Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Full Disclosure of My Critical Biases and Sexual History and other things that are TMI

I like entertainment more than Art with a capital A. I believe I can recognize art, or at least well written fiction. Those things may not be mutually exclusive. Reading Don Simpson's blog before it went away made me realize that talking about what is and isn't art without defining it will give people massive headaches and make them write-off everything you say. Well, I did that with Don, anyway.

But I'll read 100 Nextwaves, even if Ellis takes to personally insulting me in future issues (and if he reads my manifesto about the book, he may), over a couple of Acme Novelty Libraries or Ganges or whatever. Because I'd rather be entertained than read a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. That's just how I roll. I don't dismiss indie comics fully. I read some of them. Black Hole was my favorite GN of the last year. I don't think their fans are snobs. Well, most of them aren't, inherently. Some are totally insufferable pricks I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire, running around in a circle, and yelling "Piss on me, fanboy!" They know who they are. But my bias is toward mainstream comics like Seven Soldiers Frankenstein to most of what's out there, becuase do the indie comics have Frankenstein and the Bride working for an erstatz SHIELD and fighting monsters mutated by "... the Water!"? I don't think so. So fuck off, serious cartoonists and everyone else not published by Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse and Image I guess.

One thing I agree with obfuscating old man Simpson on is that I think a lot of people associated with indie/art comics are pretty bad about expecting people to give a shit about their comics because they are not like mainstream comics. It comes off as kinda petulant, you know? I imagine certain folks stomping their feet and going "We are too art!" and "But we're better than the crap you read, stupid!" when describing the latest literary black and white masterpiece.

Sure, indie comics may be good for me, but you know what else people always try to sell me by telling me it's good for me? Broccoli. So, indie comics bolsters, find a better way to sell me on your favorite comics than making me think of eating my vegetables. Well, those of you that do that. This is a bigger strawman than a 3,000 foot tall Scarecrow. I'm just still kinda angry. It was that kind of week, last week. Just be glad Cronin didn't post a polemic like me and the Gregs. Boy, you do not want to see Cronin mad. I bet it's real bad.

Also, I'm a virgin. I didn't want to leave the people who read this just for my sexual history hanging. There's none. Have fun with that one in the comments section!

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25 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Sing it, brutha! Give me a thousand Frankensteins, Nextwaves, or Godlands, or Villains United over one Black and White Navel Gazer Vol. 1, featuring the "Making Breakfast" arc.

3/21/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

It's worth noting that indie doesn't necessarily mean "serious". Scott Pilgrim comes to mind pretty readily, but there's a million similar counterexamples to be bad. Non-DC/Marvel/Dark Horse/Image books can be hella fun too.

Not saying you're unaware of that, but the clarification does kinda have to be made.

3/21/2006 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Is Gødland (so sue me, I'm a purist) a mainstream or an indie book? It gets ignored in favor of massive crossovers and will probably be cancelled within a year, for me that makes it an indie book. Then again, by that definition Dan Slott's comics are indie books too. Also--as far as fun unambiguously indie books, don't forget Action Philosophers. Or I'll kill you.

3/21/2006 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

And don't worry about being a virgin. I'm sure reading all those Grant Morrison comics will allow you to trip out on his secondhand memetic acid-fumes and have sex with a sentient DC Universe just like he does.

3/21/2006 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to be a jerk, but if I were you, I'd post less often with shorter posts combining these points. Learn to self-censor and cut down a little bit. It's a group blog after all, not your livejournal.

3/21/2006 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

I think you're a great guy, Brad, and I enjoy reading what you write. But, I think this is one of the stupidest things you've ever said.

Every time I hear somebody say they'd rather have dumb fun, than a thinker comic, I'm reminded of the kids in school who were proud that they'd never read a book. I get visions of the people who don't know what Donald Rumsfeld's job is. I'm suddenly surrounded by a million skankily-dressed teenage Maury Povich guests screaming "You wish you looked this good!"

I'm not trying to say that you're wrong for liking the entertainment stuff more. Hell, I think America's Funniest Home Videos is one of the most hilarious TV shows of all time. But would I say that it's better than Futurama? Of course not.

I don't know what the summary point of this response is, exactly. I just know how tired I am of people trying to tell me that Top Gun is a good movie, just because they like it.

