“The Art-Comix Crowd”

I really do have a few things to post about besides comics, you know?

But Blogorama just keeps poking me in the eye, and I don’t know why. I thought they’d settled down. Well, not exactly settled down: but I thought they’d chanced upon a different sort of a strategy for saying “you fuckers aren’t wanted here”, that wasn’t so in-your-face. Observe, with a mixture of admiration, horror, and amusement, this link! Wherein you can not only find people saying things that are funny and inclusive and even respectably opinionated, but also people saying things which are shockingly cross-wired, like “I think Kirby and Miller and Moore and Spiegelman and the rest of them are overrated; I loved Secret Wars, and Greg Land rocks”…to the point where some people reveal that their guilty secret is something like “not digging Spawn”, or “liking Silver Age comics”.

Astonishing, no?

And yet all in good fun, it seems to me. And yet, and yet…all in good fun, absolutely, but also as clear a communication as could be wished for that the new Blogorama is not the old, and that those who liked the old one will find themselves in a very tiny minority now so they better get used to it.

And, you know…that’s fair enough. The people reading this blog are all like “ugh, Kirby’s so weird” and “I hate the way Ditko draws fingers” and “Maus wasn’t very good” and “I thought as a big dumb superhero movie Spider-Man 3 was just fine”, and that’s…well, that’s just the way it is.

Caveat: I am by no means intending to say that everyone on Blogorama has really bad taste, or is stupid, or anything like that. Plenty of people answered this post with things like “I have a full run of Kickers, Inc., which I still think is awesome so all you bitches can kiss my ass!!!”, and that’s not bad, that’s funny. The people who nodded off while reading Watchmen…hey, tastes differ. It doesn’t automatically mean a person is a grazer just because they prefer Twinkies over Gateau St.-Honore. Because there’s a big difference between preferring shit (I’ve been known to prefer it myself), and not knowing the difference between it and Shinola, you know? So this is very far from a blanket condemnation — we all have some shit that we like, and there’s nothing wrong with that…

Caveat ends. …But it’s instructive to consider a lot of these responses as a mild rebuke, intentional or unintentional, from the new Blogorama posters to the old. “We don’t have anything to apologize for”, it seems to say in a rather affable, mostly non-confrontational way. “We’re here too, now, and we like what we like. Moreover, there’s not that much difference between us all, you like shitty comics too…”

And then one by one, the hands are raised. “We have news for the beautiful people“, one could interpret those hands as saying…but it’s not necessary to adopt such an adversarial posture, is it? No, probably not; the new Blogorama has already been so marred by accusations of condescension, tag-teaming, and dogpiling on those who seem not to be foursquare behind The Firm, that when offered a graceful elision over reader differences like this one, it’d probably be stupid not to take it for what it’s worth, and thereby defuse whatever feelings of hostility might have been built up by poor PR and micromanagement of comments. Everybody deserves a place. Somebody said something harsh to someone without having a good reason to do so, somebody else stormed off in a state of high dudgeon…

…Somebody else yet was all prepared to write a blistering condemnation of somebody or somebodies for their really very bad attitudes…

But to look at this post is to see, I think, that that’s all unnecessary, just a lot of wasted energy. Why do it? Why expend so much effort creating an “other side” just to paint them as horrible snobs, whether lowbrow or highbrow?

That’s about how I was thinking. Breathing a little sigh of relief…

…And then I have to read this fucking shit:

“Before the floor is opened up to responses, I want to ask (ha ha) that the art comix crowd, who usually respond to things like this with their opinion that periodical comics are doomed and that we’re all stupid/immature/whatever we are for reading superhero books, please refrain. Those comments are not relevant to the question at hand, which is aimed at those who read and enjoy the floppies. I’m a pretentious bastich myself, so there’s little doubt in my mind that I’ll offend the popcorn comics crowd, too, in time. Right now, though, I’m trying to talk to those folks. Yes, I know—most of the monthlies are about steroid cases who dress in tights and punch stuff. But the reality is, there are some very compelling narratives being told in those comics if you’ve got a receptive frame of mind.”

So, okay…

So, message received, Blogorama. Tell you what, let’s not all get along, you’re right, that would be much better. The “art-comix crowd”, really…yes, they really do tend to get above themselves, don’t they? Them and their stupid art comix like fucking All-Star Superman or Silver Age Flash. Or do you really think Spiegelman is trolling your blog? Jesus Christ, like you can’t tell good stories while including multiple foregrounded ass-shots of Black Canary, or having Spider-Man ponder how the Japanese Internment is like a metaphor for the plight of superheroes in these difficult times, ho-lee SHIT. Yes, Maus was so overrated, I mean what’s the big deal, eh? And that fucker James Joyce can kiss my ass with his stupid Dubliners, too, I mean why do I have to read this crap? Why isn’t anyone wearing a circus outfit? Why isn’t anyone doing the slo-mo walk or kicking butt, for heaven’s sake? Meh, I thought “Brideshead Revisited” was just okay…but I’ll take that episode of MASH where Hawkeye thinks the baby is a chicken over it any day. Because I’m a fucking grazer, I can’t tell the difference between shit and Shinola, say what is this, a video game? Some kinda book? A movie? Can you eat it? No? Is it for putting up your ass? Whuh? Never mind, wrap it up…I’ll take it!

