Monday, March 24, 2008

Booklist: Spotlight on Graphic Novels (and then things get really ugly)

New issue of Booklist (aimed at librarians and the people who love them) is all about comics with a nice cover taken from Houdini: The Handcuff King by James Sturm and Nick Bertozzi. It also features a brief but interesting interview with Sturm about the Center for Cartoon Studies and why Japanese baseball manga is vastly superior to American comics portrayals of sports. Note the CCS'website trumpets Booklist's review of Houdini atop the front page, so one hand washes the other (not that there's anything wrong with that).

From the Booklist website: Now that the mainstream publishing and library worlds are comfortable with the idea of graphic novels, many of the leading creators of the genre are reminding us of their roots: comics are where their hearts are, and they’re happy to say so, without the help of any highfalutin terms. That theme is everywhere in our latest Spotlight on Graphic Novels (OK, we’re still using the G-word for the moment):

As for The Center of Cartoon Studies: I was at SPX when they handed out their nascent pamphlets for the school prior to it materializing and there was both interest and considerable pessimism as to whether this "highminded" scholarly venture would actually get off the ground (anyone remember Kevin Eastman's well-funded cartoon museum?) But it did indeed and yet I'd never checked out the website until a few minutes ago ( 7:20 pm, March 24, 2008).
It seems to include everyone who has ever so much as breathed on a comic in the past twenty years as either "Faculty", "Visiting Faculty", or "Thesis Advisors."

But undoubtedly the most disturbing inclusion on the website is the mention of this fellow as a member of "Visiting Faculty":

[name deleted out of disgust] is a North American [semantic abuse of hallowed term] and cartoonist whose work has appeared in various [printed aggregations of likeminded individuals] and his own self-published comics. In 20xx, he produced his first [pretentious descriptive terminology] experimental narrative [deleted due to obsequiousness, ditto, and founded the ditto], in [southern university town]. His comic strip, [deleted due to taste issues] appeared in [southern university town] alternative arts newsweekly, [name similar to Harvey Danger novelty hit], from [20xx-20xx]. His work has also appeared in the [printed aggregations of likeminded individuals] [deleted], [deleted] and the upcoming [deleted]. He is the recipient of the [20xx-20xx] Fellowship [of the Ring]and is currently at work on his first [oft-derided term for long non-pamphlet comic].

Hey, way to pump up a resume'. A couple of minicomics, an appearance in a friend's anthology, a lot of gladhanding, more than a few free beers shoved in the right palms, some thoroughly nutty drunken screeds on the internet and... now he's qualified to teach some chil'ren.
Oh, and [fine Canadian publisher] is on board with this [unsavory epithet deleted.
It's only a matter of time before [name deleted for unnecessary dig] is named Senior Editor at Pantheon (that's as inside of a joke as imaginable so I don't expect anyone to get it).

Addendum: See what having some "editors" critique one's initial draft can do? I think the new, improved, edited post is much funnier than the original, not particularly funny, post. Don't you? If only they would pore over writing that didn't include casual mentions of their [deleted]'s in it. Ah well.

There: All better now kiddies (smiley faces all!)


Anonymous said...

You seem to be more offended by Baks internet personality than his art which I would call bad journalism. I find his art beautiful with or without beer goggles. And Austins has great taste and would make a good editor

-Ben Catmull

Aaron Renier said...

I would love to see a book by Todd published by pantheon with Austin as the editor. I love both of their work, and their abilities, and they would both soar!

Dylan Williams said...

Thanks for the plug.

robert why said...

Just an opinion tossed off in the void.I even shared my own table at a convention with one of the guys mentioned for a whole weekend despite the fact that all his best pals were at the con and apparently weren’t in the sharing mood (yeah, I’m a real monster).

By the way, I didn't say this was "journalism", just a blog and an opinion. And having met the guy, I find his "internet persona" preferable to the flesh and blood one. But this oft-used suggestion that one's "internet persona" is entirely unconnected to the "real" person is a bit of a cop out. For instance you seem to be taking something I've said on the internet fairly seriously.

Ben Catmull said...

You are right. There is no reason to take this blog seriously. But for the record Bak has two grimey testicles

robert why said...

Ouch, Ben. Yeah why apply the same standards to friends that you apply to strangers? Life's so much easier that way.

Ben Catmull said...

You mean it's easier for you to believe that it must be because Bak's my friend that I could disagree with you about his art rather than the truth - that I sought out his friendship because I'm a fan.

robert why said...

Nope, I wouldn't know that and would certainly take your word for it. And actually I didn't trash his work here,and I complimented it way back when he left a mini on my table and was still heavily in an Adrian Tomine phase. I just joked about the fact that relatively nascent (and more importantly, ethically-challenged) artists were already teaching classes at a respected school (but yeah, Hogarth is dead so somebody has to step up), and also that based on his schizo 'tude with me that I found him a jerk ...but then bukowski was probably a jerk after too many brews too?

And considering the guy in question himself made some totally indefensible comments publicly about at least one pretty good artist (and no this wasn't payback) I think it kinda proves how cliquish the medium is that people apply vastly different standards to friends and those they admire than to those outside their immediate circles. Probably just basic human nature and I've defended a few indefensible acquaintances as well. But blogs are relatively immediate and I wrote what I thought. And with good basis.

dylan williams said...

Ben Catmull said...

Well the man is a competent artist and his comics are a better read than Hogarth's dorkily stylized figure drawing manual that inspired generations of lumpy unitard superheroes and championed by hack teachers everywhere. Any ways, I like Bak as an artist and a person so it's a reasonable standard to defend him. What standard should I use, trying as hard to defend him as as much as I do for every person in the world being unfairly criticized? You made juvenile remarks about him and I responded fairly. Blaming challenges to our opinion on cliques or some Team Indy Comics cabal is some really tired old tcj messboard b.s.

robert why said...

I made "juvenile" remarks about a...
you're right why should I sink to his level.

And um, you're saying all the people commenting here are NOT joined at the hip? Bizarre coincidence, I suppose.

Ben Catmull said...

We have called a meeting and the Hive has voted to forgive you

robert why said...

I was gonna let this end on that pleasantly innocuous note. I'm not sure what point was made, but perhaps your grandstanding solidified your friendship (having a common enemy you can bitch about over beers tends to do that).

But the bee analogy is funny because I was thinking the exact same thing the day before. It's like I poked a stick at a little hive and all the bees flew out, stingers at the ready, no one quite willing to sacrifice himself. And once the big bad interloper was repelled, back to the hive to pridefully buzz about their conquest in comfortably insular surroundings. I've dealt with hornets and far too many snakes, so I don't really mind the bees.

Ben Catmull said...

Yeah the hive joke was poking fun at your perception of being persecuted by a clique

The point was this. Bak is a talented artist. students can learn from him. You post a pissy remark about his lack of qualification on the internet. I know comics. I know how to draw and tell stories. I am more qualified than you to say wether or not Bak has something to offer. The students learning experience has nothing to do with how Bak was a dick to you at a convention. Your complaint is not validated by the fact that Bak has a friend and admirer who's boreed enough to argue with you about it on the internet.

That is the point

robert why said...

((Yeah the hive joke was poking fun at your perception of being persecuted by a clique))

Not "persecuted" but as I said everyone who's commented here are friends with one another.

"I know comics. I know how to draw and tell stories. I am more qualified than you to say wether or not Bak has something to offer."

Wow! You have a high opinion of yourself. This is the old "no one can criticize artists except other artists unless of course they say something good and/or help generate some publicity" argument that leads to the sort of circle jerk you see here. And I didn't say the guy has nothing to offer.

Gee, I wonder if you'll judge me or my work based on this little disagreement, or what some drunken friend tells you second hand? I bet you will. *buzz buzz*