It seems that Chris Ware, the genius behind Building Stories and other structural comics masterpieces, and Hajime Isayama, the Attack on Titan creator we wrote about a few posts ago, share some of the same things: low self esteem as the lot of the cartoonist.
Ware has as piece called “Why I Love Comics” in yesterday’s Sunday New York Times, which surely is easier to read in print, but you can still get the point of the online version. It’s a stunning piece, with an acrostic “haiku” that’s not too hard to figure out. It also codifies the scrappy “comics are art, really, I promise” attitude that has informed the growth of the medium over the last 40 years or so, while mixing in the cartoonist’s low paying despair.
The piece is also part of something that can only be termed a “comics tear” by the Times. If this graphic novel review round-up by Douglas Wolk wasn’t enough here’s a podcast with Luc Sante reviewing Richard McGuire’s Here, a short round-up of NYCC news (?), a piece on a recent exhibit of NYC-centric superhero art, and perhaps most bafflingly, the “Comics Artist Challenge” that gives cartoonists a nigh impossible task: talking about why they like comics in only one panel!!! It’s never been done before, but Cece Bell, Ariel Schrag, David Smalls, Kazu Kibuishi and more somehow manage it, against all odds.
All of this, as Rutu Modan’s example above suggests, is indicative of some arts editor somewhere saying “These graphic novel things are hot, lets see if we can explain to our readers who comics aren’t just for kids anymore.” It’s also an argument that was won about 20 years ago, but I guess some battles need to be won over and over again. That said, I am often struck by how the self effacing pessimism and low self esteem of the first few generations of alt cartoonists exemplified by Ware is pretty much absent in the new “spunky girls” generation of cartoonists. Not that the new female cartoonists don’t have sometimes crippling self doubts, but they seem to be more general in nature and not an occupational hazard? Or maybe I’m generalizing. Or full of shit. Readers, what say you?
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.