Thursday, December 30, 2004


New remix is up - and that's right, it's the very LAST "Identity Crisis" Remix - ever! Hope you enjoy.

Why Comics?

The other day I overheard another conversation relating tangentially to the topic of just why people talk about comics to begin with. Of course, the big argument these days seems to be the same old argument about scope and breadth: do you cover all of comics, or just a small-sub category? Are you honest about what you cover/don’t cover? Do you make your prejudices known? Are you even aware of your prejudices?

These are important questions for every person involved in this pundit/blogger/bloviator game to ask themselves occasionally. But the more important question is: why the heck are we talking about comics in the first place?

Well, the answer that immediately comes to mind is that the only possible reason you would have to be blogging about comics in the first place is the fact that you have a special interest in comics above other arts. In all seriousness, why would you bother writing about comics if you didn’t really care for them and about them, or liked them far less than you did, say, movies or novels? Why not just write about movies or novels or poetry or pottery or whatever, if that’s what holds your interest?

So the assumption is that if you’re writing about comics at all – especially with the low signal to noise ratio inherent to the medium and the extremely low rewards involved – you must hold comics in a special place in your heart. If not, well, why bother?

I read a lot, I hear a lot, and I like to think that I’m open to just about anything. But at the end of the day, nothing gets me excited as much as comics. Anyone who’s spent anytime here knows how seriously I take my music writing, and that is very important to me – but as much as I love music, that is an affair of a relatively recent vintage (at least, like most people, I didn’t really get going in music until high school or thereabouts, early interests notwithstanding). Comics, however, are a pre-liminal fascination for me. My earliest memories – literally, my very first memories – are inextricably bound with comics. I’ve always been fascinated with the medium, in one way or another, and oftentimes to the exclusion of all other mediums.

Like everyone else, I didn’t spring from the womb reading Chester Brown and Jim Woodring. I had to live a while and learn some things before I could come to embrace everything that comics represented. I hope to live a while longer and hopefully I will have the time and resources to experience everything I want to in the field – which would be practically impossible in any other medium but comics, where it is merely improbable.

There’s something about the medium that exerts a pull which I cannot really comprehend. I have extremely low tolerance for crap in most other mediums, but I love crap comics. I try to keep an open mind in most other mediums and genres, but in comics I can’t help but be fascinated by everything. There are a few genres I’m just not very fond of – westerns, say, and crime fiction – and getting me to sit down and watch or read anything but the most spectacular example of these genres in any other medium is just pulling teeth. But I love comics more than I dislike any genre, so for some reason I don’t have a problem with these genres when they’re presented in the form of picture stories. If something like “Lone Wolf & Cub” were presented (as it has been in the past) in a movie, say, and unless it had some incredible pedigree like Kurosawa or some such, I would probably be bored stiff. But in comics, I can’t get enough of it.

Of course, we are all limited by our resources. If I had the money, I’d spend all day reading all the great new manga volumes and imported French albums I could get my hands on, along with all those old strip collections that cost an arm and a leg, and those DC Archives that never seem to get any cheaper. But, alas, despite my enthusiasm I am forced to hew, for the most part, close to a few rather well-trod paths.

I am thrilled by the possibilities represented by publishers like AiT/PlanetLar and Oni, publishers who seem to offer the best possible hope for creating a “new Mainstream” of American comics publishing, their limited resources notwithstanding. Of course, all this could change if Marvel and DC ever figured out how to make and sell non-superhero OGNs to a mass audience. Whether or not they will ever do so – will ever effectively counter the domestic domination of manga - is one of the big stories of the next few years, and everyone who loves comics is already watching to see what happens next. The future of our medium has never looked better, but the future of our industry remains a rather awkward enigma.

Nothing excites me like comics. I may have my personal favorites – I think there’s very little being published that of comparable worth to the current crop of Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly books, for instance – but that doesn’t mean that I can’t and don’t read just about everything else in the field, from some of the crappiest superhero books, to the newspaper pages, to whatever is exciting online. I would be happy to spend all day reading Manga if someone at Tokyopop or Viz was as generous as Larry Young. I want to read it all, and I think that if you value comics like I do, you would probably agree.

Comics is very important to me. I think, since this is the New Year, that a little bit of honesty is called for. I have all year to be depressed and cynical, but let’s just try and remember why we do this in the first place, eh?

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