Posts Tagged ‘Matthias Wivel’

But Think of the Children!


Monday, February 11, 2008

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Two of my favorite online writers about comics, Matthias Wivel and Joe “Jog” McCulloch, have recently weighed in on Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, and they were both able to articulate some of the issues I had with the book in a much more detailed, supported, and impressive way than I was capable of when I spoke to Tom Spurgeon about the book last December. (The Arrival section is about two-thirds of the way down that link, by the way. Look for the big ship.)

They’re both really smart, incisive reviews, but I guess overall I’m a bit more with the critical but relatively gentle Jog than the more scathing Wivel, if only because I do think Tan showed a pretty remarkable affinity for comics storytelling, completely apart from whether or not the book suffers from thematic and aesthetic shortcomings. (It does.) These two reviews made me think a bit harder about my own earlier judgment, though.

In the aforementioned interview, I eventually said that despite my problems with the book, “there’s a very plausible argument to be made that [the artistic style and simplicity of story] were appropriate choices considering the audience Tan was writing for…”

That audience, of course, being children, a fact that is conspicuously left unmentioned by either Wivel or Jog. Which doesn’t mean they’re wrong! If anything, I’m starting to wonder if my letting that fluke of marketing influence my criticism was a mistake. Is it condescending to give a children’s book a bye if it doesn’t fully address a complicated social (and political) situation? Shouldn’t we at least expect the attempt? I mean, of course, there are limitations to the form, but it’s not like The Arrival couldn’t have included a few more layers of subtlety without turning into a full-blown tract about xenophobia. A few changed panels here and there could have made all the difference.

Obviously there are shades of gray here, so I don’t know. This bears more thinking. For now, I’d just like to substitute the “very” in my quote with “somewhat”. I’m the Decider!

UPDATE: Wivel points to a relevant Shaun Tan interview in the comments.

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Old World


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

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All right, Dan’s in France, and I haven’t read any comics that have inspired me to write in what seems like forever. Which means it’s half-assed quiz time. My high-school German is extremely rusty. Have any of you ever heard of this book? Because if this description is correct (“a pseudo-art-historical treatise on the paintings found in the backgrounds of Donald Duck comics”), then I am curious.

In other Euro news, many of you are probably already aware of it, but I’ve really been enjoying the Danish metabunker blog. The long interviews with rappers and the like I mostly skip, but Matthias Wivel writes very intelligently about comics.

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