Tastes Change


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Evan Dorkin made an interesting comment about how when the Love and Rockets Sketchbook came out in the late ‘80s it was a minor bombshell. And it was. He also goes on to talk about major releases by some big name cartoonists which were basically noticed in passing by folks within comics. He said that he feels as if Wilson and The Book of Genesis garnered more mainstream press than discussion within comics circles. Let’s go to the videotape!

Here’s the full quote:

evan dorkin says:
December 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm
Re: monographs etc, yeah, I understand that, but two thoughts, likely not well-thought out –
Although not a monograph, when the Love and Rockets sketchbook came out it was a minor bombshell, imo. The idea that relatively few people in comics weren’t hungry to see more of Jaime’s work and art and life…I dunno, I guess I just don’t get it. But I still think that we’re in a different era, when so many notable books are coming out that you can write long-ish preview articles each and every week and still miss solid-to-excellent work.
Second thought — releases like the Complete Alec and Weathercraft and Sacco’s last book weren’t monographs, and in the comics community it felt as if these significant works were noticed in passing. I’m sure everyone reading this can name more than a few books released in the past year that they felt were unjustly and surprisingly overlooked, and not just personal favorites created by obscure (even more obscure?) cartoonists. I kinda understand why Jack Survives wasn’t bandied about on websites for a long while, but some others –? I feel as if Wilson and The Book of Genesis garnered more mainstream press than discussion “in comics”. it’s like — everyone goes “holy crap!” when these books are announced, but when they’re released everyone seems to be talking about the next Holy Crap announcement or talking about All-Star Superman (not a knock — maybe the character-based books just offer up more fun things to discuss with more people than Captain Easy or King Aroo or whatever?) or talking about…nothing.
This is emotion-speak more than analysis-speak, I admit. Just a gut feeling. Too many books/books of note? Burn-out? Superman? Nature of the internet? ADD?
Anyway, it’s a great book. I’d love one on Gilbert to place next to it, myself.

So, I thought I’d riff a little bit on what I think Evan is getting at – because I definitely remember when the L ’n R Sketchbook came out and how big of a deal it was for many of us at the time. I will be over-generalizing and painting this whole picture with broad strokes, so please forgive me if I ramble and can’t tie this all up with a nice little bow by the end of this post.

It seems to me that there used to be more of a “general consensus” attitude about hot button topics in comics. Whether the topic was “Kirby” or “Indie Comics” or whatever, there seemed to be room within the comics shop (where these discussions took place) for everything to exist on the shelf together, literally and figuratively. Most folks hated Kirby (“look at how he draws square fingers”), and most of those same folks loved Mage, which was an “indie comic”. There was a real interest in non-mainstream work, because in the indies you didn’t have the Comics Code. So there was a sort of groundswell of fans that wanted something else.

And then of course the mainstream companies started giving the fans that something else, and indie, gritty, realistic adventure comics basically destroyed the market in the mid-1990s. By that time though the other upstart indie creators like Los Bros., Burns, and Clowes were sort of migrating out of the comics shop and into the legitimate bookstores. We all know the story, right? Well, I may be totally off the mark but I think some of the excitement within comics of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s has just been spread around so much that “within comics” that feeling feels flat in comparison to the old days.

Meaning there definitely is more mainstream press coverage of books like Wilson or the new Joe Sacco (there was a BBC roundtable on the book for Christ’s sake), and, I think because of that, there is less of a discussion of Clowes and Sacco within comics or on the comics blogs or wherever, because those creators are well known to us and there isn’t that discovery or shock of the new anymore. A lot of the kids who I see at Copacetic or at shows often don’t want to be bothered with comics history or something new and “adult” like Ware or Sacco. And they don’t like superheroes either. And they don’t like Los Bros. because there are too many girls in bikinis every issue. They want to discover something new or claim something new for their own rather than cling to a specific history that is already written out for them. And so they leave Clowes and Sacco to the mainstream press and don’t really chime in when the topic on a comics blog is “Ditko.”

And who can blame them? There’s a real disconnect. I can extol the virtues of back issues and comics history until I’m blue in the face, but the truth is that comics is growing beyond its own familiar borders. It’s so fractured now that we don’t have to all be conversant in all the current releases and hot topics or ancient history. I feel like I meet people who are new comics readers all the time – and when I ask them what they like, they invariably say, in one form or another, “all kinds of things.” They like Sin City and they like Ghost World. They like Naruto and they like Barefoot Gen. They might like Kirby but probably not, cuz they don’t like superheroes. They’ll look at the Ditko horror story in an old Charlton but they won’t buy the old comic. They will buy the horror reprint book with Ditko stories in it, tho’. There’s a disconnect – they didn’t grow up on comics – and they only want to buy “books.” And hey! That’s okay.

I guess I’m just trying to wrestle with my own feelings about the way things are changing within comics. The whole “embarrassment of riches” aspect of what’s available and of what’s being published these days is something that we all are contending with. It is hard to keep up with all the great books – new ones and reprints. Maybe the reprints are squeezing the new books out of the discussion sometimes. Who knows? Maybe the core fans of established creators like Burns and Clowes and Los Bros. don’t read or write blog comments much. Who knows?

The “embarrassment of riches” argument makes me think a little bit of indie film and the whole American jazz scene. Remember when there were a ton of indie movies in theaters and Hollywood was banking on the next Tarantino? Well, that’s over, right? Hollywood’s fractured and there are probably more filmmakers than ever crowding out each other for a screen in NYC or LA. That sort of feels a little like comics these days. Lots of new work and a limited direct connect to the fans. The old channels for distro are drying up and folks are scrambling trying to find online solutions. I have no idea what’s going on in indie film these days, do you? Is it me or was that just part of the “general consensus” attitude of the pre-internet ‘90s? I feel like I talked about Tarantino and Jarmusch and Wong Kar-wai with total strangers on the BART train all the time back then. Sort of like I talk comics with total strangers these days. It’s in the air. But for how long? Forgive me for being melodramatic. It’s just that I remember when the shit hit the fan during “comics golden ages” of the recent past—like in ’87, in ’96, and in ’08—and the whole industry went south. Fast. When I hear the “it’s a Golden Age” talk I start playing my Duck and Cover training video.

I’m saying we should be happy we argue and have a fractured, fucked up scene and try to foster it to stay fucked up. Jazz musicians and fans used to argue bitterly about how bebop was bullshit and that the New Orleans tradition was the best. Now most of those guys are dead and there’s no one who replaces them really. The musicians change styles, the fans change tastes, they get older and it all fades. I mean, think about it: jazz was the most popular art form in America sixty years ago and now it is just gone. Gone! There are financial foundations for the art form just to keep it alive. Finding a guy to argue jazz with these days is like looking for parts for a ’29 Ford Roadster. I don’t want comics to necessarily to be like it was in the old days but I do want that feeling of revering certain comics and certain creators in a way that this current ham-radio blogosphere doesn’t allow. Discussions in person or in letters columns were easier to navigate. You could say “Fuck You” to someone’s face in the comics shop and then the next minute be talking with them avidly about a Batman movie. Things don’t seem to play out that way on the interweb. I feel like sometimes I wanna crawl through fiber-optic cables and slash people’s throats and that’s no good. But I do think it’s good that we all have these different opinions and tastes. It’s fucked up but it means we’re still alive.

