by Dan Nadel
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I enjoyed Rich Kreiner’s review of Comics Comics. It was, as Tim noted, too kind. So this isn’t an argument, thank heavens. In a long parenthetical thought, Kreiner wonders about our criteria for coverage, and also about our seeming fascination with the fact of something existing, as though the effort alone was enough to qualify our interest. I can’t speak for Tim or Frank, but, as for me, well, Kreiner might be on to something.
Sometimes I see things so sublime or so ridiculous that I have to just wonder about them. It’s not that I like them, per se. I don’t like Dave Sim’s Collected Letters, but what drives a cartoonist to undertake such a project is interesting to me because (a) Sim is clearly a man with his own vision and (b) he’s a hugely important cartoonist, no matter what you might think of the quality of his work. And, on the other hand, there are artists like like Steve Gerber or Michael Golden, both beloved Comics Comics figures.
Let me digress for a moment: During the most recent SPX, me, Frank, and Tim went out to dinner with a large group that included Gary Groth, Gilbert Hernandez and Bill Griffith. Gary ribbed us about Steve Gerber, etc., and Frank, in a moment of comics euphoria confessed his love of Michael Golden’s work to the entire table. I don’t think Bill even knew who we were talking about, and Gary seemed duly horrified, while Gilbert smiled beatifically, as if to say, “I love that this guy loves Golden, but I’m not saying a word”. I mean, Gary’s fought for sophistication in comics for 30 years, and now he has to listen to three knuckleheads talk about Golden and Gerber. Oy vey. See, all three of us were formed, in a sense, by The Comics Journal, and to an extent, by Groth’s own sensibility as a publisher and editor. But we also came up at a time when we didn’t (and still don’t) have to choose between art and hackwork. We can like both, and enjoy both on their own merits, precisely because Gary won the battle for sophistication and seriousness. His efforts have allowed us to sit back a bit and examine the things that got passed over, shunted aside or simply spit at. That means that Frank can talk about Michael Golden because he’s fascinated by his figuration in the context of action comics. Frank wouldn’t, at least, not sober, make a case for Golden as an artist in the same way he does for Gilbert. But then again, he did just post about Nexus. I guess what I’m saying is that a central tenant of Comics Comics is a kind of enjoyment of something within its context. Steve Gerber is an interesting comic book writer. That is enough to make him worth examining for us. And, he, like Golden, like Rude, et al, is someone who has willingly labored in a field with few rewards and a lot of creative restrictions. Those “rules” that these guys bump up against make for an interesting friction and can produce, accidentally or intentionally, interesting work. And part of is also that, to an extent, we take the greatness of someone like Dan Clowes for granted. He’s been written about, been hashed over. For us, it’s perhaps more fun to dig through a body of work that has yet to be poured over, and to find artists whose visions carried them into strange places under odd restrictions.
So, Rich Kreiner, yes, we, or at least I, sometimes like things just because they exist in an odd space, and occupy a strange little niche. And while I’ve never been a proponent of confusing effort with merit (i.e. the praise for something like Persepolis is primarily because people were impressed enough that a comic could be about Iran that they ignored how slight the actual content was), sometimes noting the effort is worthwhile. And I thank Kreiner for making the effort to write about us. Now if we can just make enough time to do that next issue….