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#506155 - 01/07/03 12:46 PM Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Aaron White Offline
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One question that Matt Hawes asked in that jumbo thread got me pondering: if superheroes are better known than Buddy Bradley, doesn't that make them the more "mainstream" end of the comics spectrum?

I'm one of the fuzzier thinkers on the boards, but as I see it, it's kind of like the way Step'n Fetchit was once more "mainstream" than Sidney Poitier; the mainstream public may have been more aware of Step'n Fetchit types back in the day, making him more "mainstream," but Fetchit did little to encourage White America to look deeper into the realities of other races, because he had limited mainstream appeal. But Sidney Poitier had greater potential appeal to mainstream America, White and Black. Once Poitier achieved some visibility he made a name and paved the way for more sophisticated Black stars.

In a similar fashion, everybody's aware of superhero comics and willing to watch superheroes at the movies, but not likely to investigate comics as a result. But the entertainment potential of comics like Bone, Hate, Strangers in Paradise (note I'm not so much concerned here with "art" comics as alternative, period) seems more likely to appeal to a mass audience. Heck, I was Reading Kim Dietch's Boulevard of Broken Dreams at my coffee bar the other night, and a slew of non-comics readers came by to sneak a peak.

Not a perfect analogy; I like superheroes, so I'm not trying to argue that superheroes are inherently demeaned and demeaning in the same way as racial stereotypes, but I hope I'm not too deluded.

BTW I started another thread because the other one's gotten too unwieldy and nasty for my tastes. Pu-leeze keep it civil.

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#506156 - 01/07/03 03:08 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
ChrisW Offline
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Depends on how you define mainstream. If you mean it as far as what sells the most copies, what most people understand comic-book mainstream to be, then yes superheroes are far and away mainstream and have been so for decades.

If you use the term to refer to comics that would actually appeal more to a large number of the public, then Buddy Bradley wins hands down.
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#506157 - 01/07/03 04:17 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Matt Hawes Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by ChrisW:
Depends on how you define mainstream. If you mean it as far as what sells the most copies, what most people understand comic-book mainstream to be, then yes superheroes are far and away mainstream and have been so for decades.

If you use the term to refer to comics that would actually appeal more to a large number of the public, then Buddy Bradley wins hands down.


Not so. If true, Buddy's sales at booksellers like Barnes & Nobles, where I am lead to believe he sells quite well, would tip the scales in his favor, right?

Buddy's stories in HATE appeal to a more limited segment of the general audience. The title "HATE" alone would cause many people to pass on the comic, as it is a negative title. Many people don't go for that, as a rule.

It's not a "Who's better than who" issue. It is one of sales and recognition. A Fellini movie, while successful in its' own right and critically acclaimed is not considered mainstream America, but TERMINATOR 2 is.
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#506158 - 01/07/03 04:18 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Aaron White Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Matt Hawes:


Not so. If true, Buddy's sales at booksellers like Barnes & Nobles, where I am lead to believe he sells quite well, would tip the scales in his favor, right?


Not necessarily; at least, not at once. Pro wrestlers make more money than my friend who plays Robin Hood at a childrens' theatre, but Robin Hood has greater cultural saturation. The number of people who are familiar with Buddy Bradley is probably pretty close to the number of people who buy Hate comics. The number of people who are familiar with the A list superheroes substantially exceeds the number of people who buy superhero products.

Edited because I quoted without commenting. Peace out!

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#506159 - 01/07/03 04:26 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
ChrisW Offline
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Echoing Aaron:
Quote:
Originally posted by Matt Hawes:
Not so. If true, Buddy's sales at booksellers like Barnes & Nobles, where I am lead to believe he sells quite well, would tip the scales in his favor, right?


(I will now add a response after the quote)

Not unless B&N are selling one big fuckload of Buddy Bradley comics.
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#506160 - 01/07/03 04:29 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Aaron White Offline
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#506161 - 01/07/03 04:33 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Matt hits the button on exactly what keeps most of what the Journalistas and other alt/indy fans tout as the real "mainstream" from reaching any substantial popularity in this country.

They are, for the most part, depressing and downbeat and actually aimed at the art school crowd (picture a bunch of twenty-somethings all in various versions of black, with spiked, funny-colored hair, heavy metal jewelry and piercings) that the creators themselves are a part of and not even at the general youth population that turns movies into hits.
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#506162 - 01/07/03 04:34 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Matt Hawes Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Aaron White:


Not necessarily; at least, not at once. Pro wrestlers make more money than my friend who plays Robin Hood at a childrens' theatre, but Robin Hood has greater cultural saturation...


How much did that Kevin Costner's ROBIN HOOD film make? Wasn't it a blockbuster the summer of its' release?

Errol Flynn was successful as Robin Hood, wasn't he?

Your friend could play HULK HOGAN at a childrens' theater and my point would still remain.
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#506163 - 01/07/03 04:43 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Aaron White Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
They are, for the most part, depressing and downbeat and actually aimed at the art school crowd ....


But that's not the case with Strangers in Paradise or Bone or Akiko.

Actually, I'm no fan of Hate, but the couple issues I've read strike me as being in line with a Seinfeld-ish asthetic. And if South Park, Beavis and Butthead, et al. can be hits, Johnny Ryan and The Slawless Jug and Rick Altergott would seem to stand a chance with mainstream tastes.

In fact Slawless works on Spongebob Squarepants, a popular animated cartoon. His comics probably don't sell like Spongebob stuff sells, which shows that it's not Slawless's alt/indy aesthetic per se that's holding him back from commercial success.

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#506164 - 01/07/03 04:44 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Matt Hawes Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
Matt hits the button on exactly what keeps most of what the Journalistas and other alt/indy fans tout as the real "mainstream" from reaching any substantial popularity in this country.

They are, for the most part, depressing and downbeat and actually aimed at the art school crowd (picture a bunch of twenty-somethings all in various versions of black, with spiked, funny-colored hair, heavy metal jewelry and piercings) that the creators themselves are a part of and not even at the general youth population that turns movies into hits.


I do think that is a major factor with many of the comics. I never questioned the content of the Alt or Indy comics, but most really aren't geared for mass consumption and that is what being mainstream is all about. It's not about being better, it's about more people knowing about you and your product selling more because it appeals to a broader taste.

Superheroes are modern mythological and folk heroes. Robin Hood is a better argument for my stance than against it, for instance, as it shows the strength and popularity of the classic hero.

Comic books, not just superhero comic, do not sell millions of copies because the general public does not like to read. A New York Time's Bestseller doesn't always, if ever, sell a million copies. So, circulation records are misleading.

What is not misleading is the popularity of superheroes in other mediums of entertainment. Video games and movies that feature superheroes always perform well when done properly, and sometimes even when they aren't! The average person accepts and enjoys the hero and this is proven by recognition factor and sells in all forms of media. Again, most people don't read, even comic strips, but they will still play that SPIDER-MAN game on Sony while they watch SMALLVILLE on TV.

The Alternative and Independent comics are aimed at a more selective reader, usually.

That is why most of those comics will probably never merit attention of the mainstream.
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#506165 - 01/07/03 04:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Matt Hawes Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Aaron White:


But that's not the case with Strangers in Paradise or Bone or Akiko.

...



BONE has potential to be mainstream. If Jeff Smith can get the cartoon made, I am sure it can do well. AKIKO might have a little more trouble, but it is possible. SiP, though, is less likely. But you never know.

Still, with the possible exception of BONE, I don't think they'd have the mainstream appeal of BATMAN and the like.

But these are some exceptions to the rule.
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#506166 - 01/07/03 04:53 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Aaron White Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Matt Hawes:


How much did that Kevin Costner's ROBIN HOOD film make? Wasn't it a blockbuster the summer of its' release?


Okay, good point. So a character who's achieved cultural saturation can be a big moneymaker with the right big star in the role. But it takes something outside of the Diamond catalogue to bring comics to the attention of people who don't pay attention to comic books. When the NYT Book Review covers something like Jimmy Corrigan it has a boosting effect on sales.

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#506167 - 01/07/03 10:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Chris Breach Offline
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Registered: 05/13/01
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
Matt hits the button on exactly what keeps most of what the Journalistas and other alt/indy fans tout as the real "mainstream" from reaching any substantial popularity in this country.


Hawes' not knowing the title of the books he's talking about, but basing his argument on it anyway, is what really earns him Pat's respect.

Quote:
They are, for the most part, depressing and downbeat and actually aimed at the art school crowd (picture a bunch of twenty-somethings all in various versions of black, with spiked, funny-colored hair, heavy metal jewelry and piercings) that the creators themselves are a part of and not even at the general youth population that turns movies into hits.


The Buddy Bradley stories are the chronicle of a young man growing up to discover true love and adult responsibilities, told in an episodic comedy format, by a family man in his 40s. But I've actually read them, so what would I know?

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#506168 - 01/07/03 11:17 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
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Buddy Bradley is designed to appeal to the general American mainstream interests of the time (think early-to-mid 1990's).

Within the realm of comics, HATE is alternative, but when when you look at its intention and potential, it attempts to speak to one of America's largest demographics; the same demographic that buys the popular music and goes to the popular movies and watches the popular TV shows.

But the reality is like I already said, HATE is alternative in the comics world.

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#506169 - 01/08/03 07:01 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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One other thing that's necessary to be "mainstream" in the American culture that the alt/indy crowd (with the possibly exception of Sim) have never grasped:

Regularity. Coming out on a schedule.

TV shows: Once a week, every week, like clockwork. Magazines: Once a week (or month), every week (or month), like clockwork. Popular film series: Every year or two or three (think James Bond), like clockwork.

Even the most popular novelists--yes, Danielle Steele, Robert B. Parker, John Grisham, etc.--publish pretty regularly, one or two books a year.

Oh--and however you describe Hate, the fact remains the title is a turn-off, the art style is ugly and off-putting to the casual observer, and if you can't get the casual observer to pick it up, it won't matter what the content is.
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#506170 - 01/08/03 07:56 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
They are, for the most part, depressing and downbeat and actually aimed at the art school crowd (picture a bunch of twenty-somethings all in various versions of black, with spiked, funny-colored hair, heavy metal jewelry and piercings) that the creators themselves are a part of
Pat, can you actually name some of these supposed art-school, twenty-something, black-wearing, spiked-hair, heavy-metal-bejeweled alt comics creators? I know a number of the key alt comics folks, and that certainly doesn't seem to be a blanket description to me. Or are you just feigning expertise in order to attack something you don't understand, as you so often do?
Quote:
One other thing that's necessary to be "mainstream" in the American culture that the alt/indy crowd (with the possibly exception of Sim) have never grasped:

Regularity. Coming out on a schedule.
Gee, I can think of a fair number of indy comics that are more regularly on schedule than top-selling mainstream books. But somehow, your saying something is "necessary" does not make it so. Star Wars did not stop being mainstream because of its long absence. The lack of regularly-scheduled Harper Lee work does not mean that To Kill A Mockingbird is not mainstream, and the same goes for Gone With The Wind. The fact that Harry Potter volume 5 did not come out a year after volume 4 does not mean that it shan't be mainstream.

But hey, if you want to invent ridiculous reasons to belittle alternative comics, there you go!

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#506171 - 01/08/03 08:04 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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I think Pat meant that you have to have an assembly line churning out some form of art under your imprimatur and proper name trademark to be mainstream, Nat.

As usual, Pat conflates mainstream appeal with mass art mechanization and distribution. There's nothing in the story of Maggie from LOVE & ROCKETS which couldn't be appreciated by an average reader, but how it's made and distributed does affect wider appreciation (consider that GHOST WORLD the movie had a larger viewership than any superhero comic being published*). One thing that probably does have a detrimental effect on sales is that a running narrative is interrupted by 3 month spaces. But if that's how long it takes, that's how long it takes.

*and no need to mention that any successful action spectacle, including those with superheroes, has an even larger audience. I'm not claiming that GHOST WORLD's the most potentially mainstream film out there (it'd likely be shit if it were), only that it's content has mainstream appeal (if you're talking about "mainstream" in terms of "mass art" and not some crass bean-counting LCD sort of aesthetics).
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#506172 - 01/08/03 09:00 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
gene phillips Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by Matt Hawes:


Not so. If true, Buddy's sales at booksellers like Barnes & Nobles, where I am lead to believe he sells quite well, would tip the scales in his favor, right?