I find your accusations of condescension incredibly insulting. I can condescend much better than that, actually, I mean if I really must, if you will really have it no other way. You guys will excuse any piece of shit so long as it is a superhero piece of shit, it seems…and I won’t, so you want to say I just think I’m too good for superheroes. But that’s fucking stupid: I’m not too good for them. Or rather…I shouldn’t be, but you can’t keep shoving this heap of decomposing goldfish in my face and telling me it’s caviar, and expect me to go along with it just because the goldfish are wearing capes! Meanwhile it’s you who thinks the superheroes are juvenile and stupid and worthless, isn’t it? That’s why you Blogorama bastards are always trash-talking the “art-comix crowd” (ha!), who want to treat comics like movies, like books, like art…like anything where you can have good things and bad things and so-so things, and know the difference between all of them, and know them for what they are, and enjoy them for what they are. Because you think if ever one of them is shown to be worthless, then that will mean they all are worthless, and that you really are an imbecile for liking them. So, “art comix”: BAD! BAD FOR SUPERHEROES, BAD FOR COMICS! But how can comics be bad for comics, jackass? You know, not too long ago somebody called Sean Kleefeld an art-comix snob, if you can believe that…you know, the old proprietor of FFPlaza.com? Art snob. And, how silly is that?

Because obviously, they really meant: turncoat!

Sad to think you’d probably agree with that, Blogorama. Oh, no, did I just put words in your mouth? Well, all’s fair in love and war, I guess. And turnabout’s fair play too, I’ve heard. Please show some respect and leave us alone while we discuss comics, art snobs…we’ll tell you when we think you have something to say, but right now you’re just being rude. Man, you cannot even go over there and say “hey, what about these other comics, that were made into movies…?” They will jump you if you do that. Shocking! An outrage! Landru commands the outlanders be punished for their insolence! Jee-ZUS.

Here’s something you all might want to get straight: we (meaning you and me) are not an oppressed people. Just because most regular people naturally assume that Thor is gay (by the way: he totally is), does not mean you and I are oppressed. So what’s the reason for me to back up Thor stories (say) that look like they were written and drawn by a pack of retarded chimpanzees with their thumbs glued together, just because doing so makes you look slightly less than uniquely illiterate for not knowing it ain’t no Brothers Karamazov? Oh, no, but if I don’t back up your foolish exaltation of shit, then it’ll be me who becomes your oppressor, right?

You really need one that badly, don’t you?

You really need someone to look down on you, so that when Daniel-Day Lewis does a Gambit movie, or John Goodman finally plays Mr. Sinister (fingers crossed, everybody!), you can have someone to say “in your face!” to. Is that it? Because obviously no one else is ever going to give a shit. So you need me to be a snob, so when the magical day comes you can say:

Screw you and your Stuck Rubber Baby and your Krazy Kat, turncoat! Batman always wins!

But of course that day will never come, and meanwhile this is not rational behaviour. If you’re trying to gain acceptance by preferring shit because it’s not shitty, and then to prove it’s not shitty you’re elevating it more and more the shittier it gets…it’s like betting on the same busted hand twice, isn’t it? Oh, sorry, I forgot: you don’t want us to get along. Hold on, let me just slip into something a little more contemptuous for you…

(ahem) Look, I know Alan Moore fucked up a perfectly good superhero detective story by having it be about something, but do you have to shout it from the rooftops like that? I mean, he doesn’t come around your place and tell you how to blow on your jug, does he? Moron. With you, it’s always “Will Eisner was a hack” this, and “Pogo’s hard to read” that, always with the Ultimate Sue porn-face = AWESOME and the need for bigger shoulderpads and the where the hell are all the guns, man, yo where my big penises be at…!

But really, have you seen this new Derrida bande-dessinee? It is SO COOL, I’m telling you. Much cooler than a man dressed in a big condom wrestling another man in a big condom, I mean it is to laugh, no? Ah, you Americans, you are such children…all-ways wis you eet ees zee BANG! and zee POW!, n’est-ce pas? Papa, I want to keel you! Mama, I want to…ZUT ALORS!

AIEEEEE…!

(coughs)

Was it good for you, you fucking gutless passive-aggressive SNOBS?

I admit, I was kinda faking it that time. Maybe next time I could get into it for real?

Stop being so insulting.

Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go re-read some old Roy Thomas Avengers. Oooh, lookit me, I’m Mr. Art-Comix…!

Hey, like Spike Lee said: wake up.

