Category Archives: Culture

I’m Here, I’m Queer, Get Interested In It.

Fun Home CoverSo I’m not a fan of the GLAAD media awards.

I went on about this a few years back, but essentially GLAAD is the “Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defimation” and every year they hand out awards for positive portrayal of queers in the media. Films, TV Series, News Programmes, whatever. Comic Books too, actually, and it’s the comic book section that really pisses me off. Why? GLAAD’s mandate pushes ‘mainstream’ or ‘visible’ material over quality material. So if something is really great and really queer, but say published by Oni Press, wheras something is mediocre on every level (including queer representation) but is published by DC Comics? DC gets the award. For Example:

Past Winners:
2006: Young Avengers, Marvel Comics
2005: Luba, Fantagraphics
2004: Catwoman, DC Comics
2003: Green Lantern, DC Comics
2002: Green Lantern, DC Comics
2001: Supergirl, DC Comics
2000: Supergirl, DC Comics

Yeah, congrats to Gilbert Hernandez and Luba, but that’s pretty odd and uninspiring company Gilbert finds himself in.

This year’s nominees for Best Comics are:

OUTSTANDING COMIC BOOK
52 by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid (DC Comics)
American Virgin by Steven T. Seagle (Vertigo/DC Comics)
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin)
Manhunter by Marc Andreyko (DC Comics)
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn (Vertigo/DC Comics)

Which… With two queer authors and an actual book about queer issues, fills me with a hope that will almost certainly be dashed against the rocks when Y: The Last Man wins, but something like 52 even being nominated makes me more than a little queesy. I even like Greg Rucka and the Montoya character, but that series is neither of their finest hours.

But to get to the point of this post? It looks like the gay media is sick of supporting these awards, when the gay media are completely unlikely to get anything out of them. From the Queerty blog:

“Gay cable network here! isn’t having GLAAD‘s straight-washing of their Media Awards. Despite describing itself as dedicated to “promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of [LGBT] people and events in the media”, the watchdog group refuses to include gay programming in their nominations. To protest this queer contradiction, here! has yanked their support of the annual event.”

There are a lot of apologists for GLAAD’s mission statement and the awards themselves, but honestly? I’m glad a gay organisation finally stood up and against the awards as they stand. They’re effectively celebrating portrayals of gay people as either stereotypes or cartoons, and their celebrity worship at the expense of shining a spotlight onto smaller, more deserving works ranks pretty high on my own social injustice meter. In this specific instance, shutting out queer programming by queers in favour of truly dreadful crap like, oh, Brothers & Sisters is just… blaaaaaaaaaah.

I think a connected, political, entertainment-oriented organisation for Queers is important, and even telling Kevin Smith that he’s being a jack-ass at the risk of looking out-of-touch doesn’t bother me. But (to mangle a metaphor) they’ve got a huge voice and a big pulpit, and instead of Proselytizing to the masses they’re preaching to the choir.

– Christopher
P.S.: No manga? What the hell?
P.P.S.: Thanks to Dorian for the tip.

Friday Morning

“My second thought is that I choose not to read free downloads because it seems in almost every case to be against the wishes of the creators or the people to whom they’ve ceded those decision-making rights. I’m not sure when that stopped mattering. I’m also pretty certain that second-guessing this, deciding you know what’s better for someone else’s creation, is kind of arrogant.”

– Tom Spurgeon, ComicsReporter.com

Thanks for summing that up for me Tom, I’d been meaning to get to that for a little while.

I have to say though, I’m a bit of a hypocrite in this regard. I’m not morally or ethically opposed to reading stuff that simply isn’t available for me to buy, the grey-area material like Scanlations and Legally Contentious Material That Is Unlikely To Be Published. But yeah, this week’s She-Hulk? When the dude asks you to actually spend money on it, if you like it? That’s a pretty easy choice for me. I know too many creative people for whom even a few hundred dollars of lost sales is a rent cheque for them, a rent cheque that they desperately need.

– Christopher

Housekeeping!

– I don’t know why you’d be browsing my site at 11pm on a Saturday night, but if you are? Remember that Daylight Savings Time is all stupid this year (it’s actually pretty stupid most of the time), and that it actually takes place at 2am Sunday morning (about three hours from right now). So, you lose an hour of sleep, but you gain… darkness when you get out of work? Sigh. Remember, spring forward!