Buddy's stories in HATE appeal to a more limited segment of the general audience. The title "HATE" alone would cause many people to pass on the comic, as it is a negative title. Many people don't go for that, as a rule.

It's not a "Who's better than who" issue. It is one of sales and recognition. A Fellini movie, while successful in its' own right and critically acclaimed is not considered mainstream America, but TERMINATOR 2 is.


Matt,
I don't understand your point. I understood ChrisW to say that if Buddy Bradley sold more copies in a venue like chain bookstores, that IN THAT VENUE it would be a "mainstream" book, even though it would not be "mainstream" within the comic-shop venue.

Then you state that you've heard that BB does do well in the chain bookstores. So, purely going on ChrisW's pellucid definition, doesn't that make it "mainstream" IN THAT VENUE?

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#506173 - 01/08/03 09:01 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
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You think the art of HATE is ugly and the average person wouldn't like it?

Spongebob Squarepants
Invader Zim
Ren and Stimpy
King of the Hill
Beavis and Butthead
Futurama
The Simpsons
Ed Edd and Eddie
Rugrats
Popeye
Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies
Dilbert
Cathy (yes, THAT Cathy)
etc, etc.

you can't seriously tell me that Peter Bagge's art doesn't have mainstream appeal. If anything, its MORE appealing than most comic art because its understandable, expressive, clear, and cartoony/cute.

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#506174 - 01/08/03 09:09 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
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The point of that list, of course is that there is a full spectrum of cartooning styles that are popular to mainstream America. Hate falls closer to one extreme on the spectrum, but it remains visually accessible enough.

And to say the art is "ugly" is ridiculous; that's an opinion. I'm sure people who really dug the art in Ren & Stimpy and Spongebob would disagree somewhat.

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#506175 - 01/08/03 09:12 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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It's like shooting tin ducks, eh, Darryl?
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#506176 - 01/08/03 10:00 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Quote:
As usual, Pat conflates mainstream appeal with mass art mechanization and distribution. There's nothing in the story of Maggie from LOVE & ROCKETS which couldn't be appreciated by an average reader, but how it's made and distributed does affect wider appreciation (consider that GHOST WORLD the movie had a larger viewership than any superhero comic being published*). One thing that probably does have a detrimental effect on sales is that a running narrative is interrupted by 3 month spaces. But if that's how long it takes, that's how long it takes.


And, of course, the answer to that last sentence is, "don't release it, even in serial form, until you have enough done to make sure it will come out without long gaps in between." Note that all three of the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed simultaneously, so that they could be released on a yearly schedule. Any comics creator who needs a year to produce a finished product (and I really find that ridiculous, BTW, unless the product is massive in length--but a year between issues of average (under 40 pages) length is, IMO, inexcusable) should probably be publishing in hard-cover GN format.

Quote:
*and no need to mention that any successful action spectacle, including those with superheroes, has an even larger audience. I'm not claiming that GHOST WORLD's the most potentially mainstream film out there (it'd likely be shit if it were), only that it's content has mainstream appeal (if you're talking about "mainstream" in terms of "mass art" and not some crass bean-counting LCD sort of aesthetics). [


But there is a need to mention it, because the quantity of popular support needed to make something "mainstream" in each medium is dependent on the overall audience for that medium. An audience big enough to make a hit movie (usually only in the under 10 million range) would be so small as to result in cancellation for a broadcast network TV series.

The sales of even a modest best-seller in prose would be a flop in the movie business.

And so on.
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#506177 - 01/08/03 10:15 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Steve Hogan Offline
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Pat's charecterization of alt/indy comics come from someone who doesn't read them and is totally clueless of popular culture.

As pointed out earlier, the art in HATE is no more visually antagonistic than say, BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD which was a huge success. (And had a somewhat offensive title too.) For that matter, HATE's main focus was the more normal looking characters, and it's sympathies were always with joe average...not with weird looking trendy people.

For that matter, look at the characters in comics by Clowes, Tomine and Ware for example. Where's all the peircing? They feature some of the most aggressively normal looking people in comics!

At any rate, if Eminem was a comic book, Pat would be talking about how he could never reach a mass audience.
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#506178 - 01/08/03 10:31 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Why not release it in serialized form if there's enough readers to justify it and it helps the artist complete the longer work? If a reader only wants to read the collected version, there's nothing stopping him or her from doing so. The jumping on point of L&R isn't necessarily with any individual pamphlets, but with the still-in-print collections. I like reading it as it comes out and have less of a problem remembering what's occurred previously in it than in Morrison's monthly X-MEN book. Anyway, I agree that frequency does have a role to play in picking up new readers, but thankfully there are collections.

Secondly, there's no need to mention the success of action spectacles within the context of my point, because GHOST WORLD was a successful movie within its overhead costs. And, more importantly, there's no need to mention such large spectacles here because my main point was that the content which you claim doesn't have any popular appeal clearly does if it finds the right medium qua distribution possibilities. Are there as many people who prefer angst-ridden comedy over visual effects? No, but there are enough of us who can turn such content into a mainstream success IF, again, one doesn't simplistically equate "mainstream" with an LCD bean-counting statistic (which would lead one to the conclusion that Meryl Streep isn't a mainstream actress or WIZARD OF OZ isn't a mainstream film). The Academy Awards do not celebrate avant-gardism, after all.
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#506179 - 01/08/03 10:31 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Matt Hawes Offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by gene phillips:


...Then you state that you've heard that BB does do well in the chain bookstores. So, purely going on ChrisW's pellucid definition, doesn't that make it "mainstream" IN THAT VENUE?


When I said that I was being more or less tongue-in-cheek, as the people that told me this were Alt and Indy fans.

Anyway, if you feel it's mainstream, then ok. I'm already fielding the same questions on the thread I started and it's become tedious and a pointless back and forth with others. "Pointless" because it isn't really doing more than acting as a breeding ground for an exchange of insults rather than of opinions.
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#506180 - 01/08/03 11:01 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
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I love all this dancing around the term "mainstream" as applied to N.American entertainment with nary a pin-down of definition.

"Mainstream entertainment" in and of itself means didly.
Everybody knows what attending an opera means, but nobody I know goes. So, everyone KNOWS what an opera means, but the audience is quite small.

The "Roseanne" TV show had quite an audience in its day on TV (millions of viewers know her and watched her show) and right now I doubt if she could do dinner theater. Her "mainstream" status didn't get her anything except money. But for a while, if she did something, people would show up.

So I won't even come close to trying to fully define what "mainstream" means, but one thing I KNOW one of the things it does mean - it means that if you have made a lot of money (and audience can equal money in this non-definition) relative to the rest of your "competitors" therefore garnering some semblance of success. And if you have ALSO garnered attention for yourself OUTSIDE the bounds of your genre, or crossed genres based on the strength of your name alone, THEN you have some measure of "mainstream".

So, money(audience) and crossover (genre) status.
Some of that crossover(can)will come from a shrewd (PR) marketing person (team).

If you don't have either, then you don't have squat in terms of "mainstream"

I may not know how to define "mainstream" but one thing I know it means is; you either use that status or you don't deserve having that status.

If a movie can be successful, you can put out books based on that world creation, ala Star Wars, Star Trek. You can even try and fail, like Shatner's "TekWorld". Crossovers with one line of genre like movie to book or vice-versa is a minor play, but when the characters get licensed for toothbrushes and the like... yes. That's part of it.

I know people that maybe have seen two Tom Clancy movies, never read his books, but are playing the video games based on his concepts. Not one of Clancy's creations are known everywhere, but the name "Tom Clancy" IS.

So "mainstream" also means a bit of the "cult of personality", too. (Now you see why I won't flail away at a firm definition, although YOU may view this post as that attempt.)

Ozzy Ozbourne only made it to "mainstream" after some stupid reality show, where we now know some parts were "refilmed". Uh-huh. Ozzy monikered Under-roos are right around the corner, I suspect.
sheesh. Some of this is a bit more planned than others, eh? Of course.

Comic books are good for one thing. We all know it, too.
If someone can make a movie out of it, the comic book creation is worth something. Before that, it can't support more than the creative team and maybe buy a few pints for the editorial staff.

Even THEN you don't have any guarantees.
Look at SPAWN. Movie, animated series. Did THAT make it into the "mainstream"? Perhaps. Not all "mainstream" stories have happy endings, eh?

BLADE the movie also appeared almost out of nowhere. Are there BLADE comic books flying off the shelves? NO. As a matter of fact, there's not much in the way of crossover elements there at all, is there? NO. BLADE the movie may have come out of the comic book series (and we all know the history) but the hue and cry from the street wasn't "We LOVE BLADE, we can't wait for his movie!!" No, that wasn't a real crossover from comic book to movie, was it? And since it didn't crossover again, I rather doubt of it's real status past the vampire-action status, that Buffy still is a part of, and has more of a name for.

The real sign of "mainstream" is the licensing for things not related to the genre/medium. It's not just the licensing (contract), but the success of that licensing.

The "HUMVEE" was the success story from the Gulf War. You can buy "Jeep" bicycles and radios, but who cares? Mixed results. Not all attempts at cashing in on mainstream status succeed.

SP#9.5

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#506181 - 01/08/03 01:15 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Sock Puppet puts it very well. "Mainstream" isn't just about success.

"Mainstream" is about public consciousness. It's about being recognized by the man on the street who is not specifically a fan of the product or genre or medium.

People who have never seen Star Wars or its sequels (they exist--my 17-year-old son has a couple such in his class at school) still recognize Darth Vader. People who have never read a comic book recognize the reference when someone in a Superman suit appears on a newsmagazine cover.

Think any significant number of readers would get the reference if it were to Ghost World or Hate, instead?

Andy Warhol could use Campbell's Soup and Marilyn Monroe as cultural referents in his work. Think he could have used Progresso and Diana Dors as successfully?
_________________________
Best, Pat

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#506182 - 01/08/03 02:07 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Lord Julius Offline
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Registered: 06/28/02
Posts: 523
Loc: St. Louis, Mo.
In the book business, "mainstream" has a pretty simple definition. If your books are classed under "fiction" and not under "science fiction" or "mystery" or "romance" or the like, you're a mainstream writer. It means you do not write "genre fiction," originally a derogatory term for those feeble hacks writing popular potboilers.

So it's a meaningless term, objectively speaking. It's all about perception and legitimacy. William Gibson and Ursula LeGuin have acquired a certain amount of legitimacy, but they're still science fiction writers. Michael Crichton is a mainstream author. That LeGuin has won two National Book Awards and Crichton merely sells a lot of copies of his books doesn't enter into this -- the legitimacy she gained there didn't lift her out of the genre, though it did help lift the genre as a whole.

In a larger sense, "mainstream" usually means mainstream American culture, and comics, and superhero comics in particular, play an almost unique role in it. Aside from the ubiquity of comic strips, even if we just look at comic books, we have something that is at once a tiny niche market purchased and enjoyed by very, very few people (the most pessimistic estimates are about half a million, and even the most optimistic are still less than one percent of the U.S. population), and yet literally everybody is familiar with them, knows what they are, knows who Superman and Batman and Spider-Man are, etc.

To say that mainstream comic books (meaning superheroes) are not really mainstream -- as I've done myself many times -- is both accurate and misleading. It's true that few people read them anymore, but the basic idea of the superhero, along with the big name characters, their iconic costumes and their origins, are all familiar to an audience far larger than that. There are people who never read a comic book, never saw the 1970s Superman movie, never saw the 1950s TV show, have no direct exposure to anything produced by or in connection with DC Comics, who nonetheless know that Superman came to earth from the planet Krypton with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man (faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound), and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never ending battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

This is as much a part of mainstream American culture as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, as much as the Declaration of Independence and Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. Superman IS mainstream America, in a lot of ways.

Wolverine, on the other hand, is not part of mainstream American culture. As a character. Most people may not even know who the X-Men are, even with a successful movie behind them (although once the second movie comes out, with Halle Berry's newly increased profile, that will probably no longer be true). Even so, if you said "Wolverine is a superhero" everybody will know what you mean.

There are half a dozen superheroes, three from each of the Big Two, that I would say are unquestionably a part of mainstream American culture. Note that one of them has had marginal sales through most of her history:

Superman
Batman
Wonder Woman
Spider-Man
Hulk
Captain America

There are a dozen other "maybes" like The Flash, but these are definites.

