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12 July 2004 @ 02:44 pm
Comics in the NYT  
The New York Times Magazine had a piece on the rise of literary comics. It's mostly positive, although some passages are slightly backhanded: "Comic books are what novels used to be -- an accessible, vernacular form with mass appeal—and if the highbrows are right, they're a form perfectly suited to our dumbed-down culture and collective attention deficit." Uh, thanks. I think. It also repeats some obnoxious stereotypes—a passing reference to manga dismisses it as fluff:
"...and unless your store is staffed by someone unusually devoted, this [graphic novels] section is likely to be a mess. [...] Shelf loads of manga -- those Japanese comic books that feature slender, wide-eyed teenage girls who seem to have a special fondness for sailor suits." (emphasis mine)
and the writer keeps harping on the stereotype of "alternative" comics artists as being socially inept dorks with dysfunctional childhoods, determined to draw parallels between R. Crumb and everybody important. He also misspells Scott McCloud's name as "McLoud". C'mon, people, it's not that hard to spell! Otherwise, it's fairly decent as mainstream media articles about non-mainstream comics go, and has some good quotes ("The other overwhelming figure is Art Spiegelman, who to the comics world is a Michelangelo and a Medici both, an influential artist who is also an impresario and an enabler of others. As one publisher told me, ''Art is just as important as he thinks he is.'"). But those glaring problems frustrate me to no end. The piece could have been so much better, but the writer just couldn't resist being snarky.

In other news, I'm working on an essay on my own theories about comics, specifically layout. Understanding Comics is excellent as an introductory work and a piece of apologia, but I don't think McCloud's theory of panel transitions is flexible enough to describe complex works. And Neil Cohn's theories move in a direction that is probably interesting to cognitive scientists and theoretical linguists, but not particularly useful to artists and writers. I think of comics theory as being the equivalent of music theory: by attempting to explain how existing works are structured, it suggests solutions to problems that artists may come across. I'm really just following up on a theory that Cohn abandoned in favor of Chomskyan generative grammar.

EDIT: bump
 
 
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