– I haven’t forgotten about the Casanova Reviews. The problem, aside from my schedule sort of falling apart, was that the text piece in the back of issue 7 is pretty intense, and has forced me to reconsider the last few issues of the first series. So, I’m gonna read the whole thing again, start-to-finish, and give it another go this week.

– Chris Mautner of the Panels and Pixels blog interviewed me a little while back for an article he was writing on yaoi for The Patriot News in Pennsylvania. You can find it online now, and it’s called “Brokeback Manga”. For better or worse, I seem to be the pre-eminent retail representative of yaoi in North America, or at least the only one willing to go on record to discuss it, and so I offer the surprising retail views that a) Yaoi is selling well, and b) it can’t stay out of the harsh, disapproving glare of the public forever. Chris is a great guy and I was happy to be a part of the article (which turned out great, actually), but my complete lack of interest in revisiting stupid yaoi controversy will see me avoiding follow-up on some of the more questionable assertions on the part of Yaoi fans in the article…

– Speaking of me, and Media, I don’t think I linked to it but Mangacast has a podcast of the first panel I was on at the New York Comic Con, “The buyers panel”. Apparently, I’m very funny in it, and there’s a bunch of great info in it anyway. Go check it out.

– I think I’m going to write about it more in a little while, but for the time being check out Brigid’s interview with Fanfare/Ponent-Mon publisher Stephen Robson at Mangablog.

– Aside from some review writing, I’m blissfully free of obligations for the next little while, so I should be able to keep the blog posts coming with some regularity. It’s pretty depressing to go a day or two without blogging, let alone a week or whatever. Oh, speaking of which, I’m about half-done a complete wrap-up of the New York Comic Con. Does anyone have any interest in seeing it at this point, or no?

Thanks,

– Christopher

LOCKDOWN! Reflections on the rest of the New York Comic Con

…so where was I, before we were so rudely interupted.

Saturday afternoon! I missed the Stephen King panel because I didn’t write it on my little piece of paper that tells me when I have to do things and be places. I really need to keep that piece of paper updated. Sorry to Doug who was totally gonna sneak me in, maybe next time! Also, I ended up missing Stephen Colbert, and… anyone else who was famous actually. Nathalie was so disappointed in me when I got back, wanting to “touch someone who touched him” and… yeah. But here’s the thing, lots of people don’t read this blog, they just skim it to see what I’m talking about this week. So I’m gonna fake’m out by bolding the important words and including James Lucas Jones’ Colbert photo from the Oni blog.

Stephen ColbertStephen Colbert is awesome!

Heh, but seriously. Following my little chill-out in the blue room, my day was pretty-much done… or so I thought. I went up to meet my dinner-date, Jana Morishima from Diamond Book Distributors, and she said that dinner was pushed back and we were gonna go see a panel instead. I hadn’t really attended any panels I wasn’t on (heh… that sounds really self-important actually, sorry) and I wanted to hang out with Jana a little bit, so off we went. So let’s talk a little bit about the panel.

Chris Recaps The “Who Reads Graphic Novels” Panel.

Featuring: Marc Weidenbaum, VP Magazines and Editor in Chief of Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat; John Cunningham, Vice President of Marketing, DC; Chris Staros, Publisher, Top Shelf Comics; Mark Siegel, Editorial Director, First Second Books. Moderated by Jon Davis from Bookazine.

The panel started off with the participants introducing themselves, and being familiar (if not friends) with everyone except for DC’s Cunningham, I kind of found him off-putting. I’m aware that I bring my own biases to these panels, and being friends with almost everyone on the panel puts me in a wierd position to comment on the other guy, but yeah, his whole demeanor seemed a little… entitled… I guess. But we’ll get to that, you can see if maybe I’m just a jerk. So, in roughly chronological order:

Weidenbaum commented that the readership of Shonen Jump in North America identified as 30% female, and that most of the fan-art was also from females. In answer to the question posed by the title of the panel, his response was that “Artists read graphic novels.”

Staros agreed by saying that at many conventions (and Top Shelf attends more than 20 per year), a lot of the time artists are reading graphic novels, as the other artists and publishers at the show buy from them all the time, making up for sometimes poor overall sales.

