For those interested in that kind of thing, there is a massive to do in the comics comics blog thread with Tim Hodler, Caro, me, and others arguing with various levels of snarkiness.
Tags: Comics Comics, Noah
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Re. HU vs. CC’s approach to criticism:
I don’t read CC (I don’t like the old comics that they like much), but if I understand the issue we need both approaches. If we want to do serious comics crit we need to know both crit and comics history and “language.” That’s kinda obvious, I guess…
Re. a very good point by Caro: “I’ve heard and read this argument many times — that comics generate medium-specific, unique “new insights and ambiguities” that are comparable to those of fine art and literature. I’ve heard it over and over from the writers here and from other enthusiasts about the artistic possibilities of comics. But when critics like Suat put these comics in specific, detailed, analytical conversation with the high bar set by fine art and literature, they generally fail to measure up.”
There are historical reasons which explain why comics didn’t generate great art (if we exclude what I call “the expanded field:” Picasso’s “Dream and Lie of Franco,” for instance): it doesn’t pay in schekels, fame and social status as much as other art forms. Hence: it attracted less talent.
Charles Schulz and Hergé are interesting case studies here: Schulz never saw himself as a great artist, so, to be recognized as such wasn’t his goal in life. Hergé resented being a “comics artist” at certain point in his life. He collected modern art and tried to be a painter until an art critic friend of his dissuaded him from doing an art gallery show.
My point? I’m not sure if I have one besides, even great talents like those two were limited by what they had to do in comics (Schulz’s is an amazing case of “dealing with limitations”). As Art Spiegelman put it (_Panels_ # 1): “Though some comics are strong enough to survive that struggle between “the needs of the creator and those of the marketplace,” they are too often maimed by it as well. Comics accomodate their audience but are seldom allowed to insist that the audience pay attention and do the accomodating.” All that has changed now, but we’re not in a better situation because there’s no money (the kind of money found in greener pastures) in this time consuming, extremely slow and lonely effort. My utmost respect goes to those who persist nonetheless.
As for comics’ “medium-specific, unique [...] insights and ambiguities:” that’s a remnant of Modernism’s essentialist views on art. I’m not saying that a critic must ignore the medium’s specificities (au contraire), but this can’t be an excuse to lower the standards and refuse comparisons with the usual battered excuse of the apples and oranges (they’re both fruits, right?).
As for the accusation that HUans don’t like comics: who likes them? People like some comics and dislike others.
I agree that historical criticism is worthwhile in general, and what CC does in particular (though I don’t read a ton over there either, I have read things by many of their critics which I’ve learned things from and enjoyed.)
I think all art forms and all artists have to deal with material conditions and audience in one way or another — whether it’s mass market, commissions, lack of audience, too much audience, or whatever. I think all those strictures can shut down possibilities…and also actually open them up. I know you feel comics is uniquely (or at least especially) hobbled — but I don’t really buy that. Schulz is one of my favorite artists in any medium.
Lots of people like comics qua comics. it’s not where I’m coming from either, but it’s definitely a position that’s out there.
Yeah, I totally agree with Caro’s point re: the insularity of comics criticism and the need for the medium to be regarded as part of a greater cultural flux and given no breaks.
And I agree with Noah that comics aren’t particularly hobbled in terms of artistic success. Yes, they may not consistently have reached the artistic heights attained by certain other forms, but they are plenty interesting on their own and, to return to Caro’s characterization, do benefit from being examined on their own terms to an extent — not that they shouldn’t be expected to deliver on the same level as literature or fine art, but I believe it’s important simultaneously to develop critical approaches attuned specifically to them.
Definitely not Caro’s finest moment.
It’s hard to develop those critical approaches in a vacuum though, I’d say, right? I mean, yes, you’ve got to know your comics history, but to develop useful theory you have to be engaged with both literary theory and art theory and film theory and so forth to some not inconsiderable extent.
I don’t know; the Comics Comics guys might well agree with all of that too, or some of it anyway….
Charles, it’s hard to be at your finest when you’re pissed off (as Caro acknowledges).
I think this (snark free) follow up is pretty fantastic though.
Hey everybody: I just replied to Jeet over at the thread if anybody is still even remotely interested; it’s tiring talking to them because the assumptions are so very very far apart, but Domingos is right, we absolutely need both approaches — and we need to talk to each other for both approaches to thrive.
I think one of the reasons why it is so bad for this feud to take the form it is is that it’s really quite difficult to know a great deal about both critical history and comics history. There’s a lot to know. Anybody who is serious about comics criticism needs to be talking and moving past distinctions that are primarily socio-cultural and actually butting heads over issues that are ideological, theoretical, aesthetic, and otherwise the stuff of criticism. This sociocultural cliquishness prevents fruitful collaborations.
It’s painful because the comics subculture — the one where liking “comics” rather than specific comics is your admission ticket — is a very strong social tie.
Charles knows a great deal about both, I’m pretty sure.
That’s my effort to cue you, Charles, as well as I’m able….
Matthias and Domingos, is the insularity as bad in Europe as it is here?
That’s hard for me to answer because Europe is a hodgepodge of countries with different languages and traditions. As far as my corner of the woods is concerned, the answer is: yes, absolutely. This happens because the subculture has a common enemy that keeps it together: high culture. They have a Manichean view in which the enemy is: classist, elitist, pretentious, boring (reverse the stereotypes to know what they are). their main weapon? Anti-intellectualism.
Noah and Matthias:
Which art form do you know in which its practitioners had to do childish adventure stories or farce for, at least, half of its modern history?
Childish adventure stories, farce, or their equivalent, obviously.
I don’t know any, Domingos! My point wasn’t that comics history isn’t unique — wait a minute. Too many negatives. Let’s start again.
Comics history is unique. But so is the history of every medium in one way or another. I agree with you that those particular histories can sometimes be crippling and sometimes enabling…but it really depends on what individual artists do and how.
I think you see comics history as uniquely disabling because you don’t see childish adventure stories or farce as worthwhile or as forums for potentially great art. I don’t find that position remotely irritating — in part because I enjoy it’s uncompromising harshness (it’s similar to what I like about metal) and in part because it’s such a refreshing change from the nostalgic enthusiasm which runs through a lot of comics appreciation.
But, despite that, I don’t share your particular prejudices. I think there have been numerous great works of art in children’s literature (Alice in Wonderland and C.S. Lewis’ books are the things I think of at once — Goblin Market too certainly…Ogden Nash…and of course Peanuts) not to mention in other pulp genres.
It’s more or less what I said before; I don’t think children’s or farce is disabling in itself, which means you have to look on a case by case basis. I know you think this too to some extent, since you appreciate Barks, but obviously you just in general don’t have a lot of appreciation for children’s literature or for farce…or for other genre work (like Elvis.)
Which is fine…good even!…because folks who privilege those traditions (like me at least sometime) need to be reminded of the virtues of other traditions and criteria too. I think snobbishness is a problem in criticism, and that it plugs into class and gender animosities often in ways I really don’t like — but at the same time, anti-intellectualism can, as you say, really be a curse, and can obviously link up with lots of unpleasant notions as well.
As for my own prejudices — I think contemporary poetry has been far more crippled by its relationship to the academy than comics has been by its relationship to children’s literature. I make that case here, if you’re interested.
I can’t comment on something I know nothing about, but if limericks are the answer poetry deserves to die, now…
As I said in another comment: these are blunt generalizations. There will always be exceptions. But we aren’t talking about abstract ideas here. There is an history of comics in the first half of the 20th century and I don’t see it as especially brilliant. Following what Caro said at CC compare it with what was happening in almost other art forms (puppetry excluded and poetry included).
I can only speculate, of course, but maybe this wasn’t an especially appealing art form to attract talent? Heck, it wasn’t even considered as such.
Limericks are always the answer!
“A shrimp of his lady shrimp
Could catch not a glimpse,
Not even a glimp.
Can be a nuisance.”
John Ashberry has spent his whole career trying and failing to come up with something half that clever.
Noah, that essay I linked to over at CC talks about John Ashbury in the FIRST PARAGRAPH, but it goes on to say just what you say about nostalgia. You should check it out.
Domingos: I used “Europe” ’cause I don’t actually know where Matthias is…but I was also kinda hoping one of you would know something about the UK…it seems like their journalism got dumbed down later than ours. (Case in point, as late as 1991 the Observer was still reviewing serious cultural theory: http://reynoldsretro.blogspot.com/2008/06/fredric-jameson-postmodernism-or.html)
I was trying to think about why comics haven’t really benefitted from the postmodern hi/lo mixing, and I’m leaning toward blaming the fact that they were untouched by the original Paraliterary Revolution in the ’60s so they didn’t get their turn until mass culture was more entrenched. SF had Delany as a spokesman and the move back then was to raise up SF to the “high” level by doing the kinds of things we’re talking about, putting the two together and comparing, giving SF the full on cultural critical treatment, etc.
Now the move is “low (mass) culture is good enough, on its own terms.”
I wonder how much mass journalism — snazzy writing, sexy layout, thin ideas — has to do with the dismissal of high culture, which doesn’t sell as many papers. Does CNN teach us to think mass culture is good enough, or is CNN like that because that’s what we think?
Who died first, Andy Warhol or Howard Beale?
Once you start saying that “mass culture deserves serious critical attention as art” you’re dancing on a razor blade as far as the health of intellectualism is concerned. Sam Delany may be the only person to ever dance without cutting his feet to shreds…
Caro, I’m not seeing which link you’re talking about, probably because I’m dense. Could you link it here?
Matthias is in Denmark, I believe.
