They're simply following the advice Sarah Dyer gives in Action Girl: "Don't think you can do comics? Try anyway, even if it's just for yourself!"

I'm a big fan of "mondo scratcho." Not only the fabulous turn of phrase, but the style--even the philosophy. Comics are all about reducing experiences to just a few important frames, and mondo scratcho is the essence of reduction. A facial expression becomes just a few quick lines. Why draw five fingers when four will do? And so on.

Still, it's hard not to admire the incredible detail and realism that some comic artists put into their work. And it's hard not to be jealous. I took enough studio art classes in college to know that drawing realistically is difficult and time-consuming and incredibly gratifying if you finally do get it right.

Comics are words and pictures, though, and everybody's got to find their place on the writer/artist continuum. For me, it's mainly about the snappy storytelling. So it is for a lot of readers, too. Just look at the dailies. People love titles like Get Fuzzy and Pearls Before Swine because they're witty and accessible, even though the art's nothing special. Compare to dry serials like Prince Valiant and Apartment 3-G, which look great but (to readers of my generation, anyway) are eminently skippable.

Of course, the best comic creators, the true greats, are the ones who can do both. That's why I'm constantly trying to improve my art. If I never grow out of "mondo scratcho," though, at least I'll be in good company.


Post a Comment