Review: Casanova #1

cass01.jpgCASANOVA #1
By Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba
$1.99, 28 pages, Two-Colours

Reviewed by Christopher Butcher

WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF CASANOVA
His father Cornelius is the Director Supreme of E.M.P.I.R.E., an international task-force established in the name of maintaining peace, law, and order across the face of the Earth. His twin sister Zephyr is E.M.P.I.R.E.’s star agent, currently tasked to investigate a disturbance in the very fabric of the space-time continuum. The entire planet is under the Quinn family’s jurisdiction. So what does Casanova Quinn choose to do for a living? Read on…

So begins Casanova #1, and not in the text of the piece, but in a small bit of preamble tucked into the credits page on the inside front cover; your first clue that the material that surrounds the story will end up being just as important as the story itself.

Casanova #1 is an object, an objet d’art if you will. It’s growing increasingly rare that the monthly comic pamphlet is meant to be read or purchased for any other reason than fanboy necessity: the need to know what happens to your beloved character next. That raises the question of why a non-superhero-oriented title, hell, a non-Marvel or DC title would bother being launched on a monthly basis at all? To side-step that issue entirely, I’ll say that when the book’s objectness, its ‘single-issueness’ is as considered and successful as this the “whys” are less important. In an industry where the importance of the non-superhero pamphlet had to be forcefully, aggressively reclaimed by oversized, dust-jacketed, thick-papered waves of comics (see: Ignatz), the idea of launching a new ongoing series of pamphlets needs an ideology: a manifesto. Casanova as a series is designed to be read an issue at a time, enjoyed an issue at a time, and then perhaps considered as a whole after the fact. Comprised of 16 pages of story with a limited colour palette (one sickly shade of green and black and white), 5 pages of back-up material, and some lovely art and a straight-ahead story recap, the format itself is modeled after the perfect pop single: Short, sharp, and impossible to get out of your head. The success and authorial intent of the format of this book are why this is a review of the first issue rather than the first trade paperback; the format works. On his message board author Matt Fraction stated that “…any of the single issues of CASANOVA so far could theoretically function as whole-arc endeavors scattered across three, four, five, six 22-page chapters (at least that *I’d* read, which really is the only barometer I have). And I’d be okay doing that, were that the format we were in.” But it isn’t, and isn’t that a nice change of pace?

(As an aside, between the “Fell format” that Ellis & Templesmith’s Fell and Fraction and Ba’s Casanova publish in, the Ignatz books, Grant Morrison’s fantastic and flawed Seven Soldiers ‘modular storytelling’, and even DC’s 52, 2006 was a very good year for the reinvention of the floppy comic.)

In my reading of the series it’s the format—the presentation of the material—that defined it. While the first issue side-steps the 16-page imposition with a 28 page introductory story, the ideology remains intact: a great story, done-in-one, that gives you a helluva lotta bang for your buck. The first issue is the exact opposite of “all set-up,” the de-facto description of pretty much any new series launch. It also eschews the stylized in-media-res that substitutes for innovation in… pretty much any other new series launch (aside: I guess it’s technically in-media-res, but really it just feels like it begins at the beginning…). Instead? The comic treats you like you’re a grown-up. Admittedly, it treats you like the kind of grown-up who grew up on all the things that author Matt Fraction likes (super-spies, comic books, pop music, middle-brow sci-fi) but still, it’s refreshing for a comic to assume that when an obvious spy character is on a mission and things are going wrong that we don’t need detailed captions explaining the whys and wherefores. It asks the reader to have a little faith that everything will be explained in time, and by the end of the first issue it is: bravo. In fact, Fraction and artist Gabriel Ba go so far as to undertake a meta-narrative manoeuver on page two, having the characters pulled outside of the narrative to directly address the reader with information that is both inessential and colourful. It’s exactly the kind of information that might normally be clumsily inserted to dialogue or captions, that adds to the mood and tone of the piece. The meta-narrative effect is successful precisely because the book deals with things like parallel dimensions and alternate-earth versions of characters and events; Fraction is clearly banging the crap out of reader expectations on a giant anvil, and it’s disorienting as hell for both the characters and the reader, but it (again) assumes you’ll read all the way to the end of the book before making up your mind. A rare feat. Today I read an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man that was so unconfident in its emotional climax that it spelled it out on the cover, just in case you missed it.

