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#191944 - 12/29/07 01:36 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
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
You said: "However, if you consider the creation of complex narratives, which will only reward contemplation with more developed questions about the narratives themselves, Moore wins."

Which pretty much agrees with what I said:

"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."

So you're choosing "the creation of complex narratives" as your goalposts for creativity, and the fact that you privilege them for having some metafictional content brings me back to my assertion that you also privilege thematic realism. I don't think anything's wrong with this idiom but it's superior only by the strictures developed for it, and they don't say anything about what goes into making the more simply-textured works function.

"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."

Even in the bare design of the character, one can discern elements of greater vs. lesser creativity. It's possible that not a single story of the Golden Age Aquaman possesses enough creativity that either of us would care much to read the stories, be it for whimsical nonsensicality (you) or for mythicity (me). From a historical POV I would be more interested in the character than you because of later treatments of the character, which IMO did acquire mythicity. But even just reading the origin tale of the 40s hero, I do discern at least a good basic name and costume design, and those by themselves are noteworthy-- as many "basic template" heroes are not.

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#191945 - 12/29/07 01:49 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
'An "Old Elitist" wouldn't consider reading, much less giving serious thought to, something like MIRACLEMAN a worthwhile activity.'

Elitists may not want to ever move their boundaries, but historically speaking, they do. An elitist in the age of the Enlightenment could afford to look down upon novels as inferior to verse drama because there wasn't a widespread knowledge of what novels could do. Once it was established that novels can be good, the next generation of elitists had to distinguish between good novels and bad novels. Similarly, an elitist who considered all comic books garbage because of the form might enjoy his state of ignorance as long as society did not contradict it. Then the next generation has to start distinguishing between good comic books and bad ones, which is where one gets into debates about defining the "good"-- like this one.

"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."

Whose political assumptions? Can't be mine, since I rejected earlier the notion of a pure ideological reading of genre.

"Considering, say, WATCHMEN to be more important, narratively and thematically, than, say, WHITE NOISE, is a rejection of the high/low divide."

If they're both works that fit, or aspire to fit, the unitary standards of high culture, then I don't see how it's a rejection of any sort, except to some Old Elitist who believed in the automatic superiority of the novel-form over that of the comic book.

"despite the fact that I do celebrate works within the genre I'm supposedly dismissing in toto."

What you dismiss is the validity of the readerly mode of narrative, as shown by your privileging of complex narratives.

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#191946 - 12/29/07 02:01 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
"So [SPIDER-MAN] doesn't aim as high, and doesn't achieve as much."

Well, a marathon runner may not jump as high as a pole-vaulter, but somehow I suspect that the runner's not that concerned about achieving the same results as the vaulter.

"If by "literary themes," you mean relevancy to humans, then, yeah, I'm oldfashioned in just that way."

At last we agree on something.

" For example, if the same theme is addressed (e.g., alienation) then one can compare works from different genres."

What alienation did you see in VILLAGE? The film gives a pretty one-sided view of the villainous Teen Giants as a bunch of no-good shiftless bums. It's about as nuanced as the Ratpack of Erich Von Zipper.

" I don't share your elitist disdain for campy movies."

And you can say this with a straight face (I assume) right after reprinting the section where I expressed a liking for the camp-favorite ROBOT MONSTER?

"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."

I haven't suggested that they be limited to the superhero genre: only to similar genres like other adventure-melodramas. Given the extent that I'm trying to enunciate how all the different idioms reflect and reinforce one another, accusations of insularity are pretty laughable.

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#191947 - 12/29/07 02:33 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
As long as I'm on a roll today, I may as well address the "alienation in SPIDEY" thing more fully.

As I understand it, it's your contention that by unitary standards SPIDEY fails as a study of teen alienation compared to other works such as the film REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE.

I pointed out at one point that I don't regard SPIDEY as a realistic depiction of teen life, as RWAC purports to be, so I don't hold it to those standards. To prove that it was not realistic I noted that Parker is alienated only to the extent that it serves the purpose of a wish-fulfillment scenario, in which Parker the Nerd transforms into Parker the Love God.

A couple of times you've asserted that the alienation theme is undermined by such wish-fulfillment elements. I think it's evident that those elements are the centerpiece, with the alienation serving as a melodramatic side-dish.

