Talking Comics Criticism
by Jeet Heer
Friday, October 22, 2010
On the Inkstuds program earlier today, Gary Groth, Ben Schwartz and I talked about comics criticism with Robin McConnell. The pretext was Ben’s recent anthology of essays and interviews on comics. You can listen to the show here. The discussion ran all over the place. Among other topics discussed:
1. The transformative role played by Gil Kane in getting people to talk about visual storytelling as well as literary narrative, and in general Kane as a spark for comics criticism and enthusiasm about comics.
2. The difference between art and entertainment.
3. The importance of destructive criticism (with discussions of the relative merits of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken, and Dwight Macdonald). I wish I had remembered to mention John Metcalf, who belongs in this tradition.
4. The seductive dangers posed by Mencken’s style. Again, I wish I had remembered Christopher Hitchens’s great sentence about the impact of Mencken on some of his dimmer imitators: “No wonder, then, that in his ill-tempered and misanthropic shape, [Mencken] has been adopted as a premature foe of ‘PC’ by the rancorous crowd of minor swells who put out the American Spectator. ”
5. Why Mark Beyer, David Collier and Kim Deitch need critical champions (although Gary mentioned that there is an essay by Gary Giddins on Deitch’s work. I had no idea that this essay existed and will now have to track it down).
6. The reputational status of Eisner and Spiegelman.
If you are interested in these and related topics, listen to the show.