…I don’t need to slam other comics to praise this one, but like I said this series has a strong “manifesto” vibe to it and I tend to fall in for those hook, line, and sinker. This is a dense comic book, the ideas flying fast and furious and even seemingly discarded. I commented recently that it took me three attempts to really feel like I “got” the first issue of this book because I didn’t commit enough of my attention to reading it. A lot of that is because there are just so many ideas being communicated to the reader. Offhand comments like “…designed by X.S.M.” or “the legendary Fakebook of the cosmos!” are tossed out at a rapid pace, with nary an appearance again in the issue. As I’ve said though, it does pay off down the line. We will find out who X.S.M. is in an issue or two, and that discovery and the story that accompanies it add layers of depth and understanding to the events of this first issue. It’s… rewarding.

Gabriel Ba’s visuals afford the same ingenuity: flying motorcycles, bug-shaped psyches, even the pattern on the bedsheets are all visual signifiers of a deeper and more considered world than usual. Ba brings a level of visual sophistication, class, and detail to the series that demands you pay attention to every carefully chosen little object or fashion tic. The reduced colour-palette and noir stylings of the art just seem to draw a deeper focus than the wash of most computer-coloured mainstream books… ah, but there I go making those nasty comparisons again. Suffice it to say, Ba’s work echoes Eduardo Risso and Mike Mignola in a loose and cartoony way that fans of either artist will appreciate, and that serves the story beautifully.

I’d be lying if I said that at the end of the first issue I wasn’t still a bit confused or unsure of where the series was going. It’s a bit like the first time you try sushi: your mouth likes it but your stomach needs a little while to make up its mind. I enjoyed great big parts of the series (if for nothing else on the first read, then for it’s audacity) but on later reads, particularly when the series is read on the whole, a larger picture is unveiled. A meta-plot for your meta-narrative. The seemingly slapdash nature of the concepts and throw-away lines in this issue are anything but; it’s all in there for a reason—even the stuff that doesn’t make sense and the stuff that contradicts the other stuff. Apparently you just can’t fuck with the space-time continuum and expect everything to come up roses, and this issue is akin to a snowball set rolling down a very large hill—it’s picking up new stuff all the way down, but the structure is still solidly constructed from everything that’s come before.

For those of you without the benefit of $13.93 to buy the whole series, those who might only be able to afford a risky single-issue purchase and are now concerned about the integrity of this single-issue, fear not: there’s an afterword! It deals mainly with the idea behind the series, about the format and the germs of ideas in Phil Spector singles and “Danger: Diabolik” and whatnot, but reading the afterword (or ‘backmatter’ as the ‘Fell Format’ creator Warren Ellis describes it), one gets the sense that this is not simply shit being thrown against the wall to see what sticks; there’s a plan and there’s six more issues coming and we hope you had a good time but tune in next month so I can blow your socks off again. The backmatter rounds out the offering, makes it a whole.

I have no doubt in my mind that this is all just too much for some people, but believe you me I was well and truly pacified when I closed Casanova #1. I was thoroughly on board, and if having a blog and valuing my opinion highly has taught me anything, it’s that you’ll be on board too.

– Christopher Butcher

The Week of Blogging Commences Now.

Dark Tower By Peter DavidHello everybody.

I’m sorry I had to take last week off, it wasn’t any better for me than you. Not getting the shit in my head out onto the internet is one of my #1 reasons for grumpiness, and so this has been a ‘grumpy’ week. To make up for it, I’ll be blogging straight through the New York Comic Con from this point. Reviews! Comments on how stupid comic books are! Passionately imploring you to buy good comics! It’s all coming down the pipe. Plus? Conmageddon ][ in 3 weeks. Sure, Tom said it’s just a con, but it’s sort of like “When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar.” New York, baby.

