Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

January 1, 2006

CR Sunday Magazine

Happy New Year!
I don't express my gratitude nearly often enough, so I wanted to take some time out right at the top of the calendar to thank you for visiting the site in 2005 as well the first day in 2006. I hope you'll continue to come back in this new year. I know how precious computer time can be. Anything I can do to make the site more useful for you, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I'll definitely consider it. I hope you like the changes in general approach and scope that will be phased in over the next month or so.

imageOne of the great kindnesses I received in 2005 was money raised through the site to pay a few bills related to site upkeep and make possible the extra time to get some older content into the archives. I've been posting material quietly ever since -- you may have noticed a lot of older reviews going up at a rate of five a day over the last two weeks, which should continue for two more weeks before new reviews start again. Here's another one of those older pieces I've been dying to get up and just did yesterday: an interview with comics writer Joe Casey from mid-2003. I think it's one of my stronger pieces, and I hope you enjoy it.

Why Discussions About Getting Comics Into the Mainstream Are a Waste of Time

I got a couple of e-mails yesterday complaining that I was making fun of those who participated in a discussion at Warren Ellis' The Engine site without offering up anything "positive" of my own. (You can find the mention I made in the quote section of Saturday's "Week in Review" post below, if you're so inclined.) I don't really do positive for the sake of positive, but here are a few reasons why I don't participate in "making comics mainstream" discussions.

* 1. Comics haven't been mainstream since 1947 or so, and won't be mainstream ever again.
* 2. Screw being mainstream anyway. Comics has a lot of its cultural power not just as a secondary art form, but as a semi-disgraced secondary art form. I think because of their personal neuroses, which in many cases expresses itself in a desire to be popular, some comics fans put too much stock in a wide audience. The goofballs who write "According to Jim" have a bigger audience than the playwright Tony Kushner. But who has the more admirable, effective and ultimately desirable creative platform? I'd say Kushner.
* 3. That superhero comic book companies have a lot to learn from manga companies is a fallacy. The rise of manga as a commercial force in the US is based on a number of factors over (at least) a decade-long period, many of which are historically specific and the vast majority of which are product specific. They're largely not copy-able. In addition, the model that superhero comics companies have chosen for themselves is super-duper profitable in almost every way it's intended to be -- I can't believe Avi Arad would trade financial portfolios with Stuart Levy. Here's the thing: just because the rise of manga has exposed a lot of conventional wisdom in the comics arena as superhero-centric conventional wisdom doesn't mean that stuff stops applying to those superhero companies. Manga's success is about manga, not about the deficiences of Marvel and DC. Similarly, Persepolis selling in the high five figures should not be an occasion to ask why Moon Knight: Wrath of Khonshu didn't get this audience instead. Companies like Marvel and DC are irrelevant to certain conversations. They need to do what they do better, not what somebody else has done.
* 4. Comics has an infrastructure problem that makes worthless any meta-marketing principle or concept.
* 5. Most plans or ideas to make comics mainstream accept pernicious elements of the status quo rather than deplore them and demand they change.

Comics industry folk need to accept that comics are a secondary art form -- like theater and radio, not TV and movies -- stop thinking about goofy stuff like celebrity endorsements and start thinking about serious industry reform that will hopefully maximize the potential audience in a way that's ethical for everyone involved.

Go, Read: Chicago Reader Comics PDF


Click through the image above for a pdf file of the Chicago Reader issue containing its year in review comics section. It's an odd mix of cartoonists, well worth the time to check out if your computer and connection can handle the download.

Thanks to Todd Allen

Initial Thought of the Day

You know what would make a good Halloween costume? The kid from the GRIT ad. Get a buzz cut, find some nerd glasses, wear a short sleeve plaid shirt and some khakis, and paint G.R.I.T. on the side of a white, canvas bag, with some sort of fake publication in it, maybe porno.
posted 12:15 am PST | Permalink

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