And for all alternative comics creators and readers may argue that they are actually more "mainstream" than superheroes, the fact is that these six are far more identifiable to mainstream Americans than, say Hopey or Buddy or Enid or Dr. William Withey Gull (sure, they all know who Jack the Ripper is, but not from "From Hell").
_________________________
Lord Julius
Grandlord of Palnu
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend;
Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

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#506183 - 01/08/03 02:30 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Steve Hogan Offline
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Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 5099
Loc: Burlington, VT 05401
Most people have heard of BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD, KING OF THE HILL and SOUTH PARK. If these were comic books Pat would say they stood no chance.

A lot of people have heard of certain superheroes. They really don't care enough to obsessively collect all their crossover adventures in comic book form, but if the special effects and casting are good enough they will enjoy the novelty of watching them in movies. ("So that's what Spider-Man might look like in real life!")

I don't have a problem with superheroes existing, but they are WAY overused in comics. It isn't a healthy state of the industry that people feel the need to shoehorn superheroes into almost every new book. ("SUPERHERO teen angst, SUPERHERO comedy, SUPERHERO mystery, SUPERHERO sex, SUPERHERO horror...etc") Is the "mainstream" comics audience completely unable to enjoy stuff that doesn't involve costumes, code names and special powers?

Can indy comics become part of mainstream culture? Perhaps. I think the more literate ones could eventually gain the kind of non comics critical respect that revered works of prose do. (Everybody's heard of Catcher in the Rye even if they haven't read it.) This sort of thing opens comics up to a larger audience by taking away the taint that comics are only for dumbasses.

Beyond that, there's many comics that I think contain content that could reach mainsteam popularity. (If people read comics) Certainly I don't see anything about Sam Henderson or Johnny Ryan's work that would seem out of place compared to some of the edgier popular cartoons and comedies.
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#506184 - 01/08/03 02:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Matt Hawes Offline
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Registered: 07/13/01
Posts: 1965
Loc: Evansville, IN U.S.A.
Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Hogan:
Most people have heard of BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD, KING OF THE HILL and SOUTH PARK. If these were comic books Pat would say they stood no chance...



BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD was once published as a comic book by Marvel Comics. Even though you did not mention it, so was REN & STIMPY.
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#506185 - 01/08/03 03:52 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
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Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by Matt Hawes:
BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD was once published as a comic book by Marvel Comics. Even though you did not mention it, so was REN & STIMPY.
To Steve:
BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD failed as a comic.
You don't have to be Pat to say that as a comic,
B&B didn't stand a chance.

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#506186 - 01/08/03 05:01 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
Most people have heard of BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD, KING OF THE HILL and SOUTH PARK. If these were comic books Pat would say they stood no chance.


As comics, B&B didn't stand a chance; it flopped.

The other two probably wouldn't make it, either. (Actually, I'm not sure "most" people have heard of King of the Hill; it's certainly not the cultural referent that, say, The Simpsons is.

And I suspect, absent the controversies they spawned, neither B&B nor South Park would be cultural referents, either. Notoriety can make you well-known but it doesn't always make you mainstream.
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#506187 - 01/09/03 12:04 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Again, mainsteam doesn't equal "popularity". If it did, then a failed attempt at popularity like THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH is less mainstream than CRYING GAME. Is Sara Michelle Gellar not a mainstream actress because Warhol wouldn't have been able to use her as effectively as Marilyn Monroe? Is Billy Wilder a mainstream director because he used the latter in two of his most popular films or is he not a mainstream director because most people don't know who the hell he is? It's just plain wrongheaded to do this dumb bean counting while ignoring content and its possible appeal. One must interpret the direction and intention of an art piece in order to posit how mainstream it is, not just question Wanda and Merle at the 5 & dime.

That Pat's speaking out of both sides of his mouth (resulting from his conflation of potential mass appeal and cultural recognition in some nebulous notion of “mainstream”) should be evident here:

Quote:
"Mainstream" is about public consciousness. It's about being recognized by the man on the street who is not specifically a fan of the product or genre or medium.


contra

Quote:
And I suspect, absent the controversies they spawned, neither B&B nor South Park would be cultural referents, either. Notoriety can make you well-known but it doesn't always make you mainstream.


Notoriety being a form of public recognition means that Pat’s saying that the mainstream by definition both requires popular recognition and doesn’t require it. One doesn’t have to be Leibniz to recognize that A can’t be not A.

And I'm not sure why anyone's discussing the failure of the B&B comic book when Darryl's quite reasonable and correct point was that "ugly art" doesn't disqualify something from having mainstream appeal.

Here's hoping that we don't get a redefinition of public consciousness ...
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#506188 - 01/09/03 01:18 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:
And I'm not sure why anyone's discussing the failure of the B&B comic book when Darryl's quite reasonable and correct point was that "ugly art" doesn't disqualify something from having mainstream appeal.
I did mention Ozzy Ozbourne. He's currently mainstream due to his crossing over into a variety of projects. He is definitely not pretty.

Being mainstream is one thing.
Saying something might have "mainstream appeal" is more of a marketing term someone slaps on something to indicate potential; the cynic would say it's unproven.

Otherwise you could say most entertainment ventures, from "ugly art" to "Jackass: The Movie" have some "mainstream appeal".

I'll roll this back to comics.
I never picked up any of the Malibu's (Aircel?)Men In Black comics. But it took a huge movie to bring it to the attention of the public.

This is what "mainstream" means to me. When almost everyone knows what something is; even if they've never seen it, they know pretty much what it is. This is how something popular with one group enters the mainstream. Even if you don't like it personally, even if there's large segments of the public that actively hates something, they know it well enough to care one way or the other.

"Ugly art" I'll equate with "ugly artist" which comes back to the Ozzy of today or the Rosanne of yesteryear. So well known that not have they made money in one field, they were/are so well known they could easily get production money to fund a venture in another field. There are people who are well known only because they are well known. Anna-Nicole Smith. THERE'S "ugly art" for ya. Performance art of the worst kind.

My opinion on this, naturally.
You milage may vary.

So, could so called "ugly art" get any serious "run" outside of the folks that cruise the Direct Market shops? What would it take?
NYTimes review? Yes. But it would have to be a positive review. ha! Best seller status somewhere... ANYwhere. Then what? Major interviews for the creator? Hell, John Grisham has a hard time getting in front of the camera. Last time I saw him, he was helping Good Morning America hawk someone else's book.

But okay, say you get the creator for the "ugly art" on Conan. Letterman and Leno? You'd have to have a special intro from Kevin Smith for that kind of run. Something like THAT would be your first real opportunity to spread the word outside of the comic book buying public.

You know the ones. As said up thread, the Americans that DON'T read. That would be exposure to part of the mainstream audience. You haven't hit acceptance yet. You then see if any other talk shows want you. Radio show hosts. Newspaper articles. PR.

Because unless that creator/publisher has made a ton of cash (there's that money/success within the genre thing again) there's no money available for much of an ad campaign, so the free press is all you have, until someone with money wants to uh, "invest".

There are exceptions, naturally.
I think Turok had some success licensing the name outside the world of comics without having gone through the public zeitgeist route as described above. I'm sure there are others.

"Mainstream entertainment" is certainly fickle, and not always a comfortable place to be. It is, however, almost always profitable.

++++
Oh. If you haven't seen this link already,
here\'s a link to some of the most popul...finitly varies.

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#506189 - 01/09/03 05:54 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
And, of course, the answer to that last sentence is, "don't release it, even in serial form, until you have enough done to make sure it will come out without long gaps in between."
You may want to give that lecture to those non-mainstream folks like George Lucas and J.K.Rowling, then.

By the way, Pat, I'm still listing for that list of creators that you described; or were just lying?

--Nat (who will be seeing spike-haired creator Steve "Me & Edith Head" Lieber this weekend, probably will see alt-comics pierced lightning rod Scott McCloud next weekend, and hope to see black-enshrouded Carla Speed McNeil, punked-out Batton Lash, and gangsta Jim Ottaviani at APE.)

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#506190 - 01/09/03 05:57 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
Matt hits the button on exactly what keeps most of what the Journalistas and other alt/indy fans tout as the real "mainstream" from reaching any substantial popularity in this country.

They are, for the most part, depressing and downbeat
I missed this aspect. Yes, America will never accept the depressing and the downbeat into the mainstream, so TV shows ranging from E.R. to Buffy will be stuck in the alt/indy TV scene. And the happy-go-lucky work of Stephen King is only for the art school crowd.

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#506191 - 01/09/03 12:42 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by NatGertler:
You may want to give that lecture to those non-mainstream folks like George Lucas and J.K.Rowling, then.

More like Stephen King. Before THE GREEN MILE was made into a movie, the sales of that series of books was comparitively weak.

And let's just talk about THE PLANT, shall we?
Quote:
"We're getting lots of angry e-mail, most of it complaining that he hasn't lived up to his end of the bargain," said the author's assistant Marsha DeFillipo. But they're wrong, she said.

Originally King said he would keep writing if readers kept paying. By part four, only 46 percent of the people who downloaded the book paid for it, DeFillipo said.

"We decided to continue, though, because both part five and six were already written," she said.

Besides, "The Plant" isn't dead yet. The best-selling horror writer advises readers not to despair, saying that the last time "The Plant" furled its leaves, the story remained dormant for 19 years.

"If it could survive that, I'm sure it can survive a year or two while I work on other projects," King wrote.

King will not charge for the already-written sixth installment, which is due on the site in late December. But the situation is not sitting well with those who have paid $7 for the first five installments of a book that now has no end.

"I am saddened and angered at the crass commercialization of that incredible magic that occurs between writer and reader -- a wonderful and special magic that King seems to have forgotten is the true spirit, the true heart of being a writer," wrote e-author Jim Farris.

One concern is how readers will react in the future.

"I still think that this is not the best move he could have made," said Marilyn Nesbitt, CEO of DiskUs Publishing. "No one wants to wait a year or two to finish reading a story and this might not bode well for any future installments or any future e-books from King or any other author who might want to go this route for publication.


One author's experience mind you.
Hell, the author may do it again, for all we know. But having episodic "chapters", along the lines of what the pamphlets are in comic books, definitely didn't seem to help at least one major bestselling author. I don't know the sales of THE GREEN MILE, and THE PLANT was sold on the honor system, but the author never reportedly wrote past Chapter 7. Why? Hell, I don't know, but I'd guess the author found a better paying gig. And the author's hard core audience will forgive him.

but I'll bet he won't be selling any more serialized fiction anytime soon...

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#506192 - 01/09/03 01:18 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Charles:

As Sock Puppet correctly points out, there's a difference between "mainstream potential" and "mainstream"...just as there's a difference between energy and potential energy.

But I disagree with Sock Puppet that recognition that comes through notoriety is the same as mainstream recognition. Ozzy's on the edge of the two right now, as critics and cultural observers start to talk about the positive aspects of his life--a stable family life, strong support for his ailing wife, etc.

But South Park? No--it's notorious, but it's not mainstream.

Oh--and on the subject of coming out on a regular schedule: What's acceptable in one medium is not necessarily acceptable in another. The public knows movies take a year or more (usually two to three) to make; same with most novels (the public is starting to get a little antsy about Rowling, based on published reports). But a 32- to 40-page comics pamphlet? If you can't get that out on at least a quarterly basis, you had best examine your work ethic.
_________________________
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#506193 - 01/09/03 01:27 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
We all can agree that mainstream appeal isn't equivalent to mainstream (well, I guess we can agree, but see the last paragraph in this post). However, as I was saying, something that turns out not to have "mainstream appeal" (=popular reception) isn't thereby disqualified from being mainstream. For one, if the work was constructed in such a way as to appeal to the largest portion of the audience possible, it's mainstream. This is irrespective of whether or not it actually becomes popular (cf. PLUTO NASH example, or think of BATTLEFIELD EARTH). That's why I carefully said "potential mainstream appeal" and distinguished it from popularity. Mainstream appreciation is only one factor in determining whether a work is mainstream (and based un the unlimited number of failures, it's less important than how the work is constructed).

And it's just ridiculous to dismiss the hugely successful BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD, SIMPSONS and SOUTHPARK as being popular only through notoriety, as if their millions of fans only watched the shows because they're bad. "Ugly art" can be mainstream, just admit it.