3/21/2006 06:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Lyle said...

Truthfully, I used to identify myself as an indie fan, but I've realized I'm more of a "new mainstream" guy. I like entertainment, but I want more than just superheroes.

When comics fandom gets divided into tribes, the new mainstream crowd tends to get forgotten, probably because we read stuff that's read by the other three tribes -- "mainstream" (superheroes), "indie" and "manga" and aren't so easily separated from the crowd.

Not to be a jerk, but if I were you, I'd post less often with shorter posts combining these points. Learn to self-censor and cut down a little bit. It's a group blog after all, not your livejournal.

Just to provide a counter-opinion, I tend to prefer shorter posts that stick to a single point. IMO those are much easier to follow (and are easier to link to).

3/21/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger --Greg Hatcher said...

You know, I think it's only in comics that fans are so... I dunno... tribal? Clannish? I don't know of any other medium that gets quite so defensive about whether its various sub-genres are valid or not. Nobody thinks it's weird to rent a James Bond movie along with an Oscar winner, or to buy a mystery, an SF anthology and a collection of plays at Barnes & Noble. But in comics it's like crossing party lines or something.

Wait, I stand corrected. There IS another medium or artform or whatever where people get this wound up over what kind of thing it's okay or not okay to like, and that is rock music. If you think indie comics people get their noses bent out of shape over the 'mainstream,' you should have heard the punk rock/new wave people carrying on about 'corporate, poser bands' back in my high school days, in 1979. Now, I loves me some late 70's punk rock but my GAWD, those people were insufferable.

I don't know if there's a corelation or not, but it sure sounds like the same kind of thing when I hear indie snobs going on and on about how Marvel is the Great Satan and only Los Bros. Hernandez (or Chris Ware or Dan Clowes, or whoever -- I'm out of touch)have it going on.

3/21/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deeper into the tribalism in comics mentioned above, in no other medium is there a "good for you" canon of material that is disdained by the people who love the "purely entertaining" stuff.

Even people who like Stephen King think Ulysses is "great literature." But in comics, people segregate themselves incredibly. I mean, isn't it obvious that what you get out of Nextwave is equivalent to what others get out of Jimmy Corrigan?

3/22/2006 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deeper into the tribalism in comics mentioned above, in no other medium is there a "good for you" canon of material that is disdained by the people who love the "purely entertaining" stuff.

Even people who like Stephen King think Ulysses is "great literature." But in comics, people segregate themselves incredibly. I mean, isn't it obvious that what you get out of Nextwave is equivalent to what others get out of Jimmy Corrigan?

3/22/2006 12:11:00 AM  
Anonymous carla said...

So, indie comics bolsters, find a better way to sell me on your favorite comics than making me think of eating my vegetables.

Right on. A lot of 'indy' books, sometimes not of their own volition, seem to think that ecause their books *ISN'T* the mainstream, that's all the reason that anyone needs to read it. To quote a mainstream guy, "More matter with less art."

3/22/2006 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Trebbers said...

Hrm. I really hate to say this, but the philistinism is strong in this one.

I don't think that you should care about non-mainstream/lit comics (like what you like, man), I'm just not sure why you and others don't. I mean, with music, books, and film, don't people's tastes generally broaden as they go deeper into them? I know mine have.

And while the attitude you cite of a certain kind of indie-comic fan is unfortunate, I can sorta understand it. I wouldn't want to live in a world where 90% of the movies made were westerns, and everything else was marginalized. For comics, its even worse, in that the medium is already marginalized (owing a bit to a slavish devotion to a certain colorful genre, perhaps?), and things non-spandex, to say nothing of comics with more literary aims, get to ride in the back of the short bus.

I like superhero comics and read a lot of them, but it's annoying, and evidence of the worst kind of conservatism, that they dominate to the extent they do.

3/22/2006 12:59:00 AM  
Blogger Trebbers said...

And since you mentioned Ganges, I'll point out that Kevin Huizenga has lots of stuff to read on his site (http://usscatastrophe.com/kh/issues.html). I personally think his stuff is great, but enough material is up there for anyone to decide for themselves.

3/22/2006 01:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

Is "mainstream comics" synonymous with "super-hero, sci-fi, & fantasy" or "best-sellers, regardless of genre," or "corporate-owned/ published?"

