Final Bell


Thursday, October 30, 2008

FRANK: When Comics Comics conceived of the Cage Match concept, it was our goal to get our readers riled up enough about comics to switch from passive readers to active writers. It was—and remains—our hope that people care enough about comics to take a stand, one way or the other. To get involved, to build a dialogue that will help create an emotional as well as intellectual foundation for the comics of the future. Sometimes it’s too easy to talk about formal elements in comics—page layout, technical proficiency, inking technique, character creation, fluency of language, narrative strategy, etc.—and avoid the content at its core.

Comics is what we’re about here at Comics Comics, and I, for one, think it’s a good thing to talk these things out. Okay, argue, yell, curse—but all in the hopes of pushing the “discussion” along. I might not have the words or patience at times, but Tim Hodler does and usually Dan Nadel does too—and so together we can all pitch in and build a framework for us, and for the reader, the commentator, the fan. THEN, it really gets interesting. It’s not just print on a page, it’s LIVE, it’s new comics day and people are hangin’ out, talkin’ shop, and talkin’ shit. It’s FUN.

I think it’s safe to say that Cage Match #3 has fulfilled (well, to be honest—exceeded) our goal. The discussions this time around have clearly generated much heat, and, I think, some light as well.

I’ve received quite a few private emails addressing this particular Cage Match. Some thanking me for bringing this out, others admonishing me for my tone. It’s ALL appreciated. Sometimes I get emails from other cartoonists that are basically lectures about why what I wrote on the blog was wrong. (Hello! It’s called a Cage Match for a reason.) I appreciate that they took the time write me, ha. I don’t really mind being lectured. I’m just glad to know they’re reading along too.

So, in that spirit, I want to thank Mr. Heatley and everyone who slacked off at work or at home to chime in on this Comics Comics Cage Match.

TIM: Frank asked me to add a few words to his post, but I’m not sure I have too much to say, other than that I agree with him.

I think the Cage Match itself, while it got a little heated at times, both in the main post and in the comments, was basically a success, and stayed more or less in bounds. I was less happy with some of the responses to David Heatley yesterday, but I guess that’s what happens sometimes, and I have to take responsibility for it as one of the blog’s moderators.

Passions sometimes run high, and I think that’s a good thing overall. Art needs passion, and argument, and maybe even hurt feelings now and again. But I don’t want this blog to degenerate into a forum for two-minute-hate sessions, and, I have to say, it came too close to that yesterday. I want to apologize to David Heatley and our readers; it shouldn’t have happened.

Umm. I don’t want sappy music to start playing in the background, so I’ll leave it at that. Thanks.

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11 Responses to “Final Bell”
  1. mza says:

    one thing that is great about the Internet but also sucks about the Internet is that sometimes (often) you get to see people think out loud and submit half-formed arguments to be maimed by opposing voices like so many weak Christians thrown to underfed lions.

    In this case, Mr Heatley’s apology for himself (and irrational putdown of the so-called “‘indie’ comics world”) was the Christian snack, and Mr Santoro’s rebuttal was the feasting lion.

    It rarely makes sense for artists to choose to defend their own work at length in print. If the work is strong, it should be able to speak for itself and withstand the opposition unaided. If the work has holes in it, self-explanatory fiddling tends to draw further attention to them or turn them into bigger holes.

    Still, I am glad any time an artist does it, as it is essentially a generous and vulnerable — therefore, humanizing — act.

    In the Outernet, since trash-talking usually occurs in private and reaches its target only secondhand (if at all), we tend to settle for one half of the conversation. Criticism of author, no rebuttal. Authorial statement of intent, no rebuttal.

    I’m saying, connecting the two halves is a worthwhile endeavour — worth sacrificing a few minutes and the curtain of politeness. We all love comix, anyhow, so I don’t think any of this can hurt comix.


  2. LOST CAT says:

    Reasons why comics bloggers are so angry and petty:

    1. Our brains, like our bodies, are ill-formed. (Overwhelming smell that filled ballroom at SPX comes to mind).

    2. Frustration and resentment over the impossibility of success and the accessibility of the few sucessful artists.

    3. Fear that the next “golden age” is approaching and that we will be passed up if we don’t act now.

    4. Possibility that entropy is true, that all things will come apart eventually and disappear so what does that say about our ambitions? Maybe not this one.

  3. Dustin Harbin says:

    Wow, I should have kept reading that thread. I love that the principals showed up at the end–it was definitely skewing toward a TCJ vibe.

    I love the idea behind these Cage Matches, and it’s hard for me to think of a place I value more for considered, informed discourse. Especially when Spurge chimes in–he should be like a satellite Comics Comics-er; maybe like Shemp.

    The problem with allowing us as the great unwashed to comment on things is that often we’re NOT informed, and certainly not considerate. Most of us (I’ve certainly been guilty as well) are only talking to sound clever, to one-up, or to dogpile. Note how many of the commenters had NOT read the Black History story (myself included again).

    I think the Cage Match works best as discussion between its principles, where the focus is the book and its creator. This one ended up being about the discussion, which was lame. But only sometimes–there were still some great comments made. Usually by Tim.

  4. Anonymous says:

    All this posts have finished to solvent my desbelief in art criticism (when it´s negative). I will sound extremely naive (and stupid, as this being posted here) If someone makes his art and puts it out there, it´s ok to say you don´t like it.
    But it´s not ok to try to kill it.
    It´s as stupid as war. No sense.
    Like what Spurge did trying to kill “American Widow” this week. Live that woman get out her pain. It is not necessary to say her expression of feelings is “awfull”. Her husband died, for christsake!!! Let it be.

