Posts Tagged ‘“comics elitists”’

Best Online Comics Criticism 2010


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

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About a year ago, Ng Suat Tong invited me to help judge his annual online comics criticism event. Not seeing a good reason against it at the time, I agreed. (As you may remember, Frank participated last time around.) It was definitely an imperfect exercise, but I knew that going in. More on that later.

First, the winners, as listed by Suat here. (He also provided commentary on the panel as a whole and some of the runners up.)

1. “The Other Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name”, by Jason Thompson (6 votes)

I was apparently the only judge who didn’t vote for this article, which surprises me. Not because Thompson’s article is poor—in fact, I think it is a fine overview of an exotic (to Americans) cultural subject—but because it doesn’t seem to me to be criticism at all. The closest thing to a critical judgment that I can find in the essay comes in the summing-up statement: “In short, although a few artists like Moto Hagio write serious stories about the consequences of incest and child abuse, most manga and anime creators flirt with incest for kink, comedy and emotional effect.” Not exactly an electrifying insight.

Still and all, if this had been a competition designed simply to identify 2010’s best writing about comics on the internet, I may well have voted for this. But it wasn’t, and I didn’t.

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New Comics riff


Saturday, July 17, 2010

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Comics shop reverie. Ah, the new store. Up in the clouds. Heaven. Copacetic rules the roost in Pittsburgh. Best feeling shop in town. I guarantee it! I work Sundays folks, come on down! Take a seat in the easy chair and read the funnies. Have a coffee.

This was a big week for a fanboy/wanna-be-critic like myself. Can you say “paradigm shift?”

Let’s count ’em off: Bulletproof Coffin #2, Orc Stain #4, King City #7 (I know, that came out weeks ago but I missed it and had to re-order it), The Man with the Getaway Face preview, and the new Matt Kindt graphic novel, Revolver. What was I saying about the Direct Market being dead? Sorry, I was high. This has been a great summer already for my new drug: Fusion comics. My term for what Charles Brownstein calls “Boys Comics.” And the Direct Market is delivering my fix, so who’s complaining?

Leading off, The Bulletproof Coffin #2 By David Hine and Shaky Kane. This is my dream comic. I’m in love. This comic is my girlfriend. At this point I wouldn’t care if she fucked my best friend. This comic can do me no wrong. For me, it’s a perfect mashup of styles that POPS with bright colors and dripping blood. The whole book looks really sharp, I think, and the story’s clever unfolding owes a lot to its design. There’s another comic-within-a-comic interplay (Shield of Justice cover to your left) that twists up the story and makes it all swing. If you couldn’t find issue one, I’d say you could still jump on board with #2 and not miss the train. There’s a great synopsis on the inside front cover that made me laugh. Reads like a comic book, like serial entertainment. And for me, really, it’s just the joy reading a Shaky Kane comic. Talk about Fusion – Shaky’s able to somehow subtly, easily shift styles that it really creates a jarring, discordant note in the story. (more…)

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2009 comics criticism list


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

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Hey everyone, Frank Santoro here. I was asked by Ng Suat Tong to participate in a survey of comics criticism from the 2009 calendar year. I agreed as long as I didn’t have to nominate any of the pieces to be voted on. I just wanted to vote on the list that Suat provided me. Check this out for details.

So here’s the outcome. And below that are the pieces I voted for. This was fun. Thanks. I’m gonna refrain from writing about any of the pieces here. I think they are all pretty awesome. Comics criticism is a buffet these days. There is something for everyone.


Top three, all with four votes each:

Robert Alter: “Scripture Picture” (The New Republic)

Joe McCulloch, “A Review of Batwoman in Detective Comics Focusing
Mostly on the Art

Tom Spurgeon on Rereading

Remaining four, all with three votes each:

Eddie Campbell on Will Eisner and PS Magazine (30th August 2009)

Tom Crippen “Age of Geeks” TCJ 300

Dirk Deppey, “The Man Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight”

Andrew Rilestone on Watchmen



Seth, “The Quiet Art of Cartooning” (Walrus Magazine)

Joe McCulloch, “A Review of Batwoman in Detective Comics Focusing Mostly on the Art

Tom Spurgeon on Rereading

Derik Badman: Rubber Blanket

Ken Parille on Tim Hensley and Gropius

Douglas Wolk “Shades of Meaning” (New York Times)