52 responses to ““The Art-Comix Crowd”

  1. Seriously man? They’re not even worth your time. They’re scared because Marvel and DC are like the priesthood – it’ll die out a lot sooner than anyone wants to admit without drastic changes. It’s a group of people who are scared of change and clinging onto shit – it’s not guys who like stuff in slow motion that blows up because that’s guys like ME. We don’t care. They’re the same people who defend garbage even after it’s been legitimized a thousand times over and it’s time to stop reacting like your being attacked. This isn’t gradeschool anymore, and no one gives a fuck if you like Dan Slott or Blue Beetle. They’re never going to get serious about the art form, the medium, those people already have. The same way that people who love Star Wars either became film fans and started buying Kurosawa or they bitched about the prequels. It’s either a stepping stone or it isn’t. Sure, I can enjoy a good superhero book, but do I really care about their survival? Fuck no. I care about comics’ survival. It’s two different things. They can’t be helped, can’t be reasoned with and unless you want to debate the shitty end of superhero books for the rest of your life, it’s just a waste of rage. Of course you get sucked into it, everyone does. I do all the time. I get angry for no reason at some dumbshit on a messageboard (usually for music stuff more than comics, but same deal). But you’ve got to realize that these are the people who don’t get Walt Simonson. These are people who want comfort, not art or entertainment. They don’t like comics the way we do. And they hate us because we don’t like comics the way they do. Me and Tim Callahan might be diametrically opposed in the way we read and enjoy comics, but he’s still reading comics because he loves comics. Does that make sense? I’ll get in an argument with him any day because that assumption is implicit.

    They’re cunts. Fuck em.

  2. I think that comics, or literature, or music- I think that art- can be treated as a passion, or as a fetish. There’s an overlap in the resulting behaviours which can make it difficult to differentiate at first glance, but there is a difference. Reaction to criticism is maybe the classic example of this.

  3. These are excellent appraisals, guys!

    Of course I agree; I just can’t stand that high-handed tone, and that us/them mentality, that’s all.

    And I can’t pay attention to the kind of conversation that seems set to go on there — I don’t want to know anything about Heroes, I don’t care what movies are in development, if somebody think Liefeld is the bee’s knees that’s great, but…what do I really have to contribute to that discussion? Let ‘em go on with it. Except the casual assumption that some kind of firewall is needed against the “art-comix” people…I just thought I oughtta say something against that. It’s the Coriolanus line again, really…

    Sean: quotable stuff!

    Madeley: what a concise summary!

  4. Pingback: Stealing David’s “Thoughts from other people’s comment sections” title for this. « supervillain·

  5. Like I was saying, I’m waiting for Tomorrow’s True Believers to turf my boomer ass out. But they never do. I can’t say how gratified I am that intense commentators like the Mindless Ones are going batflap about Morrison doing the Fourth World so proud, to name but one example. So many people writing passionately from a Big Two sensibility where they dive back into the history, laugh at the crazy crudness (stet!) and forgive its faults.

    There’s just this, though. It took me a while to catch onto Jhonen Vasquez, and I lost track of Bone and waited for the fat book. The good new work that comes out is sometimes expensive, sometimes irregular, and sometimes hard to distinguish at first sight from flashy but shallow stuff that I’d never read again. It was easy to fall into Marvel when it was cheap to buy a dozen titles, of which three might be good. Now I have to be selective. I don’t know if there’s a solution, but it seems to me that Tomorrow’s TBs are really having to work at finding fellow fans, and having to spend a lot of money doing it. And if it hadn’t been like that, then the competition that’s always about to knock the Big Two off their perches would already be manifest.

    Well, part of that work is building reputation, sharing enthusiasm, becoming a known commentor on the blogs. You need a bit of a thick skin for that. So I’m not surprised that in a scene like blogorama, people should be a bit defensive, strident or overbearing. It’s necessary rough and tumble, if new fandoms are going to rise and make a difference.

  6. I’m a firm believer in having no “guilty pleasures.” If I like something I like something, if I think it’s crap I think its crap. And hey, I do happen to like Steve Ditko’s Captain Atom, Question and Blue Beetle a lot better than Watchmen.

    (Which I do enjoy … but I think too many fans and creators saw the book as the logical next step for super-heroes when it actually represents the genre’s logical end. Same with the original Dark Knight).

    What bothers me about the new Newsarama’s approach however is that – like many pop culture chroniclers interested, as Mel Brooks said in Blazing Saddles, protecting their phony baloney jobs – it has adopted the Maxim “lad” mentality that everything stupid is smart and vice-versa.

    It’s like Rolling Stone positing Ashlee Simpson as a genuine punk rocker. Now, there’s nothing wrong with liking Ashlee but let’s not kid ourselves: it’s paint-by-the-numbers bubble gum created for the sole purpose of putting over a pretty face.

    Frankly, that’s the same as Secret Invasion and Final Crisis. High-impact moments delivered – nearly Twitter style – to an audience that values form over content. Who needs stories when there’s three versions of the Legion to piece together here?

    If Blogorama and its fans are so proud to stand for what is essentially nothing, well then to quote well-known anti-elitist John Mellencamp, they’re positioning themselves to fall for anything, right?

    Where’s Mr. A when we need him?

    And to

  7. “if you’ve got a receptive frame of mind”?!

