The Aesthetics of Embellishment
Tim O’Neil has another “comics-history”-type post up today, and I must say that, unlike yesterday’s effort, I find this one rather platitudinous. Yes, nostalgia is a big problem in the comics industry today. Yes, New Frontier does suck–hard-style–for precisely this reason (and no, Cole Odell, those John Henry interludes don’t help to “complicate” Cooke’s nostalgia at all…they are there in order to give Cole Odells a sad little defense, just in case one of their friends points out that they appear to be longing for Pleasantville–and this strategy might even work, if their interlocutor is the kind of person who found Pleasantville “hard-hitting”–i.e. if they are particularly feeble-minded..***.p.s.*** here I must add that Cole has presented a pretty interesting defense–upon narratological grounds–of this lack of integration in NF, in Tim’s comment-threads!). But no–critical interest in the Silver Age is not merely a by-product of nostalgia, and the key to my disagreement with Tim can be found in his weird dismissal of all “continuity-obsessed” storytelling as “fanfic”.
I would love to rescue that term itself from the tender mercies of critics like Tim, who are absolutely in thrall to a modernist conception of “The Artist” as somehow “self-generating”. Let’s put it this way–I’m sure Aeschylus would be highly insulted by the idea that any storyteller who sets up for business within the narrative confines of his/her influences/inspirations (and lacks the good grace to at least turn the whole thing into a “secret-handshake” for the iniatiated by encrypting this scaffolding into an ostensibly “new” structure) is merely indulging in a “wank-fest”. No. No. I’m not comparing Roy Thomas to Aeschylus. I think what he and his fellow Marvelites did was even more interesting than the Big A’s straight-up brand of ancient Greek fanfic–because they invited their readers (through what I call “editorial call and response”) into the narrative process itself. When I talk about “The Silver Age”–I’m not talking about any specific “events” that I’d like to see Alex Ross embalm for me, I’m talking about this unprecedented mode of storytelling, which could even, in the hands of masters like Thomas and his collaborators (“professional” and epistolary), precipitate the involvement (in every sense of the word) of a whole new generation of readers in the saga of a “Golden Age” they never longed for.
Good Afternoon Friends