R C Harvey’s recent column in The Comics Journal takes a number of recent graphic novelists to task for failing “to exploit the medium appropriately. Words and pictures should work in tandem to tell the story; in this volume, the words do most of the storytelling, and the pictures merely decorate the pages.” While I agree that it’s annoying when some artists simply illustrate the captions without adding anything new, I think it’s ridiculous to say there are rules to comics that should be obeyed or they’re not being done properly. Some artists he takes to task for too much verbiage, others for too much meticulous detail. We can’t all be Charles Schulz. And it would be pretty dull if we all were.
Talking about the refinement of the medium sounds a little silly if one remembers the fracas over Manet, Matisse, Picasso, the whole string of modern artists who set out to break the rules and chart their own course. Breaking rules because of incompetence is one thing–but real art doesn’t thrive on words like “ought,” “must,” or “should.” There’s only one rule worth respecting: Does it remain true to your inner vision? And that’s for no one but ourselves to decide.