Okay, okay, lemme try and reel this back in a little bit. It was a bitter pill to swallow when I had to “sell” Love and Rockets to a new reader when I worked at a comics shop. It is hard to remember a time when I thought Los Bros.’ star would dim in the hearts of new fans. But I would just do just my best Bill Boichel impression and would explain that it was like The Beatles, insomuch as they changed everything. “Well, I never liked The Beatles,” said the twenty-year-old college sophomore. And as a retailer or a guy working for a retailer, what am I supposed to say to that? Basically, I have to say, well why don’t you check out this Akira or this All Star Superman. What do you think I say? I can only try and meet them halfway. Tastes change.

Confidential to Evan: I’m agreeing with you. Please don’t make fun of me too much in the comments section.

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105 Responses to “Tastes Change”
  1. patrick ford says:

    If the L&R Sketchbook was a minor bombshell when it came out where did this bomb go off?
    I don’t remember reading or hearing anything about it at the time.
    Isn’t much more attention being paid to things like Wilson than was ever given to Love and Rockets?
    Maybe the bomb went off inside NYC comic book shops, and maybe many people now buy Clowes, Burns, Hernandez, Woodring, etc. online or in book stores.
    Where I live, back in the 80’s there wasn’t anyone talking about L&R, the scene was strictly lines of fans at the checkout each with a three foot high stack of comic books.
    The real upside is most new releases are marketed like “regular” books. The author does promotion, and a whole series of interviews is a major part of the promotion.
    Interviews with the creators are something I actively seek out.
    The other thing which interests me is biographical information about a creator, as well as news, or historical information connected to the work, and the industry.
    Reviews (and especially the sort which deal with why the reviewer thinks a book is good or bad) have never interested me, and it doesn’t matter if the reviews are attached to novels, film, music, or comics.
    Even in the “old days” when TCJ reviewed Teen-Titans comic books I didn’t read the reviews. I already knew I had no interest in Marvel or DC comics, I didn’t need to be convinced.
    Funny thing is I read all the interviews. If there was a long interview with George Perez, or some other mainstream creator, I’d read the whole thing. It was interesting to see what they had to say, and to learn about the industry they were working in, but I never had the urge to go and read the X-Men.

  2. Andrew White says:

    Really interesting stuff, Frank, especially because I guess I’m one of those kids you talked about. I grew up on manga, but I think that I now fall into the category of comics reader that likes a little bit of everything. Ware and Sacco are some of my favorite cartoonists, but so are Frederik Peeters and Paul Pope and Eiichiro Oda and Brandon Graham and Tatsumi and Moebius and a dozen others from all over the world and the history of the medium.

    I do agree that things seem pretty fractured these days, though — it feels like there’s a real critical disconnect between a lot of the comics I enjoy. Like, I just started reading the Love & Rockets collections a few months ago and even though they weren’t instantly palatable to me, I’m beginning to really enjoy them. But that initial hump, the fact that I didn’t like Locas at all for the first 100 pages or so, is the problem — I think people have that kind of inherent distaste of whatever type of comics they aren’t familiar with. For instance, I think Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk is one of the greatest comics ever, but it’s great in the same way that the work of someone like Kirby or Fletcher Hanks is — it exists firmly within the constraints of a certain genre and limited visual sensibility, and I think you have to be really familiar with that sensibility to be able to appreciate the work. Since I read tons of shonen manga as a kid, some of it incredibly clichéd and staid, I understand the lexicon of that type of work and I’d like to imagine that makes me better able to see the merit hidden behind those superficial elements. That type of engagement isn’t as natural for me when it comes to someone like Clowes or Crumb, but I give it my best shot anyway because blogs like this one convince me that it’s important to do so.

    I guess I just think people have to challenge themselves more in the types of works they see as important. Like, I think it would be the greatest thing ever if Jeet or Dan or someone tried to critically engage, say, Franquin’s Spirou or even (God forbid!) Dragon Ball or something in the same way that they do stuff like Gasoline Alley and Kirby’s Fourth World.

    Wow, that was longer than I intended it to be. Dunno if any of it makes sense, but there’s my two cents.

  3. Brian Nicholson says:

    At SPX the Jaime Hernandez panel was packed with what I would describe as kids. I almost think the Fort Thunder panel, which immediately followed, might’ve skewed older, and was probably like one-sixth of the size. But when I talked to one of the people at the Jaime panel about how great the new L+R was, (this was more recently) she said that she was just making her way through volume 1, and was maybe reading Chester Square.

    I don’t know man, are “the kids” going crazy for that Brecht Evens book? Dude is young, new on the scene, and making a debut in book form.

    I kind of think that comics (individual issues, pamphlets) are the way to get comics folks talking because of the fact that they’re priced pretty entry-level. At a show, you could trade one for a zine you made and it would feel fair. I’m thinking about Lose, or I Want You, or something like that. Didn’t you say you were selling Orc Stain, King City, etc. to “the kids at the record store”?

    My point is, history is a lot to sort through. And so is contemporary comics. And only some of it arrives at your local library. (Pamphlets aren’t going to show up at the library, so can be bought the moment they arrive on store shelves without making you feel like a sucker.)

  4. ADD says:

    Great post, Frank. The graphic novel explosion has been one of the most gratifying events I’ve witnessed in my life, but you very nicely encapsulate one of the downsides of it here. An era has definitely passed, and I miss the days (and they way it felt) when Mage seemed like a big deal.

  5. glen says:

    It’s all about pre photoshop and post photoshop comics.

  6. BVS says:

    it does errk me the sound of crickets and “deflated, guess it’s finally out” reception books get when they do hit the comic shop. even though 6 months prior the stock price of depends brand adult diapers was through the roof because people were shitting their pants on the internet in anticipation of the next Woodring book. I don’t know why. but I guess I’ll blame “nature of the internet’, but ultimately it’s a problem of enthusiasm wad pre blown.
    I don’t understand why books get reviewed in vice magazine or all over the place 2-3 months before they are actually in stores.
    what hasn’t happened much this particular year, but it has happened the past few is this: highly anticipated books show up at summer cons and people who went to the show blog about them at the time. everyone is talking about the book while no one can actually buy it because the book doesn’t actually hit stores till october/november. then when it’s actually at the shop, people either have already read 10 reviews or they just aren’t thinking about it any more. they walk by and they either grab it with a smile on their faces knowing that they already will like it. or they look at it like they’ve just ran into an ex girlfriend and they maybe flip through it and sigh and say something like, yeah I heard this new Clowes isn’t quite as awesome as the Death-Ray one, then they set it down. I guess I should note that I work jobs at a comic shop and a library so most of my comics observations come from those realm, at the library middle aged women book clubs still want to talk to me about blankets and fun home.
    sometimes though lack of pre enthusiasm is a good thing. no one was talking about four color fear until it was actually out, people seem to be going mildly ape shit talking about it. we’ve sold out of that book and had to re-order 4 times.

  7. King AdBeck says:

    I’m slightly conflicted, because I only feel a slight nostalgia for “the good old days.” In my little world, the local comic shop’s independent section consisted of one half-empty short box of Cerebus, Dark Horse Presents, and assorted Kitchen Sink comics. Those of us who yearned for something more than muscle men in tights pummeling each other had to actively seek it elsewhere. The internet was years away and “graphic novel” was a term applied to a Will Eisner book that nobody else I knew had ever read … not an over-exploited part of the common parlance.

