bestamericancomics2007.jpgHey there. I wrote a review of the Chris Ware-edited Best American Comics 2007 book this week, and I think it came out pretty well. In it, I was trying to walk a very fine line between respecting the vision and accomplishments of the people involved in that work, and looking at the larger North American publishing industry to see if, really, the book was indicative of what is on store shelves and what’s “good”. Over at Publisher’s Weekly, Heidi has decided to obliterate that very fine line with a shotgun, and gives us one of the worst pieces of writing I’ve ever seen her put up on the blog. I understand her sentiments, but not only do I not agree with them I also think that she uses a series of outright untruths to bolster her arguments, which are muddy at best. 50% of the comics in The Best American Comics 2007 are not as good as a work published 10 years ago? Thanks for that, that’s very relevant.

My friend Cameron Stewart pops up in the comments section (first post!) to agree with Heidi straight-away, and although I was reading Heidi’s post with a growing sense of horror at the outlandishness of her statements (Really, Heidi? None of the literati are creating lasting characters or fiction? Then what the hell was Wimbledon Green? Which is excerpted in BAC2007 by the way…), seeing Cameron’s response (as well as that of Jennifer De Guzman at Slave Labor Graphics a little further down) puts the whole thing into perspective for me; no one likes to feel unappreciated, particularly not in what they believe to be a systematic way. But this whole post is symptomatic of the absolute worst, stupid, old-school “small-pond” mentality as anything I’ve seen on the internet in years. The complete narrative ouevre of Seth and Chester Brown has nothing to do with the critical, fan, or sales response to Johnny The Homicidal Maniac or The Other Side. If someone else’s artistic output is the recipient of critical or commercial success or acclaim, that is not a shot at anyone else’s work (except in the case where it is a direct and obvious shot at someone else’s work). You don’t like Houghton Mifflin, Anne Elizabeth Moore, and Chris’ Ware’s take on the best comics of 2006? Hey, neither did I, but at least I didn’t decide to blame a mysterious cabal of shadowy autobiographists/Art Spiegelman for it.

Heidi makes a passionate argument, and if the trackbacks in her comments section are any indication, there’s a hell of a lot of agreement about it already (and more in the wings). But passionate arguments aren’t necessarily intelligent ones either, and if I sat down and disarmed every single fallacy in this post I’d look like the world’s biggest asshole. Sadly, that role falls to poor Tom Spurgeon in the comments section, doomed to be the voice of reason which sets him firmly against more-or-less every other commenter.

What a train-wreck.

- Christopher


15 Comments on “Heidi’s post about the Best American Comics book…”

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  1. Chip Zdarsky says:

    I swear to god, if I pick up “THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2007″ and find anything that I don’t deem to be the best OR I find anything missing that I deem to be the best, I’m going to cut you all with my BEST OF KNIVES 2006 knife*. Cutcutcut!

    Love
    Chip

    (*Tommy Gann, Best of Show 2006, Spirit of Steel Show
    http://www.spiritofsteel.com/tommygannbowie.jpg )

  2. Chris says:

    Love you too. – Chris

  3. Pedro Tejeda says:

    I find all award, best of lists to be bias regardless if it’s something like Best American or the Wizard awards. Regardless if it’s large press or small press, people are going to play favorites.

    I agreed with Heidi in her article listing the books and complaining of the slant. It’s the reason I put the book down on the flip through. An entire book dedicated to the eggers/mcsweeny. More white people whining for 200 odd pages. Something that when executed well in small doses is awesome, and a whole book of well executed but annoying subject matter is still annoying. I was kind of pissed for a second until I name checked the editor. Oh that’s why.

    She loses me in the second half where she states that this illuminati is holding down the next stan sakai and jeff smiths. What?

  4. Jamie Coville says:

    Heh, I was thinking the same thing when I read Heidi’s post. “Didn’t Chris just say this in a more friendly manner yesterday?”

    I think the unsaid, underlining thing that pissing some folks off is that The Best American Comics and Sweeney’s and other ‘creme-of-the-crop’ anthologies are being sold in bookstores to people who might be unfamiliar with comics.

    Shouldn’t samples from The Walking Dead, Casanova or perhaps All Star Superman be in there as well? Or perhaps Dramacon? I understand where the frustration comes from as it appears we aren’t doing as good of a job as we could in promoting the diversity of comics to the bookstore crowd, and perhaps losing potential readers as a result.

  5. zach worton says:

    *SIGH*
    small press and indie comics are still under-represented in the world of mainstream comics. hence, the small press and indie tag.

    “white people whining”…that’s the stupidest thing i’ve read in a long time.
    up, up and away, pedro.

  6. Ed Mathews says:

    I stand by my rating of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this book. It will reach a wider audience than any of the anthologies that were nominated for the Ignatz and hopefully will be given to more people as gifts for the holidays. And if Heidi can’t follow the stories told in Best American Comics 2007, that says less about the book and more about the reader because I was captured by the book. I didn’t buy a lot of the books that Ware recommended this year and will probably go out an do so at my next opportunity or at very least put a few of them on my wish list for the holidays.

    I mean, does anyone seriously think that ALL STAR SUPERMAN isn’t going to sell well enough without being included in an anthology? As a side issue, does anyone seriously think that even if Ware wanted to include part of it in the book that DC would have cleared it? Ware’s choices not only expose people to some of the best works of the year, it also helps grant good works exposure that they normally wouldn’t have.

