Friday, September 14, 2007

Games, nihilism

-New idea: since the Marvel/DC binary seems to be like a particularly foul odor cutting through all layers of resistance, why not apply that model to other things for which it makes little sense? First up: Fantagraphics vs. Drawn & Quarterly. For years, fans of art/literary comics have cherished each company as the two outstanding publishers of worthwhile comics in North America. Creators have moved between the two fairly freely, and good will has generally prevailed. NO MORE. Here are a few talking points to get us started:

  • Chris Ware left Fantagraphics because Gary Groth is a crazy tyrant who wanted Ware to draw more like Peter Bagge.
  • Fantagraphics saw that Chris Ware had become nothing more than a hack, and kicked his ass to the curb. Shows what a second rate operation D&Q is to pick up on Gary Groth's sloppy seconds.
  • Fantagraphics was built on the back of Peter Bagge, Dan Clowes, Los Bros Hernandez, and Chris Ware. The only ones left are Jaime and Gilberto, and the latter is doing a lot of work for other companies now; you almost couldn't consider him a Fantagraphics artist anymore. That just leaves Jaime Hernandez, and everyone knows he's just a glorified Archie artist.
  • D&Q should stand for "Dull" and "Québécois," cause all they have is boring, autobiographical Canadians. And wannabe Canadians like Joe Matt.
  • Fantagraphics sounds like the name of a porn company. Oh wait....
  • Draw & Quarterly doesn't care about Black people. Where are all the Black D&Q characters? There's not a single Black character in Clyde Fans.
  • Why is Kim Thompson using a girl's name? Is he trying to fool people into thinking he's a woman? FACT: Chris Oliveros is not ashamed to admit he's a man. FACT: Oliveros is willing to let the comics he publishes do his talking for him; he doesn't need to hide behind misleading first names.

Seems like I was going to add another one or two in there, but I can't remember what they were. Ahhh, that's probably enough to get you started. Go to it!

-The discussion about Paul O'Brien's possible anti-FBI/TCJ agenda brought up the age-old question about love of genre vs. love of medium (or art form, but that's a debate probably best left aside for the time being). On the face of it, I'm tempted to label all the genre camp as mental midgets, but maybe that's unfair. I mean, yes, anyone who only watches horror movies, to the absolute (and possibly angry) exclusion of all other genres, wouldn't be someone I consider an expert on cinema. Someone who only watched horror movies produced by Lion's Gate or Screen Gems, to the exclusion of all other studios/production companies, would be even weirder; I don't know if I'd consider them an expert on horror movies, even. Someone who likes only torture movies...well, you get my point.

BUT, to love a medium so much that the love encompasses all genres, no matter how stupid--that's a level of dedication which I just don't have. Many of us know music fans who express enthusiasm for nearly every imaginable genre out there--you know, the types who claim to like At the Gates and Justin Timberlake equally. These folks bug the shit out of me because I don't know how seriously I should take their opinions. There's no way I'm ever going to like early 21st century bubblegum pop. Should I trust the critic who likes Christina Aguilera as much as Neil Young? Should this equal enthusiasm make me question my own love of Neil Young? Does my massive (and rarely played) collection of 60s punk make me a mental midget?

I suppose one way to guard against this is to take sort of a transcendentalist* approach to art: there are certain genre works that are so good, they transcend the stupid hackwork usually associated with the genre. Hey, that sounds familiar...didn't someone say something like that re: a certain comic about growing up in post-revolutionary Iran?

It's a frustrating topic. I have an anti-humanist streak when it comes to humans' ability to understand ourselves, which is really sort of a haunting, revolting irony given what I've done with my life. But on the other hand, it's incredibly annoying to see superhero fans treat superhero comics Marvel and DC comics as the sum total of the industry. I mean, it's fine insofar as their personal reading habits go, but they have to expect the rest of us (you know, the 10% of the Direct Market reading any non-superhero material at all) laugh at them. If someone told you he or she only watched reality television, you would probably look at said person as someone who probably has nothing useful to say about the general state of television in 2007. Fortunately for us, most exclusively Marvel/DC readers are more concerned with the finer points of continuity than with pontificating on the industry as a whole. But they sure are touchy.

