It Came From the Comment-Threads!

It Came From the Comment-Threads!

Busy again today (or, at least, busy procrastinating on Yahoo games or
somethin’!)–but I think this is important enough to rescue from
yesterday’s wild n’ wooly comment-thread!

Tim O’Neil wrote:

Well, it seems to me that when you’re speaking about
aesthetics, its easy to underestimate the effect your words have on
others. The reason for this is fairly obvious: even on an unconscious
level, if you think something is crap, you can’t imagine that anyone
else can seriously hold the opinion that it isn’t, and vice versa.

I try to keep a civil tongue in my head, because these things just have
a tendency to devolve too quickly. There have been too many times in my
history of using the internet that situations have gotten so
irrevocably bad that I have just had to foreswear whichever forum I was
on and never, ever return. In almost all cases, I have held true to my
word: and in all of these cases, the mailing lists which I left are no
more. The internet is a big steaming pile of anger, and quite frankly,
if I could give it up I would. But you know, its necessary, because
having a net presence is absolutely necessary for one’s career, in the
fields in which I toil. So basically I couldn’t leave if I wanted to.

(Although, I will note that I have not returned to the Journal boards
in… God, three years? Ever since they did away with psuedonyms,
basically. I always signed my posts with my real name anyway, but man,
that rule just teed me off.

But man, you need to learn that what is fun debate for you can quickly
turn into blood-curdling anger for another, and because you’re facing
the computer screen you have no idea. You know from our mutual shared
experiences how easy it is for people to misunderstand you even on a
more intimate basis.
Just remember: what you see as part of a friendly debate, is extremely
easy to be misconstrued as agressive baiting. There have been many
times I have felt you have been purposefully baiting me, and I know I’m
not alone. Just be careful.

My reply:

Tim–I really will take that under advisement!
One interesting thing to note, however, is that, with the exception of
Identity Crisis, I can’t really think of anything that I’ve posted on
here that I think is “crap” (yes, I said some fairly aggressive things
about New Frontier, but that’s because I was treating Cooke’s book as
an interpretation of the superhero genre that I disagree with…not
because I don’t think it has any merit–obviously, the guy is a very
good artist, and I never imagined that my post would have upset him or
his fans in the way that it did! Or, let’s just say that, when I did
imagine a response from him, I imagined something a little more
content-based than what I got, which was, basically, “damn you for
taking my work seriously!”)

So, yeah, how many times do I have to remind people that I’m not some
“anti-art-comix” fanboy? The problem, it seems to me, is that the
comics subculture really doesn’t have a place for someone like me–i.e.
seriously interested in superhero comics, but not hostile in any way to
the sequential art equivalent of “high lit”… Basically, what I’m
trying to do is make a space for myself in this culture, and there’s no
way to do it without going to war with the old categories!  (and
please note that it’s the categories that I’m at war with–not any
specific people!) Sure, lots
of people love all sorts of comics, but most of the people who fall
into this camp also perpetuate the notion that it’s okay to love
superhero comics, as long as you don’t try to make them (any of them!)
into something they’re not–i.e. “art”… Well, I can’t accept that,
obviously, but that does not, in my mind, necessitate any sort of
adversarial stance, on my part, toward the vast world of comics beyond
the confines of the corporate universes that have been my prime focus
for the past year or so!

Good Afternoon Friends!




  1. Dave, I love you like my red-headed step-son.

    Despite your clear insanity, it’s nice that people are getting het up over something a little more substantive than Spider-Man’s new costume.


  2. I think there’s often a gap between grad students and the rest of the
    world, at least grad students in the humanities.  I’ve never read
    anything by Dave that even comes close, to my mind, as belligerent or
    “ruthless.”  But, I know, from personal experience, that by
    playing with ideas out here in the realworld (i.e., internet) the play
    doesn’t seem to come across to many.

    What Tim calls “ruthless” I don’t, but I do take issue with it, for a
    similar reason.  You act like you’re not playing the game of “us
    vs. them”, but can’t resist a chance to caricature the Journal reader
    (which is what Tom was getting at in the response thread leading to
    your current entry).  You’re an intelligent apologist for the
    mainstream, just like those film critics who try to explain away
    Welles.  They, too, often see themselves as “disinterested”
    critics knocking down the ideologies on both sides.  But, in the
    end, you wind up just giving excuses (intelligent ones, granted) to the
    big mass culture pooping anus that can’t lay off the meat and taters.


