In a column that is sure to send his already high popularity soaring, Rall looks at and rejects the New York Times Magazine’s comics pages, declaring Chris Ware’s “Building Stories” Clowes’ “Mr. Wonderful” is the best of the lot:

Seven months passed. (To those who didn’t give up on “Building Stories,” it felt like seven years.) Disappointment yielded to apathy. Fixtures of the tiny world of “art comics” Jaime Hernandez, Seth and Megan Kelso followed with their serialized graphic novellas. Daniel Clowes’ “Mister Wonderful” treads standard art-comics territory: unattractive boy meets dowdy girl, insecure girl meets shoe-gazing boy, reader prays for Al Qaeda to blow up their café.

For whatever it’s worth, Clowes’ entry is the best of a crapulent lot. The life of an artist is a lonely one, sometimes it’s hard to get laid, people are mean to dorks. Who cares?

1 COMMENT

  1. Actually, I think he says Clowes’ is the best of the lot, no?

    Ted Rall’s chip is getting too big for his shoulder. “

  2. Wow — I’m glad someone prominent finally spoke up about that!

    I don’t agree completely with Rall about the Times’s choice of cartoonists being poor, but he’s dead-on about the failings of the serialized format. The format itself is fine, of course, but artists so far haven’t written stories specifically for it. They just break up longer stories into 30 single-page installments.

    Seth’s contribution was my favorite of all his comics stories, but only when read as a whole. Waiting 7 days for the next piece (often missing a week and catching up online) just ruined his careful, nuanced development.

    I would love it if the Paper of Record would give up their pretensions and fearlessly launch a full-blown comics section, with variety and sensitivity to the format. As history shows us, circulation would boom.

  3. While the delivery may be pretty in-your-face, the message is one that at least in part rings true; just as vasat majority of superhero titles seem to blur together into one heaping mass of spandex and sinew, so also do the scores of “art comics” which seem to feature an endless parade of hapless, unappealing, introspective losers and loners all on a ceaseless search of love/jobs/drugs/etc.

  4. “artists so far haven’t written stories specifically for it.”

    Are you kidding? I think that’s true of some of the past stories, but not Clowes’. His seems perfectly tailored to me for both the weekly pace and the audience that’s reading him.

  5. Ahh, you may be right. I gave up on the comics after Seth’s but I’ll give the Dan Clowes stuff a try. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Interesting headline.

    I didn’t lose my friend the movie director when I told him his movie sucked. (He thought so, too.) I count many editorial cartoonists as friends; we frequently criticize each other’s work and then order another round of beers. No one gets pissy.

    If “comics aren’t just for kids anymore,” maybe it’s time for the so-called, semi-fictional “comics community” to quit acting like them. It ought to be possible to express honest opinions, especially about critically-acclaimed cartoonists, without being threatened with exile at the ugly kids’ table in the lunchroom.

    Anyway, anyone who cares about being liked has no business expressing their (dishonest) opinions in a public forum.

  7. Why does Rall refer to Clowes’ characters as a “boy” and “girl” (when they are clearly middle-aged)? By implying Clowes’ characters are younger than they are, while at the same time implying that Ware’s character is older than she is (Rall refers to the young woman as a “spinster”), it’s hard to take his comments seriously. He either did not read the work, or is mischaracterizing it for rhetorical effect; either way, it’s wrong.

    His reductive comments are silly: claiming the Times and “comics anthologies that reflect the official social imprimatur of the journalistic elite” are “censoring important comics”? Huh? Doesn’t just about any alternative newsweekly have a way larger audience than just about any comics anthology out there? Kramer’s Ergot is censoring the Village Voice? The NY Times isn’t just running what they like, but are actively suppressing better comics to promote Ware, Clowes, etc.?

    This is all from a guy who once dismissed Joe Sacco’s work by saying, basically, “Whatever. I could do that.” From a man who mocked women who were widowed on 9/11. Ted likes to provoke, and he’s good at it. Politically, I’m generally in tune with him. But it’s easier to provoke when informed. Based on his descriptions of some of the NYT strips, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he hasn’t even read any of them. Which would be fine if he weren’t pretending to be an expert on them at the same time.

    Rall is a good political writer. He’s a pedestrian cartoonist and mediocre storyteller. Quoting a political cartoonist about how “empty” graphic novels are is kind of ironic, because, you know, political cartooning is such a nuanced medium that long-form comics fiction can learn a lot from.

    I am loving Clowes’ serial in the Times. If Ted Rall is going to tell me that my enjoyment of it is insincere and part of some bigger conspiracy, he’s wrong and can go fuck himself.

  8. Who’s better than Ware of Clowes? I mean, that’s really the top of the ladder in the world of alt-comix. If you’re going to begin publishing comics in your paper for the first time, and want to introduce people to great weird alt comics, where better to start than Ware or Clowes.

    I guess those comics aren’t for everyone, but I liked them quite a lot. ‘Building Stories’ is his best work since Jimmy Corrigan. Mister Wonderful is no weakling either. Not at all. Its kind of funny what Clowes is doing actually, cliffhangers for the mundane. And indeed, thier age does make it more poignant, in both pieces.

  9. That was a bunch of petty cheap shots at the work of better artists. I was just thinking that what comics needs now is another snarky commentator running down other creators.

    The hunk about “Building Stories” is particularly ludicrous. Ware’s work on that story is so real and brilliantly observed it’s unnerving to read. He creates characters with humanity and still manages to play with the very form and definition of comic as an art form. Last year I saw an exhibition of Ware’s work at the Museum of Contemporary art that included alot of process art. Seeing how Ware works was astounding, he is literally finding new ways to communicate with comics.

    Rall is more noise than signal and I know more about him because of his outlandish statements than his actual art. I’m as liberal as they come and his histronic yelps are often emberassing. Reading that tripe of a column I see that it’s not an attitude he limits to politics.

    A century from now when Ware’s work is being studied and admired (like Winston McCay or Tex Avery) Rall’s screeds and griping will be long-forgotten.

  10. Why so hostile, Eric?

    >

    Wow. I’m almost embarrassed. “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc.” is a cliché about storytelling. It doesn’t literally refer to children.

    >

    The NYT has a Sunday readership of 1.6 million copies, each copy probably read by at least two people. It is one of, if not the largest, newspaper in the United States. Moreover, its readers disproportionately include high-income earners (something made obvious by its ads for Tiffany’s and $25 million apartments). What it chooses to get behind makes a big difference.

    >

    Running what you like = censorship. All editors are censors. Choosing not to run something is an act of censorship. As an editor myself, I’ve been a censor. So yes, the NYT is actively suppressing better comics to promote Ware, etc. (I won’t include Clowes because, well, he’s done good work elsewhere.)

    Eric wrote: >

    Then Michael wrote: >

    Note this standard tactic of elitists: when you don’t have a counterargument, insult the person who expresses the original argument. Just because someone picks up garbage for a living doesn’t mean their opinion about economics is less valid than Alan Greenspan’s.

    >

    Again, why so hostile? You’re entitled to your opinion of Clowes and the other NYT cartoonists. But your opinion is no more, or less, valid than mine. (Although it’s clear that reading comprehension isn’t your forté. I was clear in saying that it’s the art comics cartoonists–I didn’t reference their readers–who are insincere and phony.)

    Alex’s opinion above is far better expressed. He likes Ware and Clowes. Great! Better yet, he can even–unlike Reynolds–explain why. (One of the common traits of art comix fans is that they can’t say why they like what they like or why you’re supposed to–you’re just supposed to. Art school uber alles.)

    Alex says: “If you’re going to begin publishing comics in your paper for the first time, and want to introduce people to great weird alt comics, where better to start than Ware or Clowes.”

    Perhaps, although I can think of better choices. But my argument is that “weird alt comics” might not be the best way to introduce comics (comics for adults in particular) to a general audience of readers, especially those of a paper that doesn’t even carry daily comic strips.

  11. Apparently all the quotes got deleted from my post above. Here, I’ll try again:

    Why so hostile, Eric?

    Eric wrote: “Why does Rall refer to Clowes’ characters as a “boy” and “girl” (when they are clearly middle-aged)? By implying Clowes’ characters are younger than they are, while at the same time implying that Ware’s character is older than she is (Rall refers to the young woman as a “spinster”), it’s hard to take his comments seriously. He either did not read the work, or is mischaracterizing it for rhetorical effect; either way, it’s wrong.”

    Wow. I’m almost embarrassed. “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc.” is a cliché about storytelling. It doesn’t literally refer to children.

    “His reductive comments are silly: claiming the Times and “comics anthologies that reflect the official social imprimatur of the journalistic elite” are “censoring important comics”? Huh?”

    The NYT has a Sunday readership of 1.6 million copies, each copy probably read by at least two people. It is one of, if not the largest, newspaper in the United States. Moreover, its readers disproportionately include high-income earners (something made obvious by its ads for Tiffany’s and $25 million apartments). What it chooses to get behind makes a big difference.

    “The NY Times isn’t just running what they like, but are actively suppressing better comics to promote Ware, Clowes, etc.?”

    Running what you like = censorship. All editors are censors. Choosing not to run something is an act of censorship. As an editor myself, I’ve been a censor. So yes, the NYT is actively suppressing better comics to promote Ware, etc. (I won’t include Clowes because, well, he’s done good work elsewhere.)

    Eric wrote: “Quoting a political cartoonist about how “empty” graphic novels are is kind of ironic, because, you know, political cartooning is such a nuanced medium that long-form comics fiction can learn a lot from.”

    Then Michael wrote: “That was a bunch of petty cheap shots at the work of better artists. ”

    Note this standard tactic of elitists: when you don’t have a counterargument, insult the person who expresses the original argument. Just because someone picks up garbage for a living doesn’t mean their opinion about economics is less valid than Alan Greenspan’s.

    “I am loving Clowes’ serial in the Times. If Ted Rall is going to tell me that my enjoyment of it is insincere and part of some bigger conspiracy, he’s wrong and can go fuck himself.”

    Again, why so hostile? You’re entitled to your opinion of Clowes and the other NYT cartoonists. But your opinion is no more, or less, valid than mine. (Although it’s clear that reading comprehension isn’t your forté. I was clear in saying that it’s the art comics cartoonists–I didn’t reference their readers–who are insincere and phony.)

    Alex’s opinion above is far better expressed. He likes Ware and Clowes. Great! Better yet, he can even–unlike Reynolds–explain why. (One of the common traits of art comix fans is that they can’t say why they like what they like or why you’re supposed to–you’re just supposed to. Art school uber alles.)

    Alex says: “If you’re going to begin publishing comics in your paper for the first time, and want to introduce people to great weird alt comics, where better to start than Ware or Clowes.”

    Perhaps, although I can think of better choices. But my argument is that “weird alt comics” might not be the best way to introduce comics (comics for adults in particular) to a general audience of readers, especially those of a paper that doesn’t even carry daily comic strips.

  12. Just because someone picks up garbage for a living doesn’t mean their opinion about economics is less valid than Alan Greenspan’s.

    I dunno. I might go with Greenspan FTW on this win.

    But the fictional “everyone’s-opinion-is-equally-valid-and-beautiful” Animal Farm utopia that comment presents is funny to think about.

  13. Ted Rall:
    “Running what you like = censorship. All editors are censors. Choosing not to run something is an act of censorship.”

    Well, no. It’s an act of publishing what you want. When someone else — say, the President, the League of Decency, AARP, or whomever — gets “offended” and tells you that you can’t print something in YOUR publication … well, that’s censorship.

    But then, you know that :)

  14. Hi, Ted.

    Ted, I suspect some people are hostile to you because your criticism is frequently mean and dismissive, and you tend to infer motivation and pass that along as obvious truth.

    You can’t be blind to this. When you say that Chris Ware writes small to hide the fact that he sucks at writing, it’s a funny joke. But it’s not critical insight; it’s provocation bordering on thuggery. If you drive around with a bumper sticker saying “Truckers have tiny dicks,” no one should believe your dismay at occasionally being given the finger.

    a point about boy meets girl:

    You didn’t use the phrase “boy meets girl.” Even if you had used that exact phrase as shorthand, that’s a phrase that almost always describes a certain kind of young love, like in The Fantasticks. You don’t see that used as a summary description for an older relationship, like in Terrance McNally’s “Frankie and Johnny and the Clair De Lune,” say, without describing the differences.

    Now, you used a variation of it, just as Clowes is using a variation of the concept in his comic and McNally does in his play. But your qualifiers don’t even extend to encompass and comment on Clowes’ variation, but instead commented on the characters’ looks.

    Why shouldn’t someone be confused? Why shouldn’t they expect to see what you’ve described, or, if they’re clever enough to parse from your phrasing the term on which you’re riffing, what that phrase traditionally promises?

    Critical writing is a form of communication. When a reader doesn’t understand a line of criticism, it isn’t because he is stupid, or has done something about which you should be embarrassed on their behalf. It is because the critic has failed.

    I don’t believe that last graph, actually, I’m just assuming you do because that’s the obligation you place on the cartoonists in the Ware anthology.

    I don’t really want to get into a lot of the rest of the review, because it’s the holidays, mostly. I have to say I find your provocations — I mean, a fat joke? — and summary statements about what the cartoonists or their fans are thinking funny but as a structural theme they tend to make your pieces read like a series of clashing ideas you yelled at someone on the phone at 2 AM more than a group of insights that matches your intelligence and builds to something. Anything.

    However, if you do have a moment I’d love to hear exactly what you meant by describing the NYT pieces as crapulent.

    Congrats on signing Wilkinson and your admirable launches this year, Ted, and continued success with your comics.

  15. Ted Rall:
    “Running what you like = censorship. All editors are censors. Choosing not to run something is an act of censorship.”

    I thought that was called “weeding out the garbage”. That sounds like someone who wrote volumes of Anne Rice fan fiction complaining about their work being rejected by National Geographic.

    Also, “Art Comics”= Anything not a syndicated or editorial comic, a superhero title, or Manga is a pretty stupid term. I wonder of the same people who lump independent titles into art comics call independent films “filmy movies”. The whole article sounded like an expanded Newsarama post by Deadpool69.

  16. From the American Heritage dictionary:

    “cen·sor (sěn’sər) 1. A person authorized to examine books, films, or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered morally, politically, or otherwise objectionable.”

    An editor is “a person authorized to examine books…or other material and to remove or suppress what is considered…otherwise objectionable.” “Otherwise objectionable” can, and more often than not does, include reasons of personal taste.

  17. Hi Patrick.

    “Someone who wrote volumes of Anne Rice fan fiction complaining about their work being rejected by National Geographic” *is* correct if they claim to have been censored. And National Geographic would be crazy not to censor them. Censorship is not always bad, although it is stupid for the New York Times to censor superior work in favor of inferior work.

    I think you know what I mean by “art comics.” Everyone else seems to understand it. It’s a certain genre of Fanta/D&Q “usual suspects.” You know, the ones who appear in the NYT and in BAC. You know, who never address political or social concerns in their work. You know, who place more importance on drawing and design than writing.

    To reiterate, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that stuff. Tomine’s “Shortcomings” is a good read. Clowes’ work is often enjoyable. Ware is an amazing draughtsman.

    But art comix get a lot more attention than they deserve, to the exclusion of much else that deserves a broader audience. And art comix are NOT, contrary to frequent assertions to the contrary, a gateway drug to attract mainstream adult readers to comics. Most readers, as The Funny Pages experience illustrates, are left cold by the pretense, inaccessibility and irrelevance of the content of most art comix.

  18. Hi Tom,

    >

    Maybe week after week after week of mind-numbingly boring and pretentious art comix in the NYT Mag are making me grouchy. Each time I read one of those graphic turds, I can’t help but wonder about the scores of far more talented cartoonists will never get a shot at that real estate (and no, I’m not talking about me). It’s an outrage, and someone ought to say so.

    As for why some people are hostile to me, let’s not ascribe psychological motivations to them, shall we? All I know is that, when someone says something that is patently and obviously untrue, no one cares. It’s usually when there’s some element of truth to a statement that people get pissed off.

    >

    Read any book about storytelling and narrative. “Boy meets girl” does not explicitly and exclusively relate to young people. It’s a common expression, for example, among screenwriters.

    >

    It wasn’t a review. It was a syndicated opinion column. Normally I talk about politics and current events, but pop culture comes up too. Had it been a review, I would have needed more than 1200 words. It was a conversation starter.

    >

    If you’d like to commission such a piece, I would happy to write one. My column touched upon my main complaints: vacuous content, pretentiousness, lousy writing, confusing graphics.

    >

    Thanks! Happy New Year and I hope you resolve those annoying server problems.

  19. Somehow this interface keeps deleting the quotes. Sorry for the repeat post:

    Hi Tom,

    “Ted, I suspect some people are hostile to you because your criticism is frequently mean and dismissive”

    Maybe week after week after week of mind-numbingly boring and pretentious art comix in the NYT Mag are making me grouchy. Each time I read one of those graphic turds, I can’t help but wonder about the scores of far more talented cartoonists will never get a shot at that real estate (and no, I’m not talking about me). It’s an outrage, and someone ought to say so.

    As for why some people are hostile to me, let’s not ascribe psychological motivations to them, shall we? All I know is that, when someone says something that is patently and obviously untrue, no one cares. It’s usually when there’s some element of truth to a statement that people get pissed off.

    “a point about boy meets girl…”

    Read any book about storytelling and narrative. “Boy meets girl” does not explicitly and exclusively relate to young people. It’s a common expression, for example, among screenwriters.

    “I don’t really want to get into a lot of the rest of the review…”

    It wasn’t a review. It was a syndicated opinion column. Normally I talk about politics and current events, but pop culture comes up too. Had it been a review, I would have needed more than 1200 words. It was a conversation starter.

    “However, if you do have a moment I’d love to hear exactly what you meant by describing the NYT pieces as crapulent.”

    If you’d like to commission such a piece, I would happy to write one. My column touched upon my main complaints: vacuous content, pretentiousness, lousy writing, confusing graphics.

    “Congrats on signing Wilkinson and your admirable launches this year, Ted, and continued success with your comics.”

    Thanks! Happy New Year and I hope you resolve those annoying server problems.

  20. If not alternative comics, what comics should adult readers be reading? I don’t think any of us look at alternative comics as a gateway so much as a destination.

    If not the books Fanta and D&Q put out, what are these mysterious top-notch comics?

  21. Hi, Ted:

    I have to commission a piece to find out what you meant by crapulent, but you’re happy to spend a graph staking out your own personal definition of opinion piece over review? That’s beneath your reputation as a forthright operator, Ted.

    As to that digression, your opinion piece pretty clearly works as a review according to the same standards — a broad reading of an American Heritage Dictionary definition — that allows you to describe the act of editing as censorship.

    Your call not to ascribe motivations is hilarious.

    I know what “Boy Meets Girl” means, Ted. I know that it can apply to a Benji movie as well as Romeo and Juliet. I wasn’t talking about the definition of “Boy Meets Girl” in order to trap you in some sort of violation of phrase law and get you thrown in word jail. I was talking about the clarity of your writing. Above all else, Ted, YOU DIDN’T USE THE ACTUAL PHRASE. You should have, if that’s what you meant.

    Further, I still maintain that in most cases, writers who use “boy meets girl” or rough variations thereof not talking to other screenwriters but writing opinion pieces/reviews tend to make distinctions clear when their use veers away from young person meeting another young person. If I describe one of those Harry Potter books as a book about a kid who slays some dragons, and a guy later on asks me where the hell the dragon was, I would probably refrain from being embarrassed on his behalf simply because I know “slaying dragons” is a common term for overcoming major obstacles in common use among authors.

    You are much kinder to the imaginary economics-theory spouting garbageman than you were to Eric Reynolds, and apparently much more demanding of the Best American Comics cartoonists than you are of yourself. Or don’t you believe it’s up to the creator to be clear?

    Ted, you’re a smart guy, and I’d cut off a toe for some of your specific skills with language. I’d KILL to read an opinion piece where we got a paragraph each on “vacuous content, pretentiousness, lousy writing, confusing graphics” instead of thundering assertions of same buttressed by a fat joke, why Chris Ware makes his writing small, legalistic and loaded uses of “boy meets girl” and “spinster” instead of clear-as-bell common-usage ones, non-credited outside opinions used to buttress points, and vague allusions to scores of cartoonists who deserve better.

  22. I’m curious…who are a few cartoonists that you’d like to see in that section over Clowes, Ware, Seth, etc. ?

    I’m asking because I’m curious, not because I mean it as a slight on your commentary. In fact I agree with some of it, as that section didn’t interest me very much. I basically had the “indifferent reaction” that you talk about (which is a shame being that I like and read comics).

    One cartoonist that comes to mind is Chester Brown. I like his work and wonder….why doesn’t he get the acclaim that Seth, Clowes, or Ware gets? Is it that some of his work is too weird for main stream places like the NY Times? Is it something else? Or am I wrong in thinking he doesn’t get the same acclaim?

    Any other cartoonists come to mind?

  23. I never understand why people feel the need to buttress their opinion with straw man arguments, insults, and gross generalizations. When you get past all of that, Mr. Rall has a legitimate argument, even though it’s one that I would disagree with. One could argue that the material presented in the funny pages isn’t best suited for serialization (at least in that format). One could also argue that there are far too few comics that “feature characters motivated by bigger concerns”. But the censorship argument is silly, as is ascribing hidden motivations to the fans and the creators. The unfortunate part of this ‘controversy’ (which arises anew every few months) is that any issue that may be worthy of discussion will never be debated. It’ll always degenerate into personal attacks and nitpicking.

  24. Tom, your host is being grossly negligent — I hope you can move or get a reduced rate or something.

    Then again, ISPs are like contractors…they know you need a roof over your head or a place to pee so they pretty much show up whenever they want,.

  25. In no order, I wonder why the NYT Magazine hasn’t asked Tom Tomorrow, Clay Butler, Shannon Wheeler, TIm Krieder, Peter Kuper, Richard Stevens, Lloyd Dangle, Ruben Bolling, Ward Sutton, Joe Sacco, David Axe, Guy Delisle, Alan Moore, and any number of superhero and/or manga artists to contribute work to their pages.

    To those who’d say that (for example) Tom Tomorrow hasn’t worked in long-form narrative, I’d answer: (a) He could, and (b) Then why not a stand-alone page?

  26. I hate that Fantagraphics publishes all those art comics by people like Johnny Ryan and Michael Kupperman. I wonder if the Bill O’Reilly of the left’s hatred of the comics in the New York Times has anything to do with them not printing his comics, one of the few things that makes this different than something written ten years ago.

  27. Ted, it’s easy and no doubt gratifying for you to suggest and/or believe that my hostility can only possibly stem from the truth of your statements, but once again, in doing so you’re ascribing motive to someone else in a purely speculative way that is very annoying given how self-serving and baseless it is. Par for the course, however. You say the Times shouldn’t run Ware but you offer no alternatives. You ascribe motivations on the part of another author that even you can’t believe (like Ware writing small to mask his deficiencies and/or spite his readers). You ascribe insincere motives to the way I and others engage work like “Mister Wonderful” (even, ironically, while grudgingly acknowledging it might have merit) which is something you can’t possibly know and is bound to insult some of us who genuinely look forward to a new chapter every week. You claim not to understand why anyone cares what anyone else is reading and then proceed to shit on what millions of people are reading every weekend. You mischaracterize the work you are criticizing to suit your reductive arguments. Basically, I think we engage comics in completely different ways, which would be fine, except when I’m told my way is part of some kind of posturing or elitist conspiracy. Gimme a break. It’s possible, Ted, that people actually enjoy Ware and Clowes and Hernandez. It’s possible that people appreciate Ware’s prose and that he hasn’t won so many literary awards entirely for illegitimate reasons. It’s possible that cream rises to the top without the help of a Da Vinci Code-like conspiracy involving the New Yorker, New York Times, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, the Bush administration, etc.

  28. Did anyone from the Times write a brief about this section before it was published? I’m curious to hear what they expected out of it.

  29. For those of you who haven’t read Clowes’s story and would be mislead by Rall’s description, here are some things in “Mister Wonderful” that are not in your standard “boy meets girl” story:

    Boy (middle-age man) gets tricked and robbed by crack whore and is grateful for it; boy has angry imp who hovers over him while spouting cynical commentary; boy’s memories and fantasies are represented in three different drawing styles; boy gets in dramatic fist-fight with homeless man –

  30. “It’s possible that cream rises to the top”

    Can we get some sort of language police to ban the use of this phrase for the rest of time? I mean, has there been any other cliche to be more consistently refuted by reality than this? Especially when concerning something, like getting space in the New York Times or winning a Nobel Peace Prize or the one for Literature, where personal relationships and political/cultural agendas obviously play such a large role.

    Mike

  31. “Boy (middle-age man) gets tricked and robbed by crack whore and is grateful for it; boy has angry imp who hovers over him while spouting cynical commentary; boy’s memories and fantasies are represented in three different drawing styles; boy gets in dramatic fist-fight with homeless man”

    All of which seems to fit into Rall’s definition of “crapulent lot”.

    Mike

  32. Shoot, if it aint got no Al-Kaaduh, jugs ‘o moonshine, er polytics — well, I caint be bothered. You gots ta speed dem stories up, boy! I aint got all day what to get to ther punchline.

  33. Have you heard the Jarvis Cocker song “Running the World”?

    Here’s the first part:

    Well did you hear, there’s a natural order?
    Those most deserving will end up with the most?
    That the cream cannot help but always rise up to the top,

    Well I say,… “Shit floats”.

    Click here for the rest of the song lyrics:

    http://www.lyricspy.com/167573/Jarvis_Cocker_lyrics/Running_The_World_lyrics.html

    I couldn’t help but think of that when I read the “cream rises to the top” line.

  34. “Shoot, if it aint got no Al-Kaaduh, jugs ‘o moonshine, er polytics — well, I caint be bothered. You gots ta speed dem stories up, boy! I aint got all day what to get to ther punchline.”

    I’m not exactly sure which way this sarcasm is aimed? Is it directed at people who can’t appreciate certain artistic work, or is it aimed at the prententious concept that “art” should be free to be boring and pointless?

    Mike

  35. Amid all the bluster here, there really is an important discussion to be had about what we consider to be the top of the form. As Jamaal Thomas points out above, this discussion comes up every once in a while and devolves into personal sniping before anything substantive can happen.

    While I wouldn’t argue the point the way Ted Rall does, I often wonder if the shine comics have at the moment will go away when people realize the stories told aren’t that interesting or inspiring. It reminds me of BR Meyers’ notorious essay in “Atlantic Monthly” a few years back about the stale, plot-less “literary fiction” that dominates bookstore shelves, while Tom Clancy and Stephen King eat up the bestseller lists. More genre fiction isn’t the answer, of course, but more compelling, gotta-find-out-what-happens-next storytelling is.

    And beyond that, we also need comics storytelling that addresses our burning questions, that we can relate to, and that thrills in some way, like all the greatest works of literature do.

    Although I’ve never read Craig Thompson’s “Blankets” I’ve heard from several different people that if the book were a regular prose novel it would have been standard, predictable, and not a bestseller. So what set it apart was the fact that it was a comic. Particularly, a comic that wasn’t pedestrian or juvenile as most mainstream readers expect comics to be. Like I said, that kind of shine can only last so long before people realize that there’s no substance underneath.

    And before I get personally sniped myself, I should say that this criticism isn’t levied wholesale at the NYT Funny Pages comics. Seth’s contribution, for example, was firmly “literary fiction” but it made us look at what a life is worth, especially when it’s ending, and whether we are judged by our accomplishments or the people who remember us. Finely wrought stuff, with nary a self-deprecating unlucky-in-love loser in sight.

    But Ted Rall’s reaction to the NYT section makes sense, especially when you see that most of whom they’ve published so far are those media darling comics artists who tend to always look inward rather than some of the others he mentions who try to reach out to all the rest of us.

  36. Jesse, I appreciate your effort to temper things. But I would argue that Clowes in particular is indeed reaching out to the readership of the Times. He’s crafted a compelling, accessible narrative that works quite well in the weekly format. I think it’s rather masterful, actually. I’m not adverse to criticism, just the way Rall goes about it. Ever since Ware wrote a vaguely insulting response to Rall’s Spiegelman hatchet job in the Village Voice, Ted has made a career out of trashing Ware, in particular, in print over and over and over. And the way he equates all of the artists in the Times thus far: Ware, Clowes, Seth, Kelso, Hernandez, Clowes — has been silly. Those are six pretty different cartoonists, and to characterize them as a kind of homogenized alt-comics sensibility strikes me as silly.

  37. There’s nothing more boring than jealousy, and Ted Rall is America’s most boring cartoonist.

    Ted, I’m sorry your daddy didn’t love you enough, and other cartoonists are more talented/successful/critically respected than you. Do yourself and the rest of the world a favor, get over it, and quit writing these embarrassing screeds.

  38. I disagree with Eric Reynolds in his last post where he writes:

    “And the way he equates all of the artists in the Times thus far: Ware, Clowes, Seth, Kelso, Hernandez, Clowes — has been silly. Those are six pretty different cartoonists”

    Those are five, not six, you fucking pot head. Ted Rall wins!

  39. Ted is complaining that a forum that is clearly designed to contain serialized medium-length works of fiction hasn’t hired a bunch of cartoonists most of whom work in extreme short form on what are basically pictorial essays. It’s like going to your local punk-rock club and complaining that they don’t book any country acts. (“I bet Toby Keith could sing some of that punk-rock music if’n you just gave him a chance.”) Or going to a baker’s and asking why they don’t have any pork chops.

    Ted does have a point –Ted actually almost always does have a point until he gets carried away– that in terms of general tone the five stories so far map similar terrain in terms of emotion, pacing, etc. (An unkind person might use the word “mopey.”) I’m not sure if this is deliberate, or just luck of the draw as the editors picked their favorite cartoonists and had their work skew that way (Jaime’s story was unusually subdued, for instance)… although Jason’s “Low Moon,” which will follow Clowes in the Spring, is entirely different, and I’m sure Marjane Satrapi (who turned them down) would have been quite different as well.

    In the spirit of holiday generosity I will not submit the suggestion that Shannon Wheeler belongs in this company to the detailed mocking it so richly deserves.

    Incidentally, there is not a goddamn thing stopping the cartoonists Ted cites from working up a proposal and sending it to the NEW YORK TIMES SUNDAY MAGAZINE editor if they are so inclined, but my guess is that Ward Sutton and Tom Tomorrow’s reaction to this whole controversy is “huh?”

  40. The group chosen for the New York Times tends to be an introduction to the legends working today. They also tend to be guys who can draw well. Extremely well.

    Indeed, as someone mentioned, Tom Tomorrow and the like are not graphic novelists. I have never even seen him tell a story. Those are political cartoonists for the most part, or comic strippers (?). The New York Times is getting storytellers, and likewise its getting storytellers who would appeal to thier readers, mainly ones of extremely quiet, way of life, New Yorkey, literary guys. The comic equivalent of a John Cheever or a J.D. Salinger.

    As for superheroes and manga, the first one gets more play than it ever needed or deserved. If superheroes dropped off of the Earth right now, there would be still more material than one would know what to do with. Manga tends to be Japanese, and the closest thing we have to a truly great acclaimed Manga artist would be Scott O’Malley, and calling him that is short changing him.

    I think the stories feel similar because there’s a tendency to lump all alt-cartoonists into one category, which is of course silly. It would be like lumping Frank Miller with Jeff Smith just because they both made superheroes. Mister Wonderful is poignant, but it never reaches the sadness of Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’.

  41. I also want to add that the NYT’s Funny Pages are special for using art cartoonists. Shannon Wheeler, Ward Sutton, Tom Tomorrow, those guys will always find thier way to the news pages. But Chris Ware and the rest could only

    What other newspaper publishes art cartoonists regularly?! Unorthodx art cartoonists you see no where else? None! What papers published Sutton and Tomorrow? A bunch!

    Its a special thing. Its not the Reuben Awards and its not who gets into Comics Heaven. Its a special thing for alt toons.

  42. I didn’t finish that sentence. Oh well. It was ‘Only be found in specialty book stores and the occasional one copy in a Barned and Nobles’.

  43. I agree with Kim T:

    Kim Thompson Says:
    12/28/07 at 7:32 pm

    In the spirit of holiday generosity I will not submit the suggestion that Shannon Wheeler belongs in this company to the detailed mocking it so richly deserves.

  44. Ted,

    You’re tap-dancing in this thread is really pretty funny. You wrote a petty piece about artists whose work is, frankly, of a far greater quality than yours. Are you entitled to that opinion, of course. Am I entitled to think you come across as shrill, unpleasant and crass, of course. Crying censor, quoting the dictionary at people, claiming other just aren’t ‘getting’ what you said, please. You sound no different than the typical internet troll spoiling for a fight.

    As for elitism, that doesn’t even make sense. Do you even understand how much you sound like the very right-wing demagogues you rail against with reactions like that. People who criticize you get a a label slapped on them. You’re all liberals…I mean elitists.

    I think it’s very entertaining to see so many smart and talented people (like the amazing COOP) come out swinging at your nonsense. You have every right to your opinion Ted. And we have every right to think you an ass for it.

  45. 2 (usu. philistine) a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them

  46. Ted Rall Says:
    “Which is why Gary Larsen is better than Winsor McCay.”

    That’s not only absurd, it’s not even a sentence.

  47. Winsor McCay isn’t really suppoused to be funny. And he certainly wasn’t going after the crowd which purchases little day to day calendars. Is Picasso worse than Gary Larson? He has more relation as they both create single images. Larson is funnier though.

  48. Alex:

    I’d very respectfully disagree with you about Winsor McKay. Have you seen his “Rarebit Fiends” strips? Some of those are hysterically funny. The “So Many Splendid Sundays” Nemo book has some real guffaws in it.

    Mind you it’s humor from nearly a century ago, but it holds up pretty well.

    The connection between the two is pretty clear, as Larson continues the tradition of playing with the very nature of the reality of the strip, breaking the fourth wall (or is that the third wall for 2d rendering?) and generally madcap work.

  49. Kim wins.

    I thank the all-star comment thread for sharing their thoughts and salute the great cartoonists who have done strips for the New York Times, and now we will close this thread and look forward to a glorious 2008.