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Craig Fischer
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Aw, thanks for all the nice comments, guys. I'll be too busy in the next few months to compile a TB "best-of" book, Mike, but I've been thinking of it as a long-term project. (I also intend to strip-mine some of my posts--particularly the one on TAMARA DREWE--for academic articles.) And Noah: hope we don't make property values plummet! We'll be the redneck family down the block with the rusted-out cars in the front yard...
Toggle Commented Dec 21, 2010 on The Future's So Bright... at THOUGHT BALLOONISTS
JL, the question of whether it's possible in comics studies to do "an adequate job verbally" is a good one: frankly, it's what makes writing a comics blog so enjoyable, because I can add as many images as I want. We've also seen heavily-illustrated “coffee table” art books from Fantagraphics and Abrams, and more illustrations in books published by academic presses like Mississippi. (Love the color in both the Chris Ware anthology and Jose Alaniz’s KOMIKS.) I hope all this continues. Rusty, I agree that "the use of technical language" is dependent on “different audiences and for different rhetorical situations." For me, a conference talk is a performative rhetorical situation where technical terms should be kept to a minimum; I find prose written-for-the-page hard to follow when squeezed into a rushed 20-minute spoken presentation. My formula for a conference paper: one central idea, stated as simply as possible and backed up with a little evidence, and finish. Call it simple (or simple-minded) if you want, but I save my elaboration for the questions I get after I deliver the paper, and for eventual publication. Pape misread the audience, but I don't think it's his fault. On September 24, everyone signed up for the OSU Festival received an e-mail from one of the organizers, Julia McCafferty, that said the following about the festival's "Academic Perspectives" panels: "Academic Perspectives offers scholars an opportunity to present their comics research to other scholars. Their presentations will not necessarily be aimed at a general audience." Pape was expecting a more academic "rhetorical situation," and was blindsided by the unusual mix of academics, cartoonists and fans present for his talk. I want to make it absolutely clear that I don't consider Harvey "the outer boundary of discursive possibilities in comics studies." Actually, I can't decide which is ruder, the bluntness of Harvey’s question, or the fact that (as I said in my post) he didn't bother to engage with Pape's interesting ideas AT ALL. Readers, for a great example of Rusty writing about an important topic in a way "open to readers, fans and critics," please read (and re-read) his excellent post on the state of comics studies, posted last year here on TB.
Toggle Commented Oct 25, 2010 on An Apology and a Comment at THOUGHT BALLOONISTS
Thanks for the link, FrF! I had found the whole documentary on another website a couple of years ago, but couldn't get that link to work when I was writing this post. Good to know FEEL is still out there somewhere--and yeah, the whole thing is well worth watching.
Toggle Commented Aug 3, 2010 on A Fine Mess at THOUGHT BALLOONISTS
Thanks for the visual treats, CH. There's beautiful figure drawing there, and high camp too: how about that phallic NATURE BOY cover? Last summer, I met Giordano for my first and only time. When I found out that he was going to attend Heroes Con 2009, I wrote him an e-mail, asking if I could interview him as part of the Steve Ditko panel Ben Towle and I were organizing. His reply was gracious: he'd love to participate, but he was worried that his near-deafness would make an interview impossible. We e-discussed some ways to solve the problem--we could transcribe my questions in advance, etc--but eventually decided to just wing it. The event went great. Roy Thomas was also on the panel, and together we spoke loud and guided Dick through any hearing difficulties. Dick reminisced about playing ping-pong with Ditko, about the mechanical lettering in so many Charlton titles (which was apparently done with something like a giant typewriter--the letterer rolled the original art into the machine and typed letters directly onto the art!), and about how Ditko got him his job as a DC editor. Afterward, I gave Dick a small present (some locally-made jams and snacks), and then a family member rolled him off in a wheelchair. And he was gone. Here's a photo from the panel: [.]
Sean, I saw THE PRICE VALIANT PAGE mentioned on Gianni's website when I was setting the links for my post. A good book, eh? The samples of Gianni's art in DPV are impressive, especially the ones reprinted in color. Ben, that conicidence is just downright weird. Sorry I hadn't read your post before I did my own commentary on MY BOOKHOUSE; we could've planned a tag-team blog-a-thon about Olive Miller and old-timey illustration! Everyone, go read Ben's BOOKHOUSE post (and other good writing!) at [.]
