§ Comics have conquered pop culture (or at least the box office) but what about high culture? While much of the discussion of late has been about artists not getting enough attention from the comics wold, are they also being overlooked by the world of museums and other higher cultural institution? An interesting conversation about comics and the fine art world kicked off in the comments of a TCJ blog post by Dan Nadel about the challenges of getting comics into fine art museums.
Yes, for what it’s worth (not much?) art is looking at comics. There’s a serious Jim Shaw retrospective (for which I wrote a catalog essay) coming to the New Museum in October. My show, which includes one of the mot influential cartoonists of his generation, Mat Brinkman, is at arguably the most respected gallery in North America; I co-curated a very well-regarded Victor Moscoso retrospective in February. Ben Jones has an enormous exhibition up right now at a good gallery. And artists like William Copley, as well as all the Chicagoans, are all ascendent. The recent ZAP was a huge deal in art circles. To me, that’s a huge step in the right direction. Sure, things like that Artforum issue are dispiriting, but if comics has become more insular in recent years, and less appreciative of its own genius artists and more focused on a strange academic fandom (see: Chicago symposium, Columbia University, endless basement “festivals”) and making everyone feel good. Maybe I’m seeing it all wrong, but then again, maybe it doesn’t matter at all! Who knows.
§ Also at TCJ, a review of Sylvie Rancort’s Melody by Naomi Fry:
In Melody, though, Rancourt frustrates any definitive ideological reading as the comic’s narrative vacillates according to the bumpy rhythms of everyday life and a changeable, sometimes-buoyant, sometimes-despondent subjectivity. Unlike Chester Brown’s Paying for It, another memoir published by D+Q, which was, despite its subdued depiction of real-life situations, largely a self-certain libertarian-leaning argument in comic form for sex work as an inalienable human right, Melody is so interesting because it doesn’t pretend to a teleological arc or promises one single ethical or political takeaway. What stands out are not meaningful moments of decision making, of definitive descent or ascent, but the pauses in between, life’s indeterminate crevices and nooks. There are a lot of events in Melody, to be sure, but, to quote the words with which each of the six issues begins, “this isn’t the beginning and it’s not the end, but somewhere in the middle with Melody…” — the ellipsis as if waiting to enfold the textured events that follow.
§ Yesterday would have been the late Dave Steven’s 60th birthday and Comics Alliance has a memorial. Stevens was the creator of the Rocketeer and one of the finest comics artists of his generation and a fine gentleman as well. He died of hairy cell leukemia in 2008. He is missed.
§ Michael Cavna’s account of the Harvey Pekar Park dedication.
§ Bluewater Productions, publisher of many, many non-fiction comics biographies and reality based works, as well as fiction, has renamed itself StormFront Media and is back with a Metallica bio comic by Michael L Frizell and Jayfri Hashim.
Since 2008, StormFront Media (formerly Bluewater Productions) has been publishing comic books featuring current events, entertaining biographies of the famous and the infamous, and a burgeoning fiction line featuring the character Insane Jane (which was just optioned for a television show), Bettie Page, and more, a fact that makes publisher and President Darren G. Davis proud. “Growing up, I was a reluctant reader. I want to reach kids in similar situations that may be more apt to read a comic book instead of a chapter book,” said Davis. “I have guest taught in schools and found comic books to be an excellent way to reach children and young adults.” Davis also added that his biographical lines are meant to both entertain and inform. “It’s my hope that these books teach readers about the people behind the hype. You’ll find our comics to be enticing a well as engaging. Comic books have grown up; they’re not just for kids anymore.”
As with many Bluewater books in the past, the announcement of this comic got a huge media blast everywhere, which always cracks me up, but hey good promotion is good promotion, so props for that. As Bluewater, the company had something of a checkered past, and the new name suggests a fresh start, so let’s welcome StormFront to the fold.
§ Zainab has been on a tear of late, with her leaving The AV Club and concentrating on her own site. An interview with Dargaud editor Thomas Ragon and a review of Jiro Taniguchi’s great The Walking Man among them.
§ Speaking of good comics, which we do far too infrequently here, I read this book yesterday: Moose by Max de Radigues, published in France, serialized here by Oily Comics, and now collected by Conundrum. It’s about a kid named Joe who is being severely bullied and to say any more would spoil it. Excellent, excellent book, with a moral ambiguity the subject does not suggest. Here’s a longer review at Page 45.
§ Go read some comics!
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.