Meanwhile, the Peter David/Stephen King to-do came out this week. As Jog mentioned, as a comic it was a wonderfully successful outting. A little too wordy, a little too computer-coloury, but easily the nicest-looking “event” comic in 5 years. I’m not one to get up and cheer for Marvel, but on every front they seem to have done this one correctly. I’m even going to buy a copy for my Dad, a big King/Dark Tower fan, as I think he’ll appreciate it… his comic reading has slowly atrophied since I left home, and as an admitted comics crusader it’s my duty to force these things into the hands of anyone who might read them. I just wish there was a Danielle Steele-esque manga for my mom… Or maybe the #1 Ladies Detective Agency.

Speaking of which, even though I wasn’t necessarily ‘blogging’ I was reading, and David Welsh hit on a universal truth this week. Courtesy of David Welsh, it’s every manga author’s note in one paragraph:

    “They’re working really hard, and they’re sorry they’re behind on their fan mail. This volume isn’t as good as they’d have liked, but they’re trying, and reader support keeps them going. They wish they had a kitty. That sort of thing.”

After 14 volumes of Fushigi Yugi, I found that uproariously funny. Maybe you had to be there…

So tonight? Well, after I post next week’s shipping list anyway, is my long-delayed review of CASANOVA #1. Author Matt Fraction sent me a preview copy months before the issue came out, and I really wanted to review it, and then I guess I just fell apart. But I think I communicated that I liked it? Heh. Anyway. The finally issue of Casanova ships on Wednesday, and so between now and then get ready for reviews of every issue. They’re even pretty non-spoilery, as these things go. It’s not Casanova Week so much as Casanova 4.5 days! Doesn’t have the same ring to it, but that’s reviewing for you. For what it’s worth, I’m in whole-hearted support of Johanna’s take on the subject from earlier this week.

So, yeah, I’m pretty excited about the next little while, there’s a lot going on and a lot to talk about. Maybe I’ll get to preview a few pages out of the stuff I’m working on…

Thanks for continuing to read.

– Christopher!

Comics Festival 2007: Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Cover

Comics Festival 2007 - Mal Cover
In Diamond’s Previews catalogue now is COMICS FESTIVAL 2007, featuring new stories by Darwyn Cooke, Hope Larson, Chip Zdarsky, and a new Scott Pilgrim story by Bryan Lee O’Malley. This is Bryan’s cover for the book (Darwyn Cooke is also contributing a cover: coming soon), and it’s pretty awesome so I wanted to share.

Not every book is available at every retailer for Free Comic Book Day. If you want to see this book at your local comic book retailer, espescially to give away to new readers, then make sure to let your retailer know about it a.s.a.p. I’d appreciate it.

– Christopher

Grar…

Day 1 of 3 very-long-days is over, and I’m about 20 minutes late for day two. Such is life.

The worst part is, my site seems to be randomly switching from the pretty new design to the default wordpress design. ENTIRELY ON IT’S OWN. This is both not good and completely baffling. If anyone’s got an idea why, feel free to let me know. It’s done it twice now…

Actual posting resumes this evening.

– Christopher

Commenting…

Hey there,

I have comment moderation turned on until I’m comfortable with my Spam-catching plugins. Unfortunately, I’ll be away from the computer for the next little while and won’t be around to approve comments. I’m sorry if this causes you a hassle in any way, shape, or form… Just one of the speedbumps on moving to a new system.

Best,

– Christopher

My Wednesday

cass01.jpgI only buy the comics I like which, if I’m to understand many of my customers, my friends, and people on the internet, is something of a rarity. I can’t think of a comic I’ve bought in recent memory to either ‘continue a run’ or just to bitch about. Granted, I have the luxury of working at a comic store and the inherent try-before-you-by aspect of the job is one I take advantage of, but I honestly couldn’t imagine buying most comics… floppies I guess.

When I do buy something, it’s because it’s a challenging, exemplary, or compelling work. I buy All-Star Superman and Casanova, because those books are not only wonderful, but designed to be read an issue at a time. I pick up The Walking Dead and Ex Machina in collected form, because I have the luxury of doing so. It’s more-or-less the perfect way to buy comics, and it’s only very rarely that I get burned on a purchase; sometimes the books just don’t live up to my anticipation of them.

