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#191934 - 12/20/07 12:21 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
"I don't know why PROMETHEA isn't any more readily comparable than the others. If Bat + man = Batman, so hawk + man = Hawkman, isn't rewriting tropes, then nothing Moore does is rewriting tropes. One writer's thematic concepts are another's basic."

He's rewriting them to give them greater thematic complexity, which is apparently one reason you find Moore superior to Fox. In contrast, I would say that Moore has less on the ball than Fox in terms of creating new characters. Now, one can choose to value a Moore co-creation like John Constantine far more than Fox's best-known creations, like the first Flash and Hawkman, as well as several others of varying merit. One is entitled to make such a statement of preference in terms of taste. However, I think it's worth pointing out that Fox's mode of creativity-- naive and readerly as it may have been-- allowed him the mental freedom to create a wider variety of figures. And as long as a fair number of them have some merit, then Fox wins over Moore in that particular department.

I don't think Hawkman is just a rewritten Batman, even though they share a common adventure-idiom. That doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of unvarnished Batman copies out there, of course.

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#191935 - 12/20/07 12:36 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
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Loc: Houston, TX
"Well, since you feel it's okay to compare Sherlock Holmes to Eco and Borges, then it's okay to compare superheroes to their work."

I made a rhetorical comparison of the three that took into account that they operated in different literary modes:

"Doyle's STUDY IN SCARLET is patently what I consider a readerly work. It is a work in which the solution of a specific mystery is the goal, and the goal is accomplished to the satisfaction of the general readership of mysteries and allied thriller-stories.

Borges' DEATH AND THE COMPASS is patently a writerly story in that it seeks to undermine the expectations of the mystery-story, in large part by having the Holmes-imitator Lonnrot bungle the solution of the mystery so that he's killed in the end.

Eco's NAME OF THE ROSE is one of those works discussed earlier, like Shakespeare's plays, that successfully balanced the two concerns. There is a mystery to be solved, and it is successfully solved by Eco's medieval version of Sherlock Holmes, providing satisfaction to the casual reader. However, the book also ventures into analytic territory that is not the specialty of the readerly work, through dramatizing ancient Christian sectarian struggles which arguably still affect Western culture today.

SCARLET gives us a lived question, "Can Holmes learn the identity and motives of the killer," to which the answer is yes.

COMPASS gives us a raised question, which has more to do with analyzing the expectations created by the detective genre.

Between the two of these there is not a difference of degree, but of kind. They are asking questions that have as little to do with one another as the two questions I used for the lived/raised dichotomy: calculating whether one can dash across a street to beat a truck versus evaluating the status of one's life in the face of death."

Within the rhetorical sphere one can compare anything, just as I compared SPIDEY to LOLITA and PNIN for rhetorical effect, not because I believed them to be the same kinds of story. So yeah, by the logic of rhetoric you can assert that every superhero comic every published is aesthetically inferior to the three authors named, just as I could assert that I found SPIDEY preferable to PNIN. But having made your rather more sweeping assertion, you're obliged to show proof-- but how can you, given so many millions of examples to prove inferior?

By the way, here's the definiton of "rhetoric" I'm going by from Dictionary.com, should you want to question it:

"the art of making persuasive speeches; oratory."

I distinguish this from hard analysis, where one has to deal more precisely with the nature of the things compared.

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#191936 - 12/20/07 02:42 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
stevv Offline
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You were orating?

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#191937 - 12/20/07 02:54 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
"Just to remind you, I wasn't arguing that Eco was a better writer than Doyle, so your proof was to your own satisfaction, not mine."

I put forth an argument outlining why I felt they worked in different idioms, because I found your position on their comparability to be wrong. I believe your only response so far has been to reiterate that they did essentially the same thing, so there's not much more to add.

"But Superman isn't aimed at people who do want that, it doesn't take them into account. Thus, it's not "readerly" for some audiences. To say it's more readerly because it aims at its own audience rather than another is a unitary standard. That's myopic, QED."

What makes a given work readerly or writerly is in the nature of the raised/lived questions (or combinations thereof) it asks. That is what decides what audiences the work is "aimed" at, not the tautology you propose.

"Not sure what you're talking about, but since your idiom fits everything written, no. I don't think your term has much use do to its loose application, though."

You've had every opportunity to prove that it's loose, but you have yet to substantively refute the Eco/Borges/Doyle paradigm I put forth. Your only counter has been merely to reiterate that they are too all in the same idiom (or whatever word you might choose) when I have demonstrated that they are not.

"Try again."

Go back and read what I wrote before. Ah, that's right. Couldn't be bothered to do that with the detectives paradigm either, right?