*I'm making a joke; no need to tell me about Henry David Thoreau or anything. I've read Ghosts, dude.


Anonymous said...

So what's Top Shelf? Are they Image? If I go on about how Top Shelf is really putting out the best art-comics and blah blah Kochalka is so great blah blah, is that like the people who go on about how Invincible and Godland are really the best superhero comics? This paradigm needs to be fleshed out in more detail.

Dick Hyacinth's Ghost said...

I think the response to citing Top Shelf would be something like this:

"Oh yes, yes, of course. Harumph, assorted other throat clearings."


"I just think alt comics work best in a shared universe setting, such as Palomar/Locas/all those autobiographical Canadian dudes. (And if you think about it, all autobiographical comics take place in reality, thus it's all a shared universe!) Top Shelf is probably okay--I've never read anything they've published myself--but I'm not interested in comics that can't draw upon a rich tapestry of obscure continuity."

Which reminds me, here's another talking point:

-Fantagraphics is totally just continuity porn these days. New Tales of Old Palomar? How many old, musty issues of Love and Rockets do you have to read to understand that?

Jack Norris said...

Is this based on stuff that people are actually saying? Any links or anything?
Also, I noticed that Ware had left Fantagraphics, but somehow missed any news of it when it happened. Did anyone make on either side make any public statements at the time?
I'm honestly curious, does anyone know?

MarkAndrew said...

You know what? Stan Lee is a Goddamn genius.

Of course this kind of back and forth between Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly fans is unthinkable. (Or very rare.)]

Ditto fans of ... say, Atlantic records and Sony BMG. (Although I guess I could imagine it between fans of Merge and Matador, or Alligator and Fat Possum.)

Marvel has done this AMAZING job of training it's fans to identify with the brand. And that's all Stan.

And DC ripped off what Stan was doing (continuity, et. al) and now they've got this obsessive group of followers who MUST DEFEND THE BRAND. And even people who don't have a preference are really AWARE of how important THE MARVEL/DC brand is to many consumers.

And, heh, that might have actually helped Top Shelf et. al. Since I was first exposed to Marvel and DC books as a child, and hence this insane brand identification, I am always VERY aware what company publishes any comic I buy. Much more so than with other types of media. I could give and eight of a shit about the Marvel or DC brands, but I do kind of Brand-identify with Fantagraphics. Moreso than Drawn and Quarterly. (Who TOTALLY ripped off the idea of publishing porn from Fanta. They just charge 75 bucks a pop and get Alan Moore to hack something out over the weekend and they're just rolling in dough.)

On the other hand, I'm not sure that the importance of THE BRAND and the zealousness of it's followers doesn't scare new comics fans away. Like going to a Baptist revival meeting or somethin'. I don't notice this kind of "I ONLY buy Tokyopop" insane brand identification with Manga fans. Or First/Second or Houghton Muffin's Graphic Novel line.

Which means that the two segments of the market that are attracting actual new readers aren't trying (or are failing) to copy the MARVEL/DC sell-brand-above-individual-comics approach.

Hell, look at me all talking about marketing and shit like I know my bottom from a hole in the ground. But you kind of have to to talk about Marvel and DC, where THE BRAND is more important than the individual works of art.

Anonymous said...

The $75 Alan Moore porn comic was published by Top Shelf, not D & Q. Your inability to grasp that there are any art comics published outside the stifling monopoly of the big two is exactly the kind of myopic fanboy thinking that's holding art comics back from their potential.

Brad Lee said...

I'm just shocked it took someone this long to try and start this feud, and also hoping it will really happen and end in a boxing match of some sort.

Leigh Walton said...

Obviously we need to start printing "PROBABLY THE BEST INDIE COMIC PUBLISHER IN THE UNIVERSE!" across the top of our books.

muebles guadalajara said...

Thanks so much for this post, pretty worthwhile material.

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