On that note, my point about notoriety was that in order to accept that being notorious isn't equivalent to being mainstream one has to accept that there's something more to the definition of "mainstream" than bean-counting in a name recognition poll. Pat and others here are sliding back and forth, only occasionally using this distinction.

Let me put it more simply: either you agree that many alt comics have potential mainstream appeal while failing for various reasons to be as popular as the Beatles (that is, the bean-counting factor is extrememly mitigated in determining what's mainstream) OR you simply bite the bullet and say Charles Manson is just under Jesus in the mainstream pantheon. All other attempts to explain this dichotomy away have been easily dismissed through numerous examples (e.g., ugly art is too sometimes mainstream, angst-ridden stories are too sometimes mainstream, etc.).
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#506194 - 01/09/03 02:22 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Sock Puppet #9.5:
More like Stephen King. Before THE GREEN MILE was made into a movie, the sales of that series of books was comparitively weak.
1) That is not relevant to what I was discussing, since The Green Mile shipped quite regularly, as opposed to Star Wars episodes and Harry Potter volumes.

2) Every volume of The Green Mile hit the New York Times best-seller list.

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#506195 - 01/09/03 02:27 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
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Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
"South Park is NOT mainstream?"

South Park is a full-on American popular culture phenomenon. Only on internet message boards will people actually try to disagree with plain obvious, observable facts.

The only thing I can think is that you're confusing mainstream popular culture (which is what we're talking about) with mainstream cultural VALUES.

Not the same thing. We're obviously talking about pop culture, as comics are an element (although small) of pop culture, so this conversation, by extention is on that same thread of meaning.

And seriously, I ran with the "ugly" thing just for the sake of argument, but I don't find Peter Bagge's art ugly at all (Peter Bagge=HATE, for those not keeping score). I think its fantastic cartooning. You don't like cartoony art, that's fine, but don't pretend to speak for the world.

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#506196 - 01/09/03 03:12 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by NatGertler:
1) That is not relevant to what I was discussing, since The Green Mile shipped quite regularly, as opposed to Star Wars episodes and Harry Potter volumes.

2) Every volume of The Green Mile hit the New York Times best-seller list.
I stand corrected.

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#506197 - 01/09/03 03:17 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
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Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Nickelodeon magazine has a circulation of about a million readers, and using Deppey's estimate on the "Gary Gripes" thread, that's twice as many people as the total of all comic readers. The magazine has a comic section and the artists are not people like Joe Quesada or Todd Macfarlane. They're comic shop pariah like Mark Martin, Kim Deitch, Richard Sala, Kaz, Jordan Crane, Jason Lutes, Steve Weissman, Craig Thompson, James Kochalka, and myself, in the same styles we use in our regular comics. This is the most popular section of the magazine, which I think negates any argument about alt/indy comics lacking mainstream potential.

My own comic sells about 2000 copies. Using the same estimate of 500,000 readers overall, that means my comic is read by 0.4% of comic readers, or 0.00008% of the American population. I understand the relative lack of commercial potential for comics about beer-drinking robots, peeing ducks, masturbating bosses, and guys whose asses fall off, but I still feel- regardless of factors like longevity and name recognition- they have as much commercial potential as people with special powers who wear tights and fight crime.

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#506198 - 01/09/03 04:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
And it's just ridiculous to dismiss the hugely successful BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD, SIMPSONS and SOUTHPARK as being popular only through notoriety, as if their millions of fans only watched the shows because they're bad. "Ugly art" can be mainstream, just admit it.


But (with the exception of The Simpsons--which art I don't consider ugly, BTW) those millions of fans virtually all come from one limited portion of the population--those who regularly watch MTV and/or Comedy Central. As the ratings for those channels might tell you, that segment of the population is damned small in comparison to those who watch the rest of TV...especially in regard to Comedy Central.

"Hugely successful" is a ridiculous term to use for those programs.
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#506199 - 01/10/03 12:46 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
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Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
South Park is a household name. Please leave your biases and desire to "win" at the door; this is a fact.

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#506200 - 01/10/03 05:41 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
those millions of fans virtually all come from one limited portion of the population--those who regularly watch MTV and/or Comedy Central.
Really? Can you cite a source for that claim? Or is this, as so many of your claims are, just bull that you are making up in order to claim an understanding of the world that you do not really have?
Quote:
As the ratings for those channels might tell you, that segment of the population is damned small in comparison to those who watch the rest of TV...especially in regard to Comedy Central.
Really, Pat? What portion of the population watch Comedy Central in a typical week. Really, if you think you know about these things, you should be more informative. Cite sources.
Quote:
"Hugely successful" is a ridiculous term to use for those programs.
South Park is a relatively low-budget production that has spawned large ratings, a successful film, and mass amounts of licensed material.

Beavis And Butthead had all those things, and their film was even more successful.

You may want to look up "ridiculous"; it's a term that you tend to turn to when you don't have logic to support your statement.

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#506201 - 01/10/03 06:53 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
mat_in_the_hat Offline
Member

Registered: 09/09/02
Posts: 36
Loc: Derby, UK
OK - i rarely post here and i know i have NO factual basis for anything i say so i'm ready to be shot down in flames...

the whole B&B/South Park thing - does it come down to a question of semantics? (i feel warm already...)

heres my only reason - my grans heard of superman, and so has my dad, and my brothers... without asking them i'm guessing some of those folks havent heard of B&B or south park EXCEPT for its noteriety. Perhaps my point is (if i have one) that mainstream is who? what age range? and does it mean enjoyment of the subject or mearly knowledge -

websters (in havent got the OED definition) says
The prevailing current of thought, influence, or activity: “You need not accept the nominee's ideology, only be able to locate it in the American mainstream” (Charles Krauthammer).

which suggests that B&B, and southpark *are* mainstream

ok - i've got my flack jacket on, go for your lives...

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#506202 - 01/10/03 08:48 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
Member

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
There are 250 million people in America.

When something sells one million copies, like a magazine's circulation or a record's sales, it is considered sucessful. By the time it sells a million, even more people KNOW about it, and are fully aware of it.

Now realize that Comedy Central is much bigger than one million.


Note: I'm not saying that South Park is mainstream because of any other reason than PUBLIC AWARENESS AND CONSUMPTION. Forget the technicalities, this is America; that's what matters in this land. To actually attempt to claim that South Park is not mainstream just because YOU don't dig it---that isn't even worth responding to, except for the shock and frustration of explaining the obvious to a person out of touch with reality.

The point of mentioning South Park and Beavis and Butthead on this thread was a slam on the idea that HATE's art has no mainstream appeal (and the idea that it is "too ugly.")

Put it like this; don't ever mistake YOUR tastes for the tastes of 250 million people. And when it comes to art in animation, cartooning, etc, history shows that people will accept almost any style as long as the story or message of the cartoon is to their liking and the art is clear and understandable.

"Its too ugly, people will reject it." Get out in the world. Look at what is successful, See Dilbert, Cathy, Broom Matilda, The Far Side, South Park, Spawn (the art THERE is ugly, and it virtually ruled the 90's).

I promise you: if the better alternative/independant comics had a level playing field to superhero comics, there's no question in my mind that they'd outsell them.

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#506203 - 01/10/03 09:08 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
mat_in_the_hat Offline
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Registered: 09/09/02
Posts: 36
Loc: Derby, UK
Sorry - i'm not sure if that was aimed at me or not but to clarify i wasnt actually putting any preference on any of the things mentioned - merely stating that i would guess that more people are aware of superman than south park, but since a vast number of people are aware of south park (if only to complain about it) then it must also, by definition, be mainstream...

To extend this - i would guess this is why superheros are more mainstream (films, previous popularity of comics??) than indy titles, but to pick up on your point the MOST mainstream are those comic strips that appear in newspapers everyday... otherwise what use would an andy capp reference be in the simpsons?

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#506204 - 01/10/03 02:00 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Steve Hogan Offline
Member

Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 5099
Loc: Burlington, VT 05401
This is retarded. When I said "If Beavis and Butthead and Ren& Stimpy" were comic books, I meant if they were comic books that had never been adapted into any other medium Pat would say, based on their content they had no appeal to anyone.

Of COURSE they flopped as comic books. That just proves the point! The comic book market is a weird skewed freakfest that bears no relationship to the culture at large! Hell, the only reason the Simpsons comic book scrapes by is because they have superhero stories left and right!

South park not a mainstream success? Bullshit! Wake up and catch up with the past couple decades of American culture! The notion that if someone's grandma in east Nebraska doesn't watch something is ridiculous. Most people my age that I know have watched South park at point or another. (And some of these people are VERY mainstream in their tastes.) The show has been on for 5 years and spawned a succesful movie who's theme song was performed at the Oscars! South Park merchandise is EVERYWHERE. Do you think stores just hand out shelf space to things people have no interest in?

The 80's are over Pat. A lot of people like controversial things, and this pushes some of them into the mainstream. Deal with it.
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#506205 - 01/10/03 02:05 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
"who's theme song was performed at the Oscars!"

because, it should be added, it was nominated for an Oscar.
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The Gospel, wherein much Truth is written.

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#506206 - 01/10/03 02:15 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
But (with the exception of The Simpsons--which art I don't consider ugly, BTW) those millions of fans virtually all come from one limited portion of the population--those who regularly watch MTV and/or Comedy Central.


I think we've reached the end here, since all things are successful because of their appeal to a "limited portion of the population". All songs played on the radio appeal to fewer people than those who either don't like them or never hear them to judge. I might also point out that your view here, Pat, contradicts your earlier stance that success is relative to the given number of possible recipients for a particular format (both SOUTHPARK and B&B had a top 5 movie for weeks running).
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#506207 - 01/10/03 02:43 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
Most people my age that I know have watched South park at point or another. (And some of these people are VERY mainstream in their tastes.)


But has anyone not your age watched it? Mainstream requires something more than just one demographic segment (whether segmented by age, race, gender, income, geography, or whatever) be familiar with the item in question.

Oh--and what about all the people your age you don't know? Is South Park as popular in Jackson, MS as in Burlington, VT? In rural areas as in urban ones?

Quote:
When something sells one million copies, like a magazine's circulation or a record's sales, it is considered sucessful. By the time it sells a million, even more people KNOW about it, and are fully aware of it.


When a book or magazine or CD sells a million, it's considered successful. A TV show or movie with merely a million viewers would be a flop of monumental proportions. If South Park were on a broadcast (as opposed to cable) network, its ratings would guarantee cancellation in a month; hell, even on a more "mainstream" cable net (like USA or TNT) its ratings would get it cancelled after a season.

"Success" in each medium must be determined by the standards of that medium. But "mainstream" status should be determined by demographic figures...and familiarity and popularity within a single demographic group isn't "mainstream".
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#506208 - 01/10/03 03:16 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
So no current pop icons are mainstream, because my mom's generation doesn't know of them. (Even worse, my grandmother was into the avant gardist pretensions of HEE HAW.)

That's absurd, Pat.

p.s., Ma has heard of BEAVIS & BUTTHEAD.
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#506209 - 01/10/03 03:21 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Dan Carroll Offline
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Registered: 04/04/02
Posts: 4588
Loc: Chicago, IL
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
When a book or magazine or CD sells a million, it's considered successful. A TV show or movie with merely a million viewers would be a flop of monumental proportions.


Well then it's good thing that South Park, at the height of its ratings, had somewhere around 16,000,000 viewers. (The source on this is Variety, by the way.)

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#506210 - 01/10/03 03:24 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
But those were Comedy Central viewers, Dan. Were they watching SOUTH PARK on ABC? Fuck no, sit in the back!
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#506211 - 01/10/03 04:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
MBunge Offline
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Registered: 07/19/01
Posts: 3386
Loc: Waterloo, Iowa, United States
Quote:
Originally posted by Dan Carroll:


Well then it's good thing that South Park, at the height of its ratings, had somewhere around 16,000,000 viewers. (The source on this is Variety, by the way.)


That would mean that South Park had more viewers than The Sopranos does now and more than all but the top 15 or 20 shows on broadcast television.

That number smells like some accumulated rating, like when Rush Limbaugh claims 20 or 30 million people listen to his show every week.

Mike

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#506212 - 01/10/03 04:54 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Dan Carroll Offline
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Registered: 04/04/02
Posts: 4588
Loc: Chicago, IL
Quote:
Originally posted by MBunge:
That would mean that South Park had more viewers than The Sopranos does now and more than all but the top 15 or 20 shows on broadcast television.