But what about the comics that I don’t buy? There are lots of them, and I find that I probably read 5-10 times as many comics as I actually take home. Part of it is because, as I mentioned, I work at a comic book store, and as a comic book store employee I have to be able to talk intelligently about comics; knowing what’s going on usually helps that a great deal in the selling of the comics. You’d be amazed how many times in a day you get asked of something is ‘good’… Part of it though, is because at 7:30 on a Wednesday night the doors are finally locked and I’m physically and mentally exhausted, and being completely beaten like that is pretty-much the perfect way to enjoy the majority of comics being released on a monthly basis. That sort of euphoric, slightly-hungry, slightly light-headed frame of mind is absolutely essential in getting the most out of DC52, or Birds of Prey, or literally any Civil War tie-in. Hell, I even start to like some of them at that point.

I find I enjoy mainstream comics the most when I’m exhausted. After a long day at a convention I sat and read the first Superman/Batman trade paperback, ‘Public Enemies’, and what a thrill-ride that was! Characters changing costumes, revenge teams, Luthor in the SUPER POWERS suit, awesome! If I get really ambitious (or rather to tired to even sit on the floor at work reading comics) I’ll borrow 3 or 4 home for bed-time reading. Drifting off to dreamland is the perfect time to subject yourself to Zombies vs. Robots, because who cares if it doesn’t make sense, that the robots catch the zombie plague? It’s nap-time anyway and maybe it was all just a dream!

I guess what I’m saying here, with as much love and respect as I can muster, is that the Top 100 makes a lot more sense once your critical faculties have been significantly dulled by every day life. It’s coming around at the “I only want my comics to be entertainment!” argument from the other end: “I’m at the point where all I can read is things that don’t make me think too hard!” and by God, there are 40 of those fuckers every week. It’s kind of great, letting the Id and Ego of the (mostly) men who write brightly-coloured fiction wash over you in a blaze of 4-minute reads (seriously, the average mainstream comic takes me 4 minutes to read). Of course, that also makes you susceptable to things like eye-being-gouged-out-with-spoons or RAPECOMICS or darkness or whatever, and that can really harsh your mellow. Worse still, in that state really good comics make you cranky; they’re very difficult to read and make you feel dumb. No Ignatzes without a full night’s sleep first… It took me three tries before I figured out Casanova #1, and the third time I sat down in the middle of a brightly lit room at a table at noon and really read it. Casanova is not the kind of comic you can read sammich’d between Daredevil and Y The Last Man, that’s for sure.

So that’s what my Wednesday’s are usually like. They all sort of end up in a blissful wash of fantasy, which is a good way to end a long day at work, you know? Besides that, it helps me develop empathy for people who really love terrible comics, because on some level I can appreciate what they’re reading as well, or at least why they’re reading them. Well, most of them anyway. You poor bastards who love like Ms. Marvel or Hunter Killer or, God help you, comics adaptations of 80s toys? You’re on your own.

– Christopher
P.S.: Street Fighter is okay though. Totally 90s.

Bryan Lee O’Malley at The Toronto Public Library

Kind of a Big Deal…

keeptorontoreading.jpg

Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 CoverScott Pilgrim @ the Library
Presented in partnership with Toronto Public Library
Part of Keep Toronto Reading 2007
http://www.keeptorontoreading.ca

Sit down with critically acclaimed graphic novel creator Bryan Lee O’Malley, the man behind the witty and hilarious Scott Pilgrim series, selected as the Independent Comic of the Year by Entertainment Weekly (2006). Bryan chats with The Beguiling’s Peter Birkemoe and you never know, he might just give away a few exciting teasers about the highly anticipated new volume of Scott Pilgrim.

North York Central Library (Concourse)
Tues. Feb. 20, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
http://keeptorontoreading.com/anime.php#scott_pilgrim

Also: Live chat with Bryan Lee O’Malley!

Can’t wait until the 20th? Chat online with Bryan a day before the event on Book Buzz: Toronto Public Library’s Online Book Club. It’s the perfect appetizer to what will be a highly memorable event.

Mon. Feb. 19, 4-5 p.m. FREE.

