January 18, 2008
Please Go Listen To Me On Inkstuds
I was on the radio show Inkstuds yesterday.
I show up late and I'm not sure I bring much to the table, but I love listening to Dan Nadel
and Jeet Heer
talk about comics, and the hosts are pretty whip-smart, too.
One thing that I was thinking about after the show is my inability to get back in the swing of writing about comics in this new year, which to a certain extent comes down to a lack of conviction that I have anything useful to say about comics right now. I wonder sometimes if I have a sharp enough, fully-realized enough view of the art form to be as specific and discerning as I need to be when it comes to fashioning an initial take on the comics I'm confronting. In short, I think I may like too many comics. This was an advantage ten years ago when liking a lot of comics allowed one to string together the best works from a lot of places into the most positive face for a struggling art form. It was easier to make those individual distinctions back then because good comics were so much more rare and thus stood out with greater clarity against the heaving background of awfulness that was the art form.
Now a lot more comics are at least good, indicating that a primary task of the critic working at this historical moment should be to make consistent distinctions between good work and excellent work. That's a very specific skill set, and I'm not sure the old one applies. One obvious solution, and one I've seen other writers embrace, is simply ratchet things up, force oneself to become more discerning and change one's language to reflect a new, stricter standard. However, shitting on books that ten years ago I would have been writing Hit List entries to support seems like an abandonment of a core value of reacting to art: an honest engagement with each work. In the end, the only to do is either quit or jump back in and do the work and learn to read more effectively and develop those muscles, and the latter is what I'll do. Still, it's a curious thing to criticize an art form that's doing a lot more of what you wanted it to do when you first started criticizing it.
Please don't think that any of this self-indulgent kind of nonsense makes it onto the fine InkStuds show, where we talk about art and perception and comics' history with the same.
posted 9:00 am PST
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