Very few writers on the medium talk about this, but there's a swagger to junk comics that can be very appealing, a knowledge and assurance that they'll be hitting all the right buttons, pleasure centers that have very little to do with artistic quality. When people ask why comic book aren't as popular as they used to be, it's probably good to remind them that nothing ever is and then, maybe, to suggest it's not that other media do what comics used to do but do it better; it's that they bother to do it at all now and in fact do it with greater frequency. So many of us were sent plunging into comics to find more of what we know we liked. I can't imagine anyone having to leave one form for another just to get that pulpy fix.
It stands to reason that the more casually intended art, art where the bulk of what's produced emphasizes an immediate, surface reward rather than a slow-building, long-term, deeper pay-off, will suffer as a natural delivery system for that kind of work falls out of favor. Could that be why of all the comic books out here, superhero books are doing the worst job of finding their potential audience? I know it's why most superhero comics seem to me really ill served by their collections.
Fantastic. And I particularly admire Tom for simply saying that he prefers comics books to graphic novels (or what have you) rather than saying they're better. As he points out, there is undeniably some work that is better served when presented in one single volume, so really it is just a matter of deciding to like one type of work more than another. But I wouldn't say that most of the superhero comics being made nowadays are ill served by their collections, mainly just because that seems to be what they're written for; the stories are closed/finite, the multiple plot and subplot threads that play themselves out over any number of issues and years being largely abandoned in favor of a "part x of n" style format (and by the way, why? Ugh!). But I suspect that he's talking more about collections of older material. Usually I agree, if only because the artwork of the older books, made for printing on cheap papers, looks terrible on perfect-bound glossy paper. I mean just awful. That's my biggest complaint, anyway. There's also the notable absence of the non story content, but you won't find too many people who are bothered by that, I guess. I do still love the Essentials collections from Marvel, though, particulary because they are cheap and contain a large amount of material, and it isn't presented in some reverential way. And I think that is my other big gripe: the reverential presentation of something that doesn't need it (and note that I did not say that it doesn't merit it). It's as though the material's status as a precious fetish object follows it out of the polybagged monthly and into this new collected format.
Again, that mostly concerns the older material. The new stuff that already has all of the ugly computer coloring and is already made for printing on glossy paper doesn't suffer the same, uh, slickification...yeah. And of course content-wise it is, as I said, more likely to feature closed, finite stories anyway. It's also more likely to be all serious and dark and moody and won't interest me in the slightest. I don't think there's anything wrong with making or liking the serious and moody superhero stuff, it's just that those things tend to leave out the aspects of superhero narratives that interest me and to hold onto the things that don't. But who cares what I like or don't? My point is that Tom is awesome.
In other news, Tim has a couple of interesting posts right in a row. Nostalgianiks, he hath your number.
Also, via Dave Fiore comes news of the return to blogging of David Allison, who tells us, conveniently, why we love both Annie Hall and Punch Drunk Love. Thanks, Daves.
Dave (Fiore) also has some great things to say about identity formation, self-realization and other fun things over at Peiratikos (in the comment thread). I can't give Dave all the credit--Rose and some other posters provide him (and he them) with interesting counterpoints and attempted clarifications (though bear in mid that they are using language, so there won't be even the slightest chance of a mutually satisfying clarification, but we aren't hung up on that sort of thing, are we?).
That's what I've been reading and enjoying this weekend. I also notice that my links sorely need updating. Does anyone know what happened to Jon?