Toggle Commented Mar 22, 2010 on Knights of the Tower Window at THOUGHT BALLOONISTS
Hey, Steve! How's Boston? To update TB readers: I directed Steve's MA thesis on Bettie Page a few years ago, and I should've mentioned it in my review. It was a terrific thesis, but don't take my word for it--when Bettie died, Steve posted a lively excerpt from the thesis on his blog. Check it out: [.] Great point about women's wages. I think it's true that there plenty of female porn stars who like their work, really like their pay, and live more independent lives than other women. I don't think porn can ever "redress the wrongs of the patriarchy" or anything like that, but I suspect that for many women it's a fulfilling career. I do worry, however, about those women and men--surely they exist--who do porn because they need the money, and find the work embarrassing or a grind. Porn doesn't work for me because I think about stuff like this and I can't focus on my own arousal. I haven't read Nancy Fraser (looks like I need to!), but I will come out and admit that I do think that there are some behaviors that should be off-limits, even if "giver and receiver both agree" to them. Yes, that's a judgment call. I'm not interested in forcing my judgments on anybody else--I'm no censor--but the acts that Bougie described in KKE crossed a couple of my personal limits (even if they didn't cross the limits of the participants). And while there's a lot to like about SEWER, I was troubled by Bougie's use of a self-described "carnival barker" writing style to describe KKE and other extreme porn. The "threshold of pleasure/pain" that you describe, Steve, seems to me a delicate and dangerous place, and should be treated with respect rather than as a sideshow. Or so I'd argue. What do you think?
Excellent comments, walkerp and Molly. Molly, you're absolutely right when you point out that I'm out of touch with contemporary trends in porn. I wrote the lengthy introduction to my post partially to reveal what a naif I am. Thanks also for the links to the blogs; I'm especially interested in Maymay's blog, since I'd like to know how a submissive deals with issues of consent. However, I think you misunderstand me when you talk about Bougie's "filthy" drawings. His drawings may not always be my cup o' tea, but as I said in my review, I still think he's a fine cartoonist regardless of his subject matter. My real objections to SEWER focus on Bougie's celebratory writing style about movies like KKE. Walkerp, I agree that there's much to like about SEWER (I hope that came through in my post), and I also share your affection for old exploitation films. But I think it's too easy to say that "the representation does not equal the act." Film and video images do record, at the very least, a particular person and place at a particular moment in time. We browse through old photographs to remember how we looked 10 or 20 years ago because photographic representation does capture time and mummify it for posterity. Bougie writes about TV on-air suicides because he accepts footage of these events to be real (and thus shocking); in other words, he assumes there IS a connection between the representation and the act. That's why I find it difficult to dismiss moral concerns ("Jesus, I feel uncomfortable reading about these TV suicides...and I hope that woman in KKE is OK") while reading some of the articles in SEWER.
Let me add my proverbial two cents to these thoughtful responses to Charles' post. First, I don't agree with Ben’s characterization of film studies as a field polarized between consumer-guide newspaper reviews and impenetrable academic articles. There's a middle ground--what David Bordwell calls essayistic criticism--represented by the articles in, for example, FILM COMMENT, and by the longer essays by Jonathan Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman (both of whom are in the tradition of the freelance intellectuals Kent mentions). By presenting sophisticated ideas about film in non-academic venues like the VILLAGE VOICE, writers like Hoberman and Rosenbaum provide an invaluable service. I love essayistic criticism like this. I see Groth, Seldes and Blackbeard as comics' version of essayistic critics. (I should mention that in his recent "Origins of the Comics Journal" post on COMICS COMICS, Jeet Heer recently downplayed the influence of public intellectuals like Dwight MacDonald on Groth. I'm still mulling that over.) Ben wonders if we should aspire to an academic comics discourse that "excludes" people like Groth, but I wonder if the exclusion isnt more the other way around. In my own TRANSATLANTICA essay (cough, cough, plug, cough), I quote an exchange between Groth and Ana Merino from THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMIC ART: Groth: Academia doesn't cultivate unique voices that have distinctive perceptions of the work they scrutinize: they more and more specialize in value neutral "analysis," wholly removed from qualitative distinctions. Instead of learning the virtues a critic believes a work possesses, you know how he applied or imposed certain theories. Merino: Sometimes there is an enjoyment for the art per se. And you don’t have to focus on, say, if it is good or bad. Groth: It's crucial. That's crucial. Merino: No it's not. Groth: Well, that is the perfect academic point of view. Merino: In the moment you choose to work about something, there is a value. It is why you choose to work on that. If it wasn't of any value you will not choose it. Groth: Sorry, your underlying presupposition is fallacious. The academy often analyzes work of no evident value whatsoever. How is Groth defining the academy here? And who’s excluding who? One of the major differences I see between essayistic and academic comics criticism is scope. Academic criticism aspires to get beyond arguments over qualitative distinctions--which can be valuable, but are emphatically NOT the only approach a critic can take--to place a work in all the other different contexts of meaning (narrative, visual, rhetorical, ideological, etc.) that Eric mentions, and many more.(And yep, this might mean jumping over the Atlantic and citing Jordi Bernet’s TORPEDO series in an academic article on Frank Miller and misogyny.) There's a clear difference of scope between Groth's essays for the JOURNAL and, say, David Kunzle's Topffer book, and that's what we're debating here: what kind of academic climate should we create so that we end up with a hundred or a thousand books like Kunzle's?
