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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Heidi, Tom, Butcher, and Best American Comics 2007 -- This is a tough one. Heidi is well-liked in most quarters, but has never been a particularly compelling critic and certainly not someone whose tastes I trust in the same way I do her seeming opponents in this, Spurgeon and Butcher.

That said, I agree with her on Fort Thunder's lack of real impact as a generational paradigm-shifter (although what that has to do with Sergio Aragones, who knows? Isn't he an evolutionary dead-end as well? Even if a great one?). She's full of shit about today's cartoonists not creating characters other than themselves, obviously: Street Angel, Wimbledon Green (as Butcher pointed out earlier), all of the Super-Fuckers, a big catch of characters in Jordan Crane's Uptight, the work of Jeff Lemire, The Surrogates, Bluesman, Jesus Christ I could go on, and this is just off the top of my head. But again, Heidi's not at her best constructing logical arguments. Which is too bad, because she's kind of right about the Best American Comics anthologies. Kind of.

See, thing is, as Butcher kind of alluded to on his blog, these collections (I just bought the second one on Saturday, and having had an advance reader's copy, I knew what I was getting in to) are not meant for any of us. Anyone who already reads a lot of comics or even knows that comics blogs exist are not the target audience. Browsers at Borders or Chapters or fill-in-the-blank with the independent bookstore of your choice are the folks these books (and Ware's McSweeney's issue, and Brunetti's deeply flawed anthology) are meant for. Little snapshots of what comics is up to at the moment. As such, both last year's Pekar-edited one and this year's Ware edition open themselves up to criticism, but I'm not sure they don't still deserve to exist pretty much as-is.

I'd love to see a Darwyn Cooke short story make it in next year, or something by Garth Ennis, say, or a run of Mutts strips...but I'd guess it's a rich set of variables that determine the final content each year; unlike some, Matt Madden and Jessica Abel do not strike me as good permanent editors, so I am concerned for the future direction of the series beginning in 2008; both of them have dry, academic approaches to comics that mostly bore me (see also Gabrielle Bell). I hope their aesthetic faculties are more compelling than their comics, and by this time next year, we should know.

(Thanks to David Wynne for getting me worked up enough to finally write something about this).

(And thanks to Jason Marcy in Butcher's comments section for this bit of calling-'em-as-he-and-I-see-'em about the Flight anthologies: "All I’ve really learned from FLIGHT so far (and I’m halfway through Volume 4 now...) is that just because you can draw pretty damn good doesn’t mean you should try telling graphic narrative...")


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