What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Nothing right? It’s a nice piece of work. Okay. Now–what’s wrong with this judgment of the picture:

Quoth ADD:

Seth’s subtle, post-iconic treatment captures the lost innocence of the Silver Age with grace and an appealing sentimentality, being far kinder to the characters and their fans than anyone who has been officially charged with maintaining the franchise in the past 15 years or so.

The only response I can offer (to my own rhetorical question) is–everything! But especially this:

…I definitely think there IS a “lost innocence of the Silver Age.” Whether it was actually DURING the SA or was how we later readers looked at it, specifically up to the early ’80s before the truth came out about how Marvel screwed Jack Kirby and the Shooter “Little Fucks” era is debatable, one supposes. But there was a time when even the most informed comics reader could believe at least some of the myths about comics in general and Marvel in particular, and Seth’s piece evokes that era. In a time, now, when you have to pretty much have NO interest in comics NOT to know such trivia as Joss Whedon’s contractual machinations or Ellis’s online sex-farce, I’d say that innocence is gone.

You can find the above in the “update” portion of Sean Collins’ excellent & open-minded post re: the new Marvel Age.

Look ADD–as a personal reaction to the history of Marvel Comics, your statement is perfectly valid, and I sympathize with you… However, the problem is that you allow these feelings about “corporate fuckery” and the business/contractual side of the comic book world to seep into every aesthetic judgment you make, rendering your criticism (at least of superhero comics) absolutely valueless.

I single ADD out because, well, he singles himself out every day by coming up with stuff like this. The comics blogosphere is fascinating–clearly, I can’t get enough! (and I read ADD every day)–but the kind of review/industry gossip hybrid that its’ major figures specialize in is not criticism–it’s editorial journalism (in fact, you gotta wonder if ADD based this latest stunt upon the scene from Citizen Kane where Welles draws up his “declaration of principles”). To their credit, most of the people involved (Dirk Deppey, John Jakala, Kevin Melrose, Neilalien, Sean Collins, etc!) in this kind of work are perfectly aware of the distinction I’m drawing here–but ADD seems to lose sight of it every once in a while…

The point is this–criticism deals with texts! It cannot concern itself with the manner in which the texts are created (or to whom they are marketed). The builders of the Pyramids suffered even more grievously at the hands of their masters than Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko did–we have to put that out of our minds when we’re appraising the works themselves qua works of art… I have no problem whatsoever with editorializing against the slimy business practices of corporations (or Pharoahs)–just don’t let that stuff (or your hurt feelings about Marvel as “bad father”) lead you into making critical judgments that you are unable to support with textual evidence…

“Verily, it would fare badly with you if, as you demand, the whole world were ever to become wholly comprehensible in earnest.”
Friedrich Schlegel

Special to Josiah at Christusvictor.

Okay, well, as you suggested yesterday, I’ve read up on Peter Van Inwagen’s arguments re: “metaphysical freedom”. Basically, he just covers the same ground that Yvor Winters does–to wit: Edwards’ infinite-regress is irrefutable, but our everyday experience cries out against it. As Van Inwagen says:

Either there is something wrong with our argument for the conclusion that metaphysical freedom is incompatible with determinism or there is something wrong with our argument for the conclusion that metaphysical freedom is incompatible with indeterminism—or there is something wrong with both arguments. But which argument is wrong, and why? (Or are they both wrong?) I do not know. I think no one knows. That is why my title is, “The Mystery of Metaphysical Freedom.” I believe I know, as surely as I know anything, that at least one of the two arguments contains a mistake. And yet, having thought very hard about the two arguments for almost thirty years, I confess myself unable to identify even a possible candidate for such a mistake. My opinion is that the first argument (the argument for the incompatibility of freedom and determinism) is essentially sound, and that there is, therefore, something wrong with the second argument (the argument for the incompatibility of freedom and indeterminism). But if you ask me what it is, I have to say that I am, as current American slang has it, absolutely clueless.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t do anything for me! The world is a text that is already written, and the most important thing in this life is the attitude we take toward the parts we are assigned. I don’t think that this knowledge makes existence any easier–but it certainly ought to eliminate the kind of bitterness that characterizes the free-will addict/seize the day sloganeer (who, despite their bravado, tend to wallow inordinately in pointless grief/regret/self-congratulation, instead of savouring their memories & their daily existence as they would a movie or a novel)

Good night friends!



  1. I just have to leave a quick YAY for people for whom Van Inwagen doesn’t do anything, since I don’t agree with yesterday’s commenter.

    Also, as a more general issue, I’m not trained at all to be able to critique art (well, except Islamic art, which doesn’t seem to come into play in the comics world much) and so I wouldn’t be comfortable making fairly definitive statements about art the way I might with text. I get the impression that this is the case for a lot of bloggers/reviewers and that they deal with it or find work-arounds in different ways. So for me the more important issue raised by ADD’s rant is whether anyone besides himself takes his critique seriously as being about the picture rather than about himself.


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