It’s called Postmodernism and Consumer Society.
We both managed to misspell John Ashbery’s name.
Ashbery would love that though. Instability of identity
in the chrysanthemums the feckless domestics wander
maturing pocket handkerchiefs
through somnolent New Yorker covers.
John Ashbery pastiche…I should do a weekly feature.
Limericks are hard though. What rhymes with “manga” anyway?
Kanga? I can’t use that….
Would you be so kind as to engage with that limerick on a conceptual level? Just saying that it is clever is basically a rejection of a conceptual approach, not an effort to wrestle with one. Basically you’re left with formal issues and an enthusiasm for cleverness which boils down to you saying you and other people like it a lot so it’s more worthwhile than other things which you and other people like less.
The hi/lo mix you talk about happened before post-modernism (if we consider that post-modernism first appeared in architecture). George Herriman and Cliff Sterrett are good examples. Modernism had a branch in caricature and humor (with the incoherent) that can’t be ignored, but frequently is. What I’m saying is that the hi/lo divide was broken before post-modernism (Lyonel Feininger and Winsor McCay also come to mind). But you have a point: what happened was that before the dumbing down all comics were considered trash, now the lowest common denominator is the standard, so, Frank Miller is as good (if not better) as Chester Brown.
As for the UK, I can only say that the people I know on the Internet (I met Paul Gravett only once) are incredibly kind. I know nothing about their insularity or lack thereof. But consider someone like Denis Gifford and you can see it.
Hey Domingos. I guess I can try to engage on a conceptual level…though I actually think it’s okay sometimes to respond to formal facility and personal predilection without their being a whole ton of conceptual issues about (I kind of said that to Jesse in the other thread.)
I think this works really well in contrast to John Ashbery’s poetry, actually. Ashbery is trying to deconstruct language essentially by making it unreadable and abstract; phrases that don’t connect, bits and pieces of allustion which lead nowhere, ideas strung together with the logical sequences cut out. He’s kind of following Stevens, but with Stevens’ playful engagement with nonsense as a container for both romantic zest and epistemological unknowability (borrowed actually from children’s verse, I’m pretty sure) turned into a use of nonsense as windy retreat into the smug gassing of the ivory tower.
Nash on the other hand feels much closer to Stevens (though again I think it’s an issue of similar sources rather than actual influence.) Like Stevens or Ashbery, the poem plays with the indeterminacy of language, and links it into the indeterminacy of reality. You can’t catch a glimp because there is no glimp; it doesn’t exist. The shrimp slides into the poem and back out wihout ever entering it; it’s a poem where the joke is that the poem can’t catch the joke. The formal structure is a way to emphasize the languageness and coherence of the language (a resource of rhyme and rhythm that Stevens understood and Ashbery absolutely doesn’t); the “glimp” is created out of the needs of the structure, letting the shrimp escape because you’re building a net to catch them. The nuisance that is translucence is also the nuisance of language; which is a window through which you don’t see anything in particular.
There’s some gender stuff in there too which I’d probably work through if I had world enough and time…but I think that makes somewhat clear at least how this poem is to me connected to modernism and post-modernism in a way that is conceptually playful and clever (rather than just subjectively entertaining.) Nonsense verse from Lewis Carroll especially is actually really important to modernism in the English speaking world at least; as you say, there isn’t a Manichean divide, but rather different approaches to many similar issues. I think Nash’s juggling of those issues is defter and more insightful than those of many of his high art peers (including Ashbery and Pound and, say, Marianne Moore.)
I think Frank Miller is better than Art Spiegelman too. But I’ve got to go do other things now or I’ll be here all day!
OK, then, thanks.
You’re overinterpretating in my opinion. Which is a major problem in today’s art criticism: the critic’s text is more interesting than the work itself. (It’s even a technique to enhance a mediocre artist’s commercial possibilities: the art dealer hires a well known pundit to write for the exhibition catalogue and he just hyperbolizes without much connection to the work.)
The only thing that I “see” in that limerick is a shrimp that can’t see his beloved because she’s translucid. On the other hand, I must admit that art (poetry in this instance) is polysemic, so, you’re entitled to your extrapolations.
I didn’t say “Art Spiegelman,” I wrote “Chester Brown.” But since I believe that Frank Miller is the worst comics artist that ever existed, suit yourself.
Caro: sorry for being redundant in my comment above.
I mean, obviously Nash wouldn’t put what he’s doing like that. But he’s interested in pushing at the limits of language (“glimp!”) and he’s interested in twists and sudden revelations of meaning. The poem is even about what you can and can’t see — you play with that yourself (almost despite yourself) in your response.
Artist’s statements and the like can be pretty awful. They’re usually not very specific though, are they? If you think I’m overinterpreting, it seems like the best move isn’t a generalized anti-intellectualism (“you’re over-interpreting!”) but an engagement with specific details that you feel are wrong. For example, do you deny that nonsense verse is important to modernist poetry? Why is Ogden Nash’s witty undermining of sense less thoughtful or clever than John Ashbery’s erudite version? I mean, you don’t have to get into that stuff if you don’t want to, but at this point it’s you who’s basically just asserting a personal preference (which, as I said, is pretty much a fine thing to do from my point of view.)
I haven’t really read much Chester Brown, which is why I switched the terms. You should write about Frank Miller sometime though (or link to where you already have.) There are so many bad comics artists that it seems like it would be difficult to claim him as the absolute bottom — or is it an overrated thing?
Let me see if I follow you:
Overinterpreting is an intellectual operation;
I said that you’re overinterpreting;
I made an anti-intellectual remark.
I don’t know why exactly, but the above can’t be right.
Nonsense is important to modernism (as you say: to exploit language’s musicality – and this the limerick does in a playfull manner; and to push the limits of what can be said), but I see no nonsense at all in the above poem. I think that it is perfectly logic: we have a hard time perceiving translucid things. The overinterpretation (as I said, it’s more of an extrapolation) appears here: “the poem plays with the indeterminacy of language, and links it into the indeterminacy of reality.” I see no indeterminacy at all: there’s a shrimp, he has a hard time perceiving his beloved because she’s translucid. Does this mean that he can’t perceive his enemies (he would be dead by now) or his food (he would starve) or stones or sand? The “glimp” part is just a word play and an exaggeration, something like: “the shrimp can’t catch a cold” or “the shrimp can’t catch a limp.”
Oh, that’s right, Frank Miller: why is he the worst comics artist that ever existed? Frankly I don’t even want to waste my time with this. Let’s just say that it has something to do with ethics and aesthetics being on the same boat.
The Frank Miller bit makes sense; I think he’s pretty open to ethical objections. I think the politics of Dark Knight, for example, are actually somewhat interesting — but I can see being put off by the right wing sympathies, especially if you have little or no interest in pulp genres.
Saying folks are over-interpreting is a fairly common way to denigrate non-plain-reading criticism. If the interpretation isn’t clear or obvious, it’s an over interpretation, and should be mocked on a common sense basis.
You say you see no indeterminacy — but in your last sentence you actually start playing with meanings. What does “glimp” mean? A cold? A limp? It’s a meaningless placeholder which nonetheless suggests various possibilities — just like you catch a glimpse of the shrimp but then don’t.
Nash is also at the intersection of light verse and nonsense; bringing the ambiguity, musicality, and playfulness of nonsense into a form that is traditionally about wit and sophistication. Much of his verse is really deliberate self-parody…again like Ashbery, though the parody is to my mind funnier and the sophistication less resolutely snobbish.
I wouldn’t mock you Noah (again, insert smiley face).
It seems to me that we arrived at the crux of our differences: on principle I’m suspicious of humor ( http://tinyurl.com/35ssmcw ) because I see it as a simplification and a limitation and I don’t mind being called a snob (which is true, I’m not of noble ascent) and an elitist (yes, I prefer good art to bad art). Also, I admire those art saints who risk being pretentious to achieve great things and fail. When they don’t fail we call them great artists.
You, on the other hand, seem to favor lightness, humor, fun, pretentiousness. Whad’ya know? Your right place is in the comics milieu!…
Oops! That’s “unpretentiousness.”
Domingos: why does something have to be conceptually complex to be great? Surely, this is just one way of engaging art? Your dogma is elitist, which is fine — I agree that there’s been a dumbing down of criticism all over — but you aren’t doing your high culture stance any favors by being so dogmatic about it.
I agree that comics for a large part of the their 20th-century history have been associated with, and catered to, children’s culture, but I see nothing odious in this, agreeing as I do entirely with Noah’s argument. It is true however, that for almost the entirety of their modern history, they have been fairly constricted in terms both of subject matter and idiom, but they have achieved pretty great things within these constrictions and I believe it to be much more interesting to analyze these than to hit them over the head with high culture criteria developed to assess art forms that evolved in a completely different context.
And now we’re witnessing an exhilarating diversification of comics, a liberation from many of these historical constrictions. And this, Caro, is where I think comics have benefited hugely from the postmodern negation of high and low art — it’s been happening in the new wave of the last 10-15 years. Comics with ‘literary’ ambitions that benefit from a verbal, and especially visual vocabulary that evolved in a low-culture context. I believe this ineffable synthesis is one of the great things contemporary comics have to offer art.
Hey Domingos. I don’t actually value lightness and humor always and everywhere; it’s really a case by case thing as I’ve said before. I like Wallace Stevens better than Ogden Nash; he’s equally attentive to the musicality of language, and more creative. I also really like T.S. Eliot, despite the poisonous politics. Really, I’m fond of a lot of canonical great art, and definitely prefer Blake to Crumb (as one example).