'My response wasn't to any metaphor of "starvation," but to your oldfashioned notion of what's a primary concern (which was real food, not metaphorical food). That you see Spidey any more related to such a concern than Borges is ridiculous.'

The point is that wanting real food when you are hungry is a primary need. Any intellectual rationale that helps one think that he attain his primary desires through such-and-such a belief-system is clearly a secondary overlay. The literary parallel seems obvious to me: Borges' DEATH AND THE COMPASS can grow out of A STUDY IN SCARLET, and one may even choose to prize the former more than the latter, but the latter comes first, historically speaking.

BTW, please define this phrase from 12-7:

"a first-world context"

A sociological reference, I take it, but I may as well be certain.

"Since you seem to have missed it, here's what I said regarding Spidey's "failure"'

That's not quite all you said. I was referencing your remarks from 12-03:

"Early Spiderman attempted to deal with alienation, but it didn't do it as well as REBEL, but maybe it did it as well as VILLAGE. It's goals and feel are closer to the latter."

FTR, I disagreed earlier on this same page.

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#191938 - 12/20/07 02:58 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
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Loc: Houston, TX
Quote:
Originally posted by stevv:
You were orating?
Doesn't everyone here?

Or for that matter, everyone on any messageboard?

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#191939 - 12/20/07 04:33 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
stevv Offline
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Registered: 07/23/05
Posts: 1579
Loc: The Bristol, Cuba St
I was referring to orating as being (as your dictionary def says) about speech - verbal, not written. But I know what you meant; I was just being cheeky.

Quote:
"a first-world context"

A sociological reference, I take it, but I may as well be certain.
Ooh! Pick me, pick me!

I'd say he is referring to the old First-world to Third-world model. I was taught that it's nearly redundant, or at least a fairly flawed paradigm. But it still works as a rough indicator, which is how Charles meant it, I'd say. He is basically referring to developed economies. His point wouldn't necessarily apply to people living in countries that are impoverished or have economies of a significantly different nature.

The model basically goes:
1st World = Western countries with developed economies, technologically advanced etc.
2nd World = Commies (old 'Eastern Block')
3rd World = developing economies/poor countries like most African nations.
Latterly, 4th World has come to refer to the least developed.

There are many problems with the model, of course. Is Brazil still 'third world'? What about China? Is Nth Korea Second, or Forth now? Not to mention more fundamental debates about the objectivity of the judgment about 'developed', is this a form of cultural imperialism etc. Anyway, there you go.

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#191940 - 12/21/07 10:50 AM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
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Thanks, Stevv. Wanna explain the rest of my points to Gene?

Eco vs. Doyle vs. Borges -- I never said they did essentially the same thing, only that they wrote works in the same genre, even subgenre, so they're comparable. I gave examples of what made them of the same genre and why you're not correct in saying they shouldn't be compared.

Spidey's "failure" -- My take is that it's something akin to how VILLAGE fails: it's only a failure when someone else can't tell the difference between what it is and great literature. Since you now say any comparison of Spidey and Nabokov's writing, etc., is purely rhetorical (persuasive of what is anyone's guess), and that no literal comparison between their qualities should be attempted, I don't see much of an argument, and no "failure." Spidey isn't on the same level as Nabokov or Camus in terms of how they deal with their subject matter. That's obvious and we all agree, I now take it.

Moore's co-creations vs. Fox's -- It's a matter of taste, which one you might prefer, but it's a matter of argument which one is more creative. And if you really think what Fox did ever came any where close to WATCHMEN et al., it's only due to some artificially limited notion of creativity. SWAMP THING might've not started as a Moore creation, but what he did with the character and its supporting cast was as novel as anything Fox ever did.
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#191941 - 12/24/07 02:32 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
"Moore's co-creations vs. Fox's -- It's a matter of taste, which one you might prefer, but it's a matter of argument which one is more creative. And if you really think what Fox did ever came any where close to WATCHMEN et al., it's only due to some artificially limited notion of creativity. SWAMP THING might've not started as a Moore creation, but what he did with the character and its supporting cast was as novel as anything Fox ever did."

It's not any more artificially limited than any notion you would use to tout Moore's superiority. You're choosing to look at those factors that support your notion of excellence, and it's obvious that even before we made any comparisons between Fox and Moore that this notion did not include the ability to come up with new basic concepts. It's just a basic fact that Fox has created more original characters that have had a "following" (be it mainstream or indie) than Moore has. There's no "argument" that can alter that fact. I've already said that taste-wise, you can choose to prefer Constantine over all of Fox's original creations, though it's awful hard to see how you could still argue greater creativity. You would have a stronger argument if you said that Moore was more creative with his re-creations-- with Swampy, with the Watchmen, with the League-- since he substantially altered them all-- than Fox was with his original creations. But since even Moore's "improvements" aren't numerically superior to Fox's-- many of which are still being used, if not "improved"-- such an argument still would be disallowing Fox's raw "naive" creativity for the sake of championing Moore's somewhat-more sophisticated re-creativity. And that just takes us back to the fallacy pointed out by Schechter, in which popular forms, such as adventure or melodrama, are seen as inferior imitations of literary modes. The readerly and writerly modes, as well as whatever's in between, do influence one another but in essence the sophisticated form never really precedes the naive one.

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#191942 - 12/24/07 03:02 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
gene phillips Offline
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Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
'Spidey's "failure" -- My take is that it's something akin to how VILLAGE fails: it's only a failure when someone else can't tell the difference between what it is and great literature.'

This is the same thing you keep asserting even though I've never said that SPIDER-MAN is literature, and I'm aware of no significant critics that have made such an argument. I've just said that it functions within its own idiom and that it has its own "mythicity" irregardless of not being within a more sophisticated idiom. The fact that you keep reiterating this argument suggests that your conception of "what is literary" depends on keeping the boundaries between art and trash vigilantly defended. If so it's a battle you've already lost, both in terms of what's happening in the wider culture and in terms of your own argument. You complained early on that I was bothered by the high/low divide and that you had transcended the divide by focusing only upon "quality." But your concept of quality causes you to repeatedly misrepresent what the "trash" does or is meant to do, so it's a false concept which is merely meant to shore up the idea that the sophisticated is always better than the naive. This is still just Old Elitism in new bottles. An Old Elitist would have insisted that one form was better than others-- for instance, in the 18th century, verse dramas were considered superior to that usurping form "the prose novel." You don't have the prejudice against forms, but you do have one related to the presence or absence of literary themes. Same difference.

I'll have to go over the detectives response later when I've more time, but I don't remember your making any salient points; you might want to cite the specific passage.

As I've said before with the Goodwin/Mantlo example, it's quite possible for a work to "fail" on its own terms. I don't really see SPIDER-MAN and VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS as being very good comparisons (what's the common genre? Teens with super-powers?), but again since one can indeed compare anything, I would say that SPIDEY succeeds as readerly entertainment and VILLAGE fails, rather than saying that either fails by some inapplicable set of standards. I think that the simple-textured works can have standards of their own, and that includes having their own distinct kinds of symbolic discourse that I term "mythicity." SPIDEY has it, and going on my memory of it VILLAGE doesn't, though I can occasionally see such discourses even in works that are technically inferior to VILLAGE in some respects: the low-budget film ROBOT MONSTER, for instance, which I mentioned on another thread.

So I still don't think we're agreed, somehow.

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#191943 - 12/25/07 12:07 PM Re: Debate About State of "Art-Comics" (Particularly Clowes), But w/o Superhero Nuts
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
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Quote:
You're choosing to look at those factors that support your notion of excellence, and it's obvious that even before we made any comparisons between Fox and Moore that this notion did not include the ability to come up with new basic concepts. It's just a basic fact that Fox has created more original characters that have had a "following" (be it mainstream or indie) than Moore has. There's no "argument" that can alter that fact.
Taking established characters, turning their previous stories into a fiction within the fiction, and then creating a whole new structurally complex narrative is a highly creative act. Coming up with a superpower and name isn't that novel or inventive in and of itself once the basic template is in place. If there has been formally a character who has indestructibility and super-strength, what other superpower might I come up with? Oh, how about a guy who can fly? Or a guy who can swim under water? Etc.. What's ultimately important is the creative ways in which that superhero is put to use. Now, I happen to think Fox was pretty creative in this area, even if his stories are often laughable and nonsensical -- but that's why I enjoy them. However, if you consider the creation of complex narratives, which will only reward contemplation with more developed questions about the narratives themselves, Moore wins.

Quote:
You complained early on that I was bothered by the high/low divide and that you had transcended the divide by focusing only upon "quality." But your concept of quality causes you to repeatedly misrepresent what the "trash" does or is meant to do, so it's a false concept which is merely meant to shore up the idea that the sophisticated is always better than the naive. This is still just Old Elitism in new bottles. An Old Elitist would have insisted that one form was better than others-- for instance, in the 18th century, verse dramas were considered superior to that usurping form "the prose novel." You don't have the prejudice against forms, but you do have one related to the presence or absence of literary themes. Same difference.
An "Old Elitist" wouldn't consider reading, much less giving serious thought to, something like MIRACLEMAN a worthwhile activity. Again, my rejection of the high/low divide has to do with its being based on political assumptions, rather than the intrinsic qualities of the work itself. Considering, say, WATCHMEN to be more important, narratively and thematically, than, say, WHITE NOISE, is a rejection of the high/low divide. However, saying IRON MAN has never reached the level of either doesn't say anything about the divide, except whatever erroneous interpolations you might make based on your own assumptions. If you're still buying into genre politics, then you'd likely say I'm dismissing a genre (which you always try to do), despite the fact that I do celebrate works within the genre I'm supposedly dismissing in toto.

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I've just said that [Spidey] functions within its own idiom and that it has its own "mythicity" irregardless of not being within a more sophisticated idiom.
So it doesn't aim as high, and doesn't achieve as much. Okay. That it's entertaining for what it is seems to be what you're saying. Nabokov is more justifiably celebrated as a writer than Lee, irrespective of genre politics.

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But your concept of quality causes you to repeatedly misrepresent what the "trash" does or is meant to do, so it's a false concept which is merely meant to shore up the idea that the sophisticated is always better than the naive.
My Christmas present to myself was the new Bear Family boxset of Merle Haggard's 69-76 studio recordings. Now, his biggest, most representative hit was and remains "Okie from Muskogee," which expressed a pretty naive, reactionary take on late 60s politics. In an interview for the set, he talks about how unsophisticated and naive he was in writing that song, how wrong he was about the politics of the Left at that time (he even discovered the virtues of the herb in the 70s). Regardless, that song is one of the greatest country songs ever written. It expresses and perfectly captures a significant portion of our country and helps define it. It, without a doubt, expresses as much truth and is as important as any more sophisticated song by Dylan. Pound for pound, Dylan is the better songwriter, but Hag had his moments (quite a few, in fact). So, no, sophistication doesn't always produce better art than naivete, but probability is on the side of the former.

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You don't have the prejudice against forms, but you do have one related to the presence or absence of literary themes.
If by "literary themes," you mean relevancy to humans, then, yeah, I'm oldfashioned in just that way. The more relevant to defining who we are, the more I'll prize some art. But I enjoy entertaining distractions, I confess, and that's relevant, too, just not as ultimately relevant as some other activities.

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As I've said before with the Goodwin/Mantlo example, it's quite possible for a work to "fail" on its own terms. I don't really see SPIDER-MAN and VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS as being very good comparisons (what's the common genre? Teens with super-powers?), but again since one can indeed compare anything, I would say that SPIDEY succeeds as readerly entertainment and VILLAGE fails, rather than saying that either fails by some inapplicable set of standards. I think that the simple-textured works can have standards of their own, and that includes having their own distinct kinds of symbolic discourse that I term "mythicity." SPIDEY has it, and going on my memory of it VILLAGE doesn't, though I can occasionally see such discourses even in works that are technically inferior to VILLAGE in some respects: the low-budget film ROBOT MONSTER, for instance, which I mentioned on another thread.

So I still don't think we're agreed, somehow.
Well, we don't agree that two works have to be in the same genre to be compared, evidently. For example, if the same theme is addressed (e.g., alienation) then one can compare works from different genres. But, then again, you say anything can be compared. I assume you mean reasonably compared, so sharing a theme is as good a reason as anything. Thus, it's pretty easy to see the similarities between VILLAGE ... and SPIDERMAN; it is to me, anyway, but I don't share your elitist disdain for campy movies.

I think we also disagree on private standards. Any standard you might come up with for Spidey will -- if it's to have any relevance -- be applicable to other works, not all of which will be limited to the superhero genre. Some of these standards won't be applicable to other media (for example panel-to-panel flow), but I can't imagine any themes, which won't be translatable. Likewise, certain standards of a genre are what help to distinguish it from another, such as suspense, and so won't be a sign of failure if a work doesn't meet them. But that's not saying such standards aren't applicable to that particular other-genre work, only that it helps define what it is not. If interested, you can look up Wittgenstein's private language argument on Wikipedia for an argument against private standards.

This is just another way to say that while it's possible to compare something like Spidey to Nabokov on similarities, it's pretty pointless, because Lee just doesn't come close to the level of Nabokov. You originally agreed that the two could be reasonably compared when you said:
Quote:
However, when on another thread I suggested that SPIDER-MAN could be in certain ways superior to Nabokov's LOLITA, Charles disagreed (to put it mildly).
Only disagreeing with me that the gap in their abilities is so vast that it either renders the comparison either too obvious to bother with or goofy if you actually think Lee comes up favorably.

We both agree, however, that Spidey is more entertaining than VILLAGE ....
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