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Soundtrack: U2 — War

Didn’t “the author” die a few decades ago?

I only ask because a lot of people out there, in the blogosphere, seem to be clinging to the notion of the artist as self-begetting genius–it’s not just A.C. Douglas this time, it’s the whole ever-lovin’ comics-bloggin’ community (links to your left)! I held aloof from the Tony Isabella wars that took place in October, because I’m not a consumer of current-day comics, and I didn’t feel like my input would be helpful in any way–but it’s becoming apparent that I ought to speak my mind re:”creative control”.

Here, in a nutshell, is my position:

As a (rather tender-hearted) person, I feel bad for Tony, because I hate to see anyone suffer, and I’d be delighted to see him financially compensated for his trouble… However, as a critic, I consider the “Tony Isabella position” ludicrous, and counter-productive.

I touched on this in my own comment-threads yesterday–as far as I’m concerned, the “indie” aesthetic is reactionary nonsense, the artworld equivalent of the “Jeffersonian yeoman” ideal. We cannot retain “control” over the works of art that we labour upon any more than we can all return to the land and become self-sufficient producers. Leaving aside the question of influence, it should be obvious that, as soon as you let anyone else read what you’ve written, you have lost control of the piece, and–a fortiori–of “your” characters. The Marvel and DC universes are vast, interactive sites which make manifest the way all creation really works. A work of art is not a thing (i.e. set apart from culture)–by definition, it’s embedded within culture. That’s what makes it art!!! And once you plug into culture, you are no longer in control.

So, when Tony Isabella comes up with Black Lightning and places him within the larger context of the DC universe, it’s a de facto abandonment of the possibility of “taking his character and going home” (the legal issues don’t matter at all here–I mean, it’s very likely that, in some cases, a writer/artist can use legal tools to effect the rescue that I deny is possible, but that’s beside the point–when the “corporate comic model” is functioning properly, it provides a textbook example of the debt that creators, all creators, owe to their respective environments). Now, as to who gets paid, well, that’s a different issue, and I always prefer to see an individual win out over a soulless corporate entity, but that doesn’t change the fact that I think it’s a good and chastening thing for a creator to be reminded that he/she does not have anything like a god’s power over his/her creations–or, at the very least, if the creator is a god, he/she is more like a member of a (really overpopulated) pantheon. Zeus, for example, can try to make things come out his way, but he’s always got to worry about Hera or Poseidon’s interference. There ain’t no Yahwehs at the typewriter! A lot of “indie creators” don’t seem to realize that…

Now, some of you might be saying, “how would you like it, Fiore, if they took your characters, and made them do things that you know they’d never do!!!” What if they dragged Dawn Paris out of Darkling I Listen and made her into a murderess or something? And you know what? Maybe I would hate that, but it wouldn’t make any difference, and anyway, the whole point of that character (and all of the characters I write) is that I don’t know what the hell they’re going to do next, and I don’t want any part of explaining what they have done. As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as “interiority”. The world is all surface, and we’re all entitled to grope–it feels pretty good…

Good night friends!
Dave

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16 comments

  1. What incredible postmodern, poststructural bullsh*t.

    Haven’t you heard, m’boy? Your position is now finally recognized as dead in the water; the putrid corpse it is, and was in the borning. The only wonder is that it’s taken so long for so many to smell the rotting body.

    Regards,

    ACD

  2. Come now AC,

    I don’t see how my position is any more postmodern, poststructural, or malodorous than T.S. Eliot’s in Tradition and the Individual Talent. All I’m saying is that an artist cannot create life–the best they can hope to do is confront it, and the worst thing they can do is turn their back on it, by endeavouring to set up a separate reality that obeys laws of their own making (such endeavours must fail, which forces even the greatest practitioners of this kind of art to use up all of their ingenuity creating smokescreens)

    Regards back atcha!
    Dave

  3. Creating new life is precisely what all artists of authentic genius do as a matter of course. They can’t help it. The rest is silence.

    ACD

  4. AC,

    Have you ever read a little thing by Mary Shelley called Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus? It’s about creative hubris–And it’s still relevant.

    Dave

  5. Oh, c’mon now, Dave. I wasn’t talking about “creative hubris.” It’s creative hubris to attempt to trump the natural processes of Nature. Authentic creative genius never attempts that. It plumbs Nature’s very depths to exploit and expound upon its most profound secrets; secrets ordinary mortals have no inkling of until revealed to their impoverished senses by the work of the authentic creative genius.

    See how that works?

    ACD

  6. AC,

    You are arguing that the “genius” has direct access to the noumenal world–and, while I wouldn’t put it the way you do (“plumbing Nature’s deepest secrets” etc.), I would be willing to let my Kant slide just enough to say that the artist receives very strong intimations of the noumenal (or Ideal) world.

    So we’re kind of close on that one.

    But we’re miles apart in terms of what the “genius” can do with the knowledge/feelings that he/she gains from this encounter… To get Platonic for a moment: when in the Cave, speak as the cavedwellers do–and the “genius” must craft his/her work out of tools which belong to everyone in her/his community. You cannot detonate the gnostic truth-bomb of your original vision within the heads of your readers/auditors/viewers. You can either play by certain culturally prescribed rules (without allowing those rules to play you–and this is where I cease to resemble a “structuralist” of any sort), or you can watch all of that visionary power trail off into space…

    About the paragraph-breaks:
    this comments-thread won’t put them there for you–you have to use the HTML code…

    Keep it coming!
    Dave

  7. To get Platonic for a moment: when in the Cave, speak as the cavedwellers do–and the “genius” must craft his/her work out of tools which belong to everyone in her/his community. You cannot detonate the gnostic truth-bomb of your original vision within the heads of your readers/auditors/viewers.