Siegel asserted that “the person who thinks that they’ll never read a graphic novel [is] a good test for the worth of one.” That’s a pretty amazing philsophy, it seems to be working out for them too. That said, I wonder if it’s a smarter move to go where the books are selling or aren’t. At any rate, Siegel sort of segued into this great, inspirational bit about graphic novels: “A critical mass of graphic novels has been reached… these are books that will go on forever.” I think I agree, I think there are just too many great, great books in print for the medium to ever disappear. Which gives us a hell of a lot of ground to revitalise the industry…

Cunningham had a positve look at the year’s Bookscan numbers; he threw out a bunch of figures that I had a bit of trouble following (my bad), but I think he said that graphic novels were the second best selling category last year behind general fiction, and it may have sold more than non fiction? Did anyone get down his numbers, because… no one else has mentioned that. Anyway, that’s kind of insane if that’s the case.

Cunnigham’s assertion was that the industry needed to follow DC’s lead in being general, try to publish material for general audiences and don’t aim for demographics. Sort of that line that “we publish books for readers, not demographics” and the thinking behind the phrase “all-ages”. Let’s say that we have a difference opinion there. I think it’s possible, even healthy and intelligent, to create books for demographics. Like “children”. The idea that something can’t be for kids, or women, or whomever, and that it has to be potentially for every audience, is the prime obsticle facing… well, graphic novels. Make something for kids and make it good enough that everyone else will come to it. Anyway, I guess we disagree.

Back to Siegel, who told the audience that before American Born Chinese‘s multiple award nominations the best-selling books in First Second’s line were actually… Sardine and Sardine 2, which I found really surprising. I like the books, but at the same time they seem very not American? I dunno. I’m glad that they’ve found such success, but I can’t help but think that the dearth of available material for that age group in graphic novel format helps a lot…

Marc Siegel then unveiled his theory of the graphic novel “Perfect Storm” which followed out of his critical mass idea. The idea that multiple ‘storms’ all sort of got together and hit at the same time, that gave graphic novels a boost greater than the sum of their parts. For Marc, those perfect storms were the Media and the increased attention it gave to graphic novels, the Creators and quality of material, and the Publishers stepping up to the plate. Totally makes sense to me.

Cunnigham piped in to say that he thinks there’s a fourth “storm”, that culture in general has become more visual. He also credited the “Nerd Diaspora,” the people who grew up on this material now coming into positions of power in determining what gets covered and how. The people who love the material are now controlling the perception of the material.

Cunningham then also let us know that in 2006, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen sold more than in the previous 4 years combined, illustrating that the market is not only still growing, but that the depths of our backlist are a great deal more valuable than perhaps we think they are.

Staros, who was pretty quiet on the panel as a whole, credited librarians as being largely responsible for his company’s growth, specifically the librarians who were working to stock more teen, and even adult sections in their libraries. He actually described them as “The Borg of Librarians” which is such a wonderfully nerdy reference. Essentially that Librarians are really connected through websites and list servs and things, and once one of them likes something or knows something, that information is rapidly disseminated. Points for Staros! The downside is that every once in a while a little CrossGen gets in the system and… it’s like uploading that virus in ID4… Wait, I crossed my nerd references. Whoops!

Weidenbaum made a really interesting note about the readership on his books, in reference to who doesn’t read graphic novels. Weidenbaum feels that the Shonen Jump audience does have some cross-over with other sorts of comics reading, but he doesn’t think that Shoujo Beat readers read any graphic novels other than manga, that a large part of the audience for that magazine wouldn’t have been participating in the medium at all in 2000.

Cunningham made a pitch for bookstore retailers in particular to devote more shelf space to graphic novels, which is interesting. I honestly don’t think there’s a wider audience for about 75% of what DC publishes (in book format) than the direct market, and I don’t know what stocking The Flash in every store would do for Mr. Cunnigham. He did say something I agreed with, about the problem with stocking graphic novels with a more mass-market appeal. For example, should the upcoming Minx line of girl-oriented young readers graphic novels be racked with the rest of the DC/Vertigo output, or in the young adult section where they might more naturally find their intended audience? The next big huirdle for graphic novels isn’t going to be whether they get stocked (or in what quanitites), but in positioning. Mark my words…

Weidenbaum also made a case for the importance of backlist, noting that for a long time most graphic novel publishers simply didn’t think it was important. They learned that lesson from the book industry, along with the other staples like “memoirs are good and sell well” and “women read more than men”. Took us long enough.

Cunningham more-or-less ended the panel by saying that the books, on average, are better now than they were 15 years ago. I’m still not sure I agree with this, but it was a really positive note to go out on.

