-Well, there's a new question for the blogosphere to ponder: out of all the comics-related blogs on the internet, does The Beat have the dumbest readers? Consider this before answering. I know that isn't the reaction Heidi MacDonald was going for. Maybe it's time to address the troops? (This doesn't really cut it, which is a shame considering that my pull quote comes first. And the bit unfavorably comparing bloggers to actual cartoonists is sure to stir up another round of "Amen, Heidi!" Awesome. Can't wait.) Unfortunately, given the quality of the comments in her previous two posts on the subject, I suspect that MacDonald's original essay will long be cited as an argument against any shred of literary or artistic ambition in comics. Stupid generalization fever: catch it! And then stay the fuck away from me.
Actually, the most compelling (by which I mean "only compelling") variation on MacDonald's argument comes from Top Shelf's Leigh Walton, who is the only person I've seen even attempt to identify the mystery villain who's out to destroy all comics narrative.* Basically, Walton is arguing that the NY Times/New Yorker/Best American... editors are influential "tastemakers" who influence the perceived "prestige" of a particular piece of art/literature/whatever. The dearth of non-genre material** in Best American Comics 2007 exacerbates this trend. Walton is a little ambivalent about what that means, aside from maybe some greater financial compensation.
This is something we can work with, but I'm still not convinced. The influence of the Times and the New Yorker are, if anything, in decline; they're increasingly seen either as middle class banalities or stodgy antiques. I say that with a certain appreciation for stodginess; that's influenced what the Times has run in its comics section, and I think we've gotten some great material that otherwise might never have seen the light of day (I'm mostly thinking Mister Wonderful here--I worry this will be the last Clowes work we'll see for the next five years).
You could probably make a better case that the McSweeney's connection is more problematic in the long run, since that readership is more likely to take Chris Ware's recommendations as commandments from on high (I actually wrote this before reading this excellent piece by Matthias Wivel). But, as Walton and Kyle Baker both hint, McSweeney's readers probably are going to flock for Best American Comics 2007 type stuff anyway. Besides, I seriously doubt that the Ware-Eggers axis is going to become an Orwellian voice in the comics world of tomorrow. There are too many people sniping from dark corners in the outlying area. Plus, you know, how many people actually read McSweeney's? Surely a lot more than those who read Kramer Ergot, but surely a lot fewer than those who read Achewood.
If Ware is the King Tastemaker (and I'm not totally convinced that he really is), that makes him the most conspicuous target for an entire blogosphere worth of snipers. The ongoing decentralization of the media hasn't entirely leveled the playing field for comics criticism, but it's the best venue of all time for diverse opinions. Some of these opinions belong to people of questionable intelligence (see above), but that's the trade-off. Factor in webcomics' potential for even greater decentralization, and it's hard to imagine that Best American Comics 2007 is going to hinder any future Jeff Smith OR Geoff Johns from getting whatever attention she or he deserves. The real question is whether things will be so fractured that no one can actually make a living producing comics. But that's a different (and much more depressing) debate.
One last thing: what the hell is with Adrian Tomine in that NYT picture (see either Wivel or Walton above)? That's such a terrible picture. It's like he knew that this tableau would come back to haunt him.
*This is a gross distortion of MacDonald's case, but it's basically what some of her "supporters" are arguing.
**Or whatever it is that's allegedly squeezing out stuff like Bone. MacDonald mentions autobiography, heavily formalist comics, and other material of questionable accessibility. I don't want to create a category to incorporate all this stuff, because I think it gives ammunition to people who seem to view the industry as a Manichean struggle between Comics You Want to Read and Pretentious Crap.
(To whichever anonymous commenter wanted internal links to the footnotes: Blogger isn't cooperating, and I don't care enough to try to fix it tonight. Sorry.)
-Anderson "The Spider" Silva is apparently a Spider-Man fan. Not the kind of story I usually link to, but I'm a big Silva fan. Here's a brief summary of all the comics-related MMA nicknames I'm aware of:
Superman-Dennis Hallman. His career is basically over, and I never understood this nickname. The dude's blond. Via bleach, but still.
Batman-Kurt Pellegrino. Actually, that's not coming up as his nickname on Sherdog, but I swear I remember hearing that before.
War Machine-One of the guys on this season of TUF whose name I can't remember and who I've never seen fight. Not much more to add to that.
Hulk-Roger Hollett. An undefeated Nova Scotian who's supposedly the next big thing at light heavyweight. Never seen him fight, so it's unclear if he actually turns green at any point.
Iceman-Chuck Liddell. This one might not be related to comics, actually.
Wolverine-Donald Grice and a bunch of other dudes. Grice snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against Terry Etim at UFC 70. Apparently doesn't possess a healing factor; possession of adamantium claws is uncertain, given that their use is probably prohibited by the NJAC Unified Rules.
Captain America-Randy Couture. You've probably heard of him. Little known fact: he was briefly known as "Nick Fury" after his fight with Vitor Belfort.
Popeye-Dave van der Veen. Are Dutch guys allowed to call themselves Popeye? Van der Veen has a losing record; there's some joke about spinach to be made here, but it's too obvious.
Ninja-Murilo Rua. Apparently didn't think Fort Thunder was a dead end.
Li'l Abner-Forrest Griffen. Please nobody tell him I said this.