    And what saddens me more is this affects my readings of Santoro´s work. The magic of not knowing the author like a bully prankster, was really great.

    Cage Match or American Gladiator. Call it what you want. There is no excuse to be mean.

    You seem to have the same hate for Heatley than a white for a “Sambo”.

    And Heatley deffending himself…well he is being bullied (as the goddess noted).

  5. T Hodler says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Just so you know, we’ve turned on comment moderation for this post — something I’d like to keep a one-time deal.

    We welcome your thoughts and opinions, but we don’t want this to turn into another round of acrimony, focused on a different target. There are other places for that. So please keep that in mind. Thanks.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “you’re a fucking asshole for even doing this story” (Santoro to H)

    One could think he is trying to be as provocative as Heatley with his criticism.

    And as he said, after the provocation, there is nothing left.

    Tod: I understand. Just trying to understand, no targeting aimed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    either shut down the conversation or don’t but quit with the “let’s all be classy” mandate. the idea that what happened with heatley’s responses is any different then the rest of the “proper” ones is just arrogant. more then anything else that’s been misspelled, misplaced or just flat out rude, this idea that everybody should man up to the t. hodler approved level of discourse is the most irritating result of this heatley adventure.

  8. T Hodler says:

    Hey Anonymous —

    You may be right, but generally speaking, I’m against shutting down comments unless things get completely out of control. (I have mixed feelings about Dan’s decision to do so yesterday, but totally understand it.)

    I also had mixed feelings about this post, and possibly inviting a new round of ugliness, but Frank wanted to put it up to maybe clear the air a little bit, and try to end the whole thing on a more positive note. I like what he had to say, too.

    I’m sorry if you don’t see the difference between reasonable disagreements and personal attacks, but I don’t even begin to understand how making that distinction is “arrogant.”

    It’s hard to know where to draw the line, and I erred on the side of inclusion yesterday, but basically, I think it’s okay to say someone sucks at drawing or to say a decision in unethical or unwise, but it’s not okay to call someone names. If that irritates you, then there are about a million places on the internet where you can anonymously demonize anyone you like. Go for it!

  9. David Heatley says:

    I really appreciate everything that was said. I’m chastened by all of this. My long-winded response had way too much passive aggressive attitude in it. I can see that. I don’t like being bullied or being hit with personal attacks which have nothing to do with my book, but it was no excuse to go on the offense myself. This probably doesn’t seem at all obvious, but I really am trying to cultivate more humility in my life and relinquish a sense of control (Thanks for the person who said “you can’t control the reaction to your book.” I needed to hear that). My reaction “essay” really just illustrated the opposite tendency in me. This little shit storm of negativity was a good excuse to practice trying not to take it all personally. I’m not my book. I have an ego like anyone else and it can get ugly. Sometimes it needs to be cut down to size. Thanks to everyone who took a swing at me and to Frank for leading it off.

  10. ULAND says:

    I think these heated discussions are pretty healthy. I’m always a bit skeptical of calls to reign it all in.

    Any other medium, it’s totally acceptable to talk about a given work in that impassioned tone.
    I think creators might just have to accept that thats’ how people are going to respond, especially those who’re very into the medium they work in.
    If the work is ultra-personal, it’s almost impossible to separate the work from the creator. It is there though, and I think we all should remind ourselves of that.
    And, I know I can sound harsh sometimes, but I don’t think, for instance, saying you think an idea or a comic strip is solipsistic is the same as saying they’re without value, or somehow less than anything to do with myself.
    I’m flawed, everything I make is flawed, everyone I know is flawed. I don’t think David is more or less flawed than most people or works of art. There are far worse things than being solipsistic. You could be totally disingenuous, for instance. David is not at all, I don’t think. I appreciate the vigor and passion I see in his work.

  11. Jeffrey Meyer says:

    “Any other medium, it’s totally acceptable to talk about a given work in that impassioned tone.”

    This is key, I think — for me at least.

    I keep hearing about this being a “golden age” of intelligent comics, blah blah blah… but all I really see is a lot of very mediocre (or bad) work being praised to the skies without any restraint or measure. And if anyone is critical (justly or otherwise) you’re frowned upon by TEAM COMICS as if you’re some kind of crank. It seems like a decade or more ago it may have been acceptable to be a “crank” in the (perceived) style of Groth, etc. but now there’s such a pussy climate of backscratching that it’s just embarrassing. Do we really benefit from the breathless enthusiasm of people like Heidi MacDonald?

    I’m sure other mediums suffer from this sort of thing as well, but it just seems more prevalent in comics, I don’t know why, maybe since there’s – still – no great money to be made?

    Why are observers of the form allowed to say they “just don’t like” something, but if, say, they specifically criticize Jeffrey Brown or Roberta Gregory’s drawing, they’re accused of “not understanding how comics work”? I call bullshit on that, frankly. Jason Shiga? Sure, I don’t like his drawing, but I can see he’s doing something with the overall form that is worthwhile… Brown? Gregory? What gives, man? Just for example.

    I dunno, maybe I’m the one who’s wrong… Heatley has a deal with Pantheon, rightly or wrongly. It’s all a mystery to me.

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