Eddie Campbell on Will Eisner and PS Magazine (30th August 2009)

Dan Nadel on Hal Foster

Nina Stone: “The Virgin Read: You Need More Janet Jackson In Your Life, Power Girl”

Bill Randall: “Lost in Translation” TCJ 300



Steelers win Super Bowl…Gary Panter paints a mural in a fancy museum…Watchmen is fine by me—just think if they would have made it in 1992…Fumetto Festival in Switzerland rules…TCAF is awesome even in new location…Canadians have their shit together…Kids still don’t know their comics history…Diamond raises minimums—and all but last indy pamphlets that haven’t already jumped ship finally do…

But indy folks still keep releasing pamphlets anyways. Why? I like to think it’s cuz they are easier to store than mini-comics. I have boxes of mini-comics that I can never look through like I look through my LP records or graphic novels that sit on a shelf. I used to love this about mini-comics, now it drives me crazy. My Cometbuses, King Cats and Battlestack Galacticraps all fit together. And my Low Tides and my Slime Freaks fit together. But then are way too many zines tied with string and dumb bindings that just make them impossible to store. I’ve been throwing those ones out. They’re usually pretty bad anyways. Except the new Coppertone zine…

Mazzucchelli show at MoCCA is awesome. And so is new book…MoCCA the con is an oven. Good crowd tho…Multiforce published…Nexus tanks. The Dude quits comics…Comic Con no longer viable for Indy creators, still viable for some Indy publishers. Con promoters duke it out over who gets to host Daisy Dukes when and where…Disney buys Marvel. DC stumbles. War declared. Goofy/Wolverine crossover jokes begin…

Penguins win Stanley Cup…

SPX was fun as usual. The rise of Ben Marra continues. Critics crowd roundtable and argue among selves…Kramers klan kills it with Simpsons comic…Prison Pit mania begins…

APE was weird, as always. The kids in the Bay Area don’t buy anything. Except Bone … The kids love to fight about C.F. … Kick Ass movie trailer looks cool … Crumb’s Genesis published … Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival was a hit.

New Comics Journal site launches, sputters, re-launches.
Final Crisis on Infinite Blogs Crossover begins, etc. (stay tuned).


Must Be Those Other Beatles…


Sunday, July 19, 2009

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I just can’t resist: This article in the NY Times is truly, um, “special”. I’m not sure even your average fanboy feels as strongly about the Image Comics reunion (I’m somehow surprised these artists are still even alive — shouldn’t the weight of history have crushed them or something?) as The Times’ Mr. Gustines, who begins his article with this whopper: “IMAGE UNITED is akin to a Beatles reunion.” He must be talking about these Beatles. Wow.

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reading list


Saturday, February 21, 2009

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mainstream comics:
Kick Ass #5
Incognito #’s 1 and 2

alternative comics:
Dirtbags, Mallchicks & Motorbikes
Wizzywig #2

art comics:
Rat’s Cocoon / Lung Damage split zine
Gay Nerd #2

some giant collection called “Fellows”
that my friend brought back from Japan.

european comics:
Necron #1

I’m gonna “review” some or all of these soon.




Tuesday, October 7, 2008

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SPX 2008

Man, did I have fun. I just hovered by the PictureBox endcap and harassed passersby to look at my back issues! Dan kept glaring at me from the other end of the table, haha!

Me: “Look, a complete set of Sienkiewicz’s run on The Shadow! You don’t know who colored them? Richmond Lewis! C’mon! You have to buy these comics!”

Customer: “Dude, stop yelling.”

Anyways, it was busy early and stayed that way all Saturday. I did my best to snag a particular demographic walking around: the comics fan who generally cannot help but look at a pair of white comics long-boxes perched on a corner table. People kept asking me if I was selling my collection, and I said, “No these are just my doubles! I hoard these things! I can guarantee that all the comics in these boxes are satisfying reads! Comics Comics-approved comics for your reading pleasure.”

But, really, the most fun was watching Powr Mastrs 2 just fly away, people freaking out over it. It’s insanely beautiful and glowing with color parts and killer continuity. Christopher seemed to be enjoying himself, watching the few advance copies we had to sell sell out THAT fast. It was a little bittersweet tho’ because we could have moved so many more if we had them. Stupid slow boat from China. (Homer Simpson voice please.)