That wouldn't surprise me. The Sopranos, while wildly popular, is on HBO. Even within those who have cable, a smaller number have pay stations. (If DVD sales were added on, though, I'm sure The Sopranos would trounce South Park.)

As for the network shows, yeah, that wouldn't surprise me either. Do you remember the peak of the South Park craze, when you couldn't walk ten feet without a plastic Mr. Hanky in your face?

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#506213 - 01/10/03 05:24 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:

Oh--and what about all the people your age you don't know? Is South Park as popular in Jackson, MS as in Burlington, VT? In rural areas as in urban ones?


Why would that matter? Naturally, there are not as many people in rural areas and what people there are have less access to cable television. This doesn't mean nothing on cable television is mainstream.

Why are you bothered by South Park being popular mainly among a particular, prominent demographic, but not bothered by the fact that the entertainment world -- which produces mainstream entertainment -- generally doesn't much care about targeting the 900 citizens of Backwoods, North Dakota, but the far more abundant populations of major metropolitan areas?

Not everybody everywhere knows about everything. You generally seem to have a bewilderingly difficult time grasping that. There are a lot of things that I know nothing about which I nevertheless understand to be mainstream. In all fairness, I would hardly say South Park or Beavis and Butthead are at the top of the list of That Which Qualifies As Mainstream, but qualify they do. If they don't, neither do Britney Spears or Eminem (see Charles' comparison.)

(Incidentally, I think a better example of something that's immensely popular but merely notorious and not "mainstream" would be Howard Stern.)

K

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#506214 - 01/10/03 06:19 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
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Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by madget:
(Incidentally, I think a better example of something that's immensely popular but merely notorious and not "mainstream" would be Howard Stern.)
Not so incidental. More like Instrumental.

Howard Stern is much closer to the failed attempt at "mainstream entertainment" and is a very good case study. Radio, TV, Movie, Book(?), CD...

All one primary demographic, and that syndicated radio show tried to hit many markets. IT DIDN'T make it in several.

Technically, Stern's in all media, all markets, and I'll be damned if someone who's awake hasn't at least HEARD of him.

Is he mainstream? NO. If you think he is, you're dealing with a flawed definition. WAS he ever mainstream? Almost. But not quite. His star, as they say, is falling.

The "ugly art/ugly artist" ala Jackass and so forth do get some serious media run, and public awareness is one thing, and public acceptance as a legitimate form of entertainment is something else. Legitimate isn't the right word.

Multi-genred probably is closer to the term. Which goes to the crossover I mentioned up thread.

SOUTH PARK having the successful show on cable, the merchandise and eventual movie (which had a song nominated for an Oscar) certainly did at one point have significant public awareness, and in my mind certainly qualified to be considered "mainstream".

However, as some have pointed out, R-rated dialogue is harder to get accepted in the mainstream of America culture.

As a matter of fact, part of the initial plot centered around the characters themselves saying words that are still not allowed in schools. Intentional irony there. (Didn't the movie rival the world record for the number of times the word "fuck" is used?)

So, when the expletive "fuck" is a major selling point for the big "media splash" for SOUTH PARK, saying it's "Mainstream" is off target.

Porn is not mainstream, even though everyone knows what it is, and is very popular.

You can make a ton of cash and never be mainstream.

Country singers can become quite rich, but aren't seen outside their specific genre unless they become superstars within their genre.

Being ACCEPTED by fans outside the initial core audience (that's hard to measure; that's why I initially called it "crossover")... that's a key.

I'll raise this one more.

Kevin Smith's got a new movie coming out soon. His last two movies, while fairly well known and advertised, weren't seen widely outside of those that already knew Kevin Smith. By everyone's admission, this movie will be his first major foray into a different (sub)genre of film.

He's going for a different audience. Knowing his core audience should follow him and go see this movie that, if it starred other actors and was written/directed by someone else, they may NOT have gone to see... Kevin's trying to expand his repertoire of film styles. (Kevin's last movie boxoffice returns didn't make back it's reported production budget. Perhaps the DVD sales made up for that.)

If Kevin's movie is popular, it'll be clear that his total audience (not large enough to support his last movie) has increased and will imply Kevin now has fans outside his initial core audience.

So, by changing (sub) genres and INCREASING the audience, one could make an argument that Kevin will enter the mainstream entertainment industry with this upcoming movie. And by increase here, it also means that for the time being, Kevin's next project is assumed to make even more money.

Whereas with SOUTH PARK and Bevis and Butthead I think you'd be hardpressed to expect their next projects (requiring significant production investments) to do as well as the first.

-- another sign of being in the mainstream...
having more than one successful project in every medium you try.
Prevents that Flash-In-The-Pan-itis.

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#506215 - 01/10/03 07:43 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Sock Puppet #9.5:
However, as some have pointed out, R-rated dialogue is harder to get accepted in the mainstream of America culture.
As a matter of fact, part of the initial plot centered around the characters themselves saying words that are still not allowed in schools. Intentional irony there. (Didn't the movie rival the world record for the number of times the word "fuck" is used?)
So, when the expletive "fuck" is a major selling point for the big "media splash" for SOUTH PARK, saying it's "Mainstream" is off target.
Porn is not mainstream, even though everyone knows what it is, and is very popular.


Yes, but porn is a genre, South Park is a show. And you don't see porn stars' faces on the backs of cars and on t-shirts and coffee mugs and you don't see innumerable references to them in popular culture.

An exception worth evaluating would be Playboy magazine. Mainstream or no? Everybody knows the Playboy Bunny. Does that mean Playboy is mainstream, or does it simply mean the Playboy Bunny as a general icon is mainstream?

The more I think about it the more it becomes clear that there's tons of gray area, no doubt about that. But in regards to the profanity thing, isn't Eminem mainstream? I mean, I listened to a trio of relatives in their late 70s discuss him over the holidays. (And *that* was entertaining, let me tell you.)

Hmm. I should probably find something better to do now.


K

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#506216 - 01/10/03 07:46 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
I don't see why Stern isn't mainstream: one of the most listened to talk shows, a top 5 box office movie, and at least 2 best-selling books. His ideas are obviously simpatico with many people out there. In fact, his politics and tastes are moderately conservative and fairly pedestrian.
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#506217 - 01/10/03 07:53 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
He also only reads superhero comics, to bring us full circle.
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#506218 - 01/10/03 08:24 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Steve Hogan Offline
Member

Registered: 02/27/01
Posts: 5099
Loc: Burlington, VT 05401
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
[QB]
But has anyone not your age watched it? Mainstream requires something more than just one demographic segment (whether segmented by age, race, gender, income, geography, or whatever) be familiar with the item in question.

Oh--and what about all the people your age you don't know? Is South Park as popular in Jackson, MS as in Burlington, VT? In rural areas as in urban ones?
QB]


Have you ever BEEN to Vermont Pat? It's as rural as all get out! Burlington is fairly cosmopolitan (Though small as hell) but most of the state IS rural and most people I know who watch south park live in towns where everyone knows everyone. I'm not talking tweedy intellectuals here, I'm talking people who work in factories, have kids, own homes and are about as middle america as they come.

Face it: You're intellectually dishonest and move the goal post back any time the opposite team gets close to it. By your standards the Beatles weren't a success because not EVERYONE over the age of 40 was a huge fan.
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#506219 - 01/10/03 09:17 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:
I don't see why Stern isn't mainstream: one of the most listened to talk shows, a top 5 box office movie, and at least 2 best-selling books. His ideas are obviously simpatico with many people out there. In fact, his politics and tastes are moderately conservative and fairly pedestrian.


I guess because it doesn't seem like he's saturated popular imagination in quite the way or to quite the degree some of the other examples have. I mean, you see or hear references to him now and then, but I don't see him on coffee mugs and magazine covers and such. He's more analagous to Sock's porn example, but to refine it, let's make it specific and say Deep Throat. Lots of people know what it is but it seems odd to call it "mainstream." It's not a big part of everyday entertainment culture, just an item of notoriety.

I tend to agree with Sock insofar as Stern's flirted with mainstream status, but hasn't quite achieved it. But I'm just thinking out loud on this one, going with my instinctive understanding of the spirit of the word. Maybe I'm wrong -- at the moment, I forget why it even matters that the term "mainstream" be strictly defined for the purposes of the discussion, but I'm sure there's some reason or another.

(OK, *now* I should find something better to do.)


K

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#506220 - 01/10/03 09:43 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
JayMesk Offline
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Registered: 05/02/01
Posts: 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Steve Hogan:

Of COURSE they flopped as comic books. That just proves the point! The comic book market is a weird skewed freakfest that bears no relationship to the culture at large! Hell, the only reason the Simpsons comic book scrapes by is because they have superhero stories left and right!



That's the problem I have with this discussion. It's hard to argue what type of comic is more mainstream when the medium as a whole is entirely non-mainstream. On more than one occasion I have had individuals express surprise when told that the comics industry still exists. And most others I have come into contact have only the flimsiest familiarity with comic books. The picture they have of what comics are and the reality are often far removed. Only a handful of super heroes have mainstream recognition and it would seem to be more as general cultural icons than as popular comic books.

Back when I was senior in highschool I had to give a presentation to my Honors English class and assorted guests. I decided to talk about comics, focussing mostly on works ranging from Crumb and Spiegelman to Watchmen, Sandman, and Dark Knight Returns. This was a distinctly non-comics reading crowd so I was quite surprised by how strong a positive reaction I recieved and a genuine interest from many of the students.

I think that if most people could be convinced to actually pick up the right comics (right comic for them that is) they'd probably start reading them. But who can really predict what tastes would prevail given a level playing field and what would gain that elusive "mainstream" status? Super heroes dominate the comic industry and many sh fans consider indy stuff weird or unappealing yet at least a few posters here have cited examples of people responding quite positivelly to indy and alternative-style work.
Until a large enough portion of the public does suddenly rise up to read comics how can you really have a discussion like this?

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#506221 - 01/10/03 09:50 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
I think I've figured out the real problem here:

All the people arguing that stuff like South Park or, for that matter, the typical indy/alt comic book, is "mainstream" are convinced that they and their like-minded friends represent the mainstream of American culture.

Self-delusion, of course...but the problem with the self-deluded is that it's nearly impossible to relieve them of their delusion.
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#506222 - 01/10/03 10:32 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
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Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
I'm not sure that a true "mainstream" can really exist in a large, culturally fractured society like North America. I think that it's a artificial construct that tends to be confused with mass acceptance, where the critical mass is reached when "merely" at least a million people are paying customers. I don't think "most" North Americans buy into any same set of cultural products.

From where I'm sitting, anything on regular television is mainstream, even the so-called late night "cult" shows like the X-Files and South Park. At the very least, anything that gets mentioned on Entertainment Tonight could be considered mainstream, no? The kind of celebrities featured on the magazines sold in supermarkets are surely mainstream, yes?

Does "mainstream" necessarily involve active participation in the marketplace? How many Frank Sinatra records are sold every year? What about Elvis (outside of regions of the US where he's still revered as something of a god)?

Is Celine Dion mainstream? I always thought the people who buy her records are women in their late twenties and early thirties. I mean, she sells a hell of a lot of records, but I've never met anyone who owns one, despite working with people who seem to fit the profile of the "mainstream" consumer.

Is Britney Spears mainstream? Isn't her audience pubescent girls? Will the great masses of humanity remember her in a decade from now, or will she join the ranks of Samantha Fox and other short-lived fads?

Were the Beatles mainstream in the sixties? The Doors?

A handful of superhero characters are generally known to everyone, but an insignificant fraction of them actually buy and/or read the comics that feature them every month.

What about drugs? I seem to remember seeing statistics that indicated that there are more Americans who have used marijuana than there are Catholics. The last US president used it when he was in college, and the present one used cocaine. Are US presidents not, if not by definition than by common understanding, the most mainstream people in the country?

What Pat seems believe, if I understand him correctly, is that for something to be legitimately mainstream it must not just be familiar to but actively appeal to a staggeringly large percentage of the population, regardless of age, gender, socio-economic class, ethnic and language group, and life experience in general. Something, that like food, sex, and clothing, everybody needs. Something that truly has something for everybody. In other words, something that appeals to the lowest common denominator, not just this group of tweedy intellectuals, that group of rowdy teenagers, or those scary-looking weirdos in torn clothing lurking over there. The problem is that he has gone on record as stating that the concept of the "lowest common denominator" is nothing but a cruel fiction invented and perpetuated chiefly by insecure snobs in order to feel better about the fact that few others share their unpopular taste.