    On the other hand, yes, that little world was much easier to navigate than the sprawling mess we have today where genuine artists are placed on equal footing alongside aspiring amateurs and would-be hacks, and a dearth of ill-conceived and poorly-executed webcomics have risen up like mangled zombies from the Sunday funnies’ cartoon graveyard.

    But, personally, I would rather pick through the rotten apples and moldy pears of the current cornucopia than return to the spare table that made up the ’80s and ’90s world of comics.

  8. King AdBeck says:

    Wait, did I say “dearth” of poor webcomics? Clearly, I meant “glut.” Mea culpa.

  9. Lastworthy says:

    I like all of this.

  10. phil says:

    I think poor comics shops are more to blame than anything in taste making . No one bothered to try and sell me on L & R until i was in my late 30’s (thanks eternally Bill!). I can’t count the number of comic shops i walked into with the CJ’s Top 100 Comics of All Time ish and no one in the store having ANY excitement (let alone knowledge) about anything in there. I bought the friggin’ book in YOUR STORE man…awww forget it!

    At least now with the web your lack of curiosity is your own responsibility. Lord knows i didn’t have any love for Toth or Kirby when i was a spin-rack junkie. It takes time, and hey, it’s not like i’m paying any attention to what they’re reading either. I haven’t read a DC/Marvel monthly outside of Cooke’s Spirit/New Frontier ones in decades.

  11. To Mr. Ford – L’n R sketchbook was a big deal in western Pennsylvania – but then I shopped at a store called “BEM” which was named after Beto’s story in Love and Rockets #1. The point is, And what i think Evan is getting at – is something like a simple sketchbook was a big deal because some of us, alot of us, were so hungry for that type of stuff. And I don’t think there is necessarily more attention paid to Wilson than “there ever was to L’nR”.

    And to Brian – as far as the kids not digging L’n R – that has been my experience working in shops and when I poll my younger peers – they just don’t care. I hear what you are saying about kids not going bananas for Brecht Evens – truth is besides King City, Orc Stain and Lose and CF I dunno what the kids like.

    I’m just riffing everyone – I know it’s sloppy – forgive me.

  12. Frank, I think I’ve mentioned to you my grand unified theory of comics discussion deficiencies before, but between what you said last weekend about being done with art-genre comics and what Evan D. said in the comments for Jeet’s post on the Hignite/Hernandez book about how little discussion is going on, I wanted to trot it out here: I think the recent respectability resurgence of genre comics, facilitated in no small part by Comics Comics and PictureBox, gave a lot of critics the excuse they were looking for to be able to talk almost exclusively about genre work of whatever stripe. When a Spider-Man comic has the same amount of street cred as a Tim Hensley comic because the Spidey comic happened to have been drawn by Brendan McCarthy, people are gonna turn to the Spidey comic. Don’t get me wrong, I love smart genre work and alt-genre work, I mean, obviously, but its domination of the conversation bums me out. I know Jog thinks I’m smoking crack on this, though–he thinks it has more to do with serialization having an automatic leg up in terms of generating a conversation–so I’m open to being totally wrong about this theory.

    • I hear you. And I agree but it’s more complicated or nuanced than that to me. Like I want to talk about Chris Ware but I don’t because the comments section is just gonna go nuts. Same with about any “serious” conversation of established creators like Clowes, Spiegelman, Burns or Barry. I wrote about old comics, genre stuff et al for years because I didn’t see enough of that and now I see too much of that – so it’s tricky. I feel like i just want to write articles for a paper publication s that there is a lag time between me writing it and reading responses to it – BUT that is precisely what I like about this blog – the instant connect to friends and enemies alike. It’s tricky.

      • Christ, you’re right, I never thought about the “emperor has no clothes” crowd. But that’s probably because, for whatever reason, I get ZERO of that at my site. I mean, people disagree, but virtually never in strident, no-shared-assumptions conversation-preventing terms. Actually, most of my commenters are other bloggers. I don’t know what that says!

        PS: You were missed at BCGF today!

        • Thanks. I can’t wait to hear about it – I heard it was a nice day weather-wise too. Anyone who was there is welcome to post thoughts about it on this thread until Dan or someone gets a report up…

    • Tim Hensley says:

      I have the street cred of a Brendan McCarthy Spider-Man comic? I have to admit I have only the vaguest idea who Brendan McCarthy is. Street cred is bad though, right?
      I don’t think I fell into Evan Dorkin’s underreported category, but before my book was released I did imagine I would at least see it on the shelf in non-comic bookstores here in L.A., never really did…

        • Tim Hensley says:

          Thank you, Sean, I caught that the first time! Happily, it’s both well written and salutary!
          I don’t think I’d be able to come up with much of a best of 2010 list due to the fact that my employment (I don’t count comics as employment) has been so spotty that near all of my graphic novels are coming from the library these days. Mostly they have a musty Peter Arno and 4 copies of In the Shadow of No Towers at the various locations, but every now and then I’ll be baffled by the appearance of, like, Yokoyama’s Travel. Maybe others are in similar straits…

  13. NoahB says:

    “Like I want to talk about Chris Ware but I don’t because the comments section is just gonna go nuts.”

    This isn’t how I feel about such things obviously…I think the most interesting conversations are often ones where there are fewer shared assumptions. But.. if you really feel like you can’t say what you want to say without provoking conversations you don’t want to have…I mean, have you thought about turning off comments for some posts? It seems like it would be worth experimenting with, anyway. It’s your blog; you should be able to write about whatever you want, and if you have to make some adjustments to do that, you should go for it.

    • Sure, yah, that might work – turning off the comments I mean – but then it’s preachy and in my experience with doing it a sort of red flag headfake happens and it takes away from the intent. (My comics layout “spirograph” templates would make people go crazy on my cold heat blog)

      I hear what you’re saying tho – it’s a thought.

  14. I talk about this a whole lot, actually.

    I believe that it’s a function of internet culture and our possessing a greater access to information than we could ever possibly appreciate.

    There is very little shared culture in comics or in the arts in general in this day and age because every person has the ability to scratch whichever personal itch they may have, and at any time.

    Art events that have been life-defining moments in previous generations (seeing THAT movie, first hearing THAT album, reading THAT comic) are more rare in these days and times because they’re possible ALL OF THE TIME. When we think about Beatles fans, or Tarantino fans or Hernandez Brothers fans, we have to remember that the groundswell of enthusiasm came from a historical point where innovation met not only a willing audience but also just the right amount of isolation to make the “new” thing seem like an explosion.

    When the Beatles hit America, or when Tarantino hit the cinema world, there was enough mystery about the world and isolation from original sources that this “new” information seriously flipped people’s minds. Nowadays, people have so much information on hand that the sense of scale due to scarcity, rarity, diversity…don’t really exist in the way they once did. There was a time when “indie” art was a big fucking deal, but now, it doesn’t seem “independent,” or “alternative,” or “different” from anything!

    Sidebar: big problem in defining oneself in opposition to something else.

    Anyway, very person has his or her tastes catered to more-or-less exactly, and that has fractured all of the arts, not just comics. Used to be that people all watched the same shows, movies, listened to the same music within a genre, and people’s discussions focused a lot more on what they feel is important or bad about a thing. Now, if a piece of artwork fails the user in any way, the artwork is fired. While this bodes well for the reader/listener/viewer, it is dangerous for the art because it encourages safeness and blandness. People have seemed to become less patient with their art because they know that they can walk away in the middle and find a better entertainer to cater to their desires more specifically.

    Babbling, sorry.