    That’s an interesting attempt at setting up a tautological trap, but let’s not forget that a receptive frame is one that doesn’t already have something in it.

    If people are reading these things as though they should feel ashamed to be reading them, then perhaps it’s because someone’s writing them as though they are ashamed to be doing so. Because seriously? Compelling narratives? All that seems to mean these days is superhero names and outfits in stories that try and try and try to excise as much superheroiness from them as possible. “It’s not absurd and childish! Look! He’s comforting a friend whose child was murdered! Also, he has a magical headband. But he never uses it on-panel, so how can you say it’s not sophisticated?”

    There’s plenty of third-rate prime time drama available for free. How about the super people concentrate on being awesome by doing something only super people can do?

    I must confess I have neither the ability nor the desire to find common ground with people who hate rock-monster Sharon Ventura and who think that Cranston’s head on a robot body was a bad thing. Because those two things are things you get when you accept the absurd and the awesome without shame.

  8. “…Nearly Twitter-style…”

    Oh, that’s a good one: you hit the mark, Keeper.

    Actually, this post — which I composed in a state of semi-outrage, and then wondered if I wasn’t just trying to be controversial for the sake of it — seems to have justified itself by bringing out all these rather trenchant summations. Dan, yours is another I’ll be quoting as my own, one of these days…so maybe I was right to get all pissy, if this is the fruit of it!

    Tom: heh, well no one actually said in so many words that Silver Age Flash is “art-comix”, but in a forum where Kirby, Ditko, Morrison, Moore, and Spiegelman are all lumped together as “overrated”, and given that an underlying scheme of this thing appears to surface where “overrated” is also code for “arty”…as well, given things like CSBG’s well-known iconoclasm in the matter of “serious comics vs. fun comics”, which I take to be something lots of people are familiar with…well, I think it’s not ridiculous to imagine that liking anything Silver Age could be interpreted as snobbery over there, at least by some. Out here in comics blogland, it does seem as though if you like the Silver Age you’re bound to detest the excesses of the Nineties, rail at contemporary crossovers, admire the fecundity of Dave Gibbons’ motif-making in Watchmen, and probably think that Maus deserved its Pulitzer. While still liking silly superhero action! I think it’s important to bear in mind that, as I mentioned up top, the “art-comix” designation isn’t being applied to young Gary Groth wannabes swinging in and proclaiming that even Sandman is garbage, because it’s not serious art-for-artists (ironically, Sandman is another thing that’s “overrated” over there)…and I like Gary a lot, you know, I really do, but I’m not him, and I don’t see anyone coming by there and saying “this is all perfectly revolting, you are all fingerpainting in the Louvre, grow the fuck up”…I’ve just seen people saying “hey, The Dark Knight isn’t really this huge comics-acceptance watershed you say it is, is it? What about, I don’t know, what about Road To Perdition?” Hardly art-snobbery by my definition — I’d be shocked to find someone who doesn’t appreciate superhero comics at all going within a thousand miles of even the old Blogorama, you know?

    And Sean: it really pissed me off to see those few times when people would come over, I assume from Journalista, to bash you for being a snob. Especially since you’ve really written a rather fascinating diary of your changing comics habits, right there for all to see, that absolutely spells out your lack of pretension to the point where it exposes the artificiality of the line between one “type” of reader and another.

  9. And oh yeah: so, “Road To Perdition” is no good…but what if that person had said “The Crow”, instead?

    I wonder…

    But now I am just probably being mean.

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  11. Pillock– this was excellent. That’s really all I have to say.

    I hate this idea that there’s this huge divide between art comix and superhero fans. It’s like saying “Oh, you can’t like dramas, you like action movies.”

    What, I can’t like 25th Hour AND Live Free and Die Hard? Really?

  12. The division, such as it is, is actually between fans of the comics art form, and fans of superhero stories. If you’d rather watch Heroes than read Love and Rockets, well, you know who you are. The trouble is, they prefer to call themselves comics fans, when in fact, they are not. It’s just that their drug of choice happens to be delivered in comics form, along with movies and TV shows. I guess “comic fan” just sounds less ridiculous a thing to call one’s self than “superhero fan.”

  13. I’m not talking about watching vs reading, tho– I mean the art comix vs superhero comics dichotomy. Both are a subset of comics, so saying that you are a “comics fan” when you only read mopey autobio books or crappy superhero books is perfectly appropriate.

    The Blog@ guys aren’t coming just watching comics properties on TV and talking, they’re talking about how the art comix crowd are being a bother and should sit down. What they’re missing is that the divide between the “team art comix” and “team superhero comics” is that there is a lot of overlap, so the divide isn’t as clear as “Likes art comix, hates capes” or “Loves capes, hates art comix.”

  14. I’m not even sure this is the problem. I think it’s a symptom.

    (Aside: the divides between art/superhero and comics/superhero can intersect strangely. I’m more of a superhero guy than a comics guy, but that’s not to say that I don’t like non-superhero comics; it’s just not my primary interest. And while the superhero genre hasn’t produced much that was artistically sophisticated, proportionally, I do like to see it try.)