Comics may or may not have become marginalized because of super-hero book dominance, but super-hero books sell best. To me, super-hero comic dominance becomes a chicken vs. egg arguement; do indy comics sell less because super-heroes crowded them out, or did the audience never show up for indy books in the first place, making super-hero comics the only reliably profitable comics?

Personally, I have get different expectations for, and get different reactions from, various genres. The best graphic novel I read last year was Gilbert Hernandez' "Palomar," an indy book. Most of what I purchased, however, was published by the Big 2 (or 4, or whatever). Ultimately, my favorite comics are mostly middle-of-the-road, neither totally mainstream nor totally indy (e.g. Concrete, Stray Bullets, Kabuki, The Maxx). I guess I go for the comic book equivalents of the White Stripes, with a few P.J. Harveys and a whole lot of Led Zeppelins.

3/22/2006 08:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Lyle said...

Comics may or may not have become marginalized because of super-hero book dominance, but super-hero books sell best. To me, super-hero comic dominance becomes a chicken vs. egg arguement; do indy comics sell less because super-heroes crowded them out, or did the audience never show up for indy books in the first place, making super-hero comics the only reliably profitable comics?

I'd say that part of this cycle are corporate interests, as many non-superhero comics from Marvel and DC have been made part of their shared universes (and therefore part of their brand identity). So the dominance of superhero comics is increased by turning non-superhero franchises into hybrid suphero genres. (Possibly alenating those genre fans from the format, as well.)

Would fantasy, romance or horror be more viable comic genres if Amethyst, Pasty Walker or Cain & Able hadn't been incorporated into the DC/Marvel universes?

3/22/2006 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

I agree about the Chris Ware stuff. It seems to exist simply to say "Look how smart I am!! And how smart you are for liking me!"

Most modern jazz is pretty much the same, a bunch of people on a stage playing music to show off for each other, and a bunch of people in the audience feeling superior to the hoi polloi for being in attendance. And this is coming from someone who actually enjoys some jazz.

3/22/2006 01:24:00 PM  
Blogger Trebbers said...

Maybe they just like it? Seems a simpler explanation than ascribing complex/ulterior psychological motivations to explain why people have different tastes than your own.

3/22/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Bryan Long said...

"To me, super-hero comic dominance becomes a chicken vs. egg arguement; do indy comics sell less because super-heroes crowded them out, or did the audience never show up for indy books in the first place, making super-hero comics the only reliably profitable comics?"

This isn't the main point of the post, I know, but it's one of those things that has always bugged me. I think superhero dominance of comics is frequently looked at backwards.

I don't read about superheroes because I want to read comics and that's the only subject matter available. "Comics" is not an end, it's a means.

I read comics because I want to read about superheroes, and for many years, that was the only medium in which superhero stories could effectively be conveyed (animation has become another viable medium for superhero stories, and to some extent, movies). Superheroes are best conveyed through the union of words and pictures that is comics, not novels or other printed media.

Sure, comics can certainly be used to tell other stories, and have been. I've even read and enjoyed quite a few of them. But I like to read superhero stories. As a kid, I passed over the Sgt. Rocks and the Houses of Secrets and I bought superheroes. And that's why, by and large, I don't buy indie comics.

It's really not any more complicated than that. I don't dislike indie comics particularly, they're just not covering the subject matter I want to read.

3/22/2006 02:24:00 PM  
Blogger faboofour said...

Is there something wrong with liking both Chris Ware and Mort Weisinger? George Herriman and Shelly Mayer? Akira Kurosawa and Tommy Carr?

Can I just like both so-called "high" and "low" art, admit that I like them for maybe completely different reasons, but allow that one isn't "better" than the other, but just "different?"

Or do I really gotta choose?

3/22/2006 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Kitty said...

The way I distinguish it, there are comics that I appreciate, but I don't necessarily enjoy them. Like any kind of art form, really. I don't tend to listen to jazz music or watch screwball comedies because I don't personally enjoy them, but I still appreciate the effort and artistry that went into them.

3/22/2006 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

"Maybe they just like it? Seems a simpler explanation than ascribing complex/ulterior psychological motivations to explain why people have different tastes than your own."

