Television critics are not known as being the most intelligent critics. After all, the longest their attention span has to be is an hour, and it is not particularly difficult to criticize television, seeing as 90% of it is crap anyway. So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that one TV critic in my local newspaper--Kevin McDonough--criticized one of television's new shows by saying it had "comic book plotting."
Now, to most people--Kevin included--I am sure that is was a clever way to say that the particular televison show which he was critiquing was the same drivel they are always giving us on TV. And frankly, I have no problem with him complaining about the quality of television. I do take a bit of offense at "Comic Book Plotting".
If more television offered comic book plotting, I would probably bother watching more than Comedy Central and MTV. The fact of the matter is that statements like McDonough's show an ignorance to the fact that there are plenty of quality stories being told in comics. To run down just a few: Preacher, Sandman, The Authority, Steampunk, Daredevil since it's been relaunched, Marvel's Ultimate series, Grendel. All of these comics have strong plots, inventive characters, and certainly are a lot better pound for pound storywise than most of what makes it on television these days.
Take for example, the newest Daredevil arc, a four part story centered around newspaper reporter Ben Ulrich, of The Daily Bugle. The story isn't your ordinary run of the mill superhero tale. Instead, the plot revolves around Ulrich's attempts to understand and write a news story about the damaged child of a super villain who was both a crazy burglar and a child abuser. The story is original, raises interesting questions about, among other things: the way that newspapers both succeed and fail in their mission to keep the public aware of what is going on; the police's real desire to help criminals "go straight"; as well as issues of child abuse, and the damage that comes from it. Compare this with the five semi-amusing jokes that come around in a half hour of the tired monstrosity that is Friends, and you tell me that television wouldn't be helped out by a little comic book plotting.
Now, part of the problem is that comics books have a bum rap as being just for kids. Of course, most people who hold that belief haven't read comics since they were children, so I guess we can figure out where that particular belief comes from. Another haunting problem is that comics are assumed by those who don't read them as being of little consequence or merit. Again, this comes from outdated exposure (or exposure to the wrong books, because there are books out there that have sitcom plotting problems). So why I am I bothering to complain about all this?
Well, I want to challenge everyone out there to share their books with the world. When somebody says something like, "There's nothing on TV," pull out that trade paperback and introduce them to a truly interactive and imaginative experience that trumps television any day of the week. In fact, do it even if there is something good on TV. If nothing else because there are a lot of people who put a lot of energy into producing books that you enjoy and that shouldn't have the sort of reputation that allows television critics to invoke "comic book plotting" as anything short of the highest form of praise.