    I think the problem is this. Basically I’m reminded of an item on Weekend Update on SNL some years ago. Norm Macdonald said, “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are in talks to make a remake of Casablanca. A spokesman said that the remake would be for anyone who loved the original movie but wished it was terrible.”

    The new owners of Newsarama are doing their best to turn their site into something that’s meant to appeal to someone who liked the old Newsarama but wished it was terrible.

  15. This year’s Love & Rockets had a GREAT super-hero story, which further tosses any perceived division into …. well, whatever it is when things get really mixed up.

    Good, even great, stories can be created in the super-hero medium. After all, something great can potentially come out of any literary or musical sub-genre or any other area of art that strikes your fancy.

    To me, loving comics means loving comics. I treasure Carl Barks’ ducks as much as the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man and as much as L&R and EC Comics. Blog@’s current acting out has less to do with a love of comics and/or super-heroes than drumming up some cheap heat and justifying one’s own preference for “New Secret Crisis RIP” by running down whatever doesn’t fit in that extremely narrow world view.

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  17. I don’t know… it seems like the divide is quite complicated, but the most helpful label might be to note that the “new blogorama” type enjoys superhero comics as a pastime, while the other side mostly approaches it as readers (or sometimes cultural critics or academicians). It’s a lot like baseball… you have organizations with long and involving histories with corporate intrigues, personal disputes, and stats/checklists, yielding opportunities to argue about who’s better, catch highlights, and feel a part of something complex that gives comfort and a sense of belonging. You don’t have to watch all the games, or any games, and (perhaps most importantly) you don’t really have to pay any attention to those you do.

    Inattentive reading, I would say, is rewarded in this context. The Twitter comment was kind of related to this – the product is not meant to be a cohesive work, but act as quanta of “interest” in a comforting and diverting, but kind of pointless (except in some primal drive sublimation way, which is actually, maybe important) cyclic shamble.

    So try reading that page, substituting Reggie Jackson for Neil Adams, the American League for DC, and the Toronto Blue Jays for Blue Beetle (etc.). This shows the discussion for what it is… ritualistic male posturing in a shared cultural context with signifiers galore. Thing is, there’s nothing wrong with that, the “other crowd” is just in a different classification of hobby.

  18. Its kind of unfair to broadly paint ALL the new Blog@ contributors because of ONE person’s article. I mean I’m not really paying any attention to most of them beyond J. Caleb (of Every Day Is Like Wednesday. But Caleb’s more than shown he’s a fan of both Big Two Supers comics and “arty” comics. So I guess I’m just defending Caleb from being tarred with the negative “Blog@” brush as well…

  19. Jeez, you turn your back for twelve hours…

    David, Alan, Todd…hi. Thanks for dropping in! I’m going to mostly agree with all of you: these are good points.

    But to someone who’s really a fan of the medium, surely it doesn’t matter what the genre or the idiom is? I submit that when you put on your pure comics-lovin’ hat, you don’t see superheroes and you don’t see not-superheroes — you don’t see teams — you just see comics.

    (And Lurker is perfectly correct, of course: Caleb’s pretty obviously a wearer of the pure-comics-love hat, so let’s not accidentally tar him with any brushes…)

    Similarly, what makes a comic good or shitty or just mediocre — Tucker would say mediocre is shitty — doesn’t have anything to do with either “team”. Except…this “team” nonsense is probably corrosive of intelligent craftsmanship, don’t you think? I mean probably the last thing you want is to put a Team Superhero guy on a superhero comic, I take this to be EXACTLY what we’re talking about when we say many comics pros today are too damn fannish for their own good — though Todd’s analysis cuts mighty sweetly, my qualms about simply comparing one arena of social-signifying to another start with the fact that the history of the North American comics business has not yet been written: I often talk about the way the Marvel creators of the Seventies frequently chose to produce creator-owned superhero concepts, when they might have done anything else at all — and you know these guys weren’t ignorant of R. Crumb or Gilbert Shelton, eh? But why did Englehart make Coyote, why did Gerber do Void Indigo? Right? We don’t so much have a structure of sports franchises that involve the fan, here, as we have a bunch of players striving to make baseball about something other than “just baseball”, and then we have a bunch of players set free to invent their own sports, and the fans go along. Went along, I mean: at one point, the fans were interested in “new sports” too.

    Right?

    But then mysteriously, for a long period of quite excellent creator-owned new sports, they all made “more baseball”.

    So…why?

    Sorry, rambling, but this is where my qualms lie. Because this is the history of comics that hasn’t been written yet, and it seems clear to me that in a proper history of comics today’s team-vs-team thing would be seen as an artificial construct of our times, that seeks to recontextualize the dynamics of the past in terms of the dynamics of the present: i.e. it ain’t good history…so it ain’t good present-day description. Where did the people who “just want to watch Heroes” or whatever come from? They didn’t come from nowhere; I suspect they came out of a narrative promulgated by…

    Well, by whom? Damned if I know. One could plausibly suggest (I think, maybe) that as Gary started pointing out that Peter David’s Hulk was essentially just soulless corporate crap (which at first was a contention I hoped to be able to disagree with, but sadly in the end it did prove to be the case), he created a backlash…

    Except, doesn’t that rather presuppose that a) TCJ was much more in the forefront of the comics world than it actually was, as well as b) that it was the readers of TCJ that did the lashing-back?

