When it comes to story – telling, the variations of how it takes place are endless – but one thing that is constant is that some stories seem to stick more than others. In example, if asking who Spider-Man is or who Superman is in addition to a host of other comic book heros, it seems that the majority of people around the world are aware of their existence and love them. And being a comic book lover, I have been greatly impressed wirh the power comic books seem to convey things that simple words alone or oral communication seem incapable of.
And yet I’ve always wondered what about comics make them such a powerful venue for telling stories to others….what about them offers good principles for aspiring story-tellers who want to know how to make a good story.
Something that stunned me recently was learning on the ways that great story tellers are aware of the power of imagery to enhance a story. With comics as an example, they are in a genere known as sequential art (like Egyptian hieroglyphs, one of the first ways of story telling and communicating, many thousands of years ago) – linking them to the whole history of art, going back to prehistoric cave paintings that were used to convey stories – and this is fascinating, IMHO, to consider when it comes to story-telling since there has been more focus within social justice groups in seeing how Imagery – be it cartoons or photos – are essential in spreading a message to teach others.
Sometimes images can speak louder than words ever can – and for many, they may never remember something said but they will remember something seen. The dynamic of using imagery is not necessarily something that requires drawing a physical picture to get a point across since one cna also use words to create pictures as well – but having something of an image to connect with makes a world of difference.
Giving a visual to accompany the words you use can serve to bring to life what it is that you say – and it’s one reason why comics have long remained a staple in our society today. Without the human story visualized, it will never compel others. In example, the reason that the X Men franchise is so popular is that they represent a central theme of struggle found within all of humanity – as they are all cast-outs and rejected by humans as freaks and weirdos — trying to pity and protect the very people who want them locked up and isolated. Others relate to the story-telling found in the X-Men because of how it spoke to a universal/deep theme found in the struggles of humanity and found a way to keep the conveying of that story through a simple art form while also managing to keep it very complex.
Making storytelling into art…and then choosing a representation of that struggle that had a differing face from what’s seen in reality would allow for connection with the emotions on issues they’d normally not consider.
This is something that has been present for centuries when it came to tall tales and using exaggerated/differing ideas of what you see in real life to express a concept that’ll get others engaged. From Pecos Bill riding on a tornado and symbolizing the boldness of cowboys to handle the toughts of elements – to John Henry ( greatest driller in the C&O Railroad ) who competed with the Steel Industry in the form of a steam-powered drill to go through a massive mountain and beat it but died in the process (symbolizing the power of the human spirit to be industrious and having to compete with machines doing a man’s jobs) – and the same with Paul Bunyan, the giant man with his blue ox who was an amazing lumberjack that ended up doing wild things…but eventually got beaten by a powered-chain saw.
With the comic book story -tellers conveying complicated/sensitive struggles into forms of imagery/exaggeration that captivated others, it was also interesitng that the authors who made the saga were actually Jewish – portraying the struggles of Jewish people in the series they made. There’s an excellent book on this called “Up Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History Culture and Values Shaped The Comicbook Superhero” – a book focusing on the little known fact that most of the popular heros we see today (i.e X-Men, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, Superman, etc.) were created by Jewish men…as they wanted to find ways of expressing their own struggles without having others reject them. Weinstein described the Jewish immigrant experience in America in the 1930′s – for Jewish memory of the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Bible, which Weinstein calls the first superheroes, led to imaginative escapes from the difficulties of the time. According to Weinstein in his book on pg 16:
- As Eastern European Jewish Immigrants poured into New York’s Lower East Side in the 1900′s, they too viewed the stories of the Bible through the prism of their hard lives in a sometimes baffling new land and passed them on to their children. And those children in turn retold those Jewish tales using dots of colored ink on pulp paper, beginning in the 1930′s. (Actually, Superman was first drawn on cheap brown wrapping paper, but more on that later.) In those days the shadow of persecution was descending upon European Jews once more, and no one seemed willing to come to their rescue. The world needed heroes.
Real STORY Telling will always have an element where some aspects may be portrayed as being larger than life – and yet in that largeness, there will still be ability to connect to those small aspects of reality that make up the way things are. And the values in those stories will connect better when the themes are univerasl. With Tale Tales/Comics, one of the most powerful things they seem to speak on story telling is the reality that all stories worth telling will always have a human element to them of being relatable – and having struggle as a part of that theme shared. Within the theme of struggle will be themes of sympathy and feelings of passion – and if able to connect with readers on that level, they will be able to have their message accepted more easily than simply giving hard/cold facts on the times they live in.
Aspiring story -tellers should take a cue from history and see the ways other stories have rooted themselves into the social consciousness of the world – and realize what has occurred in previous times when stories/folklore were used to communicate truths about mankind’s existence and how he is to handle struggle. There’s power in exaggeration/hyberbole, finding a human struggle and using imagery to express that when it comes to the stories that tend to be shared the most often.