Monday, July 23, 2007

Rashomon Effect and Image Comics: The Road to Independence

Rashomon is a brilliant 1950 Kurosawa film that I haven’t seen in many a moon. But as I was reading Image Comics: The Road to Independence, I couldn't stop thinking about it.

That’s not quite right, what I was actually thinking about is the phenomenon that has entered “psychological discourse” that has been tagged with the clever title “The Rashomon Effect."

The Rashomon effect is about the sometimes irreconcilable nature of truth. The literature describes "the effect of the subjectivity of perception on memory by which observers of an event are able to produce very different but equally plausible description of that event.”
And if that string of high-falutin’ words isn’t a bulls-eye description of Image Comics: The Road to Independence—I don’t know what is!

I have always been a big fan of oral histories- one of my all-time favorites is Jack’s Book (1978) which features interviews with so many of the people who careened in and out of Kerouac’s complicated life while they were still alive.

Sure a lot of the stories and recollections conflicted- that is the fuzzy nature of memory over time. We tend to forget what we want to forget and hone and polish the memories we want to keep or treasure.

George Khoury’s terrific oral history Image Comics: The Road to Independence is a collection of interlinked but often mutually conflicting reminiscences about how Image Comics was born, emerged, and maintained it existence over its long (and often stormy) fifteen-year history.

Some of you may recall, that before I worked for The Toy Company, I worked for The Comic Company.
Yep. THAT comic book company.
I was there.
I’m in the book.

And believe you me, there are lots of things in there that aren’t exactly like I remember them happening. There are also a bunch of things described kinda like the way I remember them happening, and more than a few nowhere near the way I remember them happening.
But everyone comes across so sincere, so rational.
Are some people telling the truth and others lying?
No. I think not.
Instead I believe it is the Rashomon Effect.
Or to switch gears to another of my favorite films, at the end of “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” the old newspaperman says, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

The book is a collation of very different but equally plausible descriptions of the same events as remembered by the diverse people who participated in those events.
As I said, I was there for a good chunk of the stuff people reminisce about.
(In a lot of cases I was the only non-partner eye-witness to things that occurred between the six partners. Things that aren’t even in the book.)
This book evokes more questions that it provides answers to, but I think for a first draft of an accounting of that era of the history of comics it's a noble effort.
It's hard to say which stories will transmogrify into the truth and which versions will wither and fade. "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Regardless, I'm proud of my involvement in the book
You can at least believe that.

PS: Oh yeah, If you are interested in this topic at all on Friday at SD07 in Room 6A at 10:30 – all seven of the Image Founders will be doing a panel together to discuss the book – moderated by George Khoury.
I wouldn’t miss this for all the tea in China, buddy.


Anonymous said...

So, are you saying a good place to find you at Con would be room 6A at 10:30 Friday morning?
I can see a lot of that Rashomon effect in the new Harry Potter book. Have you finished it yet?

Larry Marder said...

One of many, Carol!
And yes, I finished it yesterday morning--making me one of the slowest in the Toy Company Harry Potter group. It was a very satisfying experience indeed.But when I saw the Deathly Hallows symbol my though was expressed in the goofy doodle of today's post.

Larry Marder said...

Oh yeah....another place I hope you will be sure to find me witll be at this panel:

Friday, 5:30-6:30 pm: Scott McCloud and Family— Award-winning comics artist and author Scott McCloud(Understanding Comics; Making Comics) and his family (Ivy, Sky, and Winter McCloud) recap an incredible year on the road, meeting thousands of comics artists and fans and seeing all 50 states, plus Canada, England and Spain! Want to know the state of American comics in 2007? The Clan McCloud has all the answers! Room 5AB
Unless some bit of toy business I don't foresee occurs...I'll be there!