Like the title says, here’s a loose affiliation of stuff that’s been rumbling around in my noggin over the last few days:
You never call, you never write.
Well, Obscure Comics Month was a complete failure. I’m not terribly surprised to be honest, nor am I all that upset. I couldn’t even manage to write my own contribution (and I had a great one too, all about the genius that is R.O. Blechman), so I can imagine how difficult it must have been for those of you who were interested in the proposal as well. Getting kick-started is always tough.
I still stand by what I wrote earlier though. I do believe that we tend to focus to much on “this week’s comics” and not enough on re-evaluating what has come before, let alone discovering the hidden gems that lay outside our comfort zones. Just something to keep in mind as we rush out to the comic store every Wednesday.
(If, by some chance, you did do a review for the challenge and I stupidly missed it, let me know in the comments section below.)
While I take full responsibility for cramming too many ideas into one piece, nowhere did I call for “middlebrow” storytelling. I called for more craft in storytelling. Big difference. Also, Sfar, as I understand it (partially based on an unpublished interview I conducted with him last year) is also interested in a more meaty kind of storytelling. The website for Bayou, the line Sfar edited for Gallimard, cites as influences “Popeye, Alexandre Dumas, Asterix or Sempé. Or Crumb or Mark Twain or Georges Brassens.” That list is fine by me, and if its “middlebrow,” let ‘er rip.
Fair enough. “Middlebrow” can be my “dead end” phrase if you like. Though I think the fact that I used the phrase at all suggests how confused I was by the initial post and what exactly it was calling for. Again, I think that gets back to the issue of needing to define our terms better and use stronger examples. Heidi’s citation of Aya gives me a much better idea of what she’s been talking about for example.
I suppose I’m always a little wary when everyone holds aloft a vague trait like “storytelling” and says “there’s not enough of this in today’s comics!” People have made similar claims about a lack of craft or artistry and I think you could point out plenty of examples where that either didn’t necessarily apply or the term itself was too ill-defined to hold merit.
We’re on the same page about those Flight books though. That stuff is shallower than the rain puddles that form on my sidewalk after a summer shower. (For the record, my post was more of a response to Heidi’s initial essay than her follow-up, which was why I didn’t acknowledge her Flight reference. I probably should have though, so mea culpa.)
I love to linkblog
Finally, two quick links of note. First of all, Shaenon Garrity has a new column over at Comixology, where she gets to throw down on all manner of comics, including All-Star Batman and Robin:
It all comes down to this: Frank Miller could never do another Dark Knight Returns, because every hack in funnybooks spent the past 20 years doing it for him, so he has nowhere to go but upward, ever upward, into stratospheric heights of comic-book insanity and inanity. And All-Star Batman and Robin is giving the fans everything they thought they wanted in a comic book, just to show them how awful their tastes really are. You want Frank Miller back on Batman? And Wizard fan-fave Jim Lee drawing it? And the original Robin and the original Bat-mythos (plus whatever parts of the movies the nerds really dug) and the ultra-dark, mega-badass Dark Knight who could totally beat up Superman and lots of swearing and lots of tits and a flying Batmobile and gritted teeth and fights in the rain? You got it, assholes! You got it in spades.
Elsewhere, ComiPress is translating and putting online Udagawa Takeo’s 1997 book Manga Zombie, which offers a rather fascinating critique of the industry:
Burn manga. Especially Eighties manga on.
Burn these pre-programmed comics that have been churned out ever since manga turned into a business. Burn these bastard things conceived in boardrooms and born as products.
For example, love stories that go on…and oon… and ooon…and oooon.
Burn them. Stories about heroes beating the odds through sheer grit and friendship. Burn them.
‘Interactive’ stories swinging any way the reader surveys tell them:
Burn. Them. All.
Both are well worth reading.