Thursday, March 31, 2005

Comic City

I saw Jessica Alba in an interview for Sin City. She referred to the movie's inspiration as a graphic novel, and then, seemingly uncomfortable with the phrase, called it a comic book. I wonder what prompted the clarification/reduction? It's certainly graphic. It's certainly novel.

I've been calling comic books graphic novels since Miller's Batman. But when Alba said comic book, it surprised me that she clearly thought graphic novel was obscure and exotic. I'm not sure what that means, beyond the idea that comic books have been wearing adult sizes for a good while, but others still see them in short pants.

In another interview I saw the director Rodriguez explain that a graphic novel is cinematic storytelling. Translating Sin City to the screen was straightforward, he said (and since Miller is the co-director, that view is a chorus of two.) But a movie is always in motion, propelled by the director. A graphic novel -- and any non-animated cartoon -- can linger. That seems to be a clear difference, one that invites a different relationship with the reader. Moving forward by staying still.

Movies suggest reality by cutting time into pieces and splicing the bits back together for a race through the projector. You see what you see for as long as the editor leaves the door open. Graphic novels suggest reality by freezing time; the same bits as a movie, but always on display. The door never closes.

Sin City may look like a graphic novel, but until it's available on DVD and I'm stabbing the pause button on the remote with every scene, it's a graphic movie.