Some People in Your Neighborhood

(Soundtrack: Pixies–Surfer Rosa)

Well, it looks like I’ll be re-entering the world of comic book reserves this spring, in a very minor way, of course:

I’m bound and determined to read Seaguy as soon as possible, and now I’m convinced that I should give this new Mary Jane series a try too! (link via Kevin Melrose). I doubt it will live up to my expectations, but who knows? M-J is one of my favourite Marvel characters–her role in the Gwen Stacy clone affair is the key to my lifelong obsession with Gerry Conway’s Amazing Spider-Man #121-149… People bash Conway all the time (I do it myself fairly often), but I think that his work on the Peter-MJ relationship in those issues was extraordinary! Everything between them is so vague, undeclared…you look away for a second and all of sudden “what? she’s got a key to his apartment?” As far as I’m concerned, that final scene of ASM #122 (drawn by Gil Kane) is the real comics landmark from that period, not the deaths of Gwen & the Goblin. Much more on this soon!

I really like Mike Norton’s current state of the medium address:

My view is that there’s nothing in the least unusual or particularly damning about the current (comics) situation, where many aspiring talents have tripped to the idea that in a very real way the independent comics market has become the farm team from which the mainstream publishers draw new talent. If an artist or writer’s aspiration is to work on Batman or Spider-man, I see no shame in that. If an artist or writer responds to “the call” as a means to establishing a broader name for himself, making more money from a one-year contract than he likely would have made in ten of working on an exclusively creator-owned, small press title, (presuming it wasn’t simply a money pit) looking forward to when he has the financial resources to return to his dream, I don’t see any shame in that either. A nice example of that is Erik Larsen, who worked on Marvel’s comics for some years and then was able to get out into the marketplace in a more independent fashion, where he was able to bring out Savage Dragon, a character and series that is plainly very dear to him.

I suppose we have different idealized futures for the comics industry. Jamie Rich has the view that the worker’s paradise, where all is owned by the creators and subject solely to their whim, is what the industry should be aspiring to. While I would like to see that end of things flourish, I would be lying if I were to say that I wanted to see the end of corporately-owned comics universes. The notion of what the 1960s comics scene would have been like with creator ownership and control… my fondest comics of the 60’s and 70’s wouldn’t have happened. I saw what gyrations and, frankly, decline Jack Kirby’s work went into as he “evolved”, and the notion that Thor, the Fantastic Four, etc. might have been subject to his vision over all the subsequent years doesn’t appeal to me.

What’s all of the hoopla about? Why, this, of course, courtesy of Jamie Rich:

Oh…what’s that? I can feel the rumbling now. I am a superhero hater. I obviously don’t get it. I hate the direct market. I don’t understand.

No, you’re wrong, I do understand. I understand that there are a lot of people in this industry–fans, retailers, creators, publishers–who see the full potential for the industry, for the art, and who want more. It’s like the old Smiths song–these comics say nothing to me about my life. And when you consider the return of He-Man, the X-Men putting back on their colorful costumes, or Claremont and Byrne doing JLA to be a progressive move, I’d counter that it’s you who don’t get it. This is why the real world writes comics off as trash, because that’s all we expect from ourselves.

Do me a favor, and turn a blind eye to the palaver. Next time the Big Two return a hero to the racks who wasn’t successful the first time, say no. Instead, pick an indie comic. Buy a copy of Street Angel or the latest volume of Fruits Basket or any of the fine publications Oni offers. If you can’t get away from the DC/Marvel section, then at least go for Judd Winick’s Caper or Brian Bendis’ The Pulse, books with some vision, books that are breaking rank and giving us more. Which is all I want, which is all that it takes to make me an elitist. I demand more.

As I’ve opined before, in “conversation” with similar folks on The Comics Journal Messageboard: trust me Jamie, you’re not an elitist. Elitists don’t whine.

H, at The Comic Treadmill is back with more Levitz/Giffen/Wood All-Star goodness! Don’t miss it pilgrim!

Eve Tushnet has a very good piece up about the core values of American literature, and I agree with her completely (except her characterization of Emerson as “Diet Caffeine-Free Nietzsche”, but I’ll forgive her… Lord knows, I’ve made enough references to her philosopher of choice as a cranky New-Ager in this space…):

The national literature that most resembles American lit is not British but Russian. Violent, high-lonesome, and fiercely either for or against God (but not indifferent).

Forget about Emerson–the most important question now is: What do you think of Hawthorne, Eve?

And back to The Doom Patrolhere’s a little piece that examines Borges’ influence upon Morrison’s aesthetic. Time for me to read some Borges, I think! More “Crawling From the Wreckage” later!

Good afternoon friends!

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