Art is everywhere. It hangs on our walls. It sits on our shelves. We go to theaters to see it. And sometimes, we read it via little word boxes with zany sound effect graphics.
Comic books and graphic novels are considered entertainment before anything else. It is a fair assessment given movies, television and video games get the same label.
These simplistic descriptions betray the value of the products they represent. We venerate the paintings of Picasso and the scribbling of Shakespeare, but we don’t give credence to much else.
It’s snobby and antiquated to suggest only media taught in schools as “fine art” has any artistic value. When “high art” began to be valued, only media such as literature, music and physical art existed.
Today, technology has advanced to the point where we can make paintings that move, play music and tell a story all-in-one.
Modern cinema is now becoming generally accepted as an art form. Countless online film critics and a dedicated area for film study in most universities push to validate the medium.
Film’s recognition isn’t enough. Other media exist lacking the same respect as frescoes or poetry. A hotly debated medium is video games. The medium straddles the fence between dumb, violent fun and thoughtful, poignant art.
This very same line is a feature of film. You have your summer blockbusters, made to sell toys and appeal to the widest demographic possible. And then you have indie films, crafted by smaller studios with a passionate team trying to make something unique, to make real art.
The big daddy of dumb-fun blockbuster hits, the “Transformers” franchise, released its fourth entry “Age of Extinction” in 2014, raking in $245 million at the domestic box office. An absurdist, thought-provoking indie film called “The Lobster” appeared the next year. The wildcard movie brought in only $9 million domestically in the box office.
The sales number suggests a clear winner. Even though Rotten Tomatoes tells us that 88 percent of viewers were satisfied with “The Lobster” as opposed to the mere 18 percent who approved of “Transformers,” the latter film takes the gold.
This disparity shows that we might not be as interested in looking for art wherever it can be found as we’d like to believe.
Video games occupy a similar space. The “Call of Duty” franchise continues to churn out a new installment every year, content to rest on its laurels forevermore. At the same time, inventive and poignant games are being hand-crafted.
Newcomer studio “CD Projekt Red” broke into the scene with “The Witcher” franchise, following up on Andrzej Sapkowski’s fantasy novels. Aesthetically, the fictional setting is a feast for the eyes. The quality of the characters rivals Shakespeare’s own. The writing is the groundwork for organic relationships and a thrilling and relatable story.
Comic books have long been the weekly serials challenging teens’ imaginations and sense of wonder. In the beginning, comics were simple stories of good fighting evil, with cartoonishly heroic protagonists facing off against comically sinister villains.
Over time, writers began creating more serious stories with flawed characters to match.
Suddenly, the guy dressed like Robin Hood discovered his sidekick abusing heroin. Black superheroes rose up as a beacon of hope for a marginalized community. Mutated humans fought for acceptance in diplomatic battle.
Perhaps most importantly, the story of a man dressed like a bat with gadgets to spare chasing down a prankster clown became the grim tale of a criminally obsessed vigilante trying to instill order in a city plagued by a psychopathic anarchist.
More and more comics and graphic novels began to explore and address contemporary and relevant issues. Their artwork had to relay what was happening to the audience with only one still image at a time. This process doesn’t seem too different from a Renaissance painting or classical symphony.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of our day isn’t Hamlet’s churlish nature sullying his relationships and the stability of the throne. It’s our regrettable inability to see art in all its forms that marks our generation’s hubris.
Kyle Richoux is a 19-year-old sociology sophomore from LaPlace, Louisiana.