-About the recent seinen manga controversy: I read this first, which probably saved me a lot of unnecessary grief. Related: is seinen commonly stereotyped as either (a) Berserk-style blood-and-guts shit, or (b) katana-and-sandals? I mean, I know seinen encompasses these genres, but I also associate it with series I read and enjoy, like Dragon Head or Monster. And wouldn't Death Note be considered seinen? Isn't that, like, really popular in the US? Maybe I understand the term less than I realized.
-Speaking of stuff I read on Mr.
-Okay, I know that yesterday I more or less equated attending the San Diego convention*
with being stuck on an airplane behind two used car salesmen talking shop. But still, this one panel sounds pretty awesome:
11:30-1:00 Comics Are Not Literature—For years, comics have presented themselves as a new kind of literature—but cartooning isn’t prose, and graphic novels aren’t novels. What if conflating comics with “literary” storytelling is a terrible mistake? Douglas Wolk (Reading Comics) moderates what should be a contentious discussion with Cecil Castellucci (The PLAIN Janes), Dan Nadel (PictureBox Inc.), Austin Grossman (Soon I Will Be Invincible), Paul Tobin (Spider-Man Family), and Sara Ryan (The Rules for Hearts). Room 8
(Via Heidi MacDonald)
*To be fair, this is basically how I feel about all conventions. I might be persuaded to go to MoCCA, SPX, APE, or that Toronto festival if I lived nearby, but I've never lived in a sufficiently interesting part of the country to have to entertain such possibilities.
-Okay, okay, fuck Dark Horse then. Truth be told, the fact that a dedicated comics publisher is reprinting these books is far more disturbing to me than any number of zombie Mary Janes. I know why Dark Horse is publishing it--money, duh--but I'd love to hear one of its employees try to rationalize this on a less-mercenary level.* "Gor is a...much celebrated...very influential...unique voice...first amendment...oh fuck it, we just like money."
*Preferably at a convention! Once again, I have an extra copy of Pyongyang (hardcover!) which I will offer to anyone who poses this question at a Dark Horse-centric panel at any of the remaining mega-conventions left this summer.
-Musical misogyny theater: Which of the following should I feel the most ashamed about liking:
1. "Glendora" by the Downliners Sect (If you've never heard it, I think you can download it here, on a compilation with a bunch of other good stuff like "I Had So Much to Dream Last Night" and "You Are No Friend of Mine." In all seriousness, there's some fucking awesome stuff on that playlist. You really shouldn't go through life having never heard "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In).")
2. The entire recorded output of the Faces
3. "Jilted John" by Jilted John
4. All the good Rolling Stones songs
5. "Golf Girl" by Caravan (warning: not very loud)
Please note that I do not, in reality, feel guilty about liking any of the above. This is merely an intellectual exercise. Maybe I'll try to connect it to comics tomorrow.
...And that's it for the timely commentary today. Now we turn our experiment in what might hubristically be called the new social history of the comics industry:
Dick Hyacinth's 1990s
Still haven't found a better title yet, but at least it's in a nearly illegible font. Actually, I'm not even going to cover the 90s today. As any history major can tell you, you can't talk about the Civil War until you've talked about the Mexican-American War. Likewise, I can't really explain how I experienced the comics industry of the 1990s without first explaining where I was coming from as a consumer. By the time 1990 hit, I was a 13-year old dedicated comics reader/buyer, spending the majority of my modest allowance on comics. This mania for comics did not arise overnight, however; it came in stages.
Comics were a part of my life as far back as I can remember. My mother would regularly include comic books in our rotation of bedtime stories; in fact, I distinctly remember her being offended at my sharp refusal of a Whitman Little Lulu reprint she wanted to read for me one night (I think there was some image involving cigarette ashes I found repulsive on some deep, visceral level). Superhero intellectual properties were also a big part of my life, especially DC's. I once asked my mother if high school ended early enough that I would still be able to watch Super Friends when I was 16.
Sometime c. 1984, I became an avid reader of comics. There were basically three causes for this: (1) DC and Marvel's publication of encyclopedia series for their intellectual properties, especially DC's Who's Who; (2) the Secret Wars and Super Powers toy lines, which led me to the comics of the same name--Secret Wars was particularly influential; (3) comics based on preexisting toy lines, especially G.I. Joe. These three phenomena introduced me to the world of continuity and shared universes, which were kind of like crack for 8-year-old boys like me.
By about 1986 I had graduated to being a connoisseur of comic books. I had favorite artists now, largely because Who's Who familiarized me to a fairly wide assortment of artists. I had always noticed that there was something different about certain artists (eg, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Gene Colan), but now I could immediately identify anything drawn by them. Plus I actually knew the artists' names. This is not to say I suddenly had good taste: I still thought Bill Sienkiewicz' art was ugly.