  15. patrick ford says:

    One thing I notice is how different my experience with comics is from that of people who lived and live in larger cities.
    Not bemoaning this in any way, but growing up I knew maybe two or three kids who read comics. Since I finished school I have never known a person who reads comics (unless you count the comics shop owner). The store where I buy comics has never stocked an issue of Love and Rockets or any other “alternative” comic book. I always have to order the stuff I buy.
    So there never was a buzz for anything around here. As a result any buzz for anything that I’d notice would have to be in print, or today online, or in print. While I was excited by Weirdo, and Love and Rockets, aside from TCJ I can’t remember reading anything about them in the 80’s. I’m not saying they didn’t give me a “buzz,” but that there was no media or fan mention of the books where I live. I read Weirdo, and Love and Rockets, but they were invisible outside my door.
    Really the internet, and things like this site and others which link to media interviews, and articles about things like Wilson or Genesis have resulted in my seeing loads more information than I ever did in the past, and I can’t miss the “fan buzz” in the store because around here, there never was any.

  16. phil says:

    Yeah, what is going to end up being the common touchstone of this generation, Facebook? Either that or standing in line to buy an iPhone, i dunno.

  17. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Count me as one of those that never, ever had a conversation about a comic book in a comic book shop until I was going to seminary and lived in Chicago. That was about nine years into my serious comics-as-art interest. Even then — this was Halley’s — it was basically pretty laid-back conversation about whatever new funnybook was out, and it was mostly because of the novelty of talking about those comics as opposed to someone staring at you blankly because you just bought a pile of the weird shit that nobody else wanted.

    I would argue that alt-comics has always had an element of being discussed in the context of other media as opposed to being solely the subject — or even more meaningfully the subject — of specialized comics discussion. Comics had currency and status within my wider peer group because my being into them meant that everyone within my peer group was sort of interested in them, too, through me. We’d all hit the funnybook store on our road trips to Indianapolis, or planned a Chicago overnight trip the same weekend as Chicago Comicon, or just did our hometown’s stores on a Thursday afternoon. But the same trips we’d hit the gaming store and the record store and the used bookstores, too, facilitating the more focused interests of other persons in the group and our secondary interests in the same stuff. Buying a bunch of Yummy Furs was a score for the group, but so was picking up a copy of The Arduin Map or a Meat Puppets LP or a couple of ratty Keith Laumer books we hadn’t seen yet. In the 1980s midwest, alternative culture had value across the board because the overriding operating notion was that you were not getting to see the good stuff unless you were smart enough, connected enough, lucky enough to figure out what the good stuff was. I can’t imagine subsequent generations work out of this same cultural paradigm. Although they might use the word “paradigm” more accurately than I just did.

    Another way there was dialogue about this stuff was to read the Journal and imagine yourself a part of those discussions, from the more serious conversations embodied in that great run of Gary interviews from about issue #115 to #150 to the proselytizing/taste-making (the informal canon of cool) to the things like the Blood & Thunder tussles. A cousin to that was the way the comics themselves seemed to press that discussion, simply by being but also by making explicit recommendations of comics and things outside of comics in a way that eventually seemed to become untrustworthy hand jobs to comics-community running buddies but at the time seemed super-important and, more importantly, honestly expressed. I was focused on that stuff — considering how many indy comics purchases were fueled by the relatively oblique mentions one picked up from scanning a Bud Plant ad, having creators you admired yell at you to buy Chester Brown hit pretty hard. This also had a general culture component. I can’t remember any pro’s top 10 comics list from last year but I can still sort of remember that time when Los Bros listed a bunch of albums and musicians they liked including Dolly Parton.

    There was a sense when I moved to Seattle of finally being immersed in a community of people that knew all of the same jokes and shared a significant percentage of your basic assumptions and perhaps even likes/dislikes, frequently challenging them with deeper and more energetically expressed likes and dislikes. The fact that 90 percent of the Journal writers I met and took out to lunch would rather talk about which DC character they wanted to write more than Lorenzo Mattotti distressed me only a little bit. The fact that the only on-line discussions I seemed to have about comics 1994-2002 were about to what extent the Journal sucked and was a coven of hypocrites, 100 percent or only 95 percent, that somehow didn’t feel like much of a loss.

    Here’s the question I have, though. Why should anyone really care about the state of the critical zeitgeist and the shape of conversations other people are having? It just sounds like wanting to avoid being seen as uncool or outmoded. But that can’t be helped. I want to see and maybe eventually write about Barnaby because Barnaby is meaningful to me, not because of its proximity to the center of some imagined general conversation. If I stop and squint, it’s hard for me to imagine something less cool and less relevant than Barnaby. But you know, there’s a time in your life when you go to parties and just by showing up you’ve added something to the experience; and then there’s a time in your life when you go to fewer parties and your presence means something different, where your ability to buy a round is more important than your showing up with pretty date not already in the group. If something I write about Barnaby or, I don’t know, say Lisa Hanawalt, has value to someone, great, but the simple fact of my making it isn’t going to be as important in the same way as when I was closer to a specific age and place in my life, when the simple fact that a Journal editor was writing a hit list for a Fort Thunder mini-comic had a specific meaning and energy. Could it be that the growth of general comics discussion into various avenues of legitimacy has flattered those that have talked about them all along into thinking they have a duty to find the next place these discussions will find purchase? That seems like a lot of effort involved to find those places, particularly when others will find them more easily. Beside, why isn’t it enough to interact with whatever you comics you want in a way you find thrilling and worth doing? Why should I spend any of the precious, fleeting time I have to be gobsmacked by the art in that Jaime Hernandez book fretting after how many people feel the same way?

    • It’s for the same reason I’ve been so desperate to find good writing on Stephen King’s It lately, or on World of Warcraft by someone beyond Bruce Baugh: Simply because 1) you want to have more people with whom you can talk to about something you enjoy. It’s the same reason why anyone seeks out communities of people with shared interests in anything. Like, I’m perfectly content to read Clive Barker all by my lonesome, but it’s awful nice to be able to chat with people about it too, because it’s fun and also because if I’m lucky it deepens my understanding and appreciation of, I dunno, The Hellbound Heart. As a side benefit, a) it’s nice to see word spread about things you enjoy because then maybe more people will get to enjoy them, and it’s nice to make people happy, and b) if the word spreads, then maybe the people who made that thing you enjoy will make more money off of it.

      Being validated by the cool kids’ club has nothing to do with it.

    • Brian Nicholson says:

      Reading this I was thinking about the way that in the 1990s, the general discussion of alternative comics in comics shops or The Comics Journal still failed to serve Zongo’s printing of Gary Panter.

  18. Wow, look at all those typos! Clearly too early for me to be commenting at length.

  19. Nate says:

    I’m sure part of the issue is that the off-the-cuff writing that is the default mode for online writing is better, or at least more obviously, suited to less substantial work. There are certainly people out there doing long form online criticism (Jog, Sean Collins, and the folks at Comics Comics and HU), but that’s hardly enough people to cover all worthy publications. Frankly, I’m just happy that these people donate their time and energy to doing it. And if they want to toss off the occasional “look at what’s going on in Captain America post, more power to them.

  20. Evan Dorkin says:

    Tom –

    As far as what I was thinking when i dashed that stuff off, validation or whatever never even crossed my mind.