And I would say that even though the elements of the wish-fulfillment "Parker the Love God" are more evident in the Romita years than in the Ditko period, they're clearly there as early as AMAZING FANTASY #15. For one thing, Ditko doesn't make his "professional wallflower" a homely nerd. He's a handsome nerd-- the description "clean cut" (whatever the hell that means; none of the high schoolers have frickin' BEARDS!) appears in #15-- and that suggests that the creators always intended that he should become attractive to women.

Ergo, though Parker is never as girl-crazy as Archie Andrews, the spectacle of having gorgeous women fight over him means about the same thing that it means in ARCHIE-- a big boost to the ego, and a wish fulfilled.

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#191948 - 12/29/07 02:46 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
Lastly, here's another example of the "readerly/writerly" paradigm. I thought of comparing Fox and Moore side by side, but a simpler comparison suggested itself.

Moore's FROM HELL is for me clearly a writerly work. It uses the textual nature of the graphic novel to a greater extent than almost anything short of CEREBUS, and it is not, despite its sensationalistic content, easily accessible, though it's not as near-impenetrable as Joyce.

Its celebrity led to its adaptation as a commercial movie. A strict translation of FROM HELL would probably have been impossible in any venue, and I'm not even sure it could have been done for the arthouse circuit, unless someone wanted to do a BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ version of Moore and Campbell's work.

What the Hughes Brothers did, in essence, was to convert the work from the writerly idiom to a readerly one, emphasizing a heroic detective in place of the unheroic one of the book, and with more emphasis on action.

Now, the FROM HELL movie was not a great example of its idiom. At best I found it just watchable.

However, I maintain that it's POSSIBLE to take a writerly work and adapt it to create an above-average work in the readerly idiom, just as I argue that Moore adapted tropes from readerly works to produce WATCHMEN

Off the top of my head, I might cite the John Huston MOBY DICK, which is by no means a good representation of the novel's deeper themes, but still functions as a strong adventure-story. Within its own idiom, Huston's film has its own strengths, even if it isn't a good translation.

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#191949 - 12/30/07 12:08 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
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
So you're choosing "the creation of complex narratives" as your goalposts for creativity, and the fact that you privilege them for having some metafictional content brings me back to my assertion that you also privilege thematic realism. I don't think anything's wrong with this idiom but it's superior only by the strictures developed for it, and they don't say anything about what goes into making the more simply-textured works function.
The point about your creative horserace isn't that Moore's stories are more creative because they say something relevant about our world, but that your limited notion of basic creativity ignores the amount of creativity that goes into constructing the type of stories Moore tells. It's true, that I don't much care who you call more creative -- they're both creative -- so I'm more interested in to what use their creativity is put.

I also agree that the design of a character can be more creative or less creative. Gil Kane's design for the Silver Age Green Lantern remains one of the best costumes ever created.

Quote:
Elitists may not want to ever move their boundaries, but historically speaking, they do. An elitist in the age of the Enlightenment could afford to look down upon novels as inferior to verse drama because there wasn't a widespread knowledge of what novels could do. Once it was established that novels can be good, the next generation of elitists had to distinguish between good novels and bad novels. Similarly, an elitist who considered all comic books garbage because of the form might enjoy his state of ignorance as long as society did not contradict it. Then the next generation has to start distinguishing between good comic books and bad ones, which is where one gets into debates about defining the "good"-- like this one.
All you've done here is distinguish between conservative tastes and, for want of a better word, progressive tastes. I'm definitely not a conservative. You sometimes are, though.

Quote:
Whose political assumptions? Can't be mine, since I rejected earlier the notion of a pure ideological reading of genre.
And Snyder rejects ideological readings of his film, 300. So what? It's always those who ignore ideological readings who are the most ideological, cf. your constant concern with genre politics.

Quote:
If they're both works that fit, or aspire to fit, the unitary standards of high culture, then I don't see how it's a rejection of any sort, except to some Old Elitist who believed in the automatic superiority of the novel-form over that of the comic book.
"Unitary standards" -- there's a telling oxymoron.

Quote:
What you dismiss is the validity of the readerly mode of narrative, as shown by your privileging of complex narratives.
What I dismiss is the validity of your fucked up term 'readerly', not all the works you choose to call readerly. Confer my discussion of Merle Haggard.

Quote:
What alienation did you see in VILLAGE? The film gives a pretty one-sided view of the villainous Teen Giants as a bunch of no-good shiftless bums.
Teen angst expressed through superpowers is a way of addressing the alienation that many teens feel. Whether it does it well is unimportant to the question of whether it does it all. Confer Spiderman.

