Monday, October 22, 2012


NOTE: It seems the only criticism I write these days is in email to a friend. So here is an excerpt in which I wonder if there is any negative impact to sites like embracing superheroes and genre comics now in a way they never would have in their heyday twenty years ago.

I think Kirby and Ditko can rightfully and deservedly be celebrated. Their weaknesses, be it Kirby's ham-fisted anatomy or Ditko's descent into fascist lunacy are so well-documented in TCJ's past, that they are only brought up anecdotally, and almost fondly, at this juncture. Film critics cover all sorts of movies from the most idiotic comedies to FX-laden blockbusters to quiet  indie films. Why shouldn't comics critics be able to do the same? The critics you're referring to who only read and heap praise on superhero or genre-heavy books, I would assume are not critics you wish to read or respect anyway. But there seem to be others out there who can write knowledgeably about Kevin Huizenga or Chris Ware, and also about Grant Morrison and Brian Azzarello or whomever. 

Thinking about this after you called it the "re-infantilization of comics," I thought perhaps it's actually a further maturation. In other words, when there really were little more than superhero comics everywhere and nothing remotely resembling an independent or literary strain of graphic fiction (in the US anyway), TCJ essentially existed to rail against these superhero comics and their oft-delusional creators. That went on for decades until at some point Groth/Thompson basically announced that the war had been won, and in effect they ceased to be relevant in the critical realm (still remaining relevant as publishers). So the new generation no longer sees that need (nor obviously feels brow-beaten into silence as the TCJ fans once did) to endlessly rail against superheroes. The need for hyper-defensiveness as related to perceptions the mainstream has about the comics medium may have come to an end. Obviously the 'critics" who only and ever write about and slavishly praise superhero books are easily ignored. Those same types of pseudo-crits work in film, music, literature as well.
I get the impression that you're annoyed and/or disillusioned with whoever has bastardized TCJ (and you may be right, I don't know. I was feeling that way going way back to Eric Evans editorship, though A.E. Moore's "highminded feminist" tenure was far far worse). 

On one hand I understand where you're coming from and maybe if I had been engaged in criticism all along and witnessed some sea-change and/or hated some of these critics, I would feel the same way. But my instincts nag me as to why we can watch all these genre films and enjoy them for what they are (or criticize them for the same), and yet we can't do so for genre comics? There are a lot of non-superhero GN's in the bookstores these days, so this misguided perception that that is all the medium can do is gone as regards most book publishers. Of course the irony is that most of these GN's I see look terrible and incomprehensibly dull. Making the superhero and manga books right beside them look infinitely more exciting and better executed.

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