    Pat –

    I was pretty careful to use the word “minor” when describing said bombshell. I wasn’t comparing the sketchbook’s appearance to X-Men #136 (I think that’s where Jean Grey dies) or Raw #1, much of the hooplah over which sailed over my head at the time. Minor, y’know.

    Frank –

    Hey! You were definitely missed at the festival. As was Tom, to boot. I had a great time, amazing vibe, wish I had the green to buy a ton of interesting/beautiful/crazy stuff.

  21. pat says:

    I’ve often thought that the world of “not Marvel/DC” comics would benefit greatly from some sort of big message board. Blogs like this one and AttentionDefecitDisorderly are fantastic, but I don’t think blogs in general lend themselves to long-term discussion. You’re a lot more likely to see that huge build-up and quick deflation because the flow of the kind of new information that demands a blog post is gonna dry up real fast after a book hits.

    -D+Q just announced Wilson
    -D+Q just solicited Wilson
    -D+Q just put out a preview for Wilson
    -So-and-so has an advance review of Wilson
    -Here’s my review of Wilson

    Then once that last post drops off the front page of the blog the conversation is effectively over.

    Also want to echo the comments regarding BCGF. It was the first comic show I’ve ever gone to and I worry it may have ruined any other show I could attend by setting the bar so high.

    Evan –
    Really enjoyed the panel, hot dog people be damned.

    • “I’ve often thought that the world of ‘not Marvel/DC’ comics would benefit greatly from some sort of big message board.”

      Spoken like someone who’s never familiarized themselves with the awesome awfulness of the Journal board…at least I hope so for your sake!

      • pat says:

        Unfortunately, no, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I just don’t think that place necessarily proves it couldn’t work, nor that it wouldn’t be worth someone else giving it a go.

        • Tom Spurgeon says:

          I think it definitely proves that a magazine having a web site where they never participate and even refuse to do bare minimum administration of it but insist on hanging onto it as a hit generator despite the fact it’s actually repelling cartooning talent won’t work.

          And I’m that board’s daddy.

    • DerikB says:

      I think if more bloggers wrote posts/reviews that engaged with out people’s reviews/posts there would be a longer lasting conversation at work. You don’t see a lot of people taking the time to look at other people’s reviews and bring what has been said into their works. Instead they start again from zero.

      I’m certainly guilty of this, too, but this conversation has gotten me thinking about that, and how I need to do that more.

      • Rob Clough says:

        For me, it’s a fine line. I usually want to think about a work free from the opinions of others, so I can make my own critical evaluation. On the other hand, there are unquestionably times when reacting to the commentary of others can make your own work better. When I reviewed Market Day for example, I read the book but then read the reviews from Marc Sobel and Gavin Lees at tcj.com. Doing so freed from me discussing aspects of the work that they had nailed down and allowed me to zero in on a completely different interpretation of the book.

        • I’ll link to someone else’s review within my own review if I feel like it, but generally speaking I want the review to stand on its own, to the extent that that’s possible. It’s one of the very rare times when I really do think of the reader. I don’t want them to have to read the whole blogosphere to understand one review of one comic. I do get what you’re saying, but I shunt some of that back-and-forth into my links posts.

          • NoahB says:

            I’m someone who relatively often does posts specifically in response to other bloggers or critics. I just did one last week in which I talked about a couple of posts from CC, in fact. Like Derik, I think it provides a useful perspective both on work being discussed and on where different critics are coming from. It’s a similar impulse to holding roundtables, really — which aren’t that far from the by-invitation message boards that some are suggesting here.

            Again, how unusual is this, though? This post of Frank’s is bouncing off of Evan Dorkin’s comment. I’ve seen numerous pieces by Sean that do something similar. Maybe there’s a difference in how people approach analysis pieces vs. reviews…?

          • There’s definitely a difference for me, Noah, now that you point it out. Although that’s mostly for comics reviews, which I post in a fixed format. When I write about film or television, I tend to link to other people’s pieces a lot more. Comics reviews in which I do that are much rarer.

        • DerikB says:

          I think you can react to a work on your own and read other critics. For instance, you could read the book, write a bit, and then delve into other people’s reviews.

          A lot of the time you’re probably not coming to the work fresh anyway. How many people really got to the new L&R or the new Acme without having read something about it already? (Perhaps a different case for a lot of the minis you review, Rob.)

          But I think you can deepen your responses and your writing by engaging with other people’s writing. They may see something you don’t and then you may add onto that with something new… I guess I’m just talking about the way academia works in a way, which is probably showing my bias.

          • Rob Clough says:

            Actually, I tend to avoid reviews for big releases until after I’ve at least read the book. Sometimes when I read a book, my approach on how to write about it (which is usually intuitive) is best served by doing it in a critical vacuum. That’s not always the case, though. Sometimes I’ll read a book and not know what to make of it, which will either demand further re-readings or further critical readings. WILSON was a good example of the latter, where it wasn’t so much that I disagreed with the blogosphere as much as I had a different take on the book.

            I realize that my approach can leave me on an island, but then I’m not an academic. I see the value of some of the discussion at HU, like the roundtables and such, but that’s not exactly what I’m interested in either.

  22. patrick ford says:

    Frank, You aren’t feeling “cut off” already are you?
    So the Tumbleweeds don’t talk comics?
    Here’s what I used to do. Order a whole bunch of Wilson, Crumb, and Deitch from the Last Gasp catalogue, and then sit back and wait.

    • I was driving down Highway 64 and a tumbleweed the size of my car (not kidding) was headed straight for me. I thought “It can’t hurt my car” and then at the last second I jerked the wheel and went off the road to avoid it.

      Yah, I’m feeling pretty disconnected. Mail order is definitely part of the program…

      • patrick ford says:

        Tumbleweeds are awesome. When I was a kid we used to battle them on windy days.
        The thing is attacking right? I mean it’s big, and moving fast. So you have your sword (a pulled up survey stake), and you just hew them crown to foot. It’s very satisfying cutting a big chunk off. That slows them up. They don’t roll so fast once they’ve been wounded, and you close in for the kill.

  23. Tom Spurgeon says:

    i have an unused message board that I may one day activate. i think message boards are fine if they’re moderated with a bare minimum of professionalism and effort. however, i don’t think there’s a big swell of people out there waiting to talk about stuff.

  24. David says:

    I think there is. Moderation takes time and energy though; I’m reluctant to say, “Do it!”.

  25. Nate says:

    Message boards have in the past functioned as training for bloggers, so there’s that too.

  26. Kipper says:

    I’ve used up craigslist as a viable resource for Daniel Clowes-themed cosplay so I welcome any online forum even remotely related to my interests.

  27. Ian Harker says:

    I was a comic shop rat for about 10 years, really miss having a place like that to be. BCGF was the best show ever, or at least since the SPX’s of old. The fact that is was held in a gymnasium that was maybe only a little bigger than a comic shop made it feel like I was hanging out in one, in this case the greatest one possible. I guess there is a downside to being able to find exactly what you want so easily these days though. Back in the comic shop days you would read stuff that you didn’t like, and then you would fight with someone who did like it. Great feeling. Ever notice how boxers always hug it out after a fight? I guess I miss that to an extent. BCGF was great but there was no fight to pick. I overheard Kevin H and someone else talking crap on some artist for being a CF knock-off. Didn’t hear much though, but in a way it was an excited moment.

    I’ve always taken my involvement with comics as an extension of the comic shop. That’s gotten me into hot water in the past though. The comic shop has always been my outlet for playing out my personal psychodrama with comics. That can get bothersome. I play nice with everyone now. Not as exciting.

