ORIGINALITY?

 Posted by on April 13, 2007  Drawings, Thoughts
Apr 132007
 

I find it hard to be truly original, even when really trying to be. Countless times, I have hit upon what I think is a new and fantastic idea, only to discover that it has either been done before, or that someone else is working on a similar idea at exactly the same time.Rocket Rabbit

In days gone by, if I heard that another project touched on similar territory as an idea of my own, my instinct was NOT to find out any more about the other project. I had an inflated sense of my own innate originality, and simply assumed that I would naturally come up with something different. These days my feeling is the opposite. I have learned that people of similar backgrounds, and sensibilities are likely to have similar ideas at around the same time (probably because we are all drinking in the same influences which inspire similar ideas) and therefore my new strategy is to find out as much as possible about the competition, so as to steer my own project as far away from it as I can.

The bad reviews that I have gotten for my self-published comics mostly focus on two things; my silly sense of humour and use of puns (I am told that puns are the lowest form of comedy) and the fact that my books remind readers of other books that they have already read.

The first critique I make no apologies for; I like silliness and whimsy. The second critique stings but I have no idea how to address it, because I don’t know how to come up with a truly unique idea. Is there such a thing? Even if I do some day hit upon something absolutely original (I live in hope) what do I do in the meantime? If I waited till that singular idea came to me before I started, I may be waiting forever. I do have some ambitious stories that I would like to tell someday, but I don’t yet have the storytelling chops to do them justice.

Although I work these days as a “Story-Artist,” I don’t really have much input in the story itself. That is always generated by someone else, and I know I have a lot to learn about true story-telling. What I DO bring to the game is a childish knack for thinking up and staging physical bits of business; the pratfalling, flatulent stuff that cartoon characters do on screen as they follow the story arcs plotted out for them by bigger brains than mine. The better term for what I do is the older one: “Gag-Artist.” I am not sure why that has fallen out of favour…

On my own projects, my approach has been to go with whatever idea I have NOW for want of something better. Plus, I have consciously decided to start with some silly stories because I think that there is a bit more latitude for learning within comedy. Hopefully, when I am struck by true inspiration someday, I will have already amassed some storytelling skills along the road.

  7 Responses to “ORIGINALITY?”

  1. I’d never seen your “haters reviews” page before and now that I have, I’m kind of bothered. There are some critics on there whom I admire, but their reviews of Nerve Bomb make it sound like they read an entirely different book than I did. Really though, I think that they were just looking for something different in it than I was.

    Like those guys, I’ve read a lot of superhero parody before too. The concept of funny superheroes may not be entirely original, but the uniqueness of the concept isn’t what makes a story good or bad. It’s how well you tell the story. So, even though I’d read superhero parody before, what made me love Nerve Bomb was that I giggled my ass off as I was reading it. It was executed ridiculously well (with the emphasis on “ridiculous”).

    I think that those critics didn’t connect with the silliness (and that’s fair, I guess), but they tried to explain their disconnect by attacking the concept, and I don’t think that’s fair at all.

  2. Michael>> Thanks very much for your thoughts on this issue. It is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. Sometimes a review has to be decoded and maybe what you point out is the case; that these reviewers are basically saying they don’t like that SORT of book, without really saying so clearly.

    My impression is that, for these reviewers anyway, some genres can support an enormous number of stories that juggle similar elements, but the Silly-Hero story has to start and stop with THE TICK. As someone who is doing silly hero stories, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why that is so…

    …While also considering how to steer my books away from being labeled as re-hash. I spend much of my spare time on them so I would like to think that I could make them as interesting as I possibly can (otherwise what’s the point?)

    But being interesting or original is the tricky part; by definition a story in any “genre” has been done before, to some extent. Their similarities in subject, style or structure are precisely why all those stories are grouped together into what is termed a genre. It would be fair to say that the “Superhero” genre has seen a LOT more mileage than any other genre that you could name in the world of comics. An almost infinite variety of variations on that simple idea. And yet none of the reviewers I quoted preface their reviews of superhero books by pointing out that they’ve been done before.

    By the way, when I started doing my comics I wasn’t setting out to parody any particular comic book genre, I just came up with some characters that made me smile, and tried to figure out who they were and what they would do. A robot that looked like a rabbit had to do something… but what?… maybe a crime-fighter? That is how it started. My sensibilities are in the silly line, so ROCKET RABBIT came out as a silly hero book… but I wasn’t trying to “send up” any book I had previously read or even to consciously make a “HERO PARODY” genre-piece… (In fact, if I had anything in mind at all when doing this book it was GET SMART or the EMMA PEEL AVENGERS, not comics).

    That said though, when introduced to THE TICK by my pal Rhode, I learned how much whacky-hero territory that book had already hilariously covered, many years before I even sat down to try.

  3. Jamie, you’re a BANG-UP talent and have always been a super-inspiration to me. I loved your book and boy was it a breath of fresh air compared to 98% of the crap I see in comics today. So who cares if a handful of nerds call it “unoriginal”. What do they know, they review comics for a living…

  4. Roque>> hah hah! thanks for the ego pump! 🙂

    It would be nice to just dismiss the bad reviews but the fact is that when I get a GOOD one it makes my day, so I have to at least consider the BAD reviews… and especially when they come from some pretty eminent and thoughtful reviewers, which sadly has been the case with me. (I am not sure if any of them do it for a living though; I think that it tends to be a side job for most of them).

    But thanks, again, for the encouragement!

  5. Jamie, you nailed what was bothering me about those reviews: I never read Rocket Rabbit as parody. I wasn’t able to come up with another label for it, but “Silly-Heroes” is a good one.

    I don’t actually care for superhero parody because I feel that the mainstream superhero genre does a pretty good job of parodying itself. What it doesn’t do very well is loosen up and just let the joy flow, which is what I like so much about Rocket Rabbit and the Tick.

    Thinking about it that way, those reviews are even less fair. There aren’t nearly enough Tick-like comics in the world.

  6. Jamie- EYE OF THE TIGER buddy! It’s tough to see someone having a blast, like yourself, doing what you love and have someone with a few typed words make you second guess your work. It’s cliche, but all you can do is have fun doing what you do and hopefully it will shine through for others. Keep on keeping on.

  7. Michael>>I know what you mean about the superhero genre being a parody of itself at times… and yet, every once in a while I read something that manages to breathe life back into that well-worn form. I think THAT is really what I have been dwelling on… how to bring a fresh eye to an old idea..

    Rhode>> Never fear; I am in no danger of abandoning this stuff because of some criticism, because you are quite right; I get a lot of fun out of it. I only wish I could do it full time!

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