Lauren Weinstein seemed to be signing and selling copy after copy of Goddess of War. It was crazy for awhile. She has a really diverse fan base, too. Lauren’s like an author and an artist and a cartoonist. Meaning she engages her readers on so many levels. I know because I overheard her having so many different conversations on a lot of different topics.


(And, oh, well, I humbly add that the new Cold Heat Special is fucking unbelievable. Lane Milburn really killed it, crushed it, sent it into orbit. It will be available on the PicBox site soon. I’ll post something about it when it’s time!)

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A Possibly Tedious Clarification


Sunday, September 16, 2007

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Sorry if this post is boring, but I want to highlight one recent comment from Jon Hastings, partly because it makes a really good point, and partly because it gives me an opportunity to make clear something that I haven’t been trying to say over the past few days. Hastings writes:

I find myself agreeing to all of your points, but can’t help being, emotionally at least, on Noah [Berlatsky]’s “side”. For me at least, there’s so much baggage from old internet arguments over the merits of super-hero comics vs. alt/art comics that I find it is really easy to make the kinds of mostly baseless, sweeping judgments that Noah is making here. My beef was never really with alt/art cartoonists, but rather with those comics critics (self-appointed or otherwise) who I saw as using the work of those alt/art cartoonists to attack my beloved super-hero books.

I’m not at all unsympathetic to this view, and couldn’t be less interested in using “serious” comics as a cudgel against other kinds of comic book stories. I think it’s understandable for long-time comics readers to occasionally get a bit defensive when it sometimes seems like only relatively straight, self-evidently serious works approaching “proper” subject matter (Maus, Persepolis, Fun Home, etc.) are seen as respectable in the wider world. (I don’t think this is actually altogether true, mind you, but it can feel that way.) Maus, at least, I think fully deserves its high reputation (I haven’t read the other two, which I guess should be my next homework assignment), but really, this is one more reason to say God bless Robert Crumb, the one artist to have broken through who can’t by any means be separated from the comic book’s anarchic and fantastic roots.

Over on the Fantagraphics blog, the great designer Jacob Covey also commented on this sort-of-stupid blog fight, and his take is really pretty smart, though I’ll admit I had to read it a couple times before I got some of it. Covey writes, “The subject is ‘art comics’ versus superhero comics– a distinction I already find vague and silly seeing how the two ideas rely on a black and white separation though I see a vast overlap. Not to mention that this [precludes] the one genre from ever being considered art, which is a bit presumptuous.” I agree with that comment entirely, except to say that I wasn’t trying to argue that “art” comics are inherently better than superheroes.

Covey also very kindly describes Comics Comics as “the definitive fringe art-comics periodical”, while admitting that with PictureBox as a whole, he can’t help but feel “there’s a bit of validity-through-outsiderness going on at times.” I can’t speak for PictureBox (though I imagine Dan might take some issue with that), but at least in terms of Comics Comics, that couldn’t be further from our intention. That’s why we’ve covered so many “mainstream” subjects in the first place, from Dick Ayers and Steve Gerber to Alex Raymond and the Masters of American Comics show. Whether or not we’re successfully realizing our goals is of course for others to judge.

In his second post, Berlatsky made at least one point that I really agree with: “The cultural space within which a work is produced, and the way it is received, has a lot to do with a medium’s health.” If critics are capable of doing anything at all (and they may not be), they can help shape that cultural space. There are many great traditions in comics, from the Harvey Kurtzman legacies of comic satire and unglamorous war and historical stories, to superhero tales (which at their best can be wonderfully surreal and pregnant with political subtext and sometimes just silly fun), to less easily classifiable work like that of Fort Thunder and Jim Woodring, and a whole lot more besides. All the various contributions of Japan and Europe and elsewhere should be included, and yes, I think that comics that deal with real life in an at least somewhat realistic and serious manner should be, too. Few readers will, or should, find all kinds of comics equally to their taste, but the cultural space I would like to encourage has a place for all of them, and will judge each work on its own individual merits, not on arbitrary generic guidelines.

Again, I apologize for this kind of boring stuff, but I don’t want to be misunderstood, and thought it might be good to have this on the record.