  28. NoahB says:

    This is a 40+ comment thread and counting. Is there really a problem with people not having space to discuss these things?

  29. Quick thoughts:

    a) I think part of the problem is the weekly wednesday “what’s out now” mentality combined with the staggering amount of stuff publishers of all stripes are putting out these days. I have trouble keeping up with what D&Q are putting out, let alone, Fanta, PB, Top Shelf, Dark Horse and so forth and so on. I feel like whatever hotly anticipated new book arrives in stores only has a week or so to get discussed before it has to make way for the next hotly anticipated thing. The blogosphere (and I include myself in this) seems to be wrapped up in focusing squarely on the moment and doesn’t have much time to look elsewhere.

    b) It can take time to get accustomed to certain authors. I didn’t get into Kirby until my late 20s and really didn’t much care for his work beforehand. I didn’t see what the big deal about Los Bros was until I read Poison River (and it was a TCJ review that convinced me to buy it! So thank you Tom). It took me a real long time to grok what Gary Panter was doing. I’m glad I made the repeated effort to dip into these authors’ works because they’re now among my favorite creators, but it took time for them to speak to me.

    c) Please oh please activate that message board Tom.

  30. Evan Dorkin says:

    The thing about a message board is that it clearly marks out conversations by title and those conversations are easier to identify, join, keep active. Comments threads can be active, like this one, and the ugly mess that the preceding conversation on the Jaime book became, but that isn’t often the case. And you could argue that these comments are evidence a message board that wasn’t the disasterpiece that the Journal board has become would be welcome. I don’t post there anymore, most professionals that used to post there ran off, even the ones addicted to self-promotion, or arguing, or screwing with people.

    But, like, y’know, whatever. If there was a killer need for a message board I think there would be one. Maybe message boards serve people who follow superheroes or good girl art or whatever better than whatever it is you want to call what goes on around here. I’m only going on gut feeling and conjecture, I’m no expert. I think the way the internet “works” in general for people affects what we’re discussing here, and I really can’t say I understand how people use the internet to “talk”, by and large. If that makes any sense. I just got up, sorry.

    Pat – glad you enjoyed the panel, thanks for saying so.

  31. Nick Mullins says:

    I used to regularly check and comment on the Comics Journal Message Board for years, hoping to get into an intelligent discussion about a book I liked. Over all those years, I can only remember two actual discussions that went beyond a few posts without dissolving into name-calling. I don’t think message boards are the answer.

    Overall, it seems to me people are able to discuss general ideas, like whether craft is necessary or genre work inherently bad, but people seem less willing (able?) to analyze a specific work.

    Even internet discussion is fractured now. Instead of one site to go to and talk with like-minded people, I have to read through a bunch of different personal blogs. Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter kind of acts as a central hub (it lead me here), but I still have to hunt to find people talking about things I’m interested in.

    But to get back to the main topic at hand, I never had discussions at comic book stores. Since I never was into superheroes, I was relegated to the porn section to find issues of Yummy Fur. But it does seem to me that at cons years ago there was more of a buzz regarding some newly released book. People would come up to me with some find and ask “have you seen this?” It seemed like every year there was something at the APE (that’s the con I’ve been to regularly) that was THE book to get. I don’t see that as much anymore.

    My sense of it all is that there are more choices about what to read, which is great, but that has lead to the fracturing people have mentioned here. And at the same time, the actual readership of comics as a whole is still pretty small. So we’re all in these teeny groups now. Added to that, we’ve all started out own little blogs scattered across the internet, and– voila– here we are.

    • Hunh. It is interesting that there isn’t even a “book of the show” anymore – there so much stuff now. I think most of us who have been going to SPX or MOCCA for years can remember the feeling of getting THE book of the show. At last year’s SPX there were like four “books of the show” – if that makes sense. Now, that’s not a bad thing but it does add to this sense of there not being a general consensus on what was that best book.

  32. Ian Harker says:

    CCC#9 = Book of the show for BCGF, duh.

    • zack soto says:

      I dunno what the book of the show was, but the only thing I actually bought was crickets 3. That’s because I am very very poor though.

    • But there was also Uptight 4, Crickets 3, Big Questions 15, Studygroup12 4, Ben Marr’s Maureen Dowd book, Josh Cotter’s strip collection…really an embarrassment of riches.

      Although I suppose it’s worth considering that there have long been multiple BookS of the Show. Even at a renowned “Book of the Show” show like MoCCA 2003, you had Blankets, Kramers Ergot 4, AND The Frank Book.

  33. Michael Grabowski says:

    Are comics readers too cool for a “book club?” Isn’t that kind of what’s being discussed here? Seems to me the internet can facilitate that if there’s a desire, though it still needs some kind of coordinated “place” to take place. Set up some kind of live chat on a social network to take place at a specific time. Can Skype manage “party line” conversations that can be recorded and podcasted? I don’t know, maybe that’s too formal, but it seems like the means for those kinds of interactions exist, but in a different form than what went before.

    It sort of surprises me that con organizers and attending publishers don’t plan opportunities for book club-like discussions (for the attendees as well as the guests/artists/bloggers there) as part of the programming. Seems like an easy way to garner some fresh word-of-mouth for recent work.

  34. James says:

    I missed seeing you at the Brooklyn show, Frank! No cool boxes of weird older stuff…
    Lots of good newer stuff, though.

  35. Ian Harker says:

    Curated message board? I think message boards can bring out the best and the worst in online idea exchange. The best in the sense that truly detailed discussions can emerge, the worst in that a lot of ad hominem ugliness and trolling develops. TCJMB used to have a “real name only” policy before it switched over to the new format. After they dropped that it wasn’t long before it descended into a cesspool.

    I’d love to see something halfway between a blog and a message board where someone like Frank creates a topic and then hand picks 10 or so people to discuss it openly. Either that or a message board with a more thorough background/credentials check.

    Also, never let this happen. It will ruin my life.

  36. zack soto says:

    Message boards have maybe seen their heyday. They were cool & awful in different amounts, and I kind of miss the days when jeff levine’s board or the sg12 board or the tcj board were really vital, exciting things. But now we have facebook for the community and blogs for the extended commentary.

    It’s a fallen world, is what I’m saying.

    • Ian Harker says:

      Babies having babies.

    • Briany Najar says:

      Maybe a forum / message board with lassez faire moderation (all things in moderation, including moderation itself) but only the moderators (+ yer “elite” if you like) can initiate topics.
      The first post on each topic could then be a nice chunk of writing, somewhat blog-like, substantial but open-ended, something to jam on. (sorry, it’s all the talk of “riffs.”)
      Something like that might help to keep the flaming and fluff down without being actively censorious. There would be a degree of focus, rather than a million topics about the latest movie franchise.
      An important difference between fora and blogs is that blog entries become effectively obsolete, whereas forum topics only disappear when no-one’s posting on them.
      Also, you can see more topics on the first page, just headlines but often you get some body text when you hover over them.
      I think it’s a shame that all blogs have the same ephemerality imposed on them by their shared structure. The use of blogs seems to have evolved (in some places) beyond the assumed purpose they were designed for.
      A blog with 3 or 4 “channels” might work. It’s there already in that the user can click on categories and authors, but that feature is somewhat buried, or off the beaten track.

      must… stop… rambling!

