Graphic Novelist as Auteur, Part 1on June 26, 2012 at 7:57 am
I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot. It’s one of those ones that worms its way in deep, sets a couple of sharp fangs and clamps down. You see, back when I was in college I had aspirations to be a film maker. It seemed like an attainable goal at the time. As life goes I ended up choosing a fine art career, something more suited to my talents, but the will to tell a story was still there. Flash forward a few years and here I am making graphic novels, which brings me to the Auteur Theory.
You see, in film criticism there is a term known as the Auteur (from the french for Author). From wikipedia:
Auteur theory holds that a director’s film reflects the director’s personal creative vision, as if they were the primary “auteur.” In spite of—and sometimes even because of—the production of the film as part of an industrial process, the auteur’s creative voice is distinct enough to shine through all kinds of studio interference and through the collective process.
Rather than just regurgitating all of wiki’s thoughts here, you can click over and read the rest of it. Basically the idea is that the personality/drive/vision of the director is such that it completely suffuses the film with his/her essence. The stamp of the director is unmistakable, for they are a true artist, rather than just a hired gun doing a job for a studio. You can look at Francois Truffaut and Hitchcock as early Auteurs. There are a few of what I would consider modern Auteurs, including Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Danny Boyle and the list goes on. These are artists who, no matter what the genre or story is, their films are still completely recognizable as their own. There is an artistic vision that trumps everything else and shines through. They are artists that garner huge fan followings who will see anything and everything that they make. Their films are often a giant cause celebre across normal fan lines. There’s so much more that can be said about Film Auteur Theory, but you’ll have to seek out someone in film school for that.
Back to Graphic Novels. Like all good ideas, I thought I was the first to think of this: Graphic Novelist as Auteur. Which of course I’m not. This idea has existed in Europe and Japan (and to a lesser extent in America) probably for as long as the film Auteur theory has been around. In short, the Graphic Novel Auteur is the writer and artist of their work. Perhaps even the colorist and letterer. They exert complete control over the project as they strive for a particular vision. It flies of fails on the back of the Auteur. In fact, unlike much of film, the Graphic Novel Auteur is able to craft the entire fabric of the story from the chip on a character’s fingernail, to the specific shape of a world-shattering explosion. In no other medium can an artist have ultimate say over every aspect of their project. The one limiting factor for the Graphic Novel Auteur is skill. Story-telling skill, drafting skill, coloring skill, like the proverbial primordial soup, if the elements are right only great things will be born.
All of this is a long-winded preamble for a bid to style myself as a Graphic Novel Auteur. I know that in our culture it’s not looked on kindly to trumpet our own labels, like being a ‘Beauty’ or a ‘Genius’ it’s up to others to really decide whether I’m an ‘Auteur’ or not. But, it’s good to set one’s own goals, and this is mine. Don’t they say, “The first step towards achieving a goal is stating it in public”? That means everyone else can hold me accountable then.