I have to say it’s pretty cool seeing the store logo up there with the LCBO and STARBUCKS, sort of the perfect triumverate of vice… At any rate, Keep Toronto Reading is a pretty big deal in the city, a publically-funded month-long literacy initiative by the Toronto Public Library, and the mayor even gets involved and declares it “Keep Toronto Reading Month”. Having a graphic novel event as part of the proceedings is very chic, and says good things about the library’s commitment to “graphic fiction”. All in all? The Beguiling couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of the event, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

– Christopher

Shipping January 31st, 2007

The End #1

The following is a list of books scheduled to ship to The Beguiling Books & Art in Toronto next week. This doesn’t mean they’re shipping to every store, but it’s probably at least worth asking about if these books don’t show up in your local shoppe.

…finally, a big week for comics. It seems like the last couple of weeks saw a lot of ‘oddball’ titles that made our subscribers happy, but very few of the broad-ranging, broad-interest titles that drive customers into the store. What are those titles? Well, because of the handy-dandy ‘read more’ function on WordPress, I’m going to put the list as a whole behind a cut and just list my picks for the week. Lemmie know what you think of the format…

Chris’s Picks of the Week:

NOV063549 CALVARIO HILLS #1 7.95
NOV063560 REFLECTIONS #2 7.95
NOV063562 THE END #1 7.95
The new IGNATZ books are shipping this week, for reals. Fantagraphics is always a little eager to announce their book releases, counting “it’s in stores” as “It’s in our store, Diamond will get it 2-4 weeks from now.” It’s a little frustrating explaining this to our customers, but I can understand their enthusiasm: there’s no line of books out right now as consistantly attractive both aesthetically and authorially as the Ignatz line. By no means is every book a success, but I certainly enjoy the successes a great deal. This selection of books features the debut titles from American Anders Nilsen and Spanish creator Marti, and the second installment of Italian Marco Corona’s Reflections. Cool beans.

NOV062292 DAREDEVIL #93 2.99
OCT060273 EX MACHINA #26  2.99
SEP061832 WALKING DEAD #34  2.99
A bunch of ongoing genre comics that I enjoy reading, though primarily in trade paperback (or in hardcover as Walking Dead goes…). Still, if I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for the collection, these are three titles I’d be picking up every week thanks to the visceral and immediate satisfaction they provide… I guess it’s no surprise that Brubaker, Vaughan, and Kirkman are have die-hard fans; they write comics that people want to read, not feel that they have to read because they tie into 300 other titles…

NOV063327 GARTH ENNIS CHRONICLES OF WORMWOOD #1 (OF 6)  3.99
I’ll give this a shot, it feels like more Garth Ennis Hellblazer, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

NOV060011 USAGI YOJIMBO #100 (NOTE PRICE) 3.50
I just wanted to take the opportunity to once again commend Dark Horse for bringing these trade paperbacks back into print to celebrate the anniversary of this great series. It makes this issue considerably less shameful than just a few short months ago. Congrats to Stan Sakai on an amazing run!

Beasts!JUN063099 BEASTS HC 28.95
Well, the Fanta blog has been talking up this collection of illustrations by top artists for so long that I’m genuinely curious to see if it can live up to the hype. Looking at the list of participants, it’s not hard to imagine that it’ll be excellent. For the record, that includes: Craig Thompson, Souther Salazar, Jeff Soto, Glenn Barr, Dave Cooper, Tim Biskup, Seonna Hong, Anders Nilsen, Art Chantry, Brian Chippendale, Brian Ralph, Bwana Spoons, Colleen Coover, Jason Miles, Jesse LeDoux, Johnny Ryan, Jordan Crane, Keith Shore, Kevin Scalzo, Marc Bell, Martin Cendreda, Mat Brinkman, R. Kikuo Johnson, Richard Sala, Sammy Harkham, Stan Sakai, S. Britt, Steven Weissman, Ted Jouflas, Tom Gauld (and many more…).

