Of two minds on One Story’s new graphic release


Since nothing in One Story's submission guidelines suggests that they accept comics, I'm assuming they contacted Matt Madden, leading to the publication of his short story "Drawn Onward." Although I'm not terribly familiar with Madden's work as a creator, I am quite familiar with his work with Jessica Abel in series-editing the Best American Comics series. I have, as a whole, been very happy with those volumes (I own them all) and think they've been, overall, a pretty great success and a fabulous introduction to comics for those who may still be on the outside.

That said, I'm disappointed with this story.

Comics seem to be passing through a stage of growth in which everything must be "experimental" (scare quotes my own) In the case of "Drawn Onward," the story, like the title, is a palindrome. Which is clever and enjoyable but seems to exist primarily to show off to the uninitiated what comics can do. The words and pictures are in service to the gimmick rather than in service to a story. Sometimes gimmicks can be great; sometimes they can make a story fly to greater heights. But comics are getting over-reliant on the gimmick. (Which is why it was so refreshing to read Noah Van Sciver's The Hypo---it was straightforward storytelling, no gimmicks. And few books in the last couple years are a better example of comics' unique power)

I believe in celebrating what makes comics unique and valuable as an artform, but I don't think cramming as many clever things into a comic as possible is the best way to do that.

Now, don't get me wrong, the clever things Madden does with, say, panels in "Drawn Onward" are smart and effective. But they don't help the story arrive in my soul. It's virtuosity for virtuosity's sake. And it might impress neophytes and get them to rethink their philistinian thoughts on comics, but it won't give them something new to feel.

Anyway. I hope they publish more comics. Maybe even mention it in their submission guidelines? I would love for One Story to find a new voice I've never heard before who speaks with clarity and simplicity and honesty. That would be great.

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