Sometimes you can't divorce the good and the bad in your memory, and when it comes to comics, that's a good thing.
To begin with, a very personal vignette. One that doesn't sync very easily with comics as the pulp tradition. But one that does tie in with the other side of comics—how the medium time and again allows for personal recesses and meditation. Comics is the dawn of the post-paparazzi age, the opposite of Sartre's "Hell is other people", a way to be in private, even when we live in public. And this vignette is about that emotional connection we as readers of comics all make with the stories told in this medium.
Nearly 15 years ago now, just after buying Will Eisner's most recent offering, Last Day in Vietnam, a Memory, I was trying to convince Justine, my office mate, about the importance of comics to our shared course of study. At that point we were deep enough into our separate Masters dissertations in Comparative Literature to be unable to see either the start or the end of it. And by this time, I'd already hooked into the Greil Marcus of it all, that whoever you were, you'd be unable to experience the more sophisticated academic arguments, if you could see these at play in popculture.
My argument on the importance of comics, especially in regard to Last Day in Vietnam, went around a single page, and it was pretty much a less eloquent version of one of our earliest Graphic Novelties entries.
Much to my chagrin, and doing so in a way I wasn't entirely comfortable with, Justine referenced my Asian heritage by pronouncing, “It's a dragon… it crosses space and time.” And even though that smarts a little (even now), Justine was essentially right. That’s exactly what I was getting at—in comics you can play games with spatialization, what appear as borders can be easily transcended.
And at its heart, that’s really what Comparative Literature is all about—a way to study a crisis in history that observes that how knowledge is produced (the schism between the arts and sciences say) is more a marker of political and cultural power. Comparative Literature is essentially the study of micro-apocalypses, those crisis points in history when the barriers between the things we know we know, no longer work.
Take a look at the final page, the final tier, of this exclusive preview of Unwritten Apocalypse #11; it’s every bit as magic, every bit as powerful as Eisner’s page from Last Day in Vietnam. This Unwritten page shows Tommy Taylor, the fiction use magic to overcome the distance between the fictional world and the “real” world. It shows Tom Taylor (in the real world) project through the Quicksilver magic into the reality of Tommy’s world. And all the while Tommy himself stands, as an outcropping into the page’s gutter, beyond the fourth wall, projecting into ours. But, y’know, not quite.
Please enjoy our Thanksgiving exclusive preview of Unwritten Apocalypse #11, chapter two of “The Chronicles of Comparative Literature.”