      • DerikB says:

        This seems more about the design of a blog than anything inherent to a blog. You’re basically describing a blog with active comments.

        A well designed WordPress blog can have accounts, multiple levels of comment replies, notifications of said replies, etc. etc.

        • Briany Najar says:

          But, don’t they generally discourage involvement with any but the most recently started handful of discussions?
          If a post isn’t on the front page, or otherwise prominently headered, it seems natural to assume it’s dead and buried. (or Buried Alive! Aaargh!!)
          While that’s not a strict universal law, it is an influence.
          I don’t know about customising WordPress blogs. Are there solutions to that sort of linear decay? Is more horizontality possible? Can revived interest cause disinternment?
          Can I extend the longevity of the metaphor any further? Would that be dabbling with forces beyond my control? Will it only be accepted by innocent lake-side children and hut-dwelling blind men?…

          • DerikB says:

            Well you could have a front page that showcases posts with the most comments, or recent comments, or the most comments in the past week or something like that. That could be a second column besides the latest posts column.

            You could manually foreground older posts on the front page.

            There’s lots you could do if you a) took the time b) had the design/coding skills to make it happen (or got someone else with the skills to do it). It seems that most bloggers/blogs don’t really spend all that much time on their design beyond making a title banner at the top and perhaps populating a links list.

            I don’t know for sure, but I think usability and design could have a big influence on discussion longevity and viability.

            Maybe I can test out some of my ideas on the new group blog I’m involved with (coming soon).

        • Briany Najar says:

          I see what you mean about notifications.
          That’s useful for people who got onboard when the topic was new.

  37. NoahB says:

    Message board posts tend to die after a while too. If they don’t, you often kind of wish they would.

    It’s easy to highlight topics that are important or meaty in a sidebar, which can keep them around for a while. And with a little planning you can organize roundtables where people talk about a particular topic for a week, or a more extended period. The R. Crumb Genesis roundtable on HU went on in fits and starts for more than a month, I think, and included a dozen or more substantial posts and literally hundreds of comments. Dorkin says Genesis didn’t get much play in comics circles, but I don’t know how he could have said that if he’d seen the HU discussion. (Whether the discussion was worthwhile is another question, of course.)

  38. NoahB says:

    Sorry; hope the link to the blog isn’t inappropriate. I just feel like a lot of what people are asking for are things that I’ve been trying to do very actively at HU over the last couple of years.

    The thing about having a more open discussion is that it can end up being more cantankerous than people sometimes like, or it can end up including viewpoints that you aren’t especially interested in hearing from, or people you don’t really feel are qualified to talk. I do a lot more moderating and filtering than the tcj message board, but less I think than CC (and certainly less than CR.) Having different forums and different approaches is a good thing, and obviously everybody needs to find the level they’re comfortable with. But people should recognize that if you ask for more talk, you’re going to get more noise. You need to figure out whether you think that’s a bug or a feature.

  39. BVS says:

    after reading all this I guess I just see a thirst to discuss comics for more than promotional purposes. it does take some time to digest and think about some books.
    and most humans do not visit the comic shop weekly. Just because a big splash book from last spring is old news to us nerds doesn’t mean it’s not still a new book. maybe it would just mean that things like comics comics and TCJ and decide to intentionally re-read write about or some comics a bit more indepth later than the friday after the wednsday it landed at the comic shop.

    • BVS, you are my friend for the day. You are my friend because you said

      “after reading all this I guess I just see a thirst to discuss comics for more than promotional purposes.”

      Yes yes yes yes EEEEEEXACTLY. I am deeply interested in the mechanics and culture and aesthetics and symbols and everything else of comics. I hate a cursory plot summary and thumbs-up recommendation.

      That’s one of the things that I have been doing more and more of on my own blog and intend to do EVEN MORE of once, I upgrade myself. As much as I dislike it when people say “if you don’t like something, you should go do better,” this is fully within my skillset.

      I like the nichey, nuance-based discussions that have been led on this blog along with a few other sites. But there’s always the thirst for MORE.

      Down with previews, UP with dissecting comics down to the molecular level!

      • Ian Harker says:

        Technical/aesthetic analysis of contemporary alt/art comics is what I thirst for more than life itself. You’re totally right, everything is usually either a plot overview or some lofty b.s. postmodern theory. No in-between, no nuts and bolts. When I read these comics my thoughts are always on how it was made, the approach, the presentation, the decisions that the artist made. Maybe I’m just a wonk.

  40. BVS says:

    or lets do a poll and see what books the comics comics community feels were under discussed and worth chatting about again? nothing fresh off the ups truck. stuff from at least 6 months ago, no more than a year ago.

    • Ian Harker says:

      I’d like to see more talk on Wally Gropius. Dan’s review was great, but that was a potential BOTY. Need more.

      Also, I know they are kinda only out in limited release, but I haven’t heard a peep about If’ n’ Oof or Powr Mastrs 3 yet. I’d love to hear both of those books dissected, and not just by people who automatically like them. (For the record I don’t have either yet.)

      Also, the new issue of Monster seemed like a big event. Who really talked about what was between the covers?

      • I’d be willing to talk about Powr Mastrs, actually. I haven’t read the second or third books, but I intend to, sooner rather than later.

        I certainly was not a fan of the first book, but at the same time, I find it very interesting as a comic book.

  41. James says:

    I think part of what you are talking about is because the books are so much more ambitious or complex that forming a response becomes more complex.
    The press kind of pre-digests these things, their take informs the reaction of the readers to varying degrees, as well. Not like the old days when you’d go “holy shit! Does anyone else know about this?” Then, the promo was nil, the response was all snail mail and a few fanzines.
    Writing a letter to a monthly or blabbing into lists about them is one thing, the longer GNs or whatever, longform books need to gestate longer in the brain before you can look at it objectively. Artists meeting at cons and the like is great but such brief encounters don’t allow for in-depth conversation. Artists do these things alone and a lot of readers read them alone, so it’s a lot of coccoons in a void that are sending feelers out to each other, give it time.

  42. evan dorkin says:

    Noah – I was aware of the HU discussion, although I didn’t read much of it — even so I don’t think HU = “comic circles”, and I’m not saying that as a knock, as neither is this site, or CBR, or any one entity.

    The stats you mention are impressive and all, I mean, bully for your site, but I’m probably not wrong in assuming that, as with most conversations of the sort, those hundreds of comments are coming from a few dozen people, if not fewer. Also not a knock, look at this thread, scores of comments, perhaps a dozen and a half actual participants. Not much of a circle.

    I would still say Genesis got more action in the mainstream press than in comic circles. Maybe you have a different idea of what constitutes such a thing, maybe I’m wrong, and if so, it’s still only one book of the many alluded to.

    And who cares, anyway, the Batman: Widening Gyre collection ships tomorrow. That’s all everyone’s really thinking about.


    And Widening Gyres.

    • NoahB says:

      Hey Evan. Yeah, obviously HU isn’t all of comicdom by any stretch. That roundtable made it pretty clear to me that folks in the comics blogosphere were really interested in the topic though, and willing and eager to talk about it at great length. As you say, you talked about other books too, though.

  43. charles says:

    and i won’t make fun of you either, although i did answer a few of your thoughts with my own.


    but, yeah, those of us who know the Beatles are more and more in the minority. Times change. But we were there in the formative years.

