Friday, January 12, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #123 (January 12th, 2007)


No. I quite agree. There is no way to write a song parody about AUGO31920 unless there was a theme song to Beverly Hills 90210 with lyrics. Actually, I bet Matt Dow could do it.

The new Comics Journal. Okay, let's see what else they have going on in here. That interested me, I mean. I should mention that Dave Kostis at Now & Then Books ordered The Comics Journal for me since he took over the store and I have always bought it from him even though I got a free copy. Then I'd usually give my free copy to Chester Brown when it came in. So, I do support them, have supported them, etc.

The Joost Swarte interview. Not my kind of thing. Too European. I don't "get" Tintin either although I've bought three of the books in French from Peter at the Beguiling for my World Vision foster child in Nigeria. I'd go back and read the interview only if I had completely run out of other reading material. Likewise the Johnny Ryan interview. This is even worse than the Precious Poetry Brink, this is, literally, High School Scatological Follies. It was daring to show someone defecating in 1965 but it's forty years later, fellas. That's the part that I don't get. Super-heroes are juvenile but ca-ca poo-poo cartoons are the height of sophistication? How does that work exactly? Never mind.

The last time I was in Toronto and Chester and I were at the Beguiling on new comics day, he turned to me gleefully and said, "Gary Groth trashed the Eisner/Miller book in the latest issue." "They did the same thing to Lost Girls in the last issue," I said. "Yeah," said Chet, "That deserved it, too." See, that's what I mean. The new Comics Journal is in. What's the traffic accident this time? Charles Brownstein has been accused of sexually assaulting a young cartoonist at a convention? Okay, here's my $11.95, I'm in. But that's very different from actual journalism and I think that's where they've gotten themselves into some trouble. Once you whet that appetite you have to keep feeding it and as with any drug you need larger amounts to maintain the "high".

Still, it must be said that Gary Groth is infinitely better at this than most if not all of his contemporaries and acolytes. He had become Johnny One Note on how irredeemable genre fiction was in any form and how exalted pure artistic expression was. The argument was sustainable (at least forensically) until the magazine filled up with ca-ca poo-poo cartoons that looked as if they were drawn by school children. Again, this is the height of sophistication in what universe? And then Gary just sort of went away around the time he became a new father (hey, it happens) but, he's been coming back intermittently since then and seems to be trying to pick his spots a little better and to try to figure out how to throw the occasional change-up or a curveball instead of just overpowering the reader with 98 mph fastballs.

"Hitchschlock/Truffaux"—apart from the title—is really Gary at his best. It's still pointedly insulting and arrogant most of the way through but most people have no trouble getting past that if something of value is being said and personally I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to attributing value (or I wouldn't continue to buy and page through page after page of ca-ca poo-poo in search of intermittent content). In Gary's case anytime he can bring himself far enough back from the Precious Poetry Brink to offer something more substantial than his opinion that everyone Fantagraphics publishes is brilliant and everything else is ca-ca poo poo, I'm willing to give a listen. And he comes well back from the brink on this occasion. Eviscerating the Hitchcock/Truffaut comparison that was the selling point of Eisner/Miller he writes

Conceptually, the two books bear no resemblance to one another: Truffaut, who not only was a world-class director by the time he interviewed Hitchcock, but had been a critic at Cahiers du Cinema in the 50's, had meticulously prepared questions and carefully structured a series of interviews with Hitchcock, tackling each of his films chronologically.

It's a good point. When I first heard about the Eisner/Miller book, I thought "Who the heck came up with this?" I knew Will and I know Frank—not well in either case but enough to know that it would be stretching a point to suggest that they would have anything of significance to say to each other as artists: certainly nothing that would warrant anything larger than a magazine article. Frank could sit there and describe apples for ten minutes and then it would be Will's turn to describe oranges. Or they could each do a magazine article, Frank about apples and Will about oranges. Frank made good use of many of the elements that Will invented, the vocabulary of comics: very good use in the sense of being very demonstrative about technique and design and composition and breakdown on the page. If Will invented, let's say, two dozen significant ways to tell a comic book story it would be safe to say that the average comic book artist in the late 70s and early 80s would use three or four of them in a given issue of a comic book. Frank would use three or four of them per page. Like Jim Steranko and (before him) Bernie Krigstein this tended to make him an "odd duck" in the frames of reference of commercial comic books. The average editor would consider it "too showy". And like Jim Steranko and Bernie Krigstein, Frank didn't let that throw him. So I'm an odd duck. I think I do better comics this way. I think "too showy" is good. Frank had the advantage that by the time he was seriously leaning into his odd duck status there were other places to go where odd duckery was encouraged and applauded, something Steranko and Krigstein couldn't have said of their own contexts. Beyond that I couldn't think of a single common frame of reference that Eisner and Miller would have to discuss.

Tomorrow: 350 pages later.





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