I do think your staunch elitism is, or can be, in the contemporary context, a kind of anti-intellectualism. Intellectuals have strongly embraced pop culture in various contexts over the past fifty years at least. The common-sense “we must have standards” argument is pretty easily made congruent with a kind of common-sense “you can’t fool me, that’s not art, it’s crap” stance.
I wish I shared Matthias optimism about the possibilities of comics as a bridge. I’d prefer he were right and I were wrong, though, so I’m not inclined to argue about it with any vim.
We are all dogmatic when we defend something. How can we defend it and not defend it (hence, not being dogmatic) at the same time!…
“[F]or almost the entirety of their [comics] modern history, they have been fairly constricted in terms both of subject matter and idiom, but they have achieved pretty great things within these constrictions and I believe it to be much more interesting to analyze these than to hit them over the head with high culture criteria developed to assess art forms that evolved in a completely different context.”
This is the battered comics exceptionality Caro talked about. Drawings, words, sequence, exist in comics, but they also exist in visual arts, literature, film. I don’t see why saccharine or slapstick or Manicheism or kitsch or childishness, etc… are more acceptable in a comic than in another art form.
Also: I view comics historical heritage as a limitation, nothing more. As Chris Ware put it: “Artists like [...] myself, are all trying to tell potent stories with the tools of jokes. It’s as though we’re trying to write a powerful, deeply engaging, richly detailed epic with a series of limericks.”
Ooops! Those damn limericks again!…
Good find with the limericks!
But don’t you see that Ware’s whiny cry-from-the-cross is just another kind of comics exceptionalism? He’s claiming comics artists are uniquely hampered by history. But making a good limerick is as mysterious, as difficult, as easy, as profound, and as ridiculous as making a comic or an epic or any art.
I know what the Zeitgeist is, but again:
Today’s intellectuals are part of x zeitgeist;
I don’t share it;
I’m an anti-intellectual.
Hum!… Nope, that doesn’t sound right either.
I like a few things that can be considered mass art (or were considered as such because the cultural industry, like Saturn, eats its own children). I’m talking about one of them in my next Monthly Stumbling.
Of course, but maybe Ware felt that a series of limericks wasn’t the wisest choice to build an epic?
Domingos…well, rather than calling you anti-intellectual, perhaps it would be fairer to say that, in the current context, there’s nothing anti-intellectual about appreciating pulp or genre work (though, of course, one can be anti-intellectual and like pulp and genre work…or indeed be anti-intellectual and not like those things.)
Ware makes statements like this with some frequency. I just don’t think that comics artists face any more or more serious difficulties in creating good art than anybody else does. It just seems like an excuse for self-pity to me.
No, Domingos, I’m not advocating comics exceptionalism here, merely stating that it might be more useful to look at the medium with an attempt to understand what it does, rather than what it doesn’t do and really can’t ever do — for an analogue, it’s rather unproductive to approach a film critically as if it were a novel or a painting.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t demand that comics rise to the occasion, merely that they never will, if we keep misunderstanding how they work.
And no, arguing a point is not the same as dogmatism. Yours doesn’t seem able to get past Peanuts’ “cardboard characters” and gets from Tintin only manichean racism. I can’t help seeing that as poor analysis, fed by a set of dogmatic criteria for what constitutes great art.
Oh, and Caro, I’m actually in the UK, although I’m from Denmark. And I’m not particularly impressed by comics criticism and their critical reception here, but that ties in to the more general, rather impoverished UK comics culture.
What about this for dogmatism:
“Noah and Matthias:
Agreed. This discussion about characterization started because of a blunt generalization about series that I did (which, I keep telling to myself, is not a very good idea).”
It’s one thing to discuss generalities and another very different thing is to discuss particular exceptions like _Peanuts_. As for _Tintin_, well, I see no redeeming features there.
As for comics being analyzed like literature, etc… here’s what I wrote:
“As for comics’ “medium-specific, unique [...] insights and ambiguities:” that’s a remnant of Modernism’s essentialist views on art. I’m not saying that a critic must ignore the medium’s specificities (au contraire), but this can’t be an excuse to lower the standards and refuse comparisons with the usual battered excuse of the apples and oranges (they’re both fruits, right?).”
I also want to ask: what comics features redeem saccharine in _For Better Or For Worse_? Which comics features redeem childishness in Stan Lee’s stories?
Re. Chris Ware:
If he thinks that the comics tradidion is limiting. Why does he insist on continuing it? That said I think that he found a brilliant solution: inexpressiveness.
There are other possibilities, though. Vincent Fortemps, for instance, couldn’t care less about the comics tradition: http://www.fremok.org/site.php?type=P&id=42
“Probably because it is, comics is tied to the sort of like history of low culture the pressure of being kind of brilliant is much less than say, if you’re gonna like write a novel, or something.”
I don’t know why, but I love these internet fracas. I think all I really want out of comics criticsm is a duel to the death between Noah, and oh, anyone else in comics, about whether Chris Ware is any good.
Captcha ate my insightful commentary I had offered in response. Maybe later when it’s not 4:00am, but I hope to engage with some of these issues in my piece (and the difficult of the issues is making me slow – sorry Noah!)
As an aside, this piece in the Canadian magazine The Walrus touches on some issues of the discussion, particularly ones Caro raised: http://www.walrusmagazine.com/articles/2010.07-criticism-the-long-decline/
Well, we’re basically in agreement re: seeing comics as part of a greater context; where we differ is that you seem to insist on rigid criteria for how they should be judged that I find insufficient, indeed misleading. You present a strongly demarcated idea of what great art is, which in certain cases tends to elevate the good over the better (in casu Matt Mariott and Peanuts; or Ernie Pike over Corto Maltese).
What are the redeeming qualities of “For Better of For Worse”? I don’t know; it’s an ok strip but I agree that it’s hampered by its bourgeois smarminess.
Lee? Well, he has a lot of great qualities as a pop culture entertainer and was a hugely talented editor for a while, but if you want to talk about genuine artistic achievement, his main claims are called Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko — two highly original artists with unique and insightful visions. I know you don’t agree, but would argue that this, again, is because your critical dogma don’t allow you to read between the lines.
As for your characterization of Nilsen’s statement, I find it a gross misreading. He is patently *not* saying that comics shouldn’t try to be as great as work in other media — and his own work clearly demonstrates his ambitions to achieve such qualities — what he is saying, rather, is that comics, because of their history, are less intimidating and feel more open to an artist trying to achieve something. This is in part what I was talking about when I argued that comics have a lot to offer the arts because of their specific history and artistic traditions.
I can’t tell you guys how pleased I am that “comics exceptionalism” has caught on as a term.
I think it is the underlying mis-assumption behind all weak comics theory: the myriad variations of picture-writing, Scott McCloud, etc. I prefer a approach that considers them to be part of a bigger art group that also includes Pop Art and advertising illustration and illustrated books — and film in a different way — semiotic modes that perhaps oscillate, perhaps sit in the margins, between visual and verbal meaning.
I think that liminal way of making meaning is absolutely central to the way the Western world makes sense of itself right now, and comics are part of that.
It’s obviously a statement about how they work culturally rather than one about how they work artistically, but I think semiotics has to start with culture and move to art. Eco had Levi-Strauss (and Mauss etc. etc.) to build from: comics has no Levi-Strauss.
I’ve been looking for a chance to say this: I have no particular affection for Kirby and Ditko; I couldn’t pick their work out of a lineup. But the funniest bit in Asterios Polyp is MOST DEFINITELY the Ditko Gas Station. HA HA HA HA HA. (Ditko rhymes with Citgo, get it? That kills me.)
I feel corrupted by fanboy in-jokes. But it still kills me. I say “Ditko” now every time I see a Citgo station.
Also the Web is semiotically in between verbal and visual…Perhaps why web-comics caught on so quickly: not just the ease of publishing, but because the “graphic user interface” communication protocol is native to cartooning…
Well Caro, comics had Eco very early on (early 60s) and, then, Fresnault-Deruelle (70s) and Luc Boltanski (the first issue of _Actes des recherches en sciences sociales_: 1975), Dorfman and Mattelart (1972), Martin Barker (80s) and the occasional article by some celebrity scholar. It is a meagre one, but there’s a tradition of comics criticism out there…
I will definitely use “comics exceptionalism” as a concept because I find it incredibly apt.
I asked for comics features and you cite me names. Kirby and Ditko aren’t comics features. You insist that I have dogmatic views about what is great art, but you and the rest of the comics milieu aren’t dogmatic when you don’t let go of your canon, I suppose. Oh Well!…
I view art as a means of coping with the world in a meaningful way. I put art on a par with science. Escapism is definitely out of what I view as great art. If calling a spade a spade is dogma, so be it. Besides, those superhero stories are absolutely terrible. I can’t imagine anyone putting them on a par with your average novel, let alone Chekov and co.
As for Anders Nilsen above, he may very well do something great (I don’t know, I’m waiting), but if he doesn’t feel the pressure to do something great (the agon of Harold Bloom) I don’t bet on him (I hope that he proves me completely wrong though).
There has to be a better term to distinguish between “criticism/scholarship” and “popular criticism” — that is, between work that would be appropriate in Partisan Review and work that belongs in Diacritics — but I have no idea what it is.
General American readers just aren’t equipped to tackle Eco even at his most lucid. I tried to teach Travels in Hyperreality one time, I thought it would be easy, and it quickly degenerated into helping my (college sophomore) students locate the antecedents for the relative pronouns…
I have read some of Eco’s stuff on comics (I hereby reiterate the idea that we should sometimes do a roundtable on Queen Loana!) but I will definitely look up the references…
So, let me see if I understand you right, Domingos: unless I let go of the artists I appreciate, I’m dogmatic. And the only reason I like Kirby, Ditko et. al. is because they are part of the comics canon.
