Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It came in an enormous box

-Sorry about the delay in posting--I haven't been away from home, but I was distracted by various Christmas-related things. Also MMA and football, but I'll spare you any thoughts on those subjects other than officially noting my glee at the Eagles' demolition of Dallas on Sunday afternoon. I never thought I would say it, but I was actually feeling kind of sorry for Tony Romo by the end of all that.

Anyway, I haven't updated my year's best database in about a week. I'll might publish the current list later today, and an updated one tomorrow. I'm guessing there weren't too many new lists added in the last week, though.

-At this point, I'm only awaiting my December shipment from DCBS to finish the acquisition portion of compiling my own best of 2008 list. Kramers Ergot 7 finally shipped from Amazon (anyone else have their shipment delayed?), and it arrived yesterday. I haven't read too much yet, but I have flipped through every page. Really, anyone complaining about the format (and accompanying price) needs to sit down with it. At a table--you don't want to try to read this in an armchair. You could also put it on an ottoman or a low couch and kneel before it, as if you were praying to it.

Anyway, I can't remember flipping through an anthology and saying "whoa" so many times. Upon first glance, the most impressive pages are the ones which really assault your senses. Those huges pages are absolutely stunning, especially as you move from one vista of color to another. I'm a little annoyed with the table of contents--I know that previous volumes of KE and many other anthologies have favored form over function in this regard, but it's very difficult to navigate when you're turning pages as long as your arm.* I'm planning to write out my own table of contents to keep alongside the book. I'll probably post it here when I'm done, in case anyone else is similarly inconvenienced.

This is, of course, a very minor complaint; overall, I'm as impressed with KE7 as I expected. I'm always leery of year's best lists which include titles which the list-maker has only a passing familiarity with, but I can understand the impulse to include this on early lists. Even a short time with KE7 will leave a strong impression.

*Not my arm, which is actually kind of long, but your arm. Assuming you're several inches shorter than me.

-Whenever I take a break from checking my RSS feeds (500+ posts to read!), there are always a few interesting comment threads waiting for me. Sometimes I mean "interesting" in a pejorative sense. In this case I don't: Sean Collins vs. Tom Spurgeon and Tucker Stone and Tim O'Neil (plus some other people) on ways to approach superhero comics in reviews.

I can't speak to who is making a better case, but I know that when I write about comics, I tend to navigate towards Sean's approach: when actually reviewing a Marvel/DC comic, write only about what I get out of a book, not what a hypothetical audience would think. Not that the other approach isn't valid, it's just that I can't fathom what the average superhero reader (or the potential superhero reader) wants from Final Crisis or whatever. Maybe this is a form of critical solipsism, but I just can't put myself in a mindset which acknowledges Geoff Johns' Green Lantern (or the Byrne/Claremont X-Men, for the hypothetical reader argument) as something that one would actually read for pleasure.

I've tried recently to read and review some comics which I knew I probably wouldn't like, but I found it impossible to get beyond my own revulsion at the dour meditations on super heroism I encountered. As I've said before (sort of), I found reading Secret Invasion akin to trying to decipher instructions on how to put together an obscure piece of furniture which were written in an extraterrestrial language. Plus every third page is missing. I don't merely lack understanding of who likes this stuff, or even who pays money for it--I don't understand the mentality which allows one to volunatarily read these comics instead of doing something more productive/entertaining, like cleaning toilets or alphebetizing cookbooks.

That doesn't stop me from writing about these comics from a business perspective; it's just that I don't really feel that it's necessary to read the comics in question. In fact, it's probably more productive if I don't. The popularity of the Sinestro Corps storyline in Green Lantern is undeniable; it was a great success in a year of dismal failures for DC. I didn't, however, read the story. I didn't have to; you can look at sales charts, or read the reactions of fans to whom this kind of thing appeals. I strongly suspect that, if I had bothered to read Sinestro Corps War, it would have warped my perception of it as a sales success and creative success on its own terms. That seems to be the case with Secret Invasion; it was so bad, so impossibly, incomprehensibly bad, that I have a hard time imagining that it didn't poison the waters for Marvel in 2009 and beyond.

Realistically, that's probably not the case (partly because, as I've lamented before, aesthetic quaity seems to have limited bearing on the success of modern DC/Marvel comics). In fact, this confation of personal reaction and general audience reaction is one of the foundational problems with internet comics discourse. There are a lot of people who can't fathom that something they like (say, Blue Beetle) has failed to attract an audience; likewise, they can't understand that Mark Millar is one of the most popular writers in comics, despite their eternal, burning hatred for him and all he stands for. This isn't a problem limited to comics fans, of course, but comics are such a small pond that you have people who can't accept the non-correlation of popularity and quality becoming semi-prominent, semi-respected bloggers or columnists or whatever. Just look at who freaked out over the (relatively) low sales of the first issue of Final Crisis.

Having said all that, I don't think Tucker or Tom or Tim's approaches are inherently bad or anything like that. Just as I can't merge commerce and aesthetics easily, some can't separate the two very easily, or they might find it to be the most valuable approach. I enjoy reading this type of analysis/review, even though I would never try to replicate it. This may be due, in part, to greater cynicism on my part re: the quality of Marvel/DC comics, or it might be that I have a more piecemiel approach to evaluating superhero comics. I tend to prefer an otherwise terrible comic with one great panel or sequence over an unremarkable-yet-competent comic. That tendency towards compartmentalization might lead me towards Sean's approach.

-The other "interesting" comments thread (this time in a pejorative sense) is the controversy over online reactions to Frank Miller's Spirit movie tanking. A few thoughts:

1. Online fans of EVERYTHING overreact and wish ill on people for a variety of poorly conceived reasons all the time. This doesn't seem much different to me; when one of Mark Millar's intellectual properties eventually (inevitably) tanks in the box office, people will say the same things about him. The thing is, Miller and Millar both are successful, relatively wealthy dudes who probably shouldn't care what a bunch of idiots on Newsarama think. I'm not sure Frank Miller needs Peter David to defend him. This doesn't excuse any excessive comments (which I assume there were--I didn't read the Newsarama thread because, well, I'd rather be cleaning toilets), but I don't see how this is an exceptional or distictively tragic case. Frank Miller hasn't received a fraction of the venom that even the most respected professional athletes deal with on a regular basis. It doesn't make it right, but that's just kind of the peril of reading shit the internet. Particularly comments threads where you know idiots abound.

2. If I'm going to agree with anyone hating on Frank Miller, it's Devlin Thompson. Actually, I'll state for the record that I agree with him on every point. Frank Miller is the closest thing comics advocates have to a Long Duk Dong (though if he reaches a comparable level of fame, Mark Millar will be about a million billion times worse).

3. Mostly I just don't want to have to think about Frank Miller anymore, at least not until people freak out over the next issue of All Star Batman or something.


Chris Mautner said...

So is Frank Miller the Andy Reid of comics then?

Dick Hyacinth said...

Andy Reid is a good comparison; Donovan McNabb would work, too. I like them both, to the point where I'm not sure how I'd feel about the Eagles if they trade/fire either.

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