    I guess it is a shame it wasn’t published by Fantagraphics or Drawn and Quarterly. Then it would have been brilliant, I’m sure.

  7. Pedro Tejeda says:

    What you call Mainstream comics, are not really mainstream. They are just from a larger publisher than x. The biggest selling comics are pretty much Bone. Fun Home had an awesome year. They are represented fine outside of the direct market. I loves me some batman and whatever, but it’s not like it’s killing people from going into Beguiling and getting whatever the hell people want.

    I’m not a big fan of navel gazing comics, which are written from a very white experience, but they have their place and I’m cool with that. I don’t think they are stifling stuff like Flight or that PopGun Comics anthology which is up to my speed. I can read that stuff cause the market is starting to get diverse enough to support different things.

    The kind of target audience that is gonna go pick up something in a book store like Best American Comics or Sweeney’s is the literate audience that already wants books like this. Trying to sell them stuff like per say Walking Dead or 52 is the same as trying to get the Batman guy at the store to go buy Mome.

  8. Ed Mathews says:

    Ok, you know, you’ve said that twice now so: what is a very white experience? I’m trying to wrap my half-Colombian mind around that horribly general statement.

  9. Bitter Matt says:

    I’m curious to know if it’s just me, here, but…

    Would the people who are upset about this book even give it a second thought if its title was something other than “The Best American Comics?”

  10. Brian Nicholson says:

    Wow, I hadn’t read that piece of writing. Thanks for calling it out- I have my sympathies with some of the general arguments, but it’s really poorly written.

    To name but one example- calling Fort Thunder a dead end by saying that it’s not better than Sergio Aragones, but might be as good? How is that a dead end?

    Also, judging by my flip-through, the collection didn’t go from nonfiction to fiction, but rather had an arc with a pace where the most fantastic stuff was in the middle, and then it keeps going on to the other side. The Zettwoch joke is pretty intellectually dishonest.

    Also- is that postscript list actually by Anne Moore? I thought that was Ware again, naming still more work he couldn’t include.

    I did like Tom Spurgeon’s comments, and his mention of Kazimir Strzepek’s The Mourning Star, which although it wasn’t in your best-of list, should probably make the honorable mentions.

  11. Jason Marcy says:

    It’s sounding more and more I should put down FLIGHT (which on a whim, I purchased all four volumes of…) and get to reading BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2007. Out of the four FLIGHT volumes, I could make two good books based on the storytelling, by far the key element for me when it comes to enjoyment, autobio (which admittedly, I prefer, even the so called “bad” stuff…) or not.Alll I’ve really learned from FLIGHT so far (and I’m halfway through Volume 4 now…) is that just because you can draw pretty damn good doesn’t mean you should try telling graphic narrative…

  12. Jamie Coville says:

    Ed:

    I’m not suggesting All Star Superman needs more sales or promotion.

    But if THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2008 feature All Star Superman, Brubaker’s Iron Fist & Captain America, Green Lantern, The Spirit, Shazam (Jeff Smith version), etc… I’m sure there would be a lot of screaming over the lack of diversity even if it was a really good book.

    I fully understand that Marvel & DC probably wouldn’t let their characters be included in such a volume. But what of Walking Dead or Casanova? I think almost everybody agrees that there are a whole lot of great comics in a variety of genres and it’s a bit disappointing that only a narrow selection gets presented to the public as the best comics.

    Anyways, here’s hoping that a more wider view of ‘best’ comics gets selected next year.

  13. dave merrill says:

    So would you say that Heidi’s post is one of the Worst Bleat Posts Of 2007? Let’s debate.

    It seemed to me that the controversy is sparked more by a vague dissatisfaction than anything else, the weird kind of unease you get when you see a lot of people (or a “best of” book) championing work that personally you don’t like, and that to counter it they’re having to cast around for examples of stuff that SHOULD have been included. And I like Sergio Aragones, but what has he done in 2007 that’s head and shoulders above his previous body of work? What has Jeff Smith done in 2007? Is Stan Sakai’s recent work somehow different from what has gone before? The book isn’t a lifetime achievement feel-good Irving Thalberg award for Outstanding Achievements In The Field of Excellence, it’s what Chris Ware feels is the best of the latest. Got a beef about how there aren’t enough dragons, take it up with Chris.

    And sure, I’m biased, I find it hard to take criticism of this kind seriously when it comes from a culture obsessed with Power Girls’ breasts or who Green Lantern is this week or what dinner theater Bruce Campbell is appearing at next month. Don’t get me wrong, I love crap popular culture, but I don’t pretend my personal obsessions reflect anything other than my personal obsessions.

  14. Jennifer de Guzman says:

    I’m not exactly sure what to make of the invocation of my comment in association with Cameron Stewart’s “this is a fantastic post” comment. I’m not a supporter of Heidi’s essay; I found it meandering and full of unsupported claims. So I decided to ignore it and try to change the subject into something broader, since the essay itself wasn’t going to hold up to specific comment. I was simply saying that it is true that for most people a good story is what is important and that, despite what Heidi was saying and what the literary media tends to elevate, a lot of comics aren’t of the type represented in The Best American Comics. It was in no way some kind of expression of self-pity because I feel “unappreciated.”

    My last name is spelled with a lowercase “d,” by the way. No one seems to get that, even thought that’s always how it appears when I type it.

  15. Thom says:

    What, Jennifer…are you asking us to pay attention or something? :)

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