OCT060288 DOOM PATROL VOL 5 MAGIC BUS TP  19.99
NOV060237 SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY VOL 4 TP  14.99
You know Grant Morrison is cursed when even his trade paperbacks are delayed. Poor guy. I hope 2007 is much kinder to him. It’s already going to be kind to us though, with the publication of this classic and acclaimed series, and the conclusion to the most interesting (and successful…) superhero project of 2006. It’s all out in trade paperback now folks, no messing about. Make sure to pick it up!

NOV063235 RED EYE BLACK EYE GN  19.95
Apparently this is a post-9/11 journal comic about rediscovering America, by Thor Jensen. I have so many conflicting ideas about what this could be like… I’m curious to read it though. It’s apparently got a blurb from Perez Hilton of all people too. Just… wierd. Worth flipping through in the store I think.

NOV063863 HEAVEN!! VOL 1 GN (OF 3) 9.99
This is the first of Tokyopop’s “Direct Market Exclusive” titles… I’m curious if that affected sales at all. I know we’re gonna do a little thing in store to help promote it and track the sales pretty closely, but… yeah. If you happen to be curious about it though… it sounds like stereotypical manga. Seriously, if I was going to describe popular manga to someone who had never heard of it, I’d say “Well, it’s a bit like… a girl who can see and exorcise ghosts, right? The school punk saves her from getting hit by a truck, but ends up in a coma himself, and so she, and his disembodied spirit must defend his prone body from being possessed by this, that and the other local spirits. Unfortunately, she fails in her task, and an ancient playboy takes over the punk’s body, leaving him to inhabit a pink stuffed monkey. Hilarity ensues.”

I’m gonna get in trouble for this…

Mushishi Vol 1 Cover

NOV063489 MUSHISHI VOL 1 GN  12.95
I was really curious about this one myself, but then Jog went and saved me the trouble of wondering and wrote up an extensive, glowing review of this first volume.

“If it’s really the author’s wish that fabulous creatures do exist, her greatest success is in prompting the same feeling in her readers, despite the horror that understandably courses through the thoughtful author’s world. She manipulates the senses, like a Mushi herself. She’s got me hooked, and I’m not going to be the last.” – Jog, http://joglikescomics.blogspot.com/

It sounds almost like manga-as-magical-realism, actually, which I can’t really think of too many examples of in manga.

AUG060058 SATSUMA GISHIDEN VOL 2 TP 14.95
Apparently, Dark Horse and/or Diamond put this stupid fucking book on a shipping list before Christmas some time, and we’re JUST getting it this week. Lots of angry, annoyed customers that don’t understand how both Dark Horse and Diamond are both saying this book is out, BUT IT ISN’T AT THEIR LOCAL STORE. I only ordered like 15 of these things, but thanks for making me look like an asshole anyway guys, really appreciated.

So, alright, let’s see if I can work the “more” feature. The complete shipping list is behind the cut…

– Chris

Continue reading Shipping January 31st, 2007

I <3 Comics...

You know what I love? Comics.

Granted, the comics-related phrase I utter most often in a week is “fuck’n comics,” but then no one can break your heart like the one you love. Yeah, I totally love comics, and the schizophrenic state of my bookshelves will explain that it is not a certain genre, style, or delivery format that I love, but comics as a medium.

Starting at P, my bookshelf reads Palestine by Joe Sacco, Pazzo di te by Giovanni and Accardi, Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa, Past Lies by De Phillipes, Weir, and Mitten, Peng by Corey Lewis, Pedigree Girls by Sherwin Tija, Perfect Example by John Porcillino, Persepolis by Marjane Satarapi, Pervert Club by Will Allison, Perverso by Rich Tommasi, Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka, Pip & Norton by Dave Cooper, Le Piquer d’Etoiles by Shizuka Nakano, Pizzeria Kamikaze by Karef and Hanuka, Placebo Man by Tomer Hanuka, Planetary by Ellis, Cassaday, and Martin, Planetes by Makoto Yuklimura, Pokemon: The Electric Tale of Pikachu, Pop Gun War by Farel Dalrymple, Powers by Bendis and Oeming, Preacher by Ennis and Dillon, Pride of Baghdad by Vaughan and Henrichon, Princess of Darkness by Yuichiro Tanuma, Project’s Romance, Superior, and Telstar by various, Project X: Cup Noodles and Seven Eleven by various, Promethea by Moore, Williams, and Gray, Pussey! By Dan Clowes, and Put The Book Back On The Shelf by Various.

