Apr 4, 2015
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 39: 100% #1, August 2002
So here's a problem. Paul Pope's 100% is a 5-issue "graphic movie" (we'll consider what that means in a moment) of which I only have 3 issues. Now, I know I'm not going to have all the issues of every series I read, but there's a difference in not having a few issues of The Amazing Spider-Man and not having the concluding issues of a limited run title. I'm assuming that 100% was planned as a complete story, so this is going to be a little bit like watching the first 2 or 3 acts of the Avengers movie, and then just not watching the end bits. Especially if Pope is likening this series to a movie, in which case issues 4 and 5, or acts 4 and 5, will be the really good bits.
This is a trap that I CANNOT fall into. If I try to complete every set I'm missing issues from, we'll be here for 100 years. Not that there's anything wrong, in theory, with reading comics for 100 years (I'm planning on getting there), but this is not a project I want to necessarily hand off to my inheritors to continue (though that would be super-cool!). Anyway, back to 100%...
What is a "graphic movie?" My initial answer, from just having read this portion, is that a graphic movie, as opposed to a graphic novel, incorporates a number of techniques from film, or adapts a number of techniques from film, to tell its story. Basic answer for now. But it really does come through in Pope's work. There are series of panels that draw the eye far more like a tracking shot than a story sequence. We'll have to step back a moment and acknowledge that the medium hasn't changed, but perhaps we can talk about how the particular techniques within the medium can be subtly adapted to reflect one medium rather than another; to reflect film instead of prose.That said, this issue is divided up into chapters still, which really does hearken back to the ostensibly novelistic roots of the form (Topffer likened his nascent comics to novels), so perhaps there are particular aspects of print culture that are either intrinsic to, or just difficult to escape in, printed media. That's a bigger question for another time. Though on that topic, the interior covers of this issue are an expository index of sorts, which one would certainly not get in a film, or if one did, it would be ridiculously boring. Another benefit of the print medium, especially considering that the index actually contains information that adds a depth of reading to the story proper. Without reading about "Graz" marijuana cigarettes in the index, what Kim smokes at the end of this issue means nothing to the reader. So there are certainly story-telling techniques that Pope is retaining from the novel side of the graphic novel format. Is is solely the way the camera moves that makes him call the work a "graphic movie?" Somehow I doubt it, but I'm not seeing the other differences yet. Perhaps in the next issue.
The other thing I wanted to note about this comic is when it came out. 100% is part of a wave of Vertigo titles that came out, or were composed, during the aftermath of 9/11. There's something very dark, and very distinctive, about these comics, and I'm going to keep an eye on them. If imaginative works are a reflection of the dream-life of culture, walking into this dream-life, as we do, tells us much about the tenor of the culture at the time.
That's all for now. It's still early on a Saturday, and I'm just coffee-ing up. We're back to an alphabetical reading of the Storage collection today, which I'll try to stick with for a while, though I may drop one or two of the Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children into the mix now and again.
See you tomorrow.