    Which I hope is obvious isn’t what happened. So, where did the “bad” Blogorama crew even get the idea that the “art-comix crowd” was out to get them? How did they ever stumble upon the existence of the art-comix crowd in the first place? Hell, how did Team Superhero even start reading comics? Because in my days, these folks weren’t around at all, you know?

    And now we’re in this weird posture that David so rightly decries, where one person who likes reading Encyclopedia Brown is ripped on by another reader of Encyclopedia Brown, because the first reader’s bookshelf has a copy of — not even The Name Of The Rose, on it! — but Sherlock Holmes.

    Until we know how it started, I don’t think we can confidently say what it is. What’s the origin of this aesthetic divide? Richard and Wendy Pini used to show up in Ghost Rider comics — what happened to that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a fan of superhero stories, but not only do I not think that’s incompatible with being a fan of the comics medium, I don’t think that’s even what’s at issue in the matter of this “divide”. The aesthetics of Team Superhero aren’t so easily described as I would like them to be, perhaps? Because David says “it isn’t just ‘likes art, hates capes’, ‘likes capes, hates art’”, and he’s right, that’s where Blogorama’s really pissing me off…

    I mean I think someone who “likes art; hates capes” has a solidly comprehensible position, but in 2008 it must seem a bit ivory-tower-ish…there’s a Dave Sim letter to TCJ that’s always stuck with me, where he says Gary asked him “is Sandman any good?”, and Dave concludes “Gary’s out of touch”…

    Now, we probably needed the assertion of ivory-tower aesthetics, then! Anyway I needed it, it saved me from just wandering around with no conception of what my own standards were, no idea that I even had any standards…

    But today, “likes art; hates capes”, I think that person probably is walling themselves off from a true appreciation of the medium. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, I know people who don’t read anything published past 1890, and it’s not like they’re fucking criminals</i…

    But what’s really deeply wrong is, “likes capes; hates art.” Because THAT is stupid — there’s no defence for THAT! And I think even if you call it “Team Superhero” then you hand it a defence, that it doesn’t deserve. And: an ahistorical defence. It must not be about superhero stories or about the comics medium, I mean how could it be? I asked before if the guy who said “what about Road To Perdition?” would’ve been slapped down as hard if he’d said “what about The Crow?”…and I think we must all suspect he wouldn’t have been slapped down so hard, at all. But what really is the difference? How can there just be people who just “like superhero stories”? I mean this shit doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It means something. And to make sense, it has to be something more than “two guys in giant condoms rubbing up against each other”. Because that just doesn’t explain anything.

    You know what’s a superhero story? Death Note. It’s the most brilliant superhero story I’ve seen in years, it makes just as much no sense as any Seventies Kirby, and it’s gorgeous. Very far from having express literary value, of course. But does Team Superhero like it, or hate it? Or are they just not interested in it.

    Why would they be just not interested in it, is what I’m saying.

    I mean, I was rooting for “L”, weren’t you? Or maybe you weren’t. But still, anywhere there’s “rooting”, there’s blustering social signifiers and the good you can get from them, right?

    So if you can get that stuff anywhere…why do you need it to be wearing capes?

    Sean W. said it was about “comfort”. Okay…but why and how does that shit become comforting?

    Keeper: right on the money, but I am almost pissed enough at that backhandedness to want to analyze it, aren’t you? One could do a little damage that way, I suspect.

    And, Matthew: ha!

    Hard to argue with…

    Oh, what’s that, beer? You want me to drink you? But, I’m in the middle of a trial

  20. What’s REALLY bizarre about this thread is that right before “this fucking shit” (the lengthy quote), the moderator professes love for Strangers in Paradise. I mean, Relationship drama that’s about females where the decision to stay or leave a relationship hits as hard as Superboy’s fist.

    ***

    Everyone who’s talked about the cultural/communal aspect of superheroes as a shared cultural practice instead of an informed discourse hits the nail on the head, and into wood it splinters; of course blog@’s people defend zealously the pamphlet that forces everyone into the comics shop one day of the week, allowing for weekly comics communion. With this Bendis as his body and with Finch as his blood, we can feel the creative spirit in all.

    Or something.

  21. Oh, it’s definitely worth analyzing. In fact, the old journalist inside of me would love to equate this aspect of Blog@’s approach with … oh, let’s get really outrageous … Karl Rove’s divide and conquer strategies that worked so well for Bush #2 in elections.

    Of course, long-term this approach is headed toward failure because people at some point get tired of bickering and want results. Hence: The Obama phenomenon.

