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    Default Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I was spending a few hours reading through Scott McCloud's Making Comics the other day and I got to the chapter in which McCloud describes what he calls the "tribes" of comic book artist.

    That is, different campfires of motivation that comic book artists tend to clump around, loose categories if you will.

    McCloud describes them as such:

    The first category is The Classicists. Artists defined by values of "excellence, hard work, mastery of craft, the quest for enduring beauty." "First is the devotion to beauty, craftsmanship and a tradition of excellence and mastery. The desire to create art that our descendents could dig up in a thousand years and still think: 'Hey! This is good stuff!' The understanding that perfection may not be attainable in this life--but that that's no reason not to strive for it

    The second category is The Animists. Artists defined by values of "putting content first, creating life through art, trusting one's intuition." "Then there's the devotion to the content of a work, putting craft entirely in service of its subject. The belief that if the power of the stories and characters come through then nothing else matters. The willingness to tell stories so seamlessly that the teller of the story all but vanishes in the telling."

    The third category is The Formalists. Artists defined by values of "understanding of, experimentation with, and loyalty to the comics form." "The devotion to comics itself, to figuring out what the form of comics is capable of. The eagerness to turn comics inside out and upside down in an effort to understand the form's potential more fully. The willingness to let craft and story take a back seat if necessary, in pursuit of new ideas that could change comics for the better."

    The fourth category is The Iconoclasts. Artists defined by values of "honesty, vitality, authenticity, and unpretentiousness. Putting life first." "The desire for honesty, authenticity, and a connection to real life. The determination to hold up a mirror to life's face--warts and all--and to resist pandering or selling out. The conviction of artists to remain true to themselves while never taking themselves too seriously. To fly no one's flag--not even their own.
    Now, as McCloud points out, all of these goals are ones that most artists seem to want. Wouldn't everyone want to make comics that are beautiful, tell great stories, challenge the basic form of comics, and have a deep connection to life? However, each comic book artist seems to have a preference of one over the others and one goal that is hardly pursued at all.

    Which tribe, or tribes, do you suppose Rich Burlew belongs to, given Order of the Stick as a basis for judgement?

    Personally, I think that Rich falls into the category of an Animist over anything else. The story seems to be what matters to Burlew over beauty, reflecting life, or exploring the form of comics and it shows in his Order of the Stick.
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Animist.

    OotS is a stick figure comic, and while I'll admit that Rich has done more with stick figures than I would have ever imagined possible before I started reading... If it wasn't for his great plot and the way the characters interact, I doubt he'd have half the fanbase he does. The way Rich tells the story is what makes OotS great.

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I actually think he's dedicated to the art direction too. I mean the large grand battle scenes, the intricate designs may be on stick figures but the small details are still there, I think being a graphic designer and writer means he cares about both. I mean he got into D&D by the artwork, something tells me he focuses on that as well, just by a different medium i.e. stick figures.

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Rich does seem to produce wonderful art, but mostly I think he uses these arts as a means toward the story rather than for its own sake.

    Compare this to, say, Alex Ross's art where each panel seems to be painstaking made to be as beautiful as possible. A real Classicist, Alex Ross.
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I think the categories are not good. They are even pointless as they cannot be applied in most cases.

    They are too strict and most authors don't fall in them in a clear enough way to use those categories to build a system.

    It's a common mistake:
    Just because there are some authors or artists in general who can get put into those categories, it was assume the categories were general and can apply to all authors.
    This is simply wrong.

    Another mistake the author of those categories seems to make is this:
    He categories the MOTVIATION. But we have no way to know the motivation of an author, what he secretly thinks (and even if he says something in an interview, we simply cannot trust it enough). All we see is the compromise the author has decided upon.
    You always have to compromise as you cannot get all and everything. But this compromise is all we see but it's a bit tricky to categorise an author based on that.
    And even more: what point is it to categorise the motivation if we never, never, never see it but only the compromise (which is the actual work)?

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    So would you suggest making a more broad categorization system based on the actual work?

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I'd say Animist with a side of Iconoclast.
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I find it very short sighted that comedy isn't even mentioned in any of the tribes. For example, Penny Arcade is written pretty much for no other purpose than a laugh every couple of days. The art is good, but it's geared more towards comedy than story or art. To leave that out is to leave an entire species of comic out.

    Some people do it for the funny after all.
    Last edited by ZerglingOne; 2010-06-12 at 06:20 AM.
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Quote Originally Posted by Eloi View Post
    So would you suggest making a more broad categorization system based on the actual work?
    No, I suggest such a system makes not much sense in the first place. Unless it's very good.