This all-encompassing love of comics is not universally shared; I’ve known this for a very long time. I try not to let the clique-ism and self-consciousness bother me when it comes to people dismissing work out of hand, but honestly? I think about the same of someone who writes off manga as a whole as someone who writes off comics as a whole: not much. And it’s not just manga, but any genre/format/style/country’s work. It seems so completely limited in scope, and more often than not those words seem spoken from a position of ignorance rather than any considered or researched position.

Every once in a while I’ll come across an essay, blog post, or even snarky comment from someone who’s been through a fandom and come out the other side, and when they have grievances I tend to give them a bit more weight… as in any weight… and really listen to what they have to say. I stumbled over a discussion about “Moe” a few months back that was like that, and it was really interesting because of it… I learned something, it was great. But coming across a series of columns like Bob Holt’s ‘I Love Comics’ at comicsnob.com? Not so much. I can’t even pull out a quote to illustrate why I think the column is weak, so much as the columns just belie a shallowness of experience and thought on the subject. Rather than write on the subject I was just going to be content to leave a comment, but according to Bob:

“I guess it comes down to this. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion (I think someone once remarked that they’re kind of like a certain body part). I’d like to think that we encourage discussion from people of all levels of experience here. If someone’s inexperience is a factor, all we can do is recommend something for them to check out. I think limiting the discussion to those select few that can be universally ordained as “experts” is dangerous and narrow-minded, especially if we’re interested in how neophytes to the world of comics perceive our little world here.” – Bob Holt, ComicSnob.com

Really? I’m more of a “I’d rather here what people who know what they’re talking about” kind of a guy, than a “people making pronouncements based on their under-informed opinions” kind of a guy, but then this is the internet. In the end, we’ll just agree to disagree that basing your opinions of manga on 15 different books and hear-say picked up on the internet constitutes something worthwhile.

In a related, though not entirely dissimilar situation, I personally think Jacob Covey is one of the most talented designers working in the comics industry at the moment. He’s probably best known for his stunning design on the recently released Popeye Volume 1 Collection from Fantagraphics books, but he’s probably second-best known for the following comment, posted to the Fantagraphics blog:

“I said Manga is crap. The only reason I said this is that Manga is crap. As David notes, however, “The general dismissal of manga’s artistic merit isn’t anything new, but the added doses of cynicism and condescension made it seem somehow special.” True. I AM cynical and condescending to a special degree but I am uncomfortable with an entire genre of comics being dominated by a single “look” that, furthermore, relies heavily on a masked fixation with adolescence. Perhaps that’s too psychological of me but, friends, it’s gross.” – Jacob Covey, Fantagraphics.com/blog (archived by John Jakala)

Jacob, where to start? Is it with all of the manga porn that your employer publishes? I guess that could still be ‘crap’ though… How about the non-porn manga that Fantagraphics has published, including Anywhere But Here by Tori Miki, or Screw Style by Yoshiharu Tsuge in Comics Journal #250? Crap as well? I think the art-comics establishment might disagree with you there, sir. To say nothing of the “artcomix-friendly” manga published by D&Q, Fanfare/Ponent-Mon, or Vertical… I dunno about you but I won’t be the one standing up to loudly proclaim Abandon The Old In Tokyo as crap.

But I guess what I take the biggest issue with in Mr. Covey’s blog entry is the ridiculous assertion that manga “relies heavily on a masked fixation with adolescence.” Mr Covey?

jonbenetramsey.jpg

Defend Western Civilization in 100,000 words or less. Use graphs.

So, those are my thoughts on cultural and artistic elitism, at the moment anyway. If Frederick L. Schodt, or hell, even Toren Smith, would care to show up in the comments section and debate the relative merits of manga versus other forms of artistic expression in comics, or even declare it all crap, by all means, I’m willing to listen. Everyone else has got to qualify their positions a little bit better than they have been for me to pay any attention from now on…

– Christopher

Never Safe For Work