That covers more or less everything in the panel, I think? I hope that someone was recording it, there was a lot of interesting… nuance… to the conversation that I can’t really communicate here. Still, I hope you enjoyed the recap!

So following the panel (and some last-minute running around) I went for a very nice dinner with Jana and Kurt Hassler from Yen Press, fresh from Yen’s fall line annoucement. It was a very interesting dinner, with Jana recently having moved from Scholastic to Diamond and Kurt’s considerable experience in book buying and defacto distribution. Plus my own perspective. We had a couple of very good discussions, I think, and I’m really excited to see how Yen Press is going to perform in the next couple of years… they have a lot lined up. Anyway, then after dinner? Drinks! After drinks? Precious, precious sleep.  Heidi was talking on the blogging panel about how exhausted she is after a day of conventioneering, and I felt it at the end of every day. Sure, I called over to Rocketship to see if their party was still going on (it wasn’t; they simply partied too hard and blew out like a candle… in the wind…), but in my heart I knew I wanted the warm embrace of my bed.

Shit, I’m getting old. At least I’m hitting my stride…!

Sunday… I’m gonna be honest here, I just really wanted to sleep. So… I did. I spent the day sleeping until I wasn’t tired anymore, then ambled over to the convention to chat and catch-up with friends and just chill. Afterwards my lovely husband and I joined up with Randy and James from Oni and Gina Gagliano from First Second for a truly wonderful dinner. Served family-style in just…. just stupid proportions. Seriously, head to Carmine’s for a crapload of delicious food if you’re ever in the city. We all tried to talk about something other than comic books, in deference to my husband whom I love, and we almost succeeded for a little while. Luckily Gina reads real books and so we could have excellent conversations about books, which is almost not comics. Almost.

Monday we had lunch and visited Macy’s and I freaked out about deadlines and flew back to Toronto and all’s well that ended well. I’ll be surprised if I’m not back for the 2008 show, I really did have a good time and warmer weather for the projected April 2008 date for the show would be welcome.

Thanks for reading!

– Christopher

Lockdown! The show’s over folks, go home.

Like a carnival tilt-a-whirl that slowly grinds to a stop, the second annual New York Comic Con has come to a close. The exhaustion amongst the exhibitors, professionals, and attendees that I talked to was palpable… maybe they were all just hung over from the Rocketship party last night, that apparently drew 250+ people to the wilds of Brooklyn.

There are more thoughts on the show coming… eventually… but since I was dropping in to check my e-mail anyway I thought it’d be worth posting. It was a pretty good show, with far fewer logistical problems than last year, and a very bright future ahead of it. I’m coming back next year.

– Christopher Butcher

LOCKDOWN! Reflections on the New York Comic Con, Day 0

I’m going to be honest here, I spent very little time at the New York Comic Con today. Thursday, Day 0, is realistically for convention set-up, though someone had the very bright idea that since they’re renting the space anyway, they may as well come up with some really good programming for a select group of folks. Actually, that “someone” was apparently ICv2’s Milton Griepp, and thus a group of Direct Market Retailers, Librarians, Press, and Publishing reps converged in a meeting room underneath the setup for the big show to talk about the mechanics of the comics industry.

While this was happening for the first 3 and a half hours, I was: Checking in to my hotel; eating breakfast/lunch; stocking up on supplies; sleeping for an hour. Because of… Buffalo, basically, I haven’t really slept since Wednesday morning and so if I wanted to do anything at my panel appearance this afternoon (other than zombie-moan into the mic) getting myself presentable was of the utmost importance—only time and photographs of the event will tell if I succeeded.

I caught the last 1/3 of the “Manga Censorship” panel, which featured every participant agreeing in the same way about manga being rated to be appropriate, but not be censored, with particular focus on Tokyopop’s new rating system. This was surprising and a little creepy, to see reps from Viz, Tokyopop, and Del Rey all just… agreeing. Luckily, things got awkward when a librarian in the audience asked why they didn’t create a rating system that they could all use, and the answer wound up being a sort of quick, contrite “Because we all think our own way is the best.”

My problem with rating books is more about sales, and how certain books with certain ratings sell better than others. The best selling demographic is T FOR TEEN of course, and anything outside of that (younger or older) has its work cut out for it in trying to find an audience. Except maybe porn, and Oh, Great’s AIR GEAR. Maybe these are the same. But ratings actually become a kind of de facto censorship when it comes to licensing, as only books that fit the target demographic are selected for licensing, and mature and challenging works end up getting a very short shrift.