I’m sorry I don’t have the time to get into why those two are great right now, but please give me more credit than you do by suggesting that it’s just because they are part of some straw man canon you have set up.
Nilsen has already done pretty great work, if you ask me: The End, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow and part of Big Questions are among the most ambitious and interesting comics work of recent years. He doesn’t at all strike me as complacent with the exceptionalism you accuse him of.
Eco published his comics related essays up ’til then in _Apocalittici e integrati_ (1964): http://tinyurl.com/2gysfqa
Essays about Peanuts, Time in Superman, Steve Canyon (a technical reading with some flaws).
In English there’s: _Apocalypse Postponed_ (1994):
A translation of the Peanuts article (which also mentions Li’l Abner, if I remember correctly) and adds an essay about Chinese comics.
The Superman essay was published in _Arguing Comics_ (2004).
The only thing that I’m saying is that we all are dogmatic. We all defend things and stick to those things we defend; we all disagree with other things and say so in a dogmatic way. Your dogma is: Ditko, Hergé, Kirby are great. I don’t see why I’m dogmatic for saying the opposite and you’re not when you strongly disagree with me.
But don’t worry, please join the club: I’ve been accused of being dogmatic in, at least, two continents. It’s a shame that I don’t talk Japanese and Swahili (up ’til now no one cared in Australia, but I’m not losing hope).
I kind of like to think I’m the first to accuse you of anti-intellectualism though (even if I had to recant after a post or two.)
I think the dogmatism comes in not in that you stick up for what you like, but that your categories for dismissing works are very rigid. Dismissing work for children…or even work with humor…seems fairly arbitrary to most of us.
Of course, even you aren’t entirely hard line (Barks, presumably Shakespeare’s comedies). But we don’t like you the less for that!
Saying that Kirby, Ditko and Hergé are great artists seems kind of arbitrary and rigid to me too. The only difference is that I don’t know what are the criteria of “most of you.” That’s a neat way to avoid being accused of rigidness. You must have some criteria to distinguish Kirby from lesser artists though.
I’m not a huge Kirby fan, so I’m not the right one to ask there!
Kirby isn’t the question, at all, Noah…
I’m not an essentialist, so, I understand how aesthetic criteria have their foundations in the sand. I see them as a political thing. You know that everything is a narrative, a construct, but you are on this side or that side of the barricade because you feel that you must. Postmodern cynicism shouldn’t be the cause of inaction.
Domingos, you’re stretching the definition of ‘dogmatism’ beyond reasonable sense. I don’t just say that Hergé, Kirby or Ditko are great period. I have reasons for saying so that I believe are fairly varied and don’t depend on the same rigid system for judging quality (I even made a case for Hergé on this blog not long ago, if you’d care to take a second look).
The reason I’m calling you dogmatic is that almost every critique I’ve read by you of a given comics work has employed a similar, if not the same, set of rather superficial terms for judging their quality: naturalism is a major factor for you, evidently and archetypes make you see red, etc.
A good example is your piece on Matt Mariott. A perfectly banal western sequence is great to you because it subverts traditional tropes by having the protagonist vomit after having shot somebody. Interesting work, but hardly great; your judgment seems to me superficially dogmatic there.
Similarly, it smacks to me of dogmatism when you exhalt Hector Oesterheld’s (and Hugo Pratt’s) perfectly able, but ultimately fairly limited, Ernie Pike stories at the expense of Pratt’s poetically imaginative Corto Maltese stories, because the latter are romantic rather than naturalistic.
I may be entirely wrong, and you do assert that you’re not an essentialist, but that’s just a free-standing claim: your criticism doesn’t convince me of it, and your dismissal of highly original work, deeply engaged with essential issues of life, such as Kirby’s, Ditko’s or Hergé’s on the basis of its surface qualities a kids’ genre entertainment inspires little confidence that you are willing to look beyond your dogma.
Believe it or not, I actually sympathize a lot with your wish to see comics judged according to higher standards and share your enthusiasm for many of the works in your canon (my now outdated list of great graphic novels should demonstrate this), which contributes to my puzzlement that your appreciation of comics as seems so rigid.
I happily be proven wrong, however, and in any case look forward to reading more of your criticism.
Banal? Please show me the bundles of places in which you found it? Censors cut it completely from children’s comics at the time and they had their reasons. Say whatever you want about my “rigid” criteria, but don’t call banal to a sequence in which the “hero” actually feels bad after killing someone (instead of the really banal macho attitude showed in similar situations).
My issues with Pratt are more than an aesthetic dispute between romanticism an naturalism. Pratt ripped-off Oesterheld, period. Whatever limitation that you find in Oesterheld Pratt has it in double doses because he was half the artist that Oesterheld was.
Since you seem to value “imagination” (whatever that is) so much (your criteria continue well guarded), the next time that I see you value an “imaginative” comic rest assured that I’ll chime in to say that you’re being dogmatic and rigid.
But, anyway, what you call “rigid” I call “coherence.” I will never praise an escapist comic, that’s for sure.
As for Kirby’s, Ditko’s, Hergé’s engagement with “essential issues of life” I would very much like to know what these are. The banal theme of friendship in _Tintin in Tibet_? The lame adolescent wet day dreams of Spiderman? Kirby’s proto-Nazi graphics and stupid stories?
Ooops! I meant “Spider-Man!” We don’t want Stan Lee to be mad, do we?
The banality I see in that Matt Mariott strip emerges if you compare it with the kind of high art and literature you talk about, not comics. It may have been unusual in comics and pulp, but does that really make it great?
You’re saying Pratt “ripped off” Oesterheld. While I don’t doubt that he learned from him, I find it hard to explain why his comics, then, are fundamentally different in tone and character. Saying that he was “half the artist” that Oesterheld was is not really sufficient proof here.
As for my “criteria” being unclear, well they may be, but I also try to stay away from dogmatism, whereas you apparently dismiss a work offhand if it has escapist surface elements. Both Ditko and Kirby, when you do deeper readings, are far from escapist (not that escapism is necessarily bad in my book): Ditko is occupied by moral issues that actually clash with the ‘escapist’ nature of Lee’s plots, and Kirby’s work is fueled by a rage at a world where God withholds his plan from us, where meaning is obscure. You would notice this if you cared to pay any attention.
As for my valuing the ‘imaginative’, sure — I see little point in not doing so, when talking about art. Imagination is one of our greatest faculties, and these artists had it in spades.
As for my ‘well-guarded’ ‘criteria’, I believe I try to argue why I think something has certain qualities in most of my criticism, for example my recent post on Hergé (it’s here, if anyone’s interested). We all have our preferences, sure, but what I’m arguing with is applying the exact same rigid parameters before you even start engaging a work.
_Matt Marriott_ is great not because of a daily, _Matt Marriott_ is great because of twenty years of daily comic strips.
It isn’t as good as it should have been though. After all, it was a commercial endeavor and that implies a few limitations. Tony Weare acknowledged this (giving me more proof, if need be, of how great he was): “I would have liked the characters to have been fallible, but, of course, being cowboys they have to be infallible. If there was a scene where Matt and Powder were camping out in the bush at night and they heard a noise, Powder would ask Matt if that noise meant there were Indians. Matt would calmly announce that it was an owl, and he’d be right. In another episode, Powder would say it was an owl and Matt would say it was Indians, and Matt would be right again. I always wished that they’d change it around for once. That side of cowboys is very boring. It’s the same with Batman. He can’t make a mistake either. [...] In the first Matt Marriott story Matt had to shoot someone for the first time and he felt sick. I would have liked to have continued in that manner and have Matt lose fights so that he would have to find other ways to win. He might have triumphed in the end, but I didn’t want it easy for him all the time. In the gun fights the baddies shoot ten bullets and they all miss whilst the goodies shoot one bullet and it’s on target. I hated that side of it. If you had to be your own law in the west you wouldn’t go around showing off, you’d shoot people in the back to get revenge. You’d also feel bad about it. It’s those sort of human values which should have been in the strip, but weren’t allowed.”
Oesterheld’s and Pratt’s stories aren’t that different in tone. Sometimes they develop similar ideas (_Ticonderoga_ / Wheeling_; _A German Lieutenant_ / the ending of _The Ballad of the Salt Sea_). Pratt did have more and better developed women characters than Oesterheld though. Even so, there are two women that I find memorable in Oesterheld’s stories (marvelously drawn by Hugo Pratt, a great draughtsman, no doubt): Jill Rothers in _A Convoy to Malta_ and Ann Lund in _A German Lieutenant_. I also think that Corto Maltese’s unrequited passions are quite interesting (with the best good-byes in comics ever after _Terry and the Pirates_’s ending; there’s another one that inspired Pratt a lot: Milton Caniff – I must add at this point that I’m not being ironic). (Let me also add that Pratt really ripped off Oesterheld publishing _Ernie Pike_ in Europe without crediting the writer, but that wasn’t what I meant when I said what I said in the above comment.) Finally I want to add that Hugo Pratt illustrated roughly 10 % of all the _Ernie Pike_ stories (around 200).