    But coming up with a very good system requires time - time I won't invest for such a pointless question as this.

    Rich has stated before why he uses the art style he uses and the rest... we can only deduct it from the work we see. But we do not need a system for that and it's also probable that any existing system of categories does not apply here.
    OotS does not care about "conventional" art at all (uses stick figures) but within that unique system, OotS DOES care a lot of art, style, atmosphere, and details. I doubt you can fit that contradiction in any existing category where "care about art" always means "very skilled drawing".

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    The problem is, some people, myself included, feel a desire to categorize everything into definable subsets.
    Last edited by Luzahn; 2010-06-12 at 07:32 AM.
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I'd say animist as well, its clear he can draw well, but I think he shows the comic in stick figure form, because it displays the story better
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Quote Originally Posted by Dalgrim View Post
    The problem is, some people, myself included, feel a desire to categorize everything into definable subsets.
    Well, that is fine and good. I just think the proposed system in the first post is really, really not good. For different reasons. For example, I find it strange to assume there was some contradiction between "content" and "art". So, according to the stuff in the first post, the categories will totally topple over as soon as some author comes along and says "Well, I like both content (story) as well as art". And also consider that many webcomics are created by more than one person (many have a writer/artist combination). What to do with these?

    My point is not that you cannot mix categories or that categories of any kind are always some sort of idealisation - I say that the proposed categories here only mix very, very badly. It's "fit in one or completely forget about it". Which is, for a category-system, pretty bad.

    If you want to discuss categories are disagree and think the proposed categories are good... you surely can discuss and argue about that.

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Animist, I'd say. He wants his comic to look good, but the story is really first.

    And frankly I'm not sure if I'd be as interested if he was something other than that. I think we live in a society that's, say, fixated enough on beauty as it is.
    Last edited by Nilan8888; 2010-06-12 at 09:36 AM.

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Ancalgon, obviously we have a disagreement on the categories. I, myself, feel the categories are fairly good. If you want to argue over them, let's start a thread over in Media Discussions...

    Anyway, the consensus thus far seems to be "animist". However, as McCloud emphatically points out, most artists don't fall under one tribe and all artists move around quite a bit. Are there any other tribes Rich seems to blend into? Are there any tribes that Rich doesn't seem to touch at all?
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Quote Originally Posted by kpenguin View Post
    Ancalgon, obviously we have a disagreement on the categories. I, myself, feel the categories are fairly good. If you want to argue over them, let's start a thread over in Media Discussions...

    Anyway, the consensus thus far seems to be "animist". However, as McCloud emphatically points out, most artists don't fall under one tribe and all artists move around quite a bit. Are there any other tribes Rich seems to blend into? Are there any tribes that Rich doesn't seem to touch at all?
    I think he blends into the Homini tribe. Taxonomic pun. Wow my nerdiness has reached new heights..

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I think Iconoclast works the best IF we substitute "real life" for "existing fantasy stories and/or the D&D game". Rich is holding a mirror up to other works in the fantasy genre and showing them, warts and all, and he doesn't take himself too seriously.
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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Quote Originally Posted by SPoD View Post
    I think Iconoclast works the best IF we substitute "real life" for "existing fantasy stories and/or the D&D game". Rich is holding a mirror up to other works in the fantasy genre and showing them, warts and all, and he doesn't take himself too seriously.
    Legitimate point, and I find I must agree. The story itself is as much a parody and satire of fantasy tropes as it is a story of its own, though it is also clear that Herr Berlew is a dedicated storyteller. If hybridization of these tribes is possible, then our dear Giant is probably an Iconoclast/Animist.

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    Default Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    I've always found that when discussing genres or other artistic "categories" it's best to approach it with an inclusive, not exclusive, point of view. The categories' descriptions demonstrate the utmost essence of a mindset which only a few rare creators/creations will approach- the rest are somewhere in the middle. So long as you accept that nobody will be "purely" one of these it's not really that hard to see how most artists tend towards one or two of these.

    Anywho I agree with the consensus that the "animist" approach works best to describe OotS- the art is attractive, but it's functional. It demonstrates what we need to know to understand what's happening in the story. I like the art, but I don't feel like the art is the point.

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    biggrin Re: Rich Burlew through the Lens of Making Comics

    Quote Originally Posted by Dalgrim View Post
    The problem is, some people, myself included, feel a desire to categorize everything into definable subsets.
    We call those people 'categorists'

    Now, within the 'categorist' tribe, we have people who allow overlap between subsets, known as 'broad-range categorists' and others who ....

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