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#506223 - 01/10/03 10:58 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
I think I've figured out the real problem here:

All the people arguing that stuff like South Park or, for that matter, the typical indy/alt comic book, is "mainstream" are convinced that they and their like-minded friends represent the mainstream of American culture.

Self-delusion, of course...but the problem with the self-deluded is that it's nearly impossible to relieve them of their delusion.


This addresses none of the many examples or questions issued.

Why would alt/indy kids be arguing that their tastes are "mainstream"? Alt/indy tastes are characteristic of those who are not interested in the mainstream. Which, incidentally, probably renders them the better able to discern the borders.

You seem to have this odd notion that anything which appeals mainly to, say, people more than a handful of years younger or more liberal than yourself is automatically disqualified from being "mainstream." Because ... I'm guessing ... you don't happen to hear much about it. Or don't like it. Or both.

Hell, I don't care if South Park is mainstream or not, but do you have cable TV? And exactly how old are you, anyhow? Do you regularly read entertainment magazines? Watch entertainment news? Do you often interact with younger people? Do you live in a vaguely metropolitan area? Do you get out at all? I'm just curious what you feel your qualifications are as Spokesman of What Qualifies As Mainstream. Some concrete examples with specific reasons would be helpful, too. Is Britney Spears mainstream? Is Eminem? Is Spawn?


K

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#506224 - 01/10/03 11:36 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
I'd love to hear Pat's thoughts on Adorno. I doubt he'd ever recover if he actually encountered real intellectual elitism.

Pat, how can we be snoots about the mainstream while thinking we are the mainstream? This thread might be an all-time record for contradictions on your part. If only you could get the synthesis down, you'd be this board's Hegel.

For the record, if anyone's actually in doubt, I haven't been discussing my favorite artists in this thread.
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#506225 - 01/11/03 12:53 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:
For the record, if anyone's actually in doubt, I haven't been discussing my favorite artists in this thread.
You can't imagine how appreciative we are!

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#506226 - 01/11/03 02:05 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by Jamie Salomon:
I'm not sure that a true "mainstream" can really exist in a large, culturally fractured society like North America.
Thus my frustration with the lack of a good definition within this thread.

I'll agree with most of your positions with your posting.

Within entertainment, there are genres and within that sub-genres. Each has its audience and that audience is comprised of a variety of demographic groups. Some audiences for any one genre may be comprised of a narrow set of demographics, while audiences for other genres can be comprised of a small percentage of a larger set of demographics.

Advertisers for TV would kill for a certain percentage of a certain age group because according to research, one demographic has more sway in economic terms than do others. The demographic in question is indeed fractured. Thank God for that; I'd hate to have us all react the same way to things.

Yes, TV - network TV - N.American for profit network TV to be the most precise - is looking for something that appeals to the largest audience possible - all along hoping it picks up significant numbers of males 18-40. Unfortunately, this indeed caters to the Lowest Common Denominator. Too rarely the good shows survive.

The opposite of the TV and non arthouse movie market seems to be "everything else" - basically genre entertainment. Where the audience is assumed to be relatively limited. While a creator or actor might be known widely, if it's within that genre, the term "cult status" is often applied.

To be popular within the genre is one thing. To break out and become popular in another genre is another achievement. To sustain a level of popularity outside the initial genre illustrates staying power and long appeal. All along the way, investors/producers see a lowered risk in investing in the entertainment venture.

In short, even though the "mainstream entertainment" feature may not be shown on network TV, it's probably suitable for it.

Rolling this back to comics...
Since comics can't go on TV, I believe there is an equivalent venue. Mass marketing along side books. Where the holy grail is (gasp!) Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart, where they've been known to swing their weight around to make editorial changes in entertainment products. (okay, so if Wal-Mart tried to make an editorial change, it wouldn't make them a HOLY grail... more like a very expensive chalice.) Marketing any comic to Wal-Mart is too marketing whacked to say it's a sign of being a "mainstream" form of entertainment. I think it would be the end result as well as some ultimate reward. Or punishment.

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#506227 - 01/11/03 03:36 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
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Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
No single work in any medium has an audience that represents the majority of those who follow work that medium, except for comics. Other media are increasingly marginalizing themselves, but only in comics is a work automatically assumed to be one genre, and only in comics are practitioners, readers, and collectors assumed to be the same (though there is quite a bit of overlap). People unfamiliar with comics who hear I work in the field think I know how much a particular comic thay had when they were a kid is worth, that my life is like "Chasing Amy", or that I won't read anything without pictures. To me, this is like presuming a musician can fix your radio, their life is like "Shine", or that you need to sing to them instead of speak to them so they can understand you. Comics is the Bizarro mass medium.

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#506228 - 01/11/03 09:51 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
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Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
PAT.

I started the South Park Thing. Let me explain it to you. I started it originally to explain that comic books like HATE have MAINSTREAM POTENTIAL.

I never said that HATE or alt/indy comics WERE MAINSTREAM. Never, impossible. Mainstream is the cultural norm, the top seller. This is America, sales and stats define and confirm legitimacy and acceptance in our culture.

To the South Park tangent on its own:

Pat, you've proven to be intellectually, and rhetorically dishonest.

-NO, the majority of the population will never agree on what to watch.

-YES, cable television is mainstream. Wake up, this is the post-80s.

-YES, America's culture is YOUTH culture. Sorry, but your time to influence what's "happening" is through.

-YES, millions of viewers, T-shirts, movie tickets, parodies, merchandise, et cetera does equate to "mainstream."

-YES, South Park does fly in the face of American morals--however, its that DIRECT OPPOSITION of American cultural values that makes the show ENTIRELY ABOUT American cultural values!

-No, you don't have a leg to stand on in this debate.

-Yes, Hate has mainstream appeal. Its closer to what the mainstream of American pop culture (ie, people under 30) are into than the latest confuserama from Marvel's X-line.

-that should do it. But honestly, I get so sick of debating with people who cannot grasp even the most blatant, obvious facts; who will distort those facts through semantic bullshit to try and get their way. Those reversals do not work, we're not that dumb, man.

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#506229 - 01/11/03 10:48 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
Hell, I don't care if South Park is mainstream or not, but do you have cable TV? And exactly how old are you, anyhow? Do you regularly read entertainment magazines? Watch entertainment news? Do you often interact with younger people? Do you live in a vaguely metropolitan area? Do you get out at all? I'm just curious what you feel your qualifications are as Spokesman of What Qualifies As Mainstream. Some concrete examples with specific reasons would be helpful, too. Is Britney Spears mainstream? Is Eminem? Is Spawn?


Answering the questions in order.

Yes, I have cable...a pretty complete package that includes MTV, Comedy Central and other niche networks. I'm 50, turning 51 in April. No, I don't regularly read entertainment mags, but I regularly read the entertainment sections of the newspaper and news magazines. I have a 17-year-old son and a 14-year-old son; I work with a large cohort of high-school and college-age people in my part-time job; I can't help but interact with younger people. I live in the Philadelphia suburbs. I don't get out as often as I'd like (see the earlier answer about teen-age sons for the reason).

My qualifications for being "Spokesman of What Qualifies As Mainstream"--having lived long enough to see an awful lot of "flash-in-the-pan" stuff be touted as the new entertainment mainstream, only to disappear within a couple of seasons.

Britney is mainstream only in the sense of being part of a tradition of young girl pop singers, a tradition that goes beyond Lesley Gore and up through Tiffany and Debbie Gibson to Britney.

Eminem is not mainstream because, quite frankly, rap is not mainstream. Could it become so? Only if today's rap fans are still listening to rap when they're 50, the way people in my generation are still listening to the Beatles (and other '60s music) are now.

You know, at this point, you all know a lot more about me than I know about any of you or your qualifications for disputing my arguments.

Quote:
-Yes, Hate has mainstream appeal. Its closer to what the mainstream of American pop culture (ie, people under 30) are into than the latest confuserama from Marvel's X-line.


The before-mentioned self-delusion comes to light--that people under 30 represent the mainstream of American pop culture.
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#506230 - 01/11/03 11:30 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
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Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
It would only be accurate to speak of things that are the mainstream of particular segments of society. Here's an example: a few years ago there was a concert held at the Olympic Stadium that was sold out, and it seats something like twenty thousand, maybe more, maybe less. In a mid-sized city like Montreal, that's huge. When big-name acts play here, like The Rolling Stones, the Stadium is where the concerts are held. The performer was a singer from Italy. I asked some Italian women I work with if the knew anything about it, and they reacted like I'd asked a comic fan if they'd ever heard of Spider-Man. The only other person I located who knew anything about the guy was my roommate at the time, who is the music editor of one of the local weekly newspapers.

Spider-Man and Batman are the mainstream of American super hero comics; Crossgen characters aren't. In its heyday, Hate was part of the mainstream of American alternative comics. Love and Rockets continues to remain, twenty years later, part of thaat same mainstream. Ted Stearn's Fuzz and Pluck isn't.

Dead Kennedys and Black Flag were the mainstream of American hardcore in the eighties, a musical genre that in those days was almost completely outside the mainstream (almost: remember that a Suicidal Tendencies song, "Institutionalized" was featuered once on Miami Vice).

Coke and Pepsi are the soda pop mainstream. Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray and Brio Chinotto aren't.

South Park, King of the Hill, and The Simpsons are the mainstream of American animated cartoons for older viewers. That one about the psychologist isn't. If it was, I'd know what it's called.

There are "mainstreams" and "alternatives" in country music, christian music, jazz music, classical music, rap music, and every form of music marketed in countries with a large enough segment of the population with enough disposable income to buy music.

Ditto literature: I don't know who's considered the mainstream of English language science fiction, but Philip K Dick and JG Ballard aren't part of it, despite high profile films with bona fide movie stars having been made based on their books. Fantasy, crime, romance and other literary genres have both their mainstream and those writers and books that exist off the beaten path. What might be called "literary" literature (or "serious" literature) does as well.

Ditto: every human system ever devised: religious, business, architecture, sports, politics, etc. etc.

Pat's ideal novel, Harper Lee's Too Kill a Mockingbird does not represent the mainstream. Does it sell on the book racks at drugstores? Has anyone spotted anybody reading it on the subway to work recently? No and no. It's arguable that if it wasn't entrenched as part of many ninth-grade English curricula it would have gone out of print decades ago.

The need to create order out of chaos is a powerful one. Faced with an increasingly confusing and fragmented society, the mind selects pieces of data and constructs artificial models of the bigger picture of the world "out there" in order to cope and place oneself in a comfortable scheme of things. I'd say that this is a hallmark of earlier generations of thinking, atavisms from when the world really was a simpler place. Once fixated on a particular set of paradigms that make up one's worldview, the mind will usually fight desperately to incorporare or ignore data that contradicts the basic "ground rules." Of course, goverments and entities that profit from such worldviews actively attempt to reinforce these convenient fictions.

Over the years of reading this message board, I've noticed how Pat leads the pack, making his most vocal detractors dance to his tune. What always, inevitably, happens is he argues himself into a corner, then breaks through a hole in the wall into the next room by redefining the argument to suit himself. Everybody crawls through the same whole into the next room and the process repeats itself. I never tire of watching the chorus line shimmy its way through the house that is cultural dialogue.

I suspect much of his inability to publicly experience a paradigm shift is due to the often hostile tone his interlocutors take in exasperation (and for other reasons that aren't germane here, but he will interpret as "evidence," like Matt Hawes, of his flawed basic assumptions), so an all-too-natural bunker mentality is added to the normal processes of maintaining one's worldview.

Please, carry on.

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#506231 - 01/11/03 11:39 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by darryl comix:
But honestly, I get so sick of debating with people who cannot grasp even the most blatant, obvious facts; who will distort those facts through semantic bullshit to try and get their way.


I'm not disagreeing with you on SOUTH PARK so much here, and I can't with HATE. So, I'll deflect with another couple of examples that seem to run closer.
CHEECH AND CHONG is a good example of a counter culture act that went about as mainstream as you can get. Even Pat can't argue with that one.

They came from the same culture and time frame as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. If MTV and Comedy Central existed in 1972, perhaps we would all be reminiscing about Fat Freddy's Cat right now.