As for superhero comics (a deeply problematic concept in itself with its right wing – I would say “fascist” even – glorification of violence and vigilantism) I don’t want to engage with the material. It would help if you could point me to specific issues of _Spider-Man_ and whatever Kirby did that was that good (I still had to overcome my distaste for all that macho power and cardboard villains and heroes though). Not wanting you to do my homework, lets leave it at that and say that you are right. All this pop psychology and epic space operas may have been unusual in comics and pulp at the time, but does that really make these comics great if you compare them with high art and literature? (Don’t answer that, it’s a joke.)
So, “imagination” is all I’ve got, then? Tony Weare, to me, has more imagination than Kirby and Ditko and Pratt (at his most stylized) put together. It requires a lot more imagination to built up a credible world (as David Lloyd put it) than to just create rampant fantasies (eye candy in many cases, sure, but hollow as a lamp: Moebius’s kitschy little worlds come to mind too).
Even so, defending “imagination” as a criterion (in fact, defending any criterion) is dogmatic and rigid. What you are saying is that when you see an artist building a fantasy world and showing remarkable technical skills (Frank Frazetta, Moebius, Jack Kirby) you judge him/her great. That’s a preconception.
There’s a little problem in what you say above though. If you analyze a work without any preconceived ideas how do you recognize what’s great and what’s not? Do you approach the work forgetting everything that you have seen or read before? Do you approach the work forgetting everything that you know about aesthetics? How do you recognize greatness if you don’t know what it is? And aren’t criteria limited? If they’re not limited doesn’t this lead to an “everything is equally good” kind of attitude? If it does, that’s fine, but I don’t see this as evaluative criticism.
I reread your post about Hergé and I liked it. I believe that I also told you that I liked that other one that you mention.
I have no problem with it, but if I had I would say that you read a _Tintin_ page as if it were an abstract painting (Hergé would be thrilled). The problem is that that’s not all there is. Hergé tried to be an abstract painter, but he wasn’t one when he planned all those _Tintin_ albums (here drawn by his studio, probably by Bob de Moor). You’re not addressing _Tintin_, you’re criticizing a small part of _Tintin_ because you have an agenda: you want to whiten the author.
As for preconceptions, this:
“[Hergé's] art is a moral endeavor that traces its roots back to the Enlightenment. At the same time, however, it reflects the futility of this endeavor, suggesting more mercurial forces at play.”
is pretty much a description of Hergé’s “portrait” as it appears in Benoit Peeters’ biography. You can’t escape preconception, but Roland Barthes could have told you that.
Domingos, thanks so much for expanding upon your appreciation for these comics, which I also find interesting, even if I may not fully share your appreciation of them.
Your characterization of Matt Mariott as a whole is very well exemplified by the sequence where Matt vomits: you appreciate Weare’s efforts to imbue his characters with rounded, human qualities. That’s perfectly fine, and I would agree that this is a worthy endeavor in a genre strip. I’m less sure, however, that this automatically makes the work great, or indeed that it’s more of a worthy endeavor than working conceptually with archetypes to say something equally human in a different, which is what someone like Kirby does (do you want recommendations, or were you just saying that?).
And to reiterate, it is this reluctance of yours to even consider work that operates within an archetypical genre framework that I simply don’t get. To me, it’s a perfectly valid way of creating great art, just like naturalism is, and large part of the Western literary and artistic canon would support this.
You also suggest that working within commercial constraints automatically lessens the quality of the work, and while this is often the case, it seems clear to me that certain artists do this very well: Charles Schulz is an example we’ve touched upon in addition to the other artists discussed here; Tolstoy, Hugo or Dickens are good literary examples, while Chaplin, Renoir, Capra, or Ford are ones from film.
Things are not “hollow as a lamp”, merely because they eschew naturalism, and you can create worlds every bit as complete and involving without recourse to it. To me, Tintin is a perfect example of this: I don’t believe that I merely read that page from “The Calculus Affair” as an abstract painting–I try to integrate this reading into an analysis of the sophisticated and original worldview it represents. It has nothing to do with whitewashing Hergé’s work–I merely point out qualities that you don’t seem to appreciate, and which I think others might not. I’m fully aware that there a problematic aspects to his work; I even think they occasionally add to its interest, in that their presence often demonstrates his personal and rather complex struggle with them.
Which brings me to the ideological part of your argument: you call superhero comics inherently fascist. I don’t really agree with this as a blanket statement, though there’s obviously some truth to it. But why can’t art that works within parameters suggestive of fascism be interesting? Or even great? Whither David, Céline or Pound?
I might be wrong, but the reason you like Ernie Pike so much seems to me to have a lot to do with its anti-war message, while the reason you hate Frank Miller I presume to be because of the fascist aspects of his work. I’m far from the biggest Miller fan, but think it’s hard to deny that his treatment of these fascist themes in his best work is often rather complex, conflicted and even involving on an emotional level. He exposes the allure of fascist ideology while simultaneously making you cringe.
You also take time out to dis Moebius, and I would agree that at his worst, he is very kitschy, but when he is good, he is highly original, showing you the world in ways you never thought about it, evoking our creativity as an impulse. If anybody’s interested, I’ve written about this here. It’s every bit as difficult to create something like The Hermetic Garage — or, to return to what we were talking about, the world according to Kirby or Ditko — as it is to create what you describe as a ‘credible world’, precisely because they *are* credible on their own terms, and emphatically *not* the “rampant fantasies” you describe (Frazetta, whom you also bring up, I find to be a much poorer imaginaut though: I would agree with you there).
And to repeat: “imagination” is not ‘all you’ve got.’ I might not be successful, but I endeavor as much as I can to explain why I find a particular vision compelling or great when I write criticism. On this blog, I’ve tried with Hergé and Quino, while the Moebius piece should also provide you with something; and I’ve actually written extensively on Kirby, but unfortunately in Danish, in Rackham #5. I might resurrect some of that material in a future piece, but for now this will have to do. You seem, however, to want more hard and fast criteria from me, and I’m sorry that I’m unable to provide them–that’s your thing, not mine.
Which brings me to the metacritical point you were making: *of course* we all have preconceptions, but you confuse that with dogma. They are not the same thing. You boldly state that you will never praise escapist work; that is more than merely being predisposed to like or dislike a certain thing, it’s a dogmatic statement. You refuse even to entertain (heh) the idea that such a work might have something of interest or value to offer–it’s an abstract line in the sand that makes things seem easy (“naturalism = credible = good, archetypes = escapism = bad”), but to hardly does justice to the mercurial manifestations of great art.
I would say that because I have clear criteria in my mind I’m aware of my dogmas, while someone who just has preconceptions isn’t. The dogma is there just the same though…
I kept shut up until now, but why do you insist that I just like naturalism? What I say above is: “I view art as a means of coping with the world in a meaningful way.” I say nothing about naturalism. (My favorite 20th century painter is Francis Bacon, by the way, hardly a Daubigny or a Rousseau). By its own definition escapism can’t be [great] art because it refuses to cope with the world, it’s just kitsch (this, again, has nothing to do with style; in fact, thanks to CGI, escapism in film is more and more naturalistic). The old Proppian formula, stereotypes, Manicheism, cardboard characters, etc… and even caricature sometimes are just simplifications of meaning; shortcuts that, in my view, lower the work’s quality. On a related note: I don’t believe in the existence of archetypes, I just believe in the existence of stereotypes.
We can only read an abstract painting when we determine the “sophisticated and original worldview it represents.” Abstract painting isn’t a decorative mix of colors, etc… that looks great on the wall. There’s an interesting essay in Critix that does the above with the clear line. Contrarily to what you may think I appreciate your reading of that page. I said so, but _Tintin_ is a whole, not just that…
As for Kirby and Ditko, I doubt that I could read them, so we better leave things as they are.
Re. genre work, there are restrictions and, then… there are restrictions. Tolstoy wasn’t forced to write for children using all of the above shortcuts. The main problems that I see in Marriott is that: (1) he can’t die in a fight (I don’t buy that and it sounds hackneyed to me); (2) as Tony Weare put it above, he’s always right. But I don’t object to much more. Reading Tony Weare’s words I get the impression (but that’s just my feverish imagination) that this series could have been something really humongous. I’m quite sure that it would be completely ignored just the same. It’s too good for the comics milieu (yes, there’s spite in my words, sorry, my frustration is talking).
As I said in another message, ethics and aesthetics are inseparable twins to yours truly. But I don’t confuse the work and the man. I read him a long time ago and I may be dumb as a door, but I saw no fascism in _Voyage au bout de la nuit_, for instance.
Sorry, I use naturalism in the basic sense of the word, not in the narrower sense that it’s been applied to a period in painting or to surface qualities (e.g. your CGI example): I mean an attempt to render the world with verisimilitude (‘realism’ is too bound up with concrete, and often social, reality to quite cover it). I realize that this is not your only criterion for quality, but it is one that you emphasize quite a lot, for example in your appreciation of Weare and Oesterheld, so I’ve used it as a shorthand characterization of your point of view.
As I said at some point in this thread, which now feels long ago (as well as during several of our previous encounters), I agree with many of the things you say about the traditional constrictions of comics and genuinely appreciate, even love, many of the works in your canon, but we’re probably just going to have to disagree on certain things.
In brief, I find your statements unnecessarily rigid and inadequate to deal with the complexities of art — saying that simplification of meaning is always bad, or that all archetypes are merely stereotypes, cuts out huge swathes of the mythology, legend, literature, and art that have constituted human cultures in favor of narrow, modern (though not modernist) dogma. To me, that is a humorless, stifling view of art. You claim escapism is a refusal to cope with the world? No wonder you’re so skeptical of imagination…
But I’m sure you have similar misgivings about my views, so it’s all good!
