It’ll have to be a short column this week. It’s late, I’m tired and there are wolves.
As I said in my very first post, one of the inspirations for doing this column was the brouhaha surrounding the arrival of Comic Foundry magazine. Specifically, their decision (nay, declaration) to run no reviews at all in their magazine. Not even a thumbs up.
Now, as far as I can figger it, they’re doing this for one of two reasons. Either A) they feel that comics criticism is a useless, elitist tool and and nobody pays attention to it anyway; or B) they figure the Internet already has that aspect of comics culture well covered, so why bother? Perhaps a little bit of both.
If the answer is A, well, I’m not sure what I can do to change their mind other than say in a rather shrill voice “Is Not!” That or repeat what Douglas Wolk said two weeks ago.
I suspect, however, the answer is more likely to be B. Editor in Chief Tim Leong has pretty much stated he wants the magazine to be seen as something apart from the other comics magazines both past and present, and indeed even stated as much in an interview with Tom Spurgeon:
You won’t see any reviews. You won’t see any breaking news. The way the Internet works, it’ll be completely out of date. Even the Wizard exclusives hit on-line a couple of days before the issue comes out. I don’t want to mess with reviews. Reviews, everyone has reviews on-line. Our goal was to offer content you can’t get anywhere else. Our defining characteristic will be lifestyle. I hope, at least. It’s more the approach.
Ok, but see, here’s the problem with that. Comic Foundry aspires to be a magazine about comics culture and “lifestyle.” The problem is, you can’t make a magazine about a particular culture without in some way offering a critique of that culture. Whether it positive or negative is immaterial. It’s still a critique, albeit a somewhat oblique one.
The very first issue of the magazine bears this out. Simply including interviews with folks like Garth Ennis and Kyle Baker, says that not only are these writers and artists people most comic fans are aware of, they are people they should be aware of. Doing a two-page spread on how “The Judas Contract” came to be is, in effect, saying “This matters.” It would be nice to perhaps also say why it matters.
Of course, there are reviews in the magazine, though they’re at times maddeningly short and vague. That’s not necessarily the fault of those writing the reviews (two of whom happen to be Blog@’s own Kevin Melrose and JK Parkin — hi guys!), more that you can only say so much in a tiny amount of space (I often have the same problem when doing my picks for Can’t Wait for Wednesday). The blurbs can be an effective tool (I liked, for example, Kevin’s Permanent Collection bit) but they stand out like a sore thumb when there’s a lack of any meatier material. Why stop there? You’ve already dipped your tow in the water, why not take a swim?
The thing is, if Leong finds the traditional mode of reviewing comics to be staid, overdone or unnacceptable due to their quarterly publishing schedule (and I’m not entirely unsympathetic to those points) there are a thousand different types of reviews, essays, thinkpieces or what have you that they could be running instead. They don’t have to be breezy pieces of puffery or lenghty academic diatribes. The Judas Contract piece, the article on Frederic Boilet and “How to Sound Smart” are good ideas, but I would go further. Why not talk about evergreen or recurring issues like “what do we mean when we talk about the mainstream?” Focus on classic or overlooked comics like Jog does regularly over at Savage Critics. Talk about comics you think ought to be collected in trade, but haven’t. Do something that takes a stance. That offers an opinion.
Oh, and for crissakes get that mag in full color, too.