Are there "Generative quality" in comics? If yes, in what way? and how does it affect the creation?
What is Generative Quality?
- It must contain a structure
- The structure must be operated by Rules
- It must be an open system, in which new works can be generated by the rules.
Before the discussion, there are some assumptions and declaration about comics study:
The definition of comics is too controversial that it is almost impossible to give a definite answer.
Due to the lacking of such definition and the openness of the art form, the theories discussed here or the research outcome may not be universal to all kind of formats. To discuss any theory of comics, one must consider the following two spectrums of comics format:
a. The length of the work based on publication format
Book series -> Periodical (e.g. magazine, newspaper) -> Individual work (Standalone)
b.Dimension of the work based on number of panel
Multiple pages / panels -> Fixed number of panel -> Single panel
To begin with, I would like to go back to my role as a comics writer. Unlike writing an article, in which the writer must follow the rules of language, comics writer does have more privilege to adopt different ways to express the idea. One can use a single panel or a full page with twenty panels to delivery the same message without violating the "Rules" of comics. While in written language, words must be placed in the right order to make the sentence comprehendible, comics writer is free to manipulate the images and text with the available space without considering whether the arrangement is grammatically "Right or wrong".
Having said that, comics writing is heavily influenced by conventions or traditions inherited from the pioneers along the years. Although artist has every right to invent new forms of each time they start a new work, they tend to follow the formats that have been used before. For example, while a lot of scholars see the use of panel as a defining element of comics, it is indeed more like a convention rather than a criteria of comics since it is rather easy to find a comic work without using panels at all. What I want to say here is, the rules, or principles I will reveal here does not necessarily represent a definite criteria of comics, instead it only implies a popular or common strategy or practices used in the narratives.
The second characteristic I want to raise is, comics writing has a strong combinatory nature. Chris Ware often use the a building as a metaphor to storytelling. His experimental work Building Stories is a perfect example to demonstrate how the concept of the story is constructed by recomposing scattered components togetherby the readers. Constructing a page in comics involves combination of images, text, graphics to panels to form a visual structure that tells the story. Scott McCloud emphasises the importance of making different choices in comics writing. From the choice of moment, choice of frame, choice of image, choice of text and the choice of flow, artists has to choose the right components in order to form the narrative. Obviously, every art involves making choices, what I want to stress here is, components in comics cannot work alone to perform its function. For example, the choices of path, the design of reading path cannot be realised without a proper choice of frame.
From a theoretical perspective, Neil Cohn suggests that comics, as a visual language, are not only analytic but also synthetic language. He argues that visual language also has lexicon consists of systematic units or combinations of unit to create meanings. For example, when we drawing, we are producing schemas that are stored in our memory and they can be combined by rule system.