I’m not skeptical of imagination. I’m skeptical of formulaic, hollow, fantasy of the Harry Potter type (that’s not even imaginative). I accept Leopardian humor. And I don’t think that I swathe anything that you say. One of the greatest, meaningful mythological works of art that I know of were/are produced by the Dineh people. That’s what I call coping with the world in a meaningful way. You are just picking my criteria up and using them superficially.
I’ve never been able to reach Domingos level of snootiness because of my own debased upbringing, but I appreciate it. Where he’s more on target than most comic-reading types (you included) is with a concern for standards. For instance, there’s something fallacious in the following:
I think snobbishness is a problem in criticism, and that it plugs into class and gender animosities often in ways I really don’t like
Namely that even if some view comes out of class orientation, the view doesn’t become false. This is easy enough to see in the fact that education is required to achieve certain insights, and education is tied into class. But, really, I don’t think ‘snob’ says much about its supposed referent. It’s just one of those words like ‘elitism’ that mostly speaks of the person saying it.
What’s odd to me about this current debate (and it’s still going on) is the way lines are being arbitrarily drawn to make this an us versus them encounter. I guess I’m one of Jeet’s “monkeys” who can’t figure out something so easy as the meaning of Ghost World (and why taunt us with knowing such a thing, but not bother to enlighten us?), yet I still can’t quite figure out what side I’m on, or supposed to be on. It seems to me that the attempted elevation of old comics strips to high art complements (I might say is complicit) with your own resistance to ground any critical stance you have on anything but personal preference. Caro wants to paint those guys as fanboys, which suggests she’s never had to deal with actual fanboy culture (lucky her).
Anyway, as always, I can’t keep up with endless debates here, so there’s probably not much of a point in posting this. I just felt bad because of my one liner, and not coming back. It bugged me that Caro resorted to sexist taunting just because she was mad. I don’t go all Mel Gibson when I’m pissed. That’s actually what I was thinking of. Otherwise, I probably mostly agree with her views on criticism, “theory” and the insularity of the comics book world. I’m just not sure that Jeet really disagrees. But I guess I don’t care enough to argue one way or another about it.
OK, so first of all, there’s nothing sexist about “man up.” It’s a sports idiom. If you Google it, your first hit is the “Man Up Campaign”: a “global campaign to activate youth to stop violence against women and girls.” It’s funded by the Clinton Global Initiative and run by a former education director of Amnesty International. Here is a link.
Saying the expression is sexist is the same kind of thing that I was so worked up about back a few months ago when people were jumping all over Matthias for some random comment. It is “gendered,” yes. All gendered things are not sexist, because gender is a performance. The qualities of the performance are one thing you use to tell whether something is sexist or not, not the existence of gender as a property of the thing.
I’m guessing you’re upset about it because I wouldn’t let you off the hook for a gender-related category error with regards to the definition of misogyny. But performance is not subject to category distinctions: they are relevant to semantics.
Moving on, secondly: pitching sides in debates in order to trigger discussion is a pretty classic tactic. And the sides are almost always quite arbitrary, because in practice, no person’s perspective is pure or completely consistent. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” yes?
Drawing strong lines between things so that you can compare and contrast them is part of analysis. Arguments, unlike minds, aren’t muddy; they’re syllogistic. You bracket things — nuances, places where your beliefs are contradictory, practical situations where the truth is simply not cut and dried — in the argumentative mode, in order to more clearly “see” the ideas. But the picture of the ideas that emerges is never complete and should never be treated as such. It is always heuristic.
So thirdly, That said, any extent to which this debate is ugly is due to the incredibly deleterious effects of defensiveness and snark. Snark puts people on the defensive. It generally makes those lines much more entrenched than they need to be.
I in fact have a great deal in common in terms of my interests with the ComicsComics folks, as Noah pointed out, although I do not define them in terms of “comics” to the same degree. I’ll wager Tim didn’t bother to look into that before he went middle school on me – he just decided to visit collective guilt on me by association with Noah. I can handle that. But I’m not going to pretend it is anything other than the juvenile bullying it is. I don’t care if people are clubbish. I don’t care if people exclude me. But if you are going to exclude me, don’t talk about me — especially in ugly snarky prose. Just do your thing and leave me alone.
Tim — and Jeet, although Jeet was not juvenile and bullying about it — made “analytic” and “academic” the target of their varying degrees of scorn. That’s what drew the lines this way; we’ve just been working with them.
As Noah’s pointed out ad nauseum, there were plenty of other ways the point/counterpoint could have been set up. I personally would love to see any of the ComicsComics folks — other than Frank who already addressed this — clarify their position on analysis and academics, and I’d be more than happy for them to redraw the lines of discussion anywhere they like.
The reason they aren’t doing that is that they really don’t want to talk to us. Tim’s post says as much outright — he’ll talk to Suat, but not to me and Noah. But Tim reserves the right to be nasty to me personally on his blog. I’m sure it will happen again. As far as I am concerned, that kind of hostile cliquishness is exactly the same cliquishness I’ve seen from fanboys of myriad ilks, as well as cheerleaders and jocks. If there are distinctions there, they could not matter less to me.
Hey Charles. The issue isn’t that some view becomes “false”. Art can be about truth, but aesthetics don’t really break down easily into true/false distinctions. But standards often have political content and a political agenda (cf: Terry Eagleton for pages of examples.) To me that’s worth thinking about.
I don’t have any problem with treating old comic strips as art, nor with Matthias’ point that critical standards need to be flexible. And I’ve got plenty of common ground with the folks at CC, as I’ve tried to acknowledge. But…telling somebody who feels excluded that they’re not actually excluded does not exactly suggest a lack of insularity, to try to put it as nonconfrontationally as I can.
” I don’t go all Mel Gibson when I’m pissed.”
Never say never. Maybe you just haven’t been pissed enough. There but for the grace of, etc.
Hey Charels. I probably should have waited to post. I don’t know that the comment by me above is especially helpful. I’ll try to see if I can do a little better.
First, I’m interested in talking about standards with you, but you have me at a disadvantage; I really don’t know exactly where you’re coming from. I can say that listening and talking to Domingos, I’m pretty sure that I find his viewpoint fits with mind because he’s very interested in conceptual issues as opposed to focusing mostly on form (this came out pretty clearly in the Frazetta discussion.) What we see as worthwhile or interesting content is pretty divergent in a lot of places, so there’s disagreement as well, and my criteria are more ad hoc (which is why I end up with Matthias sometimes.) I can see lines drawn where I’d end up on one side and you and Domingos would be on the other…but you’d need to lay out what you’re talking about more clearly. Domingos is definitely with me on the politics and ethics being important to analyzing art thing, for example, which I’d presume would extend to class issues…. Is that not the case for you? I guess I just basically need more data before I can respond effectively.
I think, sort of in line with the first paragraph, that there are lots of debates I could have with Jeet or Tim or Frank or Dan where the lines of division would break down in all sorts of different ways. I actually really like that about aesthetic debates. I’d love to talk to Dan about Harry Peter, for example; I’m sure I’d learn a ton even if we did find some places of disagreement (not that Dan does or should have any interest in talking to me about anything in particular, of course.) The problem, from my perspective, is that one of the areas of disagreement between me and some of my interlocutors has to do with modes of communication. I think that’s related to broader critical issues, but the long and the short of it is it seems hard for me to talk to Jeet or Tim without everybody getting pissed off. I would hope this doesn’t mean we have to be deadly enemies forever or can’t ever like anything the other person does. I’ve read lots of things by Jeet that I’ve enjoyed for example. I thought his piece about Craig Yoe’s book was really interesting and well done; I enjoyed his discussion of (I think) homosexual caricature in old newspaper strips (I may be mangling that; I don’t remember it well, but remember liking it.)
I’m guessing you’re upset about it because I wouldn’t let you off the hook for a gender-related category error with regards to the definition of misogyny.
Nah. Your memory of that isn’t the same as mine. You failed to prove your point, which both Mike and I adequately demonstrated. But I don’t mind you disagreeing with my summation. I’m content to let it go, as I suggested then. I’m really not pissed or bothered in the least bit. I like to be told I’m full of shit.
When debating, you prefer a discursive style that might be called lecturing others, Caro, so if I said you need to act more like a lady, how would you take that? The way I’d see it is that I’d be demeaning you, not that you happen to be female and need to be more polite. (Just so I’m not misunderstood: I’m sure you’re just striving for clarity of your position.) If his comment regarding you or his general style of blogging were somehow tied into a masculinist ideology, I would’ve had a different reaction. But it’s not. So why go there? If I’m remembering correctly, you chose what Noah would call an emphatic defense, that Tim is a male acting immaturely, the immature male is a boy, so …. And that’s all there is to it. Just like Jeet’s original intent is all there is to what he said. Or maybe there’s something else there. You can point out many of un-sexist ways ‘man up’ is used (I’ve used it myself, even in an ironically macho way), but you were demeaning Tim using his gender and certain cultural connotations tied to logic and argumentation. In other words, it’s your “performance” that bugged me. I agree that your usage isn’t unrelated to that of sports or an anti-abuse campaign. Tim wasn’t measuring up to the way a man is expected to act. His reason wasn’t big enough.
And the sides are almost always quite arbitrary, because in practice, no person’s perspective is pure or completely consistent. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” yes?
More like I don’t want to belong to “any club that would have me as a member.”
But Tim reserves the right to be nasty to me personally on his blog.
He was nasty to something you wrote. He didn’t attack you as a person. I don’t see the bullying. He’s just another snarky hipster type from what I’ve read, really not worth the reaction. Alt-comics/music/movies/etc. are filled with that nonsense. A lot of people talking in a self-satisfied manner, saying jackshit (cf. Noah Baumbach).