Even more important was my growing appreciation for older comics, which reflected two new developments. First, my father let me start reading his stash of Silver Age comics that summer. This was a horrible mistake from an investment protection standpoint, but it only deepened my comics obsession. Second, Gladstone began publishing reprints of Disney and EC comics. I loved them both; I think my brother and I were buying them more regularly than any DC or Marvel comics at the time.
By about a year and a half later, I had made another transition; I was now an active collector of comics. I was never one to throw away comics after I was done reading them, but I was never overly concerned with how they were stored either (I threw them all in an old trunk, with no attempt to place them in any particular order). I had never been very interested in buying every issue of any given series; I determined which comics to buy based on cover art, the characters involved (especially the villains), and financial considerations. But in 1987, I started buying every issue of two series: the Englehart/Rogers Silver Surfer and the Michelinie/McFarlane Amazing Spider-Man.
What prompted this change? I think reading my father's collection might have had some impact. My dad had (and still has) a very nice SA collection which he acquired in college. Unfortunately, there are a number of holes in it, probably partly because he bought all his comics from a second-hand dealer (who, in retrospect, was probably buying all his comics from unscrupulous newsstand dealers). This frustrated the hell out of me, leading me to place greater value on getting every issue of the comics I liked. Another factor was, uh, puberty. There's no problem with reading comics when you're a kid, but I was already feeling a little uncomfortable with it by the time I was 11. It was around this time that I started using the investment excuse--sure, comics might be dumb, but they'll be worth something someday. In the meantime, there's no harm in reading them, right? Finally, I was no longer playing with toys, but I wasn't buying a whole lot of music yet. So that money now went towards comics.
My collecting mentality was exacerbated when my brother and I started buying all our comics at a genuine comic shop. Prior to this we had bought everything at drug stores or (very occasionally) the B. Dalton's at the mall. In fact, the only comic shop in town was not very kid-friendly. The store was festooned with signs offering stern warnings to parents. Super Giant Comics was a store primarily for adults. Children should not be left unsupervised. They certainly must not pick up a book off the shelf or out of the bins and start reading it. In fact, maybe your children would be more comfortable with these lightly soiled items we're selling for a quarter each?
By 1987, however, we were apparently well-behaved enough to become welcome guests every week at the comic shop. And we were comic-crazy enough to hold off on purchases until we went into town. (It didn't hurt that the comics arrived a month earlier at Super Giant than at the drug store). My brother and I shared a pull list together; there was a minimum of three titles per list, and neither of us were willing to commit to that many series. Yet.
I should note that, somewhere between my connoisseur and collector phases, I quit reading non-superhero comic books. This probably has something to do with the influence of my father's collection (I don't think he had any non-superhero comics, with the exception of a few issues of Sgt. Fury), the diminished presence of non-superhero comics on my local spinner rack, pressure to be more "macho" or whatever as I grew older, and the disappearance of Gladstone reprints from my local store. At no point, however, did I give up on non-superhero comics. I was still a voracious reader of comic strips, both in the newspaper and in reprinted form. And I checked out from the library every book which had word balloons.
Also worth noting: around this same time I became a total Marvel Zombie. This is sort of strange, since DC's superheroes were a much bigger part of my life when I was a younger child. There are probably several reasons for this transformation. Like many college-aged comics readers in the 60s, my father was always more of a Marvel fan, and his collection reflected this. He did have some non-Marvel stuff (I remember reading a Justice League 80 Page Giant in the car while the rest of my family was playing tennis at the public court), but his collection was probably 2/3 Marvel. I also gravitated towards Marvel because their comics were cheaper. During the early avid reader phase, Marvel comics were 60 cents each. DC charged 75 cents, thus ensuring that I would buy fewer of their comics. Another factor was the familiarity Marvel editorial tried to foster between itself and the reader. This is an oft-cited aspect of Marvel's success in the 60s; bear in mind that I was reading those very Silver Age comics while still young and impressionable. Still, I think this familiarity persisted well into the 80s, at least for me. Bullpen Bulletins talked to me on a level which I appreciated as a 10 year old kid. In contrast, Meanwhile... felt too grown up, like someone telling an anecdote on the Dick Cavett Show. Bullpen Bulletins featured profiles of editors which read like something out of The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe. That really spoke to the pre-pubescent Dick Hyacinth. Finally, Marvel had a much stronger line of licensed comics--Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats, and He-Man were all toy lines/cartoons which I enjoyed, so I naturally bought the comics as well (not so much the latter two, however, since they seemed a bit more "kiddie"). I think this inspired a greater loyalty to Marvel's overall line of comics.
So anyway, that's where I stood on the threshold of the 90s. I'll actually delve into that decade tomorrow.