    So will there be a point when Team Superhero simply wants good comics? At some point, the Big Two has to figure out what to do with their characters beyond delighting aged fan-boys such as myself for bringing back the “real” Spider-Woman or Supergirl.

    You make a good point about Englehart, Gerber and that particular generation because they saw Marvel’s legacy as the art of creation, and essentially kept creating new ideas, characters and concepts until the reality of work-for-hire set in.

    At some point, perhaps because of creator’s rights or simply giving the fan base what it wants, creation at the Big Two was replaced by Re-creation: meaning old characters and storylines revisited and modernized by the addition of gore and morally indeterminate actions. Which is all well and good if you’ve never read the source material (just like Mooney Suzuki sound great until you pick up a Grand Funk album) but can’t help but seem hollow if you do have somewhat of a memory.

  22. My baseball analogy was more to point out that comics, to many, are primarily something they FOLLOW as opposed to attentively read (watch). You could substitute celebrity culture for baseball and get a similar (but not perfect, either) analogy: people less interested in movies and (even better) TV than in the movements of the stars, that they project themselves onto (start an argument about Jennifer Aniston sometime, and take notes). Someone really into movies or TV as a form will seek out better stuff and develop, consciously or unconsciously, a critical framework, but they are likely at least aware of the mainstream kerfuffle, and undoubtedly enjoy some of it, but likely also have disgust at some of the most popular stuff. This is probably a better analogy, as picking who you like and don’t like has more gradients than in sports, people can fall in and out of favor, etc. One sticking point (the Warren Ellis point): the lack of more than one mainstream genre – hard to work around that in the analogy.

  23. As someone who, sadly, doesn’t have as much time as I wish I did to devote to reading numerous comics-related blogs, I just wanted to say that–even without a vested interest in the recent shakeups at Newsarama (one of those sites I didn’t visit even when it was, apparently, good)–this post of yours has turned me into an instant fan. You have been bookmarked, sir!

  24. Well see, this is what I find so ridiculous about the whole presumed “divide” between superhero and non-superhero comics. That’s not now–and as far as I can tell, never has been–what’s actually going on. At most it’s a divide between on the one hand people who compare the quality of superhero books only to that of other superhero books, and on the other hand those who compare the quality of superhero books to the quality of everything.

    And of course the better superhero books are going to look good when only held up against worse superhero books. But much in the same way that praise containing the word “surprisingly” isn’t really praise at all, a fan who says that what they like is good as long as you don’t compare it to anything better isn’t much of a fan of anything.

  25. Thanks, Mark!

    Hmm, I think a lot of the problem with the “art-comix” appellation is that it’s being used inaccurately, and so as a club. The author may mention Strangers In Paradise, and he’s okay…because he’s not a snob, right? But as I said, it isn’t that people who wouldn’t soil their hands with superhero comics are coming around to Newsarama anyway…it seems rather that some fans of the superhero comic are being decisively re-labelled as antagonistic towards the superhero comic, because they like the “wrong” things about it. But, the columnists appear to share those very same enthusiasms! So maybe it isn’t that they like the “wrong” things at all…

    Sorry, no coffee yet, I feel like I might as well have scrawled this comment in crayon…

  26. It’s not even superhero fans, I suspect; it’s fans of the Marvel and/ or DC Universes. I haven’t read anything on the new Blogarama beyond what you’ve linked to, so I could be way off base, but:

    Some people have an emotional investment in Marvel or DC. Not one particular character, not a writer or artist, but the universes as fantasy worlds in which they can immerse themselves. If the comics they buy fulfill the need to be involved in those fictional universes- by confirming what they loved when they read their first comics, by shaking things up so thry HAVE to read what happens next, or by making things darker (“more mature”)- they are content. They don’t have an interest in the medium or the concept of superheroes as much as the setting, character relationships, and continuity. They might branch out to Hellboy or Preacher, but their hearts belong to Marvel and/ or DC.

    Again, I could be totally wrong. I know, however, that I used to buy some Marvel or DC comics just to keep up (and then they got better in the late ’90s/ early ’00s, so I was reading out of enjoyment again). I still check in on Hulk and X-Men every once in a while.

    Anyway, most Marvel & DC superhero comics get put down by many bloggers (not to mention *in real life*), leading to a defensiveness among some Marvel or DC fans. I don’t think it’s good, but I can understand it.

  27. I’ve never actually read a Blogarama thread before following your link. Are they all like that?
    It makes the Comics Should Be Good threads seem downright sedate, and THIS site…well, you do have the faling snow.

    Good lord I lament for the youth of this world. Reading how these guys dismiss Kirby and the Silver age and even Sandman reminds me of kids I work with who would never even consider watching a black-and-white movie (or pretty much anything before George Lucas), and who recoil from any music from before 200 or so.

    Oh well, look at the snow, look at the snow…

    And hey Pillock or Plok or whoever you are, like we said before, we must be neighbours. Where is the photo at the top of your page?

  28. That didn’t sound right, let’s try again – - where was the photo at the top of your page taken at?

    damn, the grammar still isn’t quite there…

    It looks like the North Shore mountains, but what’s the wooded island bit in front?