The issue isn’t that some view becomes “false”. Art can be about truth, but aesthetics don’t really break down easily into true/false distinctions. But standards often have political content and a political agenda (cf: Terry Eagleton for pages of examples.) To me that’s worth thinking about.
I agree. However, truth isn’t reducible to ideology. And while art is certainly polysemous, that doesn’t reduce interpretation and evaluation to subjectivism.
“I agree. However, truth isn’t reducible to ideology. And while art is certainly polysemous, that doesn’t reduce interpretation and evaluation to subjectivism.”
I don’t disagree with any of that!
Aww, Noah, I’m tired of being online, so I’m going to read. I’ll be back to see your latest post.
Well, I was about to leave …
Since I can’t come up with any particular example right now, I might have to wait until I see another instance where I’m not so sure that you do agree with that.
Talk to you later.
All right; I’ll look forward to it!
Charles, you don’t see jocularity as “masculine”? Tim’s post was jocular. ComicsComics is often jocular. Anybody who tries to be serious is either summarily ignored or subjected to various forms of “hipster mockery.” The whole situation is one gigantic ripoff of a Judd Apatow film (or perhaps the model for it.)
“Hipster snarky nonsense” unfortunately masquerades as sense, and cons a lot of people into buying it. But it’s anti-intellectual drivel and it’s a bullying tactic.
Here’s what (Independent Spirit Award winner) Mike White said about Judd Apatow:
“But there is something about the spirit of the thing, that comes under the guise of comedy, where — it’s weird. At some point it starts feeling like comedy of the bullies, rather than the bullied.”
Here’s another piece on the gender implications of “jocular, locker-room cant,” in relation to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
MARIE COCCO: I think that the cable media in particular and certain cable outlets in particular have had a jocular, locker-room cant going on about Senator Clinton for months.
I think this has been an atmosphere of contempt and disrespect.
MARIE COCCO: I think that the cable media in particular and certain cable outlets in particular have had a jocular, locker-room cant going on about Senator Clinton for months.
I think this has been an atmosphere of contempt and disrespect.
It’s a pretty old idea that evading an issue by making fun of it — locker-room jocularity — is gendered masculine.
(And just in case there’s any beef with that definition/usage of jocularity, here’s the online etymology dictionary:
1620s, from L. jocularis “funny, comic,” from joculus, dim. of jocus (see joke). Implies evasion of an issue by a joke.)
Of course I’m going to have a beef: if you’re presenting ‘(male) locker-room jocularity’ as inherently masculine, then, yeah, that’s true, analytically so. However, masculinity is neither sufficient nor necessary for just ‘jocularity’.
I agree that Apatow’s film’s are concerned with masculinity, they don’t support bullying or hipstery evasion. Generally, he’s concerned with overcoming such evasion, “manning up,” as you’d put it.
Just a note on the aestehtics/ethics question: In connection with the work of Frank Miller, I advanced earlier that a work of art ‘suggestive of fascism’ might be interesting, while Domingos didn’t agree.
I’m with Domingos in that I believe that it’s pretty important to maintain some kind of relation between the two as a critic, as well as more generally as a person, if nothing else because these elements will always be present in some way in the discourse around a given work of art.
Having said that, I would just like to emphasize the ‘suggestive’ part of that sentence. I do think that work which engages problematical ideology in ways other than rejection, such as Miller’s when he is best, can be interesting, and even great.
Work that more unequivocally espouses a problematic ideology on the other hand, I have more trouble with. It can be interesting and artistically impressive, yes, but will invariably be hampered by its ideology. While I recognize its formal achievements, I’ve always been, not so much repulsed (that’s par for the course) as profoundly *bored* by Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda, for example.
I agree with most of that. I do think that work espousing evil (or what I see as evil, for what that’s worth) can be great precisely because of its engagement with evil. That is, D.H. Lawrence is way more up front about his sexism and his espousal of patriarchy than…well, than virtually any of his contemporaries, anyway. But that’s actually a strength of his writing in a lot of ways; he actually grapples with the feminist opposition and gives it a voice in his work because he wants to argue it down. As a result he’s I think more fair than less ideologically committed writers who adopt sexism as background noise without espousing it (say…well, say Stan Lee, for example.)
I started digging around last night on this really fascinating side conversation about fascism, and found this interesting book review.
The ethics of aesthetics: I think you ought to acknowledge an immoral ideology, but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the art. 300 is as corrupt as — probably more evil than — Birth of a Nation, but it made me laugh (don’t know about the comic). Same goes for Precious, which is a sort of a depiction of urban black plight filtered through John Waters or Sam Fuller. I think these films reveal a great deal about the viewers, which might make for an argument for the value of evil art. Oprah, for example, saw Precious as a moving tale about poor black folk. Would the depiction of cannibalism have gone too far for her?
“I think you ought to acknowledge an immoral ideology, but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying the art.”
Why shouldn’t it? Because enjoyment is the supreme virtue?
Really, what’s wrong with looking at a Nazi propaganda film and saying, “You know, this is vile and I can’t enjoy anything about it. Fuck this.” Or for somebody who has, perhaps, personally been affected by racism to look at Birth of a Nation and say, “Um, no.”
Moral responses are also aesthetic responses (and vice versa in certain ways, I think). I don’t think you can just bracket the first and pretend that it doesn’t or shouldn’t affect the second. On the contrary, I think downgrading a work of art because its ideology is vile is bound to happen if you take content into account in your evaluation.
I think it has to be case by case. Rejecting all art that’s evil seems to me as reductive as saying that you should never let a vicious ideology influence your appreciation.
I didn’t say anything about never letting art’s ideology affect your reception. People dislike things for all sorts of reasons, of course, and it’s perfectly understandable if, say, a rape victim can’t get past the offensive rape scene in Straw Dogs. Maybe this’ll make my intent clearer: If you find an immoral piece of art enjoyable, the immorality shouldn’t keep you from enjoying it. And, no, enjoyability isn’t the supreme virtue, nor is it even a necessary virtue.
Ah, but that’s the anti-elitist stance, isn’t it?
It’s dicey to tell people what they should and shouldn’t enjoy and for what reasons. If you’re arguing about whether a work of art is good or bad, though, I think ethical concerns are totally admissible. That is, it’s not only okay on a personal level to say, I can’t take this scene, but it seems reasonable to argue, “this sucks, for these reasons, including its vicious rape fantasies,” or whatever. Somebody else could then come back and say, well, no, it’s okay to like these things because they make me laugh (but then, why is laughter more important than the ugly ideology?) or on the grounds that the rape fantasy is actually not a rape fantasy, or whatever.
You do sound like you’re placing personal entertainment above ethical concerns though. I presume that’s not the case, though….
You lost me on what’s supposed to be the anti-elitist stance, but I can think of an anti-elitist whose stance is relevant here: Roger Ebert. He hates it when filmgoers say, “I don’t like movies about X” (where X could be any subject: romance, Nazis or, one would guess, vicious rape fantasies). According to him, a talented filmmaker can make a good film about anything (although, curiously, Ebert’s never seen a rape-revenge film that he’s liked). I take him to mean that if one is concerned in having an aesthetic experience, letting pre-dispositions overwhelm (-determine) engagement with the art on its own terms inhibits such an experience. While I could sympathize with anyone who wouldn’t want to engage certain Japanese directors because of misogynistic themes, I don’t think that’s an aesthetic reaction, more like the opposite. The rejection is based on reducing the film to a certain message that goes against one’s own particular belief system. (I’m assuming here that the film in question has something else to offer — some are so reducible, in which case, the dismissal is aesthetic.) The message is objectively there, for sure, but the rejection denies any potential connection to the aesthetic experience, engaging the art as whole. (I can already feel the need to say a lot more than what I’m trying to compress into a brief response.) Should Children of Men not be one favorite films of the oughts because I’m opposed to its conservatism? Granted, I don’t have any particularly devastating personal history with, say, the anti-abortionists (one of COM’s themes) that’s anywhere close to a Holocaust victim’s relation to the Nazis. Yet, the latter’s hypothetical denunciation of Riefenstahl’s films on the sole ground that some were pro-Nazi isn’t really aesthetic, just ideological. That’s a legitimate reaction to have, and Riefenstahl is responsible for putting her art to propagandistic use. But I’d say it’s the death of aesthetics, if anything.
And, of course, ceteris paribus, art that speaks truth rather than falsity is better, but there are a whole bunch of possibilities in-between.
You do sound like you’re placing personal entertainment above ethical concerns though.
Not sure why. When personalized, both seem to shut off engagement: “I find this message objectionable” : “Bored now.”
Hey Charles. That makes things somewhat clearer. I thought you were making an ethics/personal enjoyment split, whereas it’s actually ethics/aesthetics (more or less.)
I think the split your making is still too simplistic though. That is, an ideological aesthetic reaction is still an aesthetic reaction, not its opposite, as you maintain. Certainly it’s not the death of aesthetics. On the contrary (and this is absolutely congruent with elitism) the rejection of certain works of art is as important to aesthetics as an enjoyment of them. You suggest that someone who rejects a Nazi propoganda film isn’t engaging with it aesthetically. But if the person understand the message and rejects the film…well, that is in fact engagement. Said person is looking at the film, processing what it says, and making a judgment about its worth. (Of course, you might reject it without even seeing it, which would be legitimate too, though not an aesthetic response per se.)