Unless of course you’re one of the pedants who think it’s only censorship when the government does it, in which case why are you even at this blog? Bad google hit?

us_witch-graphic-novel.jpgFollowing the manga censorship panel was mine, “Buyers Panel—Graphic Novels, the Next Three Years.” I think it went really well. I talked about yaoi and books for children, and I was mean to independent publishers probably? Not mean, but sort of brutally honest and realistic. Essentially, “If you want your books for children to sell, you must be at least this good, and you probably aren’t.” Examples included W.I.T.C.H., KINGDOM HEARTS, and BONE. Actually, it was a lot of fun having so many librarians in the room, because I kind of get the impression from my peers in retailing and the internet as a whole that no one knows that W.I.T.C.H. sells amazingly well. Or even what it is.

The other people on the panel also talked, I believe. Kidding! It was actually a pretty amazing group of panelists, and I was totally outclassed. Seriously, it was me, the guy who runs Lone Star Comics (an eight-store comics chain in Texas), the graphic novel buyer for Baker and Taylor, the graphic novel buyer for Barnes and Noble, and the person in charge of Scholastic’s U.S. school book fairs. Oh, and the VP in charge of purchasing at Diamond… I talked more than any of them though. AND! I had better jokes. Something about Yaoi and children’s comics… It’ll all come out in the transcript, I’m sure.

(A complete list of participants can be found at the ICv2 page at the NYCC site.)

FUN FACT: The guy at Scholastic TALKED ACTUAL NUMBERS. It was so rare to see someone discuss sales numbers that I took notes. They’re… a little terrifying and wonderful. Oh, and just for background for the elderly? A book fair is where a publisher/distributor brings a bunch of books to a school, and lets the kids buy them with their own money at a significant discount.

– Scholastic holds 110,000 book fairs per year, reaching approximately 56 million children per year.

– Scholastic has been offering graphic novels in the book fairs since 2004, where they debuted with a Superman project (Superman made it to fairs before Bone!)

– By his rough estimate, Scholastic has sold more than 4 million graphic novels.

As he said, they may not stock a wide array of graphic novels, but they sure as hell go deep.

Then Transcontinental Printing bought everyone drinks, including a number of delicious blue martinis for me. Calvin Reid got a picture of me drinking that might make it onto PW, so, if you want to see what I look like after I walked 7 blocks in the rain and got tipsy, there’s that.

Aside from the drinking, the after-event social was a good place to mix and mingle with folks from every facet of the comics industry. I met book distributors, buyers, publishers, literary agents, aspiring creators, even a few direct market retailers…  My panel-appearance let me converse with my comics-betters freely, and it was amazing to pick up so many divergent viewpoints on the industry that we have, let alone the future of it. I have to say it left me really excited about the medium AND the industry, and I’ve never had a clearer, better sense that this is going to be an industry that will very soon exist as more than a 500 page monthly catalogue. I have no doubt that Diamond will continue to be a huge industry mover-and-shaker, but it looks like we’ll make it out of PREVIEWS and into the real world sooner than later…

Then John Davis of BOOKAZINE took myself, Chris Powell from Lone Star Comics, and my lovely husband out for delicious Mexican food. BOOKAZINE, btw, is an independent book distributor that specializes in graphic novels. They’re sort of like a smaller, more tightly-focused Baker & Taylor, if that means anything to you. If it doesn’t: The Guacamole was really fresh and flavorful, I totally recommend “Salsa Y Salsa” at 22nd and 7th Ave.

I only saw the sales floor of the show and the set-up from a distance. It’s much bigger than last year, and brighter too. Getting out of the basement was the best thing that coulda happened to them, and despite another huge show going on at the same time (something about design?) NYCC’s presence is felt all over the Javitz Centre.

…and with that, I’m calling it a night. Gotta get up bright and early for the Diamond Retailer Breakfast at 8:30am tomorrow… I’ll take notes as we go, it should be great.

See you tomorrow!

– Christopher

P.S. Here’s a list of songs I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I arrived in New York:

“Second Avenue,” by Spacehog

“New York, New York,” by Frank Sinatra

“Lisa Says,” by The Velvet Underground

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

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