Quote:
" I don't share your elitist disdain for campy movies."

And you can say this with a straight face (I assume) right after reprinting the section where I expressed a liking for the camp-favorite ROBOT MONSTER?
Is there a mocking smiley that I could've used? I was just playing you, Gene.

Quote:
I haven't suggested that [standards] be limited to the superhero genre: only to similar genres like other adventure-melodramas. Given the extent that I'm trying to enunciate how all the different idioms reflect and reinforce one another, accusations of insularity are pretty laughable.
If a serious, brooding drama addresses alienation and a light-hearted superhero tale addresses alienation, one can compare the way alienation is dealt with in both genres. You might not like it, but it's perfectly reasonable to do. Again, this is where you're limited by genre politics.
_________________________
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#191950 - 01/05/08 04:42 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
"The point about your creative horserace isn't that Moore's stories are more creative because they say something relevant about our world"

I consider Fox's fantasies to be as relevant to our world as Moore's: the former simply aren't responsive to the demands of realism. But they're still relevant, and not purely because they're nonsensical (though that's part of their appeal).

"All you've done here is distinguish between conservative tastes and, for want of a better word, progressive tastes. I'm definitely not a conservative. You sometimes are, though."

That's not what the quoted paragraph is about in the least. It's about distinguish between being an elitist based on one's favoritism for a given form and being one based on one's preference for a given theme or set of themes.

"And Snyder rejects ideological readings of his film, 300. So what? It's always those who ignore ideological readings who are the most ideological, cf. your constant concern with genre politics."

So it's politics to say that an orange isn't an apple, hmm?

'"Unitary standards" -- there's a telling oxymoron.'

Nice way to dodge my analysis of your false comparison.

"What I dismiss is the validity of your fucked up term 'readerly', not all the works you choose to call readerly. Confer my discussion of Merle Haggard."

Nothing in that discussion suggested to me that your affection for Haggard had given you any perspicacity about how popular works function.

"Teen angst expressed through superpowers is a way of addressing the alienation that many teens feel. Whether it does it well is unimportant to the question of whether it does it all. Confer Spiderman."

But you've claimed that alienation is intrinsic to the nature of what makes SPIDER-MAN interesting, as against my view that its primary nature is one of wish-fulfillment. I can at least see an argument for alienation being central to SPIDEY, but with VILLAGE I see nothing more than you can get with any other narrative with a villain in it, insofar as an "alienated" audience-member may happen to identify with the villain even when he's given no particular charisma. VILLAGE is like that, so the comparison doesn't seem on target.

"Is there a mocking smiley that I could've used? I was just playing you, Gene."

Right back atcha.

"If a serious, brooding drama addresses alienation and a light-hearted superhero tale addresses alienation, one can compare the way alienation is dealt with in both genres. You might not like it, but it's perfectly reasonable to do. Again, this is where you're limited by genre politics"

One can compare anything for rhetorical purposes, but not for what I'll dub substantive ones, as in saying that they belong in the same class/phylum/species. I suggest that your example requires one to jump through a number of the semantic hoops suggested by Mbunge in his 10-10 reply to Ken:

"That would be generally true, but there's a point at which the comparison is not only useless but counterproductive, no matter how cleverly phrased it may be.

You could compare Nabokov with newspaper columnist Maureen Dowd, cartoonist Scott Adams, William F. Buckley or Stan Lee...but such comparisons will be sharply limited by the radically different nature of what each "writer" does. Pretty much anyone who makes the Lee/Nabokov comparison is going to put Nabokov far above Lee...yet there's little reason to think that Nabokov could have done what Lee did, anymore than he could have been a successful columnist, cartoonist or ideological proponent.

If comparisons are to be instructive, they need to be restricted to either relatively similar or radically different subjects...so that it is the comparison itself that is noteworthy, rather than the semantic, linguistic or intellectual hoops jumped though to make the comparison."

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#191951 - 01/06/08 12:16 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
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
I consider Fox's fantasies to be as relevant to our world as Moore's: the former simply aren't responsive to the demands of realism. But they're still relevant, and not purely because they're nonsensical (though that's part of their appeal).
Here you're playing slipshod with your terminology. Moore is hardly a writer of realism. Earlier, you asked me if I prized what you called thematic realism, to which I assented if you meant "applies to our world in some relevant manner." Why I prize Moore over Fox has nothing to do with narrative realism (obviously, I should think), but that of the two imaginative creators, the former has more going on in his work than exercising the imagination.