  29. Pingback: Why I Am Not A Fan… « Sci-Ence! Justice Leak!·

  30. Southwest Marine

    “Good lord I lament for the youth of this world. Reading how these guys dismiss Kirby and the Silver age and even Sandman reminds me of kids I work with who would never even consider watching a black-and-white movie (or pretty much anything before George Lucas), and who recoil from any music from before 200 or so.”

    Being one of the youths you cite, I feel compelled to point out that disdain for Things Older People Like is an inherent quality of being young, regardless of the generation. I doubt you (or anyone else who is reading this) was any different when you were our age.

    That said, I still dismiss most of the comics produced duringSilver Age. I can appreciate their historical value, and many of them had very nice art, the writing wasn’t that good to begin with and the passage of time really, really hasn’t done it any favors. As for Kirby, I feel that while he was undeniably talented, older fans have overhyped him to the point where the real thing inevitably becomes a letdown.

    Also, I really like Sandman.

  31. Touche!

    Apologies, SW Marine: I was not very informative before, due to my building’s annual Christmas party…it’s a view of Collingwood Channel in Howe Sound, and the island in the background is Keats. Taken from the west side of Bowen Island, facing onto the huge mini-universe of the Inside Passage.

    To the left is Ragged Island, that we all used to call “Beaver Island”, owing to the fact that it looks pretty much exactly like a beaver from where all our old cabins used to be. It’s just like looking at a nickel, only it’s blue! A blue nickel.

    The good old days, eh?

    Sorry for my brisk-ish response earlier. Actually I am apologizing to a lot of people today, for my overly brisk responses last night! Well…can’t complain…

  32. See … I was reading DC and Marvel Giant Size reprints of Golden Age stuff when I was 10 or 11, so I was always interested in my favorite characters’ histories and how comics evolved … etc.

    Probably why my political science thesis in college focused on the historical aspects of different philosophies. I’m a freak that way ..

  33. Strannik, I’m twelve years older than you, but dammit, I’m with your sentiment, at least. Growing up in the eighties, surrounded by Baby Boomer nostalgia for a mythical version of The Sixties ™ and How People And Music Were Better Then, my motto was “Cram it with walnuts, old man!” Now that I am old, I encourage such an attitude in the youth. They’ll come around to appreciate older crap if and when they’re ready, and the energy that comes from telling old farts to cram it with walnuts can lead to great things.

    (I came around on Kirby eventually, and love the man’s work like crazy now, but yeah, it’s flawed and, more importantly, overhyped. Yes, I said overhyped. He was the Elvis of comics, not the Jesus. I say this as a rabid fan of the Fourth World books. I have never come around to the Silver Age’s merits, except as a source of absurdist humor. Kirby and Ditko comics excepted.)

    The debate on “art comix” versus “superhero comics” feels very much like gripes about movies and movie fans. Like with movies, it’s rare to find someone who raves about Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jean-Pierre Melville who doesn’t also like at least some big dumb blockbusters. It’s less rare for people who adore big dumb blockbusters to imagine that “art film snobs” are somewhere sneering at them for their love of “Terminator 3.” The insecurity of it is fascinating. Why the straw man persecutors?

  34. I always see Kirby as the Beatles of comics, not the Elvis, but that’s just me. Also: Bill Sienkiewicz is the Jimi Hendrix of comics, and maybe Alan Moore is the Dylan. That makes Neil Gaiman the… hmm… Joni Mitchell? Intelligent wordplay, kind of like his immediate idols but branching out without eclipsing… yep, Joni Mitchell.

    Ditko, however, is the Ditko of comics.

  35. Kirby is Lennon, while Lee was McCartney. Moore as Dylan I can see – Moore’s work is more out-there than Dylan, he’s artistically closer to Zappa, but in terms of influence on the medium it makes sense. Gaiman, on the other hand, is Van Morrison – starting out with stuff that seems shockingly innovative but in fact has roots in a lot of other people’s work, then slowly turning to repetition of the same few stylistic tics, possible connection to Scientology that he doesn’t like to talk about, lacklustre later work that still occasionally sparkles, obsession with Celtic myth… yep. Gaiman is Van Morrison.

  36. Harvey Kurtzman – Dylan.
    Moebius – Brian Wilson.
    Alan Moore – Velvet Underground.
    Frank Miller – The Stooges.
    Matt Wagner – Talking Heads.

    Steranko – Hendrix.

  37. To really capture his impact on comics, I’d say that Jack Kirby was the Beatles, the Rolling Stones (without all the demonic drivel) and Jimi Hendrix, all rolled into one very creative and exceedingly busy guy. Imagining the history of superhero comics without him is like imaging pop music history without those three.

    And he’s about as over-hyped as one artist creating the entire Beatles/Stones/Hendrix catalogues would be.

  38. I didn’t read all of this but Wally Wood = Johnny Cash. Actually, he’s Dion, but I like suggesting he’s Johnny Cash better.

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