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

July 6, 2016

The New Indy: Go Read This Vulture Article On Twenty Great Comics To Read On The Beach

It's the "Beach Read" part that makes this sort of strained point, but I couldn't help but think while reading the choices made by three smart and well-respected comics professionals -- Kieron Gillen, Marjorie Liu, Kate Leth -- in this exercise initiated by Vulture that it's a pretty good snapshot of where a lot of tastes in comics like these days. It's a mix of the light and humorous alternative stuff, high-end kids material, mainstream-genre approximate manga and the quirky part of the superhero rack.

imageI think that for a lot of people this is where the excitement is, sand or no sand, perhaps because this is a combination of works that's widely appealing and fun while at the same time getting that romantic pushback against the core of superhero material. I would say the only difference between this list and most end-of-year lists I see is that you get added in the "important" books -- not necessarily important or good but deemed so by way of self-presentation and media agreement. Where it gets interesting for me with this view and more traditional ones is in those areas where the idea of an exercise is quality, and not qualified for a specific, focused article. It may be that I'm just old enough or just enough of an asshole that it's hard for me to see two things as the same when one is something like Carol Tyler's A Soldier's Heart and the other is whatever I'm sure well-crafted entertainment that will probably win whatever awards that Tyler's book might still be up to win. I wonder if the battle wasn't left half-won; pushing back against the garbage pile solely at its rotted-fruit core isn't really a refined aesthetic.

One of the reasons I think no one trusts critical discourse in comics right now is because that specific point of view on things is so decidedly inarticulate. It was easy in the 1980s to point out how RAW was better than Marvel Two-In-One (yes, even the Project Pegasus run); it's harder to make the distinctions we're asked to make now. A solution you often see, where the critic dons the skin of Greg Cwiklik Buffalo Bill-style, sets an even higher bar and destroys the better-crafted work as just another piece of meretricious disposable fluff like it's 1992 again, that may thrill the hardcore art crowd but wins few minds. In many hands that kind of rhetoric feels just as convenient as those end-of-the-year lists that have a book from every important publisher. It's not that people need to adjust their standards, but discuss intelligently the ones they have. I get the sense that a lot of people with their end of year lists could swap out another dozen comics for the ones they selected and be perfectly happy writing either article. Don't get me wrong: I'm public enemy number one here. I barely even write about comics anymore.

I do love a lot of those comics, so please don't put that on me. The best beach reading is one of those big Bill Moyer interview books, followed by anything by Terry Southern followed by Bill Motherfucking Blackbeard, but those comics would work, too. The whole thing just got me thinking. That's what I bring to the beach: nerdy emotional baggage and a desire to be chatty. That's why my skin is the same color as the Kingpin's jacket. Same size, too, but that's another post.

from SuperMutant Magic Academy, a stupendous book recommended on this list
posted 12:55 am PST | Permalink

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