As it turned out, it was Cheech and Chong that hit the big time (Grammy, hit movie(S)) and both actors did well afterwards. Chong still does the same schtick to this day on... Network TV. Cheech has gone on, and has reached a point where he's not currently known for his original entre into the mass marketplace. Certainly CHEECH AND CHONG as an act did succeed, where the FFF was fighting local laws against advocating pot use.

Thing is, you could easily say (and I'd agree) that the FABOULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS did have "mainstream appeal" because a set of characters born near the same time DID reach the "mainstream". The fact that the FFF never did much except have a good and long history within the alt/indy crowd - and a few legion of stoners who probably never bought another alt/indy comic book.

Rolling this back to the first couple posts on the thread, I'd answer your point this way:

It's entirely possible that characters created and published in the comic book media might find larger success outside the realm of comic books than are finding success within comic books. This goes for the creative writing talent, too.

So, if you point to the potential popularity outside the comic book market for the character of Buddy Bradley,
I'd say, "Sure. Why not?"
and then I'd say, "Where's the project?"
and you might reply, "Development Hell."
"How long since the last news on it?"
"Three years."
"Sucks, dude."

(If there IS a recent update on HATE, someone notify Comics2Film.com, would ya?)

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#506232 - 01/11/03 01:13 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Although Pat will no doubt argue that Cheech and Chong only appealed to the merely many millions of dopers and fellow travellers that made up a profitable targetable demographic at the time and that the real mainstreamers like himself re-elected Nixon to wipe them off the face of the earth in 1972, it's interesting to note that the film right to the Freak Brothers were purchased several times in the seventies by the people behind the Cheech & Chong movies in order to prevent competing franchises from being brought to market.

Besides, the real mainstream sticks to watered-down beer. People who stray outside the law for their refreshments are only notorious crriminals like US presidents. I wonder where the housewives popping their "Mother's Little Helper"s fit in?

I suspect that Pat's arguments as to what's mainstream are fueled by caucasian boomer chauvinism. When Jim Morrison was screaming about killing his father and fucking his mother in the late sixties, to Pat's parents The Doors may as well have been as marginal as Iggy Pop rolling around in broken glass and smearing peanut butter all over himself, but now that the glassy-eyed fans of a band named after an LSD manifesto are all grown up, having turned off, tuned out, and finally dropped right back the fuck back in they can tune into oldies stations and get theirs raves from the grave all through their lunch hour and their blasts from the past on special programs on MTV once or twice a week.

Despite the fact that the only people who still buy their records are an insignificant proportion of middle-aged middle-class ofay boomers who deny the connection that this music had to cannabis and psychedelic drugs and doped-up teenagers looking for groovy sounds emanating from the pioneers of American consciousness-exapansion Pat will insist that The Beatles, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix are the real mainstream in American society and ignore that they were responsible for millions of Americans undermining the government's foreign policy and controlled substance laws.

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#506233 - 01/11/03 02:12 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:

The before-mentioned self-delusion comes to light--that people under 30 represent the mainstream of American pop culture.


Thanks for addressing the questions this time around, at least. It helps make one thing clearer about your view -- the importance of surviving a span of time to qualify as "mainstream."

If that's central to how you define it, more power to you, I guess, but I think it's just common sense to accept that the mainstream changes from generation to generation. Enduring the test of time doesn't qualify something as "mainstream" -- it qualifies it as a legend and/or historical/cultural icon. I mean, the Beatles aren't "mainstream" -- they're a cultural/musical legend. Same with Elvis.

"Cheers" (the show) isn't mainstream. It was mainstream. Nobody much under the age of 20 or so knows much or cares much about Cheers, or better yet, M*A*S*H. It's not much a part of their consciousness, if any part at all. They're more likely to know Frasier -- a part of today's mainstream.

I guess it comes down to whether you allow that mainstream status is fluid and linked intrinsically to the present (the entertainment of which is marketed increasingly to "youth") or whether you don't acknowledge the mainstream status of something until it's nearly become a cultural legend. I just see no reason to do the latter, and it seems backwards to consider anything which was popular more than a decade ago as "mainstream." At best you could say it's part of mainstream consciousness, but those things which are a part of the mainstream consciousness of old and young, rural and urban alike -- to my mind -- are something entirely different and more cemented in history than the term "mainstream" implies.


K

PS - apologies if I'm repeating any points, I've gotta get going and only skimmed the last couple posts.

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#506234 - 01/11/03 02:53 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
ChrisW Offline
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Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 10034
Loc: Lincoln, Nebraska USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
Sock Puppet puts it very well. "Mainstream" isn't just about success.

"Mainstream" is about public consciousness. It's about being recognized by the man on the street who is not specifically a fan of the product or genre or medium.

People who have never seen Star Wars or its sequels (they exist--my 17-year-old son has a couple such in his class at school) still recognize Darth Vader. People who have never read a comic book recognize the reference when someone in a Superman suit appears on a newsmagazine cover.

Think any significant number of readers would get the reference if it were to Ghost World or Hate, instead?

Andy Warhol could use Campbell's Soup and Marilyn Monroe as cultural referents in his work. Think he could have used Progresso and Diana Dors as successfully?


Would that be like having Stan Lee on the Simpsons? Even as a name being dropped? ("That plot twist is so corny it would make even Stan Lee blush" -- Comic Book Guy)
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#506235 - 01/11/03 03:11 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
Self-delusion, of course...but the problem with the self-deluded is that it's nearly impossible to relieve them of their delusion.
Geez, is this Pat O'Neill telling people that they are self-deluded? PAT O'NEILL, who holds forth on a wide range of topics, inventing facts, denying reality, and lying through his teeth? Last time I recall you whipping out the "delusion" claim, it was telling Kurt Busiek that he was deluded finding value in a certain comic book. Now because people's experiences don't match the "facts" THAT YOU INVENT, that you show no interesting in backing up or citing sources for, you claim they are self-delusional?

You are not only dishonest, Pat, you show every sign of being not sane.

Mainstream does not mean "just what appeals to a fifty year old insane person". Facts are not just whatever you feel like claiming. You claim that South Park ratings would not be considered good on even other cable networks -- tell us South Park's ratings, Pat, and tell us what other cable networks expect. (Here's a bit of info for you: the first time an original scripted adult-oriented cable series was the highest-rated cable program for multiple consecutive weeks, it was South Park. Individual airings of individual episodes have had as many as 6 million+ viewers.)

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#506236 - 01/11/03 03:18 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
ChrisW Offline
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Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 10034
Loc: Lincoln, Nebraska USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
I think I've figured out the real problem here:

All the people arguing that stuff like South Park or, for that matter, the typical indy/alt comic book, is "mainstream" are convinced that they and their like-minded friends represent the mainstream of American culture.

Self-delusion, of course...but the problem with the self-deluded is that it's nearly impossible to relieve them of their delusion.


I think South Park is/was mainstream. Too successful to call it anything else. I think Hate would/could be mainstream in the same sense, because it shares much with South Park (and is way better, in my opinion).

But I in no way represent the mainstream of American culture, and I don't have any like-minded friends, so they don't either.

Subject matter, 'regular joe' outlook, half-cool/half-gross details used throughout. That connects it to mainstream.
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#506237 - 01/11/03 04:20 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Quote:
Britney is mainstream only in the sense of being part of a tradition of young girl pop singers, a tradition that goes beyond Lesley Gore and up through Tiffany and Debbie Gibson to Britney.


My point exactly. Now repeat this but replace the specifics relating to Britney and the area of culture that she inhabits with other specifics and real headway will be made, eg. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Batman, The Doors, Mario Lanza, Hate comics, etc. etc.

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#506238 - 01/11/03 08:10 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Exactly what tradition--in the manner of the one Lesley Gore and Britney Spears are part of--does Hate belong to?

I'm unaware of any 40- to 50-year long string of satirical comics with ugly art.
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#506239 - 01/11/03 08:46 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
Member

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
Oh please, that's just ignorant.


ever heard of MAD MAGAZINE, Pat?


Another case of a dude so INTENT on winning the argument that he ignores not only opinion, but FACT. Its a FACT that these things are prevailant in America.

And the "ugly" thing is bullshit and you know it. I think the art is fantastic--but what the hell do I know, I only study ART in school...

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#506240 - 01/11/03 08:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
Member

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
I'm unaware of any 40- to 50-year long string of satirical comics with ugly art.



I mean...I've got so many ways to cut you to pieces, I don't know where to start?!?

MAD MAGAZINE, for one...

EDITORIAL CARTOONS, for another...

This thread is officially fucking retarded.

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#506241 - 01/11/03 08:53 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
Member

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
I should leave this topic alone....my point is made, but I'm just awestruck by your last comments...I mean, what were you thinking?

No history of crude satire in comics? COMICS?

oh my goodness...

Awestruck...

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#506242 - 01/11/03 08:57 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
Exactly what tradition--in the manner of the one Lesley Gore and Britney Spears are part of--does Hate belong to?

I'm unaware of any 40- to 50-year long string of satirical comics with ugly art.


The tradition of sitcoms about young people living on their own in the big city. If comics wasn't so tragically limited in the range of subject matter, realistic sitcom-type comics would have been invented decades ago. It's more of a sitcom comic than a satire comic, but since you haven't read it and refuse to read anything from Fantagraphics you wouldn't know.

Furthermore, the exact nature of how different traditions operate varies from tradition to tradition and individual traditions evolve over time. The vapid girl singers of your childhood evinced none of the blatant sexuality that singers like Britney do. I'd be very surprised, to say the least, if Leslie Gore considers herself an antecedent to Britney Spears (if she's still alive that is). From what I've noticed, these sexpots who flaunt their wares so openly are part of a newer, different tradition than the saccharine-sweet old-timers.

Is anything that predates your childhood capable of being mainstream, by the way?


---------

About the ugly art thing: I've encountered the opinion that Bagge's drawing style in Neat Stuff and Hate is ugly before, and I never understood this. It's a hyper-exaggerated cartoony style, but is based in the tradition of cartooniness. Artists like Gary Panter, Lloyd Dangle, Tom Hart, with their thin, unconnected lines I could see how they could be processed as ugly (Panter referred his style as "ratty drawing"), though they look fine to my eyes. But Bagge? If you guys see ugly there, I'm not going to argue, but I really can't understand how his drawing could be processed as ugly. It just doesn't compute. It's like someone saying chocolate tastes gross.

You guys really find Bagge's art ugly? Huh.

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#506243 - 01/11/03 09:08 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
THE Anti-Hunter Offline
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Registered: 01/24/02
Posts: 10266
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Will people be listening to rap in their 40's and 50's? Like the beatles? WTF? Rap is here to stay and I'm damn sure it's going to be around when i'm your age, hell I'm willing to wager that i'll still be listening to it than too. I'm not trying to jump on the bandwagon here by dissing Pat, but he's pulling shit out of his ass.
As much as I like superhero comix, I'd love to see indy/alt comics get as much exposure. I'm not interested in trying to keep them underground and a big secret, only known to a select few. That sucks.
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#506244 - 01/11/03 10:58 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Quote:
My qualifications for being "Spokesman of What Qualifies As Mainstream"--having lived long enough to see an awful lot of "flash-in-the-pan" stuff be touted as the new entertainment mainstream, only to disappear within a couple of seasons.


The nature of the culture industry has sped up in recent decades. Product life cycles have been getting shorter and shorter. I doubt we'll ever see cultural producers with as much longevity as the Beatles again. The Rolling Stones still draw huge audiences when they go on tour, but I wonder how many of those audience members bought their recent albums and how many songs from those records the band actually performs.

The "flash-in-the-plan" syndrome is an entirely mainstream phenomenon. Non-mainstream culture sometimes tends to generate smaller cult followings that remain loyal years after the flashes in the pans have burned out the the ashes have been blown away by the next big thing.

Whether or not something sticks around for paying customers for lifetimes is a separate issue than if they were on everybody's lips when their tawdry star was at its momentary apex.

Hasn't rap music been around since the early seventies? When did The Sugarhill Gang record "Rapper's Delight"? I remember hearing it as a child who was too young to go downtown to specialty record shops or to even understand such a concept. Which means they had plenty of fans in their twenties who would be around Pat's age today.

(note to freshman psychoPatologists: This is what I was referring to earlier: argued into a corner, Pat now redefines "mainstream" as something else that is completely different than he did previously, namely something that is popular longer than most posters here have been alive. Welcome to the new digs, everyone. Make yourselves comfortable, but don't get too comfortable because we won't be here for more than a few posts from our choreographer. And: step, toe, step step, heel, twirl...)

Mainstream means exactly, literally that: the the main direction that the stream of consumers' dollars are moving in at the moment.

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#506245 - 01/12/03 12:15 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
Member

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:




"Rap is not mainstream."

HELLO???

Rap is the HIGHEST-SELLING MUSICAL GENRE IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY, if that's not mainstream, then NOTHING is.

I swear up and down to God's door, its clowns like you that limit real progress in the world. I'm so sorry that you don't understand...you're just too old, maybe. But the FACT of the matter is that hip hop IS MAINSTREAM. How can a person deny this? This guy's actually trying to argue against statistical FACTS!

What color is the sky, by the way?

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#506246 - 01/12/03 11:41 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
unaware of any 40- to 50-year long string of satirical comics with ugly art.

I mean...I've got so many ways to cut you to pieces, I don't know where to start?!?

MAD MAGAZINE, for one...

EDITORIAL CARTOONS, for another...


If you think the art in Mad or most editorial cartoons (there are exceptions) is ugly, you don't understand the meaning of the word.

I never said there was no tradition of satirical cartoons...just those with ugly art.
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#506247 - 01/12/03 11:46 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
And the "ugly" thing is bullshit and you know it. I think the art is fantastic--but what the hell do I know, I only study ART in school...


And that may be exactly the problem. From what I can tell talking to today's art students, art schools no longer teach anything that might remotely be called "esthetics"...the standards by which beauty vs. ugly can be determined.
_________________________
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#506248 - 01/12/03 12:17 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
In case there were any doubts, The Sopranos is mainstream. It said so yesterday in and article in the Los Angeles Times, a mainstream daily newspaper from the city that creates most mainstream culture.

Of course, being Canadian, I already knew that, what with it being broadcast on normal stations, nudity and foul language included (something theretofore only available on French language stations), that the government finances and are available for free to consumers and that advertise on billboards. I first heard about from my parents and co-workers who are much more in touch with the mainstream than Pat, by dint of the fact that they are unaware of anything outside of it. If they've not only heard about it, but actually consumed it, it must be not just mainstream, but a huge success. And no, my family and co-workers aren't like those depicted on The Sopranos. Fictitious representations of illegal and/or immoral activities are very much part of the mainstream cultural landscape and have been for a long time, even before Pat's childhood.

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#506249 - 01/12/03 12:26 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Quote:
...art schools no longer teach anything that might remotely be called "esthetics"...the standards by which beauty vs. ugly can be determined.


Right, right. People who actually study subects in a rigorous fashion and make comparisons across the centuries are really ignorant boobs and flim-flam men who snow everyone under with big words and inscrutable diction. The real experts are those who loudly proclaim "I don't know about art, but I know what I like."

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#506250 - 01/12/03 12:46 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jimmy_Helter Offline
Member

Registered: 02/26/02
Posts: 1143
Loc: Columbia, SC
Okay, I'm a little confused. I've read this entire thread, and I have a question?

Is Marvel making an Ultimate Step'n Fetchit? I hope Azzarello is writing it! That would kick so much ass!

Thank you,

Jimmy_Helter <--- Who believes mainstream is best described by the mainstream.
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#506251 - 01/12/03 02:31 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jughead Jones Offline
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Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 814
Loc: Riverdale USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:


And that may be exactly the problem. From what I can tell talking to today's art students, art schools no longer teach anything that might remotely be called "esthetics"...the standards by which beauty vs. ugly can be determined.


"Aesthetics." I thought you were an editor.

I took a four-month course on aesthetics. What we learned was that there is NO OBJECTIVE STANDARD OF BEAUTY. A standard of beauty is based largely on the viewer's own personal tastes, and beyond that on the larger tastes of society.

I personally like Bagge's work. But I guess I'm just another BFA who doesn't know anything.. just like the many publications that pay for his illustrations.
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#506252 - 01/12/03 03:21 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
ChrisW Offline
Member

Registered: 11/25/00
Posts: 10034
Loc: Lincoln, Nebraska USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Jamie Salomon:
About the ugly art thing: I've encountered the opinion that Bagge's drawing style in Neat Stuff and Hate is ugly before, and I never understood this. It's a hyper-exaggerated cartoony style, but is based in the tradition of cartooniness. Artists like Gary Panter, Lloyd Dangle, Tom Hart, with their thin, unconnected lines I could see how they could be processed as ugly (Panter referred his style as "ratty drawing"), though they look fine to my eyes. But Bagge? If you guys see ugly there, I'm not going to argue, but I really can't understand how his drawing could be processed as ugly. It just doesn't compute. It's like someone saying chocolate tastes gross.

You guys really find Bagge's art ugly? Huh.


Ugly in the sense that it's not polished like many/most cartoons are, I suspect is what they mean. I could see how some might see the surface drawing as off-putting and unattractive, but most of these people hated the 90's. It's wild and cartoony, without being a clean Archie look, an energetic Kirby look, a detailed Crumb look, and so on.

Or maybe it's just the characters, some of whom look as ugly as Cathy or Dilbert (or, in my opinion, Jimmy Corrigan).
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#506253 - 01/12/03 04:41 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
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Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:


If you think the art in Mad or most editorial cartoons (there are exceptions) is ugly, you don't understand the meaning of the word.

I never said there was no tradition of satirical cartoons...just those with ugly art.
"Ugly" is a subjective term. I find the style that's considered the standard in mainstream comics as ugly as their fans would find the type of style I like. A better word to describe someone like Peter Bagge in terms of his accessibility or lack thereof would be "grotesque", and I would argue that Bagge follows the tradition of MAD, whose artists were considered "ugly" at one time and have had significant cultural impact. One could even say this tradition goes back to Bosch and Breugel, though there was no mass media as we know it in their time.

Also, Peter Bagge and Dan Clowes do plenty of work for mainstream magazines, the only time any superhero artist ever does is when the art director wants something that "looks like a comic book".

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#506254 - 01/12/03 07:19 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Sam's right about Bagge fitting in to the tradition of "grotesque-cartoony" stuff. I just never found those styles ugly or unpolished or rough at all (not that I necessarily dislike unpolished, rough, scratchy styles, mind you). Quite the contrary, actually. Do people who think Bagge's drawing is ugly wince at Basil Wolverton's Lena The Hyena-type drawings? That style always tickled my synapses.

I suspect that people who think Bagge's drawing style is ugly haven't experienced at all or spent enough time with a wide enough spectrum of visual styles in order to put him in proper perspective within the universe of the myriad ways that comic artists and other drawers make their lines and marks.

Ugly to me is that bland, so-called "realistic" style that's as tasteless as styrofoam and as completely impersonal as a corporate logo that dominates mainstream comic books, especially since the nineties. They just get worse and worse. Feh!

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#506255 - 01/12/03 09:48 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
"Aesthetics." I thought you were an editor.


esthetics (ès-thèt´îks) noun
Variant of aesthetics.

Excerpted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition © 1996 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Electronic version licensed from INSO Corporation; further reproduction and distribution in accordance with the Copyright Law of the United States. All rights reserved.

Spelling it with the "ae" in modern English is an affectation. Do you still spell it "Aegypt" too?

Quote:
I took a four-month course on aesthetics. What we learned was that there is NO OBJECTIVE STANDARD OF BEAUTY. A standard of beauty is based largely on the viewer's own personal tastes, and beyond that on the larger tastes of society.


If that's what they're teaching in so-called esthetics courses these days, I rest my case. The Greeks--who invented the word--would be laughing their heads off.
_________________________
Best, Pat

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#506256 - 01/12/03 10:09 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Quote:
Spelling it with the "ae" in modern English is an affectation.


No. According to your own dictionary, the main spelling is with the "a". The definition of "esthetics" in my dictionary (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged) is "aesthetics." The definitions of "aesthetics" in both our dictionaries are under the one in the "a" section, and mine doesn't have an entry for "Aegypt" and I'm not sure Gene Philips will trust you if you say yours does.


By choosing the self-conscious affectation of leaving off the "a" in "aesthetics", you have cast in your lot with the secret pretentious underground hipsters club, Pat. See at at the tattoo & body piercing parlor next week.

Here's one of the (non-archaic) definitions of aesthetics in my dictionary: "Philos. the branch of philosophy dealing with such notions as the beautiful, the ugly, the sublime, the comic, etc., as applicable to the fine arts, with a view to establishing the meaning and validity of critical judgement concerning works of art, and the priciples underlying or justifying such judgement."

In other words, you are completely in the wrong once again. But, of course, the definition I provided is incorrect because I'm not typing out the copyright information, right?

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#506257 - 01/12/03 10:19 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jughead Jones Offline
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Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 814
Loc: Riverdale USA
Well, what you're missing, Pat, is the rest of the course, which you obviously haven't been exposed to.

The words "beauty" and "ugliness" ("ugly" isn't the opposite of "beauty," by the way-- it's the opposite of "beautiful") are essentially meaningless. They reflect only the visceral reaction of each individual viewer. The only way to really objectively critique art is with a focus on technique, style, form, and intent. Anything else is only one viewer expressing his own prejudices and tastes.

I'd think someone who presumes to write about art would be familiar with the basics of art criticism.

I stand by my spelling-- I've done a lot of reading of art criticism, and I've never (that I recall) come across your spelling before.

I don't care for modern, non-representational sculpture-- I think it's ugly. But I can see the artistic value and appeal in it, and can even tell good modern non-representational sculpture from bad. That's the difference between looking at something with one's own prejudices and looking at something objectively.
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#506258 - 01/12/03 11:03 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
darryl comix Offline
Member

Registered: 04/25/02
Posts: 1197
Loc: New York
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:


If you think the art in Mad or most editorial cartoons (there are exceptions) is ugly, you don't understand the meaning of the word.

I never said there was no tradition of satirical cartoons...just those with ugly art.


Opinions, nothing more. Too bad you don't know the difference between fact and opinion.

And furthermore, you look so ridiculous now; trying to tell me that I don't know "ugly," yet you're the one making ridiculous value judgements that are 100% opinion and nothing else. God, its so frustrating "debating" with a person either too dense to know the difference between his own opinion and statistical facts, or just too dishonest to admit that he fucked up and lost the argument.

It makes me so angry that people are too dishonest and selfish to TRULY discuss issues and instead scream their opinions as "fact" even in the face of a person who actually has the intelligence to put together rational arguments.


I never told anybody what art to like; all I've said is that certain art styles DO appeal to a great many people. If those people are not yourself, fine.

This discussion has proven itself to be just as vulgar as the other one on this board. Truly disgusting abuse of "debate."

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#506259 - 01/12/03 11:25 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Aaah, Darryl, so young, so innocent. With time you will come to recognize that Pat-threads are nothing so pedestrian as "debate." They are elaborate collaborative pieces of absurdist performance art.

Is Pat really the scoutmaster, the drill sergeant with the Groucho glasses, or is he the instrument that we play in a free-for-all improv jam session? Who knows what the next note will be? What exotic sounds and far-out concepts will the instrument emit next in response to our dancing fingers pushing him this way and that? Or is he really having an extended laugh at our expense, jealously guarding the script from prying eyes? What's really going on here? Who knows? Who cares?

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#506260 - 01/13/03 02:47 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Yeah, Daryl, you wouldn't complain that the skeet can't fight back, would you? This is a comicon pastime. To borrow from Jamie's metaphor, we're seeing how many rooms Pat can burrow through before he hits the reality outside his solipsistic mansion.

It's funny to see Pat, who always resorts to some sort of abject relativism in his arguments over artistic valuation, to suddenly turn into an objectivist.
_________________________
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#506261 - 01/13/03 03:26 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:
If you think the art in Mad or most editorial cartoons (there are exceptions) is ugly, you don't understand the meaning of the word.
Because Pat's tastes aren't just tastes, they're TRUTH. Just like his assumptions are TRUTH. And his delusions are TRUTH.

Pat, seek professional help, for your own good and the good of your family. Your problems dealing with reality may be putting them at risk.

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#506262 - 01/13/03 08:06 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jamie Salomon Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/99
Posts: 758
Quote:
...I'm not sure Gene Philips...


Oops. This should obviously read "I'm not sure Nat Gertler..." Apologies to everyