Why Comics Have Failed to Achieve Real Respect


#1

This is a really fascinating essay on Sequart that was posted recently:

http://www.sequart.org/magazine/4079/why-comics-have-failed-to-achieve-real-respect/

(No, I didn’t write it.) It’s a worthy read, one that touches on the cultural cache that comics have. The writer does a good job dilineating why he believes the “respect” comics seem to have today isn’t the good kind. He goes on to basically analyze the current state of superhero comics (because they dominate the industry) and while his analysis is rather general, it sounds accurate.

Here’s a nice snippet:

Check out the entire essay if you get a chance. Thought this might make for some entertaining discussion.


#2

Great article man thanks for sharing.

Ultimately I think the United States is never going to fully respect comics, cartoons or any sort of animation. This isn’t the case in many parts of the world.

Sometimes I think people in the field don’t do things that can help either and just confirm what the general public already believes.

The Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons is a perfect example since Matt’s cartoonist and that show has been on for a zillion years. He has a built in audience where he could educate people on fandom and the genre. Or at least not put it down for cheap laughs.

Joe Quesada once said that off camera a reporter admitted to him in secret that he read comics. JQ said that kind of shame he wanted to eliminate forever.

And then when it came out that Obama used to read Spider-Man comics JQ said, “The President is a nerd!”

So yeah…


#3

Just a question but why do you think that is?


#4

It’s really difficult to explain why.

I’ve been to Japan and they have cartoon characters on police cars. Adults read manga on the train and no one cares. Back home in the Dominican Republic my aunt has a comic book collection that follows a Latino teenager and no one looks down on her, in fact she is envied for having it. Grown ups watch cartoons and it is considered okay. In lots of European countries they are huge fans of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics and again it’s not something that’s shunned or frowned upon.

Honestly I don’t see many comic book fans as being so different from people who are devote sports fans, women who know a lot about shoes or people who have hobbies.

Society here for whatever reason determines that this is socially acceptable and being a fan of something else isn’t. I think most people are never going to stop thinking that comics and cartoons are stuff for kids and that comics are nothing more than, like Goody said once ‘biff boom sock.’

I’m not saying there aren’t people like ‘The Comic Book Guy’ out there but there are even worse sports fans, music fans, etc. Being too much of a fan of any one thing, heck too much of any one thing isn’t good for anybody. A lot of us are fans of comics but we have other hobbies too. Lol if you’re posting on SRK I imagine you have at least some fascination with video games at least.

If you want I can talk about how ‘heroes’ came about and maybe therein lies the problem in some ways. This will just be about super heroes. I do have to delve into religion for a bit and I know it is a sensitive topic for a lot of people. So my apologies before hand. I myself am not an athiest and I do believe in something but that’s probably beside the point.

Long ago, people believed that gods like Zeus, Thor, Hercules etc. etc. were real people. At some point in time people decided that those characters were BS and the Bible was real.

The Bible, has nowhere to go really storyline-wise because there are people out there that think it’s real. No one is going to write the further adventures of David or Teenage Jesus Christ because people would demand they be sent to Hell. Of course the church has added, edited and even tried to fix the Bible’s ‘continuity’ many times throughout the years but these are things not known to the general public. Or known to the public and ignored.

But the stories of heroes still managed to flourish in books, plays, theater and within the last 100 years or so you had books like Conan, Zorro, James Bond and so on where stories of heroes continued.

With movies and TV they still go on but in today’s day and age it seems the notion of heroes and expanding mythologies really flourishes in super hero comics. Grant Morrison made this analogy before in a much smarter way than I ever could. I tend to agree with him here.

Morrison also said that if you were to take every single panel Superman has appeared in and laid it out before you you can see his entire life span. I imagine if there is a God in Heaven that this is the same way he would look down on our lives. It’s something that is not possible in any other type of medium. Which is why I really think the stories of heroes and the sense of a grand ‘mythology’ really flourishes in comics more than anywhere else.

Our society, in the United States seems to be split into 2 extremes. Obviously there are variations but I’m really dealing with these extremes since they are most likely ones that seem to determine what is socially acceptable and what isn’t.

Ever since Darwinism, you have people who are athiests, don’t believe in anything or at the very least are not certain of anything.

Then you have the extreme religous set, people who think that the Bible was hand written by the man upstairs and it is an actual detailing of events.

It doesn’t seem like either extreme is willing to care about people following the day to day events of these heroes. Hardcore athiests will probably think that you are just escaping to a world of kiddy BS. Hardcore religous people will probably think you are being blasphemous.

These two extremes seem to be the ones that determine societal norms amongst people. Seriously, look into politics or watch an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. We are a nation of people who either wants to seperate church and state or wants to marry church and state.

That is not to say that there aren’t athiests or devout religous people that don’t enjoy comics because there are.

I’m not saying that Marvel and DC elevate to a high standard all of the time because they certainly don’t. I’m fine with that. I don’t need a comic book to change my outlook on life all the time. Sometimes I just want to read about someone getting punched in the face. Though there are times when comics come out that seem to elevate the genre. Morrison’s All-Star Superman or Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. comic. Obviously anything written by Alan Moore. I just don’t see even 100 of these changing the perception people have about comics.

Perhaps this may be over explaining things. Maybe this is just a country where people are in such a hurry to grow up, get their driver’s license, get a job and move out that they feel everyone needs to leave ‘childish’ things behind. Maybe it’s just as simple as that.

I was reading an article that said that grown men in Japan are looked down upon for playing console video games. Handhelds and cell phone games are okay because they are just ‘killing time’ on the train but not console games. It’s interesting that here no one cares if you are an adult and play video games, it is deemed socially acceptable nowadays. To an extent anyway.

Different strokes different folks I guess.


#5

I just find it weird. I’m originally from the Middle East and nobody really cared what you did , mostly because the comic book scene was very small and the few people that I met were pretty accepting of comics and most of my friends were into the nerdy things in general

And I kinda agree with you , it does seem like everyone is in a hurry to grow up and leave “childish” things behind.


#6

I’m already in a relationship and developed fantastic social skills, people knowing I read comics or watch cartoons doesn’t matter.

Also the Great Gatsby was meh, MEH I SAY!


#7

I agree with you but it is sort of a back handed respect.

Regarding the Oscars, I honestly don’t think that Pixar’s latest outing is always the best animated movie of the year every year when you are taking the entire world into account.

It’s like we just give ourselves five for making what we think is the best animated movie. When lots of years it actually isn’t even among the other movies that nabbed a nomination.

And this is without even taking anime into account. Persepolis and even last year’s The Illusionist (which at least got a nomination), I mean seriously there’s lots more intellectually stimulating animation out there.

Almost every critic dogged Cars 2. If it wins an oscar next year I will cry foul. Well it will probably go to Puss 'N Boots anyway.

The year Princess Mononoke won was a good year. Not just because it was anime and it’s not even my favorite Ghibli film, but because it wasn’t Pixar / Disney / Dreamworks. Disney did distribute the film in the United States though. Guess you can’t win them all.


#8

Persepolis should have won that Oscar. Can’t believe Ratatouille beat it


#9

they get respect from the proper people.

they don’t need respect from others.


#10

Thanks for the thoughtful replies, Sano.

Personally, I’ve never identified with the culture where people boast about being geeky or nerdy or whatever. It’s like people think that if they claim a pejorative as their own, they can rob it of its power or turn it around or something. I’ve never been down with that attitude. I don’t consider myself a geek or a nerd even though I spend inordinate amounts of time reading and thinking about comic books, videogames, sports, animation, and so forth. But I don’t think I’d punch anyone in the face if he called me a geek or a nerd, either. He’d have to say something about my mother.

To me, comics are just the preferred entertainment and artistic medium of the intellectual elite. I would love it if comics engendered the same level of respect that prose literature or film command. It does matter to me that comics get the right type of respect, as the writer of the article I posted states. I don’t see that happening any time soon, though. As much as I’d like things to be different, the fact of the matter is that as long as superheroes dominate the industry, it’s gonna be tough to get the real, substantial respect the writer mentions.

Even Watchmen, which I think we can all agree is one of the hallmarks of the comics medium and probably the most well-respected work in the superhero genre, is something like twenty-five years old now. How can it be that in the quarter century since Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, there’s hardly been any superhero comics that can measure up? I know there have been a lot of excellent superhero comics in the past couple decades; heck, even in the past year there have been some really great ones. But why don’t those comics approach anything like the level of respect Watchmen has?


#11

As far as super heroes go I can’t think of much else that has pushed the genre as much as Watchmen did. I’m not saying that’s as far as you can push the genre and obviously I haven’t read everything but nothing else comes to mind.

It does make me wonder if the book would have an even greater impact if they used Captain Atom, The Question, Black Canary etc. instead of the swaps they wound up using. I’m sure DC would slap an Elsewords label on it because the story doesn’t seem like it can fit with the rest of the DC Universe (well maybe with some tweaks to either the universe or the story) but still.

I wonder about the material that Steve Ditko is doing lately, since Moore seemed to base Rorschach more on Ditko (if you’ve ever come across any of his confusing rants online you know what I mean) than Ditko’s creation The Question.

Well Ditko’s still a total recluse and it’s not like he’s ever going to call up Diamond to distribute the material he makes in his basement so that’s about the limit of my curiousity.


#12

The Joe Quesadas of this world are a major part of the problem.

As long as the medium is dominated by an industry that dedicates itself to the manufacture of boys’ adventure stories and shrivels away like a frightened turtle from anything that threatens the status quo, comics will never gain any kind of wide-ranging respect. Not from outside its niche, not even really from within its niche. It is simply not going to happen.

Steve Ditko currently has an office in New York where he does… something.

Hey, I’m posting in the comics forum!


#13

thats not it though. it’s just perfectly fine that some things are not for everyone.


#14

Care to elaborate on your line of thinking?


#15

Not to be confrontational or answer a question with a question but could you elaborate on why comics need respect from people who do not yet respect them?


#16

Comic books in America will never get respect by the General Public because the only comic books they see are trite old superhero shit. Comics are so much more than DC rehashing Superman with a short sleeve shirt or Marvel making spider-man blackspanic. How many people even know about stuff like Asterios Polyp, Lost Girls, World War Robot?

Holy Terror (which is utterly fantastic IMO) got panned by comic book insider reviews, but got heaps of praise by artists and modern art reviews. The mainstream comic industry is this secular incestuous business that just keeps fucking itself over and over, if they can’t recognize the good shit when it comes why should the public?

Casey and Wood’s Automatic Kafka (the best comic book you’ll never read, because they wont allow it to get reprinted in the USA) said it best in the last issue, a great line that went something along the lines of “Pretensions of art, sold in a catalog…heroes wear the costume but they are just another product”


#17

I have to disagree with you on Holy Terror, checked it out for myself and I did not like it all

Also Ashley Woods is one of my favorite artists ever, especially the MGS comic style art


#18

The story is very cathartic and rushed, feels like Miller just wanted to vent emotions. But the art is amazing, Miller’s fearlessness in inking is fantastic. He’s on a completely higher level than anyone else in comics IMO


#19

Yeah I can see why you’d appreciate the art but the story kinda overshadowed it for me and made it hard for me to appreciate it


#20

I only had a chance to flip through it. The art is incredible, but the quality of writing, from what I saw, is FM in ASBAR mode.

Still, he’s almost like an underground artist, treating comics as a vehicle for pushing people’s buttons in ways that are both crude and beautiful.

It is funny how you can tell it was originally developed as a Batman story.