Autobiographix

It seems that new art forms go through a shake down. The initial examples of any new art form are often steeped in genre. Comic books are no exception. That medium is still dominated by the actions of super humans or other extraordinary individuals. They hearken back to ancient tales of gods and heroes that predate written language itself. Dark Horse Comics compilation, Autobiographix, takes a step away from the realm of capes and plasma canons and demonstrates the tremendous power of the graphic novel.

“Sequential Art”

Unlike conventional literature, a graphic novel adds a more guided visual element. While this removes some of the imagination inherent to literature, and at the same time, cannot replicate the immersive experience of film or games, graphic novels allow authors and illustrators to use a myriad of tools to construct stories in ways not possible in other mediums.

Collection editor Diana Schutz invokes the term “sequential art” when referring to comics as a genre, and that phrase may be a more fitting title than “comic books” as previously used. A strength of the format is its ability to utilize a highly controlled series of panes in which an event or non-event occurs. Dialogue, action, thought, movement, all bow to the sequence. These panes can blend together, but ultimately each one is an individual statement which unlike scenes from film or literature, appears in static time to the audience. The reader is given all the time he or she needs to absorb the pane and to see patterns in the art, in the words, and in the storytelling itself. This is not as easily done in literature, where subtle hints go missed, or in film where heavy foreshadowing can rob the audience of the revelations ahead.

Autobiography

Autobiographix is a series of extremely brief tales given by nearly two dozen talented graphic artists. Each story is self-contained, but their arrangement in the book lends to a wider on-going message. The stories range in subject matter to simple childhood fantasies to life-changing events. They adeptly swerve between the dramatic, the comic, and the tragic. In such brief, but highly entertaining, vignettes, these authors and illustrators are able to convey the diverse reality of human life in what takes many conventional authors hundreds of pages to achieve. The strips are brilliantly arranged to enhance this and reinforces the already powerful use of the graphic novel medium.

These stories come from the lives of their authors. The list of contributors include titans like Will Eisner and Frank Miller, and many other artists whose work span television, film, and serial comic books. The stories demonstrate how a graphic novelist sees the world differently, and how despite that, he or she is still human, and is moved by the same fears and hopes as everyone else.

This collection was a pleasure to read. Many graphic novels are dense with meaning and subtlety and reading them can be akin to cutting your way through a jungle. Autobiographix, on the contrary, is clear and cleverly written. The changing tones and artistic styles blend together well, but keep the read fresh. It is both highly entertaining and enlightening.

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