Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We Don't Talk About Love

While the struggle to create well-crafted and entertaining comic books has been an ongoing process for much of the medium’s history, bitching and moaning about them has, in recent years, been raised into a goddamn artform.

The rise of the internet over the last decade has given comic readers the opportunity to complain, grumble, bewail, gripe, lament and whine about them in unprecedented numbers.

(Although it should be noted that complaints about comics are nothing new and have been seen since the first generation of comic readers grew up and discovered that they didn’t make them the way they used to be, so they can’t be any good. This retarded nostalgia for a golden age that never fucking existed in the first place seeps through into the history of comics, peering out from old letters pages and yellowed fanzines.)

But since everyone with an opinion, a keyboard and a few bucks to waste on an internet connection was given access to the rest of the comic reading community, this complaining has reached epidemic proportions, to the point where a genuinely positive review stands apart from the pack of negativity that greets any new release.

Unfortunately, while some of the bitching can be entertaining in its own way, the vast majority looks like nothing more than moaning for the sake of moaning, by people who can’t articulate their dissatisfaction with a particular comic, but don’t let that stop them spewing forth in all their grammatically challenged glory.

“This comic sucks? Why? Because it does! End of discussion!”

But why is this? Do readers really just read comics they know they’re going to hate, so they have something to talk about?

Or is it because it’s so much easier to say why you didn’t like something than it is to say why you did. The enjoyment you get out of a comic may be something you can’t possibly explain. It might trigger fond memories, or excite the mind with the freshness of something you’ve never seen before, but try explaining such things to another person and you’re fucked.

The best art, in any form, is almost by definition impossible to define. The finest pieces of literature or painting succeed because they make the person experiencing them feel something they might have always known was there inside them, even if they couldn’t articulate it.

Try explaining your love of, say, a John Byrne comic before explaining why you think Rob Liefeld’s art is a load of crap. Good luck.

There are, of course, always exceptions, with some bloggers such as Dave Campbell or Chris Sims showing no shame in their love for the good, bad and plain old ugly in the world of comics. But they stand out in their joy.

Who knows? Maybe the negativity that permeates comics criticism rises up out of the adolescent belief that everything is crap, and you look so much smarter by slagging something off, even if in your heart of hearts, you actually do kinda like it a bit.

Or maybe the comic reader’s expectations are just too high and the crushing disappointment that comes with yet another dreary rehash of the same old superhero conflicts is just too much to bear.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just because comics really are more shit than they used to be.

2 Love Letters:

Blogger joncormier said...

I agree. I'm doing my best to relate positive aspects of the books I'm reading (even when I'm not taken by a book I try to mention something it does well). Then again I'm doing a bit of a survey of the past 30 years of comics as I get access to the collections from the public library. My thought was that since I'm sort of new again I should come at comics with that in mind and relate my findings for other people in a similar situation. A lot of folks have "returned" in the last year or so - then again, I'm not all that funny or insightful....

8:25 AM

Blogger Apodaca said...

I don't think it's that comics are shittier than they used to be. It's just that we're all older and smarter than we used to be, and we look for more out of a story.

3:12 PM


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