Worst Comics Criticism of the 21st Century
by Jeet Heer
Friday, April 23, 2010
Lately there has been an attempt to flesh out what constitutes good comics criticism. There was a Hooded Utilitarian roundtable on the topic and Ben Schwartz has edited a soon-to-be-released book titled Best American Comics Criticism. But it is worth remembering that there is a lot of bad criticism out there, which is also worth describing and demarcating. For me, one of the worst pieces of comics criticism I’ve ever read was Harold Bloom’s review of Crumb’s Genesis in the December 3, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books.
Perhaps wisely, the New York Review hasn’t made more than a snippet of this idiotic review available. But some early sentences are telling: “Staring at the women and men of Crumb’s Genesis, I dimly recall someone showing me an issue of Mad magazine. To my untutored view the work of Crumb recalls that publication yet somehow also is touched with what I remember as the doughty proletarian style of Ben Shahn.” As this makes clear, Bloom doesn’t have the background or equipment to say anything useful about Crumb as a visual artist. For most of the rest of the review he talks not about Crumb but about other things that spring to his mind like Thomas Mann’s Joseph books. For a more thorough examination of Bloom’s review, with some choice quotes, see here.