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Friday, April 28, 2006

Tim Still Reads the ADD Blog -- And this is what he has to say about that and some other interesting stuff, too:

In fact, I've been wanting to comment on it for awhile now. I just let stupid self-doubts about not being in "the proper demographic" trip me up, I guess. I'm 52 & still a fan of comics ... well, some comics. I'm delighted with the explosion of non-superhero comics during the past 10-15 years, and ADD Blog has clued me in to several of them (the work of James Kolchalka, for instance). Yet I also enjoy traditional superhero comics, although nowhere near as much these days. And I think what I find unsatisfying is the demand for "realism."

Now, I'm not talking about smart, energetic, thought-provoking work like Mark Millar's Ultimates, or the return of noir sensibility to street-level heroics. What leaves me feeling empty & cheated is the "realism" in traditional superhero titles -- if graphic killing, rape, and psychological trauma is necessarily more real than, say, compassion or wry humor or a genuine sense of awe & wonder. This is evident in most popular entertainment today, not just comics -- the operative worldview seems to be, "the uglier something is, the more real it is."

Again, don't mistake this for a plea for all-ages work in the worst, fluffy bunny sense of the phrase. (Although I think "Owly," for example, is far more adult than the slaughterfest of characters we're seeing in too many DC comics these days.) And it's not a plea to ban anything dealing with the darker side of human nature, either -- such works are vital, if they're truly exploring that darkness, rather than simply exploiting it & pandering to the "kewl"-craving audience.

What I'm seeing is a vast timidity of imagination, a drawing back from that genuine sense of awe & wonder, a feeling that it's a lie, or an illusion, or a tantalizing but unrealistic goal. Granted, the current state of the country, and of the world, certainly supports such a bleak worldview. All the more need for that awe & wonder, then! Which is why I absolutely love the work of, say, Grant Morrison. He seems to be one of the few writers of traditional superhero comics who revels in wonder, who looks beyond the current edgy trends.

I see a lot of online talk about older comics work being dated (the same for a lot of films, novels, music, as well). Well, some of it is silly or poorly written or logically absurd -- there's basic assembly line work in any era, and some of it has its place, too. But when I look at something like the Superman Showcase which recently came out, I can see why its contents excited & thrilled Grant Morrison -- it's like a piece of naive but honest folk art, with a certain childlike purity to it. And Grant's been able to infuse his own work with much of that same sensibility, with the addition of 21st century insight & his own remarkable intelligence.

So, I know I'm rambling a bit here, trying to say too much at once, and probably not doing as well as I'd like. I just feel sad at times for so many people who can't see beyond immediate & often brutal sensation to something more -- a deeper, more complex & nuanced experience of life. And I don't see why comics can't offer some of that, just as much as any other art form -- people like Grant Morrison & Alan Moore are proof of that, to say nothing of the wealth of independent creators at work today.

Now, maybe this is just the nostalgia-ridden fear of someone grown older & uncomfortable in this newer world, someone who wants all the reassurances of a recognizable, longtime worldview. That's a possibility I won't discount ... but I honestly don't feel that's the case. I enjoy a certain amount of nostalgia as much as anyone who lives long enough; but I still seek out new expressions of art, new modes of expression. I don't want to retreat to a cocoon of oldies stations & Silver Age reprints; while I enjoy the best of that, I also want to know about the newest music & comics & painting & films, etc.

So what's my wish for comics? I'd say it's for a larger, more expansive, more emotionally & philosophically richer universe -- not merely an acceptance of the darkest & shallowest aspects of contemporary culture, one which says there's really nothing more than that. I want the dissection of despair I get from Chris Ware, but I also want the rapturous loopiness of Seaguy. I'm sure you've heard the Biblical quote, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." That's my wish for comics, then: More vision. More wonder. More joy -- and yes, more genuine sorrow, rather than "the shock of the year -- nothing will ever be the same again!"

David, I enjoy & appreciate your online work. I've discovered some wonderful new work thanks to your reviews & comments. And if I don't always agree with your every word, I'm always grateful for the obvious passion & dedication you show for this wonderful art form.

Thanks for listening!

Hey, thanks for writing, Tim. It's extremely gratifying to know someone so eloquent and intelligent makes this blog a stop on his web-surfing itinerary...



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