  3. That should be “mass culture, pooping anus” — i.e., we’re a
    constipated culture, Dave, stop telling people ketchup is a vegetable,
    depending on how they decide to take it!

    Rough and sore,

    Charles again

  4. well, maybe Charles–but I would submit that, with friends like me, the
    mass culture industry doesn’t need any enemies! After all, I am hardly
    Ronnie Reagan over here–it’s not as if I’m trying to relabel all
    of the ketchup, only the stuff that I feel has been mislabeled in the
    first place! And if I don’t find anything nourishing in the ketchup,
    I’m not likely to gloss over the fact, or excuse the work on the
    grounds that it’s “mere entertainment”…  I mean–I hate
    television, don’t listen to top 40 radio, don’t read any genre fiction
    (although I know I should at least try to stay on top of that a little
    more than I do…), and abominate just about 95% of the films Hollywood
    has made since the Studio System broke down around 1950–I’m hardly the
    postmodern yay-sayer that I might seem! Nor am I at all interested in
    comics’ ‘new mainstream” (it seems like paper network TV to me–no
    thanks!)… and I love Orson Welles! If anything, I think of Ditko,
    Lee, Kirby, Colan, Thomas,Conway, Englehart, and co.  as the
    Welleses of their day and medium, using a popular idiom derived from
    the culture to weird and wonderful effect (just as Welles used the
    “great man biopic” in Kane, the family melodrama in Ambersons, and the
    espionnage thriller in The Stranger/Journey Into Fear–assuming he was
    at least partially responsible for that one!)…


  5. Hey Dave–I was thinking about this whole New Frontier brou-ha-ha
    today, and I don’t recall anywhere near this level of opprobrium being
    directed at me for my completely unhinged attack on Jeph Loeb’s Batman
    story “Hush.”  I kinda have to conclude that some of the folks who
    have been giving you a hard time and defending Darwyn Cooke’s response
    to your post have done so more out of how they feel about either
    Darwyn/New Frontier or you, or most likely both both, than out of
    principled objections to aggresively worded criticism.

    That said, I’m curious as to what you’d think of Cooke’s other big
    graphic novel, CATWOMAN: SELINA’S BIG SCORE. I think it has a very
    different feel than NF, in terms of the characters and their destinies.

  6. there’s no question about it Sean…I mean, how many beatings per day did Meltzer come in for, without anyone crying foul? But Cooke has been annointed as a potential saviour of the genre, and I suppose the stakes are a lot higher when he is criticized…but here again, this is an interpretive “war”, not a personal one…people like New Frontier because, 1. it is beautifully drawn, and 2. it presents, as often been pointed out, a take on the superhero that runs directly counter to most of what dominates the genre these days… My quarrel with the book centers upon the way it has been adopted by its admirers as, basically, the ultimate iconic mural painted upon the glass ceiling of the genre’s (presumed) limitations. As a proponent of a more philosophically expansive interpretation of what superhero comics can do (and have done), I naturally had to say something about the whole “now THIS is the way it should be done” tone that I heard in connection with New Frontier from the day the first advance cover scans hit the net…. So yeah–this is a debate, not a feud… Works of art are also works of interpretation, and when I read an interpretation that I disagree with, I speak out! It doesn’t mean I’m right, of course! And no one wins when the debate is derailed by personal epithets!Dave

  7. oh yes–I am going to check out CATWOMAN at some point (both the series with Brubaker and the graphic novel)… I’m sold on Cooke’s artwork, I just disagree with him (very strongly, it’s true!) on what the Silver Age was all about–that’s all…Dave

  8. I doubt I’ll ever check out New Frontier. Sounds like basically more of the same.

    Not that I have a problem with a good old fashioned “turn your brain off at the door” rock ’em sock ’em book, but the price point for the TPBs is gonna be a bit steep for a bit of escapist fluff.

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