    • Evan Dorkin says:

      Charles – Two comments on your blog post –

      1) As stated earlier on this thread, I used the words “minor bombshell” carefully, and your leaving off the “minor” allows you to not only get in a snarky post title, but overstate what I was getting at. I can’t argue for Frank’s points (although I’m of the opinion that you’re overplaying the “old fart decrying what these kids today are into” bit, reading Frank’s many posts here pretty easily dismisses the idea that he thinks we should return to the “good old” 80’s), but I was trying to mitigate the idea that the L&R Sketchbook rippled throughout fandom. As a retailer at the time the book came out, I know that while L&R impacted a lot of us hard, it left the majority of the crowd/customers cold, if they even recognized the book. I’m talking about people who paid attention to comics as a whole, I think that was kind of obvious, that I wasn’t speaking about Paul Levitz or the Marvel Zombies. I mean, c’mon.

      2) Related – your blog post discounts the actual experiences Frank and I individually had, in Pittsburgh and NYC, and, well, y’know you can’t do that. You can’t say we didn’t have those experiences. You can discount our opinions or attitudes but raising an eyebrow at what I am telling you happened to me and my then-social circle of comics-interested friends and customers and a few professionals — that’s like me telling you that your favorite comic is not your favorite comic, that you hadn’t read it or enjoyed it with others. That you are wrong to say so. That what you enjoyed for dinner was actually not enjoyable to you. You never saw the Ramones on the day you saw them. You can tell me you don’t think the impact was widespread, but I can’t understand why you’re telling me I didn’t have an experience I very much did have. Or Frank.

      I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the 80’s, despite their being a more stable industry and several distributors and more royalties for creators. I never said such a thing. And I don’t think Frank is, either. Of course times change, for good and bad, I think Frank wishes Los Bros have fared better as times have changed (I feel this way), and I also think you went a bit overboard in your post. Although I agree with the sentiment, these are very good times in many ways, and the 80’s was no treat. We have a superior medium right now, but we arguably have a worse business model and Direct Market. But we have more library sales and “legit” publishers in the game and more mainstream attention and better GN sales…and a crippled DM, and more hurting cartoonists than I can ever remember during my career. But, etc, and, etc. .Best of times, worst of times.

      My twenty- two cents.

      • charles says:

        evan –

        sorry, as always, tone is hard to get into the internet sometimes. I actually didn’t mean it to be snarky at all, and i’m sorry that it came off that way. And i wasn’t trying to discount the experience that you and Frank had. My intention was to simply add that i was actually a little surprised to read that you and frank had the same experience and was sort of adding, “well, here is what i remember.” That’s all.

        Obviously it must have come off more mean spirited and that was not the intent. Sheesh, i’ll have to go back to read it again, because, man, that wasn’t the tone i was going after.

        no, i wasn’t advocating going back to the ’80’s, which, while more stable in certain respects, didn’t enjoy the widespread critical acceptance that graphic novels and comics have finally in the USA. We can blame major changes in the economy and all the usual factors in the business models, which is an entirely different discussion. I merely was enjoying how we’re not second class citizens anymore with regards to the general public, and that i’d rather sit around and talk about the old days since we were all there, but not go back.

        Again, sorry to you and frank if i came off that way. I’ll have to go back to yesterday and amend that post…


  44. patrick ford says:

    Most people are probably just interested in reading the books.
    My interest beyond that is interviews with the creator, and any news or historical context which might illuminate a side of the work.
    For example in Jeet Heer’s introduction to the recent Walt & Skeezix book he mentions that Frank King’s own son was sent away to a boarding school at a very young (in my opinion) age.
    Any other sort of commentary on art tends to follow at pattern. The reviewer brings opinions and bias to the work at hand and judges it based on how well it conforms to that personal criteria.
    This is normal, and explains why people like different things, but I’m not thinking it has any value. It might have an entertainment value. The reviewer might have a clever style of his own, or in the case of blogs some kind of “let’s go look at the car crash,” interest might be generated.

    • NoahB says:

      Pat, “most people” are not interested in reading the books. Comics is still a pretty specialized interest on the scale of things. If you’re looking for majority approval, you’re going to end up talking about Twilight or Ke$ha. I actually like talking about those things quite a bit, but sometimes you just feel like focusing on something that doesn’t matter like Crumb or Clowes,

      Criticism is an art form of longer standing than comics, from Coleridge to Shaw to Woolf to Baldwin to Derrida and on and on. Its value is the same as any art’s value; in its beauty, or insight, or weirdness, or ridiculousness, or uselessness. If you don’t like the genre, you don’t like the genre — no reason to read something if you don’t feel like it. But to dismiss criticism because it’s not a majority interest, or because it’s not objective, or because it doesn’t make better widgets just seems really philistine to me.

  45. jasonb says:

    There are message boards out there that do put an effort in keeping discussion going and having a strong community. http://www.selectbutton.net (a message board that at least tries to take video games discussion seriously) could be used as a template for a comics message baord. They have a standard message board layout but longer posts are put on the front page. However, site isn’t as good as it used to be a few years ago, mainly because they had stronger moderation then. I’ve seen other message boards require a small sign-up fee (no more than $5) in order to get rid of any spam/nonsense members.

    A message board may not have the rigor as a blog site, but I think there’s a lot to gain from it. Right now, online comics discussion is fractured between a handful of blogs. The only times I get a sense of community are in horribly unnavigable comment sections like this. I’d love to have a central place to discuss comics.

    • R.M. Rhodes says:

      More specifically, I’d love a place to discuss the comics that I am currently reading. I’m bouncing all over the place these days, reading old NBM Corto Maltese books, translations of French comics, Steve Canyon reprints, D&Q books and a lot of interesting stuff from places like SPX and BCGF. Nobody in my immediate circle of comic book creators/readers is reading any of this stuff, but I’d like to believe that someone, somewhere is.

  46. patrick ford says:

    Just to be clear what I mean is most people who read the books are interested in reading the books. I don’t mean everyone is interested in reading any given book.
    I don’t dismiss taste based criticism, people are welcome to do what they like.
    I have no interest in it.

  47. Ian- I would like to do more nuts and bolts breakdown analysis of art comics but it’s tricky since it’s on this site because Dan publishes alot of the best art comics (imo). I did the Multiforce thing http://comicscomicsmag.com/2009/07/multiforce-notes.html
    and the Galactikrap thing http://comicscomicsmag.com/2007/11/galactikrap-2.html and those were sincere and from the heart. But sometimes I shy away from writing “Ben Jones is the only artist who can do comics and fine art and animation and make it work” because it may end up like I’m just being a huckster salesman for him – which I definitely am sometimes on this Picturebox sponsored site. I like shilling for my friends but it’s a fine line. Someone else who is versed in this stuff has to pick up the slack (imho).

  48. NoahB says:

    Jason Overby has his take on this at HU here if folks are interested.

  49. Sophie Yanow says:

    Just had a kid come into the comic shop today (CR in Berkeley. I say kid but he’s probably my age.). He’s buying 50c books from the 90s and a recent Bulletproof Coffin issue. He’s bought good minicomics from me before without any recommendations on my behalf… I’m curious so I ask him what he thinks of Bulletproof Coffin. Says he’s seen comics do it before but this has something nice and sleazy about it. I say, not a lot of other stuff filling this ‘niche’ these days (whatever that means). Then he mentions King City. I ask him if he reads Comics Comics and he says yes. Damn, that got a smile out of me. Something there about your being a tastemaker… or were the kids already reading these books? Probably, a lot. Some, maybe not.

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