Seriously. I found Jimmy Corrigan because I was in the comic shop one day, and there wasn't a single thing up on the racks that I was interested in. So, I started surfing the trades a GN's and came across this one with really cool, intricate art, that was epic in scope. I picked it up and started flipping through it. I bought it because of how much I liked the art, and then took it home and enjoyed the story. My enjoyment of Chris Ware is purely based in said enjoyment. There's no ulterior motive, or social disguise involved. I think it's really great.

Part of the reason I've moved away from Marvel and DC comics over time is that I get bored with things once I figure them out, and then want to move on. I think it comes from trying to beat games at the arcade all day as a kid. Anyway, if I feel like I'm doing or seeing or getting the same thing over and over again, I'm gonna lose interest.

And at some point around 2001 (4 years after I started reading comics), I started to get bored with the X-Men. I no longer had any interest in seeing The Avengers get in the same fight every month. Morrison's X-Men run and X-Force/X-Statix hopped it up again, but after those two fell by the wayside, it was clearly time for a change.

So, I started branching out more. I got this book on Free Comic Book Day called Stray Bullets. I dug it, and bought a whole lot more issues. And then my girlfriend showed me this comic that her sister had, called Optic Nerve. It was amazing. I was finally seeing comics the way I knew they could be. And it was this really glorious moment, because I felt like there were these comics being made which were telling thet stories that Hollywood was too afraid to try, and Marvel and DC fanboys had no interest in. The stories that I wanted to read, but weren't being made by the big boys.

Five years later, I couldn't tell you what happened in most of the Kurt Busiek Avengers issues I bought, but I can give you a full rundown of David Boring and all the themes and ideas I found in it.

Because ultimately, while Nextwave may make me smile when I read it, (and honestly, that's all it did. I liked it, but it didn't even produce an audible laugh) Optic Nerve means something to me. And for me, entertainment will always come second to meaning.

Meaning has a longer life and more revisitability (I think I just made that word up) than entertainment. Over time, the same thing will not always entertain you as much as it did before. But when something has meaning for you, that stays with you and will submerge and re-surface in your consciousness again and again, over time.

When I'm really thinking about what matters in life, "heartfelt sentiment" always beats "witty observation" or "funny one-liner".

3/23/2006 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger aaron dumin said...

Why is it elitist to want to read about things other than superheroes in the comics form? I'm not sure I understand your premise, here.

3/23/2006 07:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Lyle said...

Maybe they just like it? Seems a simpler explanation than ascribing complex/ulterior psychological motivations to explain why people have different tastes than your own.

Exactly. I should point out, that there are people who very much enjoy the taste of broccoli (who probably also get a feeling of self-satisfaction that something that tastes good to them is also nutrious... me, I'm learning to loooove brussel sprouts when properly cooked) and I've known some people who enjoy Acme Novelty Library or jazz beacause there's something there that tickles their fancy.

3/23/2006 11:30:00 PM  
Anonymous FunkyGreenJerusalem said...

So are we talking Superhero versus other books, or just indie in general?

Cause quite frankly Marvel and DC don't always put out the best entertainment books.

Take Age Of Bronze.
It's B&W, from image, and doesn't have the most exciting covers, and is based on the trojan war.
But it fucking rocks.
Big epic story, lots of battles, back stabbing, politics and messed up characters.
Who cares that history teachers and some historians dig it, the books a great read.

Or StrangeHaven.
Comes out irregular as all hell, and he really needs to get back to photo reference instead of photshop, but the book has the best characters and locations ever.
It's sort of like Twin Peaks or any show set in a small town, but the characters are so damn good/funny/messed up that I get pissed when the story (which involves aliens/cults/murdersex) come into it. It's so good I prefer it when nothing happens.

Or take Bone.
You'd prefer to read Crisis over Bone?

Queen and Country?
You going to tell me Rucks on Batman or WonerWoman beats Rucks on Q&C?
(and you can't use the whole 'next story is in book' against me. It's a shit idea and I hate it, but the comic still rocks).

Honestly man, how can you post on a blog called 'Comis Should Be Good' and rule out some of these books - or do you have to go to 'Comics Are GREAT' to find some love for them?

3/24/2006 02:29:00 AM  
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