Ideology isn’t opposed to aesthetics; it’s part of content. Ebert’s statement (a talented filmmaker can make a good film about anything) is, in my view, a piece of formalist bullshit, suggesting that content is unimportant to the aesthetic experience. I also find the “engaging with art on its own terms” argument to be cliched nonsense. Why should I engage with art on its own terms? Why shouldn’t it engage with me? Obviously, there has to be some give and take each way, as in any conversation — but I think the suggestion that art should have it all its own way is really a way of saying that art is more important than human beings, which a lot of people think and which is, to my mind, a kind of idolatry which is bad for people and bad for art.
Oh, and boredom is also a very legitimate aesthetic reaction, not to mention an important defense mechanism. People should demand that their art not be boring.
Basically, I”m with Domingos in that I think ethics and aesthetics are on the same boat — though not in the same seat (which Domingos sometimes seems to think.) You can arrange them in the boat a lot of different ways. One of those ways is to say, well, this has a message that is so vile it’s completely corrupt, fuck it. Another is to say, well, the content is stupid but there are formal qualities I like so I’m going to bracket the first and enjoy the second. Another is to try to figure out how the vile content and the likable portions (if any) influence and affect each other (as I tried to do with D.H. Lawrence above.) All of these are aesthetic responses…and whether I agreed with one or the other of those aesthetic responses would depend on the work in question. I think Ebert’s dislike of rape-revenge films for example is based on systematic misreadings which are more about male anxieties than hatred of misogyny. But that’s because I think he’s wrong, not because I think it’s unaesthetic to consider misogyny (and yes, there is misogyny in rape-revenge films. But there’s feminism too.)
Ethics / aesthetics:
Denying their closeness in any aesthetic judgment is the same thing as saying that form and content can be separated. They can’t. I think that _Birth of a Nation_ is an important film if we consider part of the form alone (montage), but, as I said to Matthias re. _Tintin_, what about the crass caricatures of black people? That’s form too… and content… Those who give it historical value without adding its disgraceful ideology are whitewashing it and doing a partial appreciation.
Class / elitism:
I really don’t know what “elitism” means. If it means that one likes x work of art and dislikes y work of art, everybody is an elitist. If it means that one likes x work of art and dislikes y work of art because of our upbringing, everybody is an elitism also because it works both ways (from high to low and vice-versa).
If it means that the canon is built from the top, that’s true, but it’s not the very top. As Dwight MacDonald pointed out: “Very few of my classmates in Yale ’28, a notably un-advantaged social group, spent more time than they were forced to in the institution’s excellent library[.]” [...] “By “classes” I don’t mean a social or economic super-class but rather an intellectual elite.” With all the scientific resources of sociology at his disposal Bourdieu confirmed this: high culture is not the culture of the dominant class, high culture is the culture of the dominated fraction of the dominant class (i. e.: the higher levels of the intellectual class; those intellectuals possessing the most cultural capital).
This is one of those words that, coupled with “democracy” just mean: we own you. I wonder how capitalism managed to impose “flexibility” as an unanimously positive notion, but Capitalism can do almost anything propaganda wise, that’s why it seems indestructible.
We all have flexible and rigid standards, so, the real question is “how flexible?” As I questioned above: aren’t criteria limited? If they’re not limited doesn’t this lead to an “everything is equally good” kind of attitude? If it does, that’s fine, but I don’t see this as evaluative criticism.
Enjoyment / gut rejection:
These are highly personal, irrational concepts. One should never discuss personal taste. We like what we like and that’s that. It’s an insult just to imply that criticism serves the purpose of influencing people in their taste. Criticism functions in the public sphere; lets the private be private.
But (as feminists argue) the personal is (or can be) political. The public sphere and the private sphere aren’t separate; subjectivity and objectivity can’t be neatly split apart. In fact, one of the things criticism does, it seems to me, is not to separate one from the other but rather to show the different ways they touch or come apart.
Elitism isn’t that hard a word to parse, I don’t think. In general it means privileging class status; in aesthetics it means making certain aesthetic choices a gateway to class status. Your own disdain for anything (or most things) having to do with children’s literature is a good example (and yes, children are actually a disadvantaged class in a lot of ways, in the U.S. at least.)
I don’t know what to do with your suggestion that sociology has something to do with science other than laugh at it. But claiming elitism as the prerogative of an elite within the elite is hardly a repudiation of elitism. And the effort of the intellectual elite to deny it’s class connotations has a long and dishonorable history (Paul Fussell’s “Class” is perhaps the most egregious bad faith statement of this argument.)
Flexibility as part of capitalism is definitely right. However, rigidity fits nicely onto fascism (or communism for that matter.) Which is one example of why there aren’t really easy answers to these ethical and aesthetic questions…
Isn’t this the business about flexibility and rigidity part of Zizek’s project, to break down flexibility:capitalism :: rigidity:fascism by showing the rigidity (to the point of totalitarianism) of capitalism and the flexibility (to the point of irrationality) of fascism?
The critic is a rational being, I suppose. Not someone who reacts irrationally. Personal experience may have social (collective) meaning, sure… Maybe I didn’t express myself correctly. I just wanted to say that we may confuse two very different things in this kind of discussion: personal taste and criticism. A canon is always a social construct.
As for sociology, maybe you won’t laugh at mathematics as a science, but I’m not so sure…
I also laugh re. your idea of children as a disadvantaged class. If you’re right they’re a disadvantaged class in a lot of ways, BUT one: mass art. They’re almost a dictatorship there. According to your definition of elitism defending this dictatorship is elitism, I suppose.
As for the other elitism, I accept it gladly. In conclusion: we’re two elitists.
Math is a log more rigorous than sociology, that’s for sure.
That’s a really good point about the ascent of children’s culture…but I don’t think it negates the point about their class disadvantages. It may differ where you are, but in the U.S., anyway, there’s a consistent vindictiveness about children that goes hand in hand with nostalgia and is generally fairly depressing. I haven’t really worked through how that fits into the enthusiasm for, say, children’s movies…but it’s worth thinking about.
One point is that children don’t actually get a lot of cultural capital through their art. It’s pretty much dismissed as crap. But I think there’s more to be said too….
Oh, but when the mainstream dismisses something subcultures develop and guess what? They replicate the mainstream’s protocols and rituals.
Sociology uses math as a method.
The point about subcultures is nicely put.
Sociology does use math as a method. So does numismatics.
He he… care to elaborate?
Something downed on me: as someone who writes about crap, I’m a crappy elitist.
You suggest that someone who rejects a Nazi propoganda film isn’t engaging with it aesthetically. But if the person understand the message and rejects the film…well, that is in fact engagement. Said person is looking at the film, processing what it says, and making a judgment about its worth.
Look, most Nazi films were 3rd-rate Hollywood ripoffs substituting a different ideology. Dismiss away. But that’s not so easily done with the propaganda of Eisenstein, or, for that matter, many films of classic Hollywood. Many feminists dismissed the latter in a reductionistic fashion, on the grounds that the films didn’t present the right ideology of women, but other feminists pointed out how such films actually can undermine the prevalent ideology through, among other things, formal/structural means. So, to another dismissal of yours, formalism has something to tell us.
Ideology isn’t opposed to aesthetics; it’s part of content.
Once again, “The message is objectively there, for sure, but the rejection [based solely on the message, or ideology] denies any potential connection to the aesthetic experience, engaging the art as whole.”
Why should I engage with art on its own terms? Why shouldn’t it engage with me?
That sounds like your reducing aesthetics to consumerism. Preferably, the relation is dialectic. This’ll probably sound Adorno-esque: What I’m opposing here is the imposition of a certain totalizing idea that undermines any other possible engagement with art. To the degree that an artist subjects his or her own art to said idea, then a proper aesthetic evaluation might very well be along a simple and direct ideological line (because that’s pretty much all there is). However, using that basis to reject something like Battleship Potemkin (akin to reducing Tintin to its racism) becomes simplistic and largely anti-aesthetic, even if coming from someone who once suffered under the Soviets.
I was going to respond…but then realized I’d just be repeating myself mostly. So I’ll stop for now. Thanks for the back and forth, Charles; I’m sure we’ll do another go round at some point!
Cool, man, a pleasure.
If reducing Tintin to its racism becomes simplistic and largely anti-aesthetic, what do you call denying that such racism exists?
I see… Maybe I can help: Blindness? Whitewashing? Hagiography? Hinduism?
“Whitewashing” works, or maybe “obviously wrong.”
My personal favorite is “Hinduism.” But maybe I can add something a bit more serious. Form in a comic is something very complex obviously. A caricature of a Congo inhabitant or, to be fair and cite a more elaborate album, the caricature of a Japanese diplomat in _The Blue Lotus_ is aesthetically flawed in its form also. The dichotomy aesthetic judgment / form vs. ethical judgment / content is a false one.
Hey Domingos. Yeah, I wouldn’t deny the racism in Tintin at all. And I think your point about form/content not being completely separable is right as well. At the same time…I think form/content is a good shorthand way of pointing to real divisions in points of interest in a work.
I thought Alex did a good job in his series in talking about race in Tintin; acknowledging it as a flaw (of various sorts) while still being able to see other virtues in the work, even in terms of its handling of race.
I have a very interesting book of totalitarian paintings, from the time of Naziism and Stalinism. Aesthetically crappy to the utmost degree, although displaying enormous skill.
Vaclav Havel, commenting on the garish kitsch found in Ceaucescu’s palace, said there was a direct link between totalitarianism and bad taste.
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Jaime Hernandez’ work told me that I could and should draw comics about where I live, the things I did everyday, and the people I know and love.
March 14, 2012 | 7 comments
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