Now I'm officially on the hunt for E-MAN #4!
Toggle Commented Aug 18, 2009 on Ramona and Her Miscellany at THOUGHT BALLOONISTS
Thanks for the comments, guys; I agree with several things you wrote. Rob, you're right when you point out that Ditko entered the comics business in 1953. I remembered from Blake Bell's STRANGER AND STRANGER that "Stretching Things" was published in 1954, but now I see that FANTASTIC FEARS #5 was covered dated 1/54...which means, of course, that Ditko drew it in 1953. Many of our philosophical differences fall into what Mike would call "de gustibus" disagreements-- particularly the degree to which Ditko's females are attractive or not--but let me try to clarify my thinking on a couple of issues anyway. One of our big areas of contention is the definition of what constitutes a fleshed-out, three-dimensional fictional character. Rob, you cite Fera's change of mind (her realignment of values) at the end of STATIC as an example of character growth, but I disagree because I believe that ambiguity has to be present for characters to come to life for the reader (or at least for me). I find people in real life to be opaque, confusing, infuriating, and surprising--they often act in ways that I don't expect or understand, and I look for that same quality in fictional folk too. At no point while reading STATIC, however, did I doubt (1.) that Stac (or Mac or whatever) was the clear hero of the narrative, and (2.) that Fera would eventually come around to Stac's point of view. She feels like a Straw (Wo)Man to me rather than a person. In fact, I wonder if Ditko's insistence in his later work on unambiguous, Manichean values ("white over black, good over evil") is incompatable with deep characterization... I also don't think that using facts as a springboard for speculation is a weakness of my post. If we only stick to the elements explicitly in Ditko's comics (or any other text), criticism becomes a kind of Cliff's Notes, a recapitulation that dodges key questions like: why are the elements important? What do the elements tell us about the mind of the artist? What's left out of the work? How do these elements connect to other artists and artistic trends? (Rob, you make connections like this wonderfully in your invocation of Meskin, your commentary on Kane, etc.) Mike, I sometimes find psychoanalysis maddening, so I'm somewhat sympathetic with your "psychobabble" comment, but I find that Ditko's work is so shot through with repression that it seemed a reasonable leap from the pain that Ditko's hands express to the pain that I suspect Ditko himself has endured through his life. Thanks again for your comments--it's a pleasure to think about these issues.
Thanks for the kind words, CH! I'm eager to read about your MoCCA adventure, though I've already heard that your Kirby presentation was (wait for it..!) sublime. Andrei: Math was always my worst subject, so I'm not sure if you're calling me a Communist or a grade inflater. (Maybe Ditko wouldn't see any difference?) Either way, I take offense, sir, and I virtually slap your face with my glove! Bah! What else can I expect from an artist whose work is designed to make viewers feel like "man is an incompetent nothing in a world of mystic terrors...all without meaning or purpose"? (That's Ditko on modern art, from BLUE BEETLE #5.) But seriously: great to hear that ABSTRACT COMICS is rolling out, and I can't wait to get my copy!
Toggle Commented Jun 11, 2009 on Hype: Heroes Con Ditko Panel at THOUGHT BALLOONISTS