    But that’s precisely the province of genius: To provide all those purblind cave dwellers a glimpse — their only glimpse — of the Platonic archetypes behind the shadows dancing on those cave walls which those sense-impoverished cave dwellers take for the whole-enchilada real deal. That’s the genius’s stock in trade. His business as usual.

    See how that works?

    ACD

  8. Oops

    I wrote: “…of the Platonic archetypes behind the shadows dancing on those cave walls….”

    That should have read:”…of the Platonic archetypes casting the shadows dancing on those cave walls….”

    ACD

  9. Gaaaak!

    This idiot comments thingie trashed my whole last graf in my last (you really do have to move to a REAL publishing system).

    That graf read:

    When you get someone who “…craft[s] his/her work out of tools which belong to everyone in her/his community,” mostly because he’s incapable of doing otherwise, what you end up with is a Stephen King novel, or a Spiderman comic book.

    ACD

  10. I take it back AC,

    We’re not close at all, except in that we both love to argue (which is the most important thing, really!). But, clearly, when we speak of the noumenal, we aren’t speaking about the same thing. It serves me right for bringing Plato into the discussion, but I thought it would amuse you…

    However, whereas you (and Plato, nelieve me, I know he’s on your side!) are talking about Ideas that give structure and meaning to the universe (which the genius reasons toward or intuits through the use of some kind of gift from a greater power), I think of the “noumenous” as whatever it is that allows me to get outside of my own head and interact with other beings that I truly believe enjoy a separate existence from mine…

    You are a proponent of a “vertical aesthetic”–I champion an aesthetic based upon the assumption that the ground which makes intersubjectivity possible is the one and only true subject of “great art”. It’s a uniquely modern way of looking at things (and by “Modern”, I mean Post-Reformation!) And, lest you think I’m just some ineffectual critic whose war with “greatness” is fueled by petty resentiment , let me add that yes, I do expect to take my place amongst the greatest practitioners (Calvin, Hawthorne, Frank O’Hara, Frank Capra, the Ramones) of this kind of art someday.

    Happy Thanksgiving!
    David

  11. It serves me right for bringing Plato into the discussion, but I thought it would amuse you…

    But you were absolutely right to bring Plato and his allegory into this argument. Nothing could be more perfect or more correct. It worked against you because it’s spot-on in this matter, and you’re…not. The tip-off as to just how far wrong you are in your thinking here was your prior enclosing of the term genius, and your present enclosing of the terms numinous, and “great art”, in scare quotes. The witness of history (sane history, that is, not the loony postmodern / poststructural readings) attests to the undeniable reality of what all those terms refer to. They’re not merely words casually tossed off (except by proles, that is). They mean exactly what they denote — or as exactly as the deeply mysterious things to which they refer will permit.

    [continued next comment]

  12. [continued from previous comment]

    Intelligent persons would do well to take note of the fact — the historical fact — that only authentic genius is capable of creating great art. The will and hard work to create great art just won’t cut it no matter how assiduously pursued because geniuses, like idiots, are born, not made. A hard fact, surely, but no less true because of that. And I can tell you almost to a certainty, David (and do please forgive me for being brutally frank here), that great art will never, in any circumstance, flow from someone who “think[s] of the ‘noumenous’ [sic] as whatever it is that allows me to get outside of my own head and interact with other beings that I truly believe enjoy a separate existence from mine,” or who imagines “the ground which makes intersubjectivity possible is the one and only true subject of ‘great art’.” The “subject” of great art is always itself, and great art is always, by means still profoundly mysterious, intimately bound up and connected with what we, since Plato, call Platonic Archetypes (Ideas). It’s that mystical circumstance — and that circumstance alone — that makes great art great, and gives it its preternatural power to move us, and that circumstance alone that permits us to secure through great art, if only for the most fleeting of moments, an authentic glimpse of what we commonly refer to as the Divine.

    And a Happy Thanksgiving! to you as well, David.

    ACD

  13. Oops.

    I wrote; “The will and hard work to create great art just won’t cut it….”

    That should have read: “The will and hard work to create great art just won’t cut it by themselves….”

    ACD

  14. AC,

    Wouldja be more inclined to accept me as a genius if I went off and started a vegetarian cult in the Holy Land and was misunderstood by all and sundry? (I’m already a vegetarian!!)

    Seriously though, I agree that the “subject of great art is always itself”. But my model of how this works is somewhat different from yours… The genius emits sonar waves which make contact with the numinous foundations of intersubjectivity. They bounce back as Art.

    I also agree that hard work and willpower don’t mean squat–it’s all about being granted the chance to unleash those waves, and that’s not something you earn, it just happens… Most of the time, these creative urges just ricochet ineffectually through human heads–and no matter how packed those heads happen to be with desire and/or reasoning power, the result can never be more than a masterbatory (though possibly booming) echo…

    Dave

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