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The Nine Circles of Comics Internet Hell


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

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There are many wonderful sites on the Internet where the casual or serious fan can enjoyably explore the world of comics, but for every standout example of sanity, there are ten or more online locales that no one should visit unaware, and that greatly offend the TRUE AND KINDLY SPIRIT OF COMICS.

Comic book veterans will be familiar with most of the following destinations already, but as a public service for our less knowledgeable readers, and with apologies to Dante Alighieri, we offer this guide to the nether regions of the comics blogosphere. We call it:


Um, this is all meant in good fun, of course.


Here is the final destination of the honorable pagans, excellent and admirable comics bloggers whose only sin lies in their worship of false gods (i.e., crappy comics). Bully, Mike Sterling of Progressive Ruin, and David Campbell of Dave’s Long Box are only three of the more prominent members of this dignified and respectable but misguided group.


The denizens of this circle can be found in many places, and they frequently haunt the less-traveled reaches of eBay .


To be fair, I am not really familiar with the contents of this blog, but the writer does claim to buy upwards of 100 comics a month, and frankly, he’s asking for it.


This one is too easy.


Probably the most common of sins in the world of comics fandom, the overly angry and vengeful can be found almost everywhere. Honorable pagan Graeme McMillan has since moved on to greener pastures, but the archives of his defunct Fanboy Rampage still catalog many of the most egregious offenders from past days.


Dave Sim is the obvious choice here, but other than an unreasonably high admiration for the art and influence of Neal Adams, his heresies are mostly confined to matters unrelated to comics proper. So, even though he probably doesn’t deserve the attention, I direct you to this guy.


One of the most dangerous destinations on the internet, populated almost entirely by vandals, blasphemers, and the suicidal,’s The Gutters has carved out a sure and safe berth in the seventh circle of Hell.


Flatterers, panderers, false prophets, and would-be seducers abound in the eighth circle, effortlessly presided over by John Byrne. There are many lowlights.


For attacking anyone with the temerity to question the critical wisdom of middlebrow thumbsucker Time magazine (a publication that previously gave us this less-than-astute pick as worst of the year, lest we forget). For burning his “Comics Elitist Fan Club membership card”, a clearer sign of treason than anyone has the right to ask for. (And on that holiest of days, Christmas, no less!) For, less than a week later, excommunicating a fellow blogger from the ranks of the “insanely interesting”, merely for jokingly (obviously) poking fun at an established figure. Most of all, for apparently believing that a book or genre’s financial success is proof of its artistic worth, and entitles it to be exempt from all criticism (at least as long as it sits well on his hobbyhorse). For knowing better. In the ninth circle of comics internet hell, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dirk.

(Please allow me, as the aforelinked Jacob Covey once did, to affix a 😉 emoticon here, and also to inform all readers that this is commonly accepted as an indicator of facetious intent.)

DISCLAIMER: These views do not necessarily reflect those of Dan, Frank, any other contributor to Comics Comics, or even myself. Complaints should be directed elsewhere.

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Can O’ Worms


Tuesday, January 2, 2007

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Well, my fave comics of ’06 list caused a little tizzy in web-land. And Dirk got kind of annoyed. All because of my flippant remark about Fun Home. My remark was just that: flippant; and not really meant as a substantive criticism (obviously), but rather as an example of a disagreement with the PW list. That said, I don’t really have much to add: I found the narrative devices in Fun Home to be rather forced and the cartooning too often stiff and inexpressive. Most of all, it just seemed overstuffed and not really in control of the medium. Mostly, it just doesn’t interest me enough as a book to write any further about it. It’s not a terrible book, just kinda mediocre.

I don’t agree with Dirk that my not liking it represents some kind of comics-elitist (something I’m certainly not–though I’d like to see a list of qualifications) reaction against mass popularity. I totally understand why it has wider appeal than Kim Deitch’s work (which is vastly more successful as art)–ummmm, that’s the way world works. I’m not surprised at all, nor do I expend any energy being annoyed at it. Culture is what it is and the most we can do is to work for and promote and write about the things we believe in and hope for the best.

And further, contra-Dirk I don’t make my aesthetic judgments based on the relative popularity of a work or what “scene” it emerges from. Who cares about that stuff? I might have at age 14 but certainly not now. I judge things based on their relative successes as art, and that’s it. So that’s pretty much my response. I didn’t like the book that much, but anything else–scenes, cred, popularity and all that other foolishness is besides the point.

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