For anyone coming from the latest critical roundtable at Blog@Newsarama, here is what I meant by my “contributions” to the vocabulary of comics criticism.
(And thanks for inviting me, Chris!)
You may also enjoy my responses to Comics Should Be Good‘s poll of the top 100 Marvel and DC characters. I tell you who their best characters really are, here and here.
And, to the surfer who got here through the search term “are there stupid batman stories?”, the answer is yes.
Yes, there are.
Signs of the apocalypse #3,541: an editor from one of the “Big Two” being honest about his company’s product. Tom Brevoort tells it like it is (h/t: Graeme McMillan):
for every real classic run, stories of undeniable merit, there also seems to be a compilation of journeyman quality, or even just out-and out hackwork. This is especially true on the ESSENTIAL collections … a lot of these books really aren’t all that objectively good … most of the run of MARVEL TEAM-UP is unspectacular
No, no, no, that’s not how you shill. They’re unparalleled masterpieces of sequential narrative that blazed new artistic territory. Sheesh, it’s almost as if you’re suggesting people shouldn’t buy Essential Marvel Two-in-One or whatever.
While I’m on the topic of the Essential volumes, I’ve seen various people online give the imprint shit for being a misnomer (including Brevoort himself, in that link). After all, there’s really nothing essential about the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update 89 or Dazzler, right? Or, let’s face it, about most of Marvel’s output in the 70s and 80s.
What this misses is that “essential” here is what philosophers call an attributive adjective, like “big” or “good”. That is to say, it qualifies entities as having the relevant property only by comparison with other entities of the same kind. A big ant is big for an ant, not big in some absolute sense. Ted Bundy was good at being a serial killer, not good full stop. Similarly, pretty much all of the Essential volumes, once you move outside the Kirby/Ditko axis, are the essential stories for that title, not essential comics per se.
So the stories in, say, Essential Spider-Woman really are the essential Spider-Woman stories. That doesn’t mean they’re not still dogshit.
[NB, for any real wonks reading: as far as I can tell, this philosophical usage of "attributive adjective" is rather different from standard usage in grammar, where it refers solely to an adjective's position in word-order. The philosophical usage derives from Peter Geach]
This is a few weeks old, an excerpt from Shaenon Gaerrity’s interview with Gail Simone in The Comics Journal, but it’s been bugging me since I saw it. Simone, describing her experience in contacting cartoonists about Women in Refrigerators:
One writer/artist was very sympathetic, he knew exactly what I was talking about, and that’s why he always tried to write a variety of female characters, etc. etc. etc. Very nice. Then, out of nowhere — and keep in mind, this asshole doesn’t know me at all — he starts telling me how heavenly it is when his “lover” lets him ejaculate on her face, and asking me about my sex life. One minute, “Oh, you’re right, the plight of women in comics, woe, oh, woe,” and the next it’s outtakes from this guy’s porn-move repertoire.
Okay, there are arsehole, sexist cartoonists, no surprises there. But in the next paragraph, Simone adds:
That was a Fantagraphics guy, by the way, not a superhero creator.
Who on earth could it have been? If only there were a weekly gossip column dedicated to spreading scurrilous, ill-founded rumours about the personal lives of cartoonists and industry… I mean, if this isn’t what Rich Johnston was invented for, what is?
But since Johnston is MIA, and no one else seems to have taken up the topic, it falls to me to make unwarranted and irresponsible accusations that make light of Simone’s harrassment.
Now, if there’s anything I’ve learned from Murder, She Wrote, it’s that it’s never the obvious suspect. So the first thing to do is eliminate cartoonists whose work features “sick”, juvenile, sexual or scatological humour. So Brunetti, Crumb, Kaz, Millionaire and, of course, Ryan can be struck from the list of suspects.
That still leaves a lot of suspects, so let’s keep winnowing down the list. Still following Lansbury-logic, we can deduce that it must have been the least likely person. Meaning someone who either seems like a genuinely nice guy, is generally PC, or is as unsexist as you can imagine. Let’s see who is left, then, as the least likely suspect: Joe Sacco? Jim Woodring? Chris Ware? One of the Hernandez brothers? Charles Schulz is dead, and wasn’t published by Fantagraphics when Simone would have been calling around.
Oh, no, wait. Who seems like the most harmless, sweetest, lovely guy ever published by Fantagraphics?
It’s got to be Stan Sakai.
PS: I am, of course, not really making any of the accusations in the previous item. Please don’t sue me.