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"All you've done here is distinguish between conservative tastes and, for want of a better word, progressive tastes. I'm definitely not a conservative. You sometimes are, though."

That's not what the quoted paragraph is about in the least. It's about distinguish between being an elitist based on one's favoritism for a given form and being one based on one's preference for a given theme or set of themes.
And it fails to make the distinction you wish to make.

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"And Snyder rejects ideological readings of his film, 300. So what? It's always those who ignore ideological readings who are the most ideological, cf. your constant concern with genre politics."

So it's politics to say that an orange isn't an apple, hmm?
More like failing to see the connection between green and red apples.

Quote:
What I dismiss is the validity of your fucked up term 'readerly', not all the works you choose to call readerly. Confer my discussion of Merle Haggard."

Nothing in that discussion suggested to me that your affection for Haggard had given you any perspicacity about how popular works function.
You can disagree that "Okie" is an example of a popular work, or that it's an example of a readerly work, but my analysis precisely touches on exactly what you're saying it doesn't (without your attempting any sort of counter argument), to wit:
Quote:
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.
It doesn't matter how many popular works I mention as appreciating (and the list is pretty long at this point), your ideological bias is going to keep you talking to yourself.

Quote:
You could compare Nabokov with newspaper columnist Maureen Dowd, cartoonist Scott Adams, William F. Buckley or Stan Lee...but such comparisons will be sharply limited by the radically different nature of what each "writer" does. Pretty much anyone who makes the Lee/Nabokov comparison is going to put Nabokov far above Lee...yet there's little reason to think that Nabokov could have done what Lee did, anymore than he could have been a successful columnist, cartoonist or ideological proponent.
You seem to forget who was arguing against comparing Lee and Nabokov and who brought up the comparison to begin with.
_________________________
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#191952 - 01/12/08 03:59 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
"Here you're playing slipshod with your terminology. Moore is hardly a writer of realism. Earlier, you asked me if I prized what you called thematic realism, to which I assented if you meant "applies to our world in some relevant manner." Why I prize Moore over Fox has nothing to do with narrative realism (obviously, I should think), but that of the two imaginative creators, the former has more going on in his work than exercising the imagination."

I don't have to measure *my* definition of "relevance" by your own, you know. It's clear from the bulk of your examples of high-quality fantasy that you prize "relevance" in the form of didacticism, even ideology. Your interpretation of a "good vs. evil" fantasy-- Kafka's THE CASTLE-- bear that opinion out. I don't consider either Moore or Fox to be narrative realists since their content is fantasy, but Moore is much closer to being a thematic realist, though he's far less one than Kafka. I don't mind didactic fantasies; they have their place-- but that's not all that's "relevant" to me.

Of course, I guess you can modify this view of your tastes by re-iterating that you like a lot of "oddball shit" just for the sake of its nonsensical nature, which is more or less your pronoucement on Fox. It's clearly your privilege to like Fox's work only for that quality, and I'd never deny that there's nonsensical stuff in the work. But that stuff is not the reason I find Fox (and "readerly" writers in general) to be "relevant."

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#191953 - 01/12/08 04:12 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
"And it fails to make the distinction you wish to make."

OK, disprove it, then. Would you like me to requote it for you?

"More like failing to see the connection between green and red apples."

Ah, I'm glad to see that you admit to the bias cited by the aforementioned Harold Schechter: that works of simple textures really are just bad versions (green apples) of more fully-formed works (red apples). But here's the flaw in your comeback-simile-- nobody's died yet from eating them "green apples" of Gardner Fox, and there's every indication that the "red apples" of Alan Moore grew pretty good after he ate a few of them there strange fruits. So again I says: oranges and apples.

"You seem to forget who was arguing against comparing Lee and Nabokov and who brought up the comparison to begin with."

But when I made the comparison as a pure rhetorical gesture-- in a spirit of, "Suppose we could legitimately compare these two and I did find LOLITA to be the winnner"-- I was illustrating the point that LOLITA's superiority to SPIDEY did not mean every Nabokov work was superior. When you pronounced that in any comparison between the two writers, Lee would come out second, what point were you illustrating? And was it similar to the one where you opined that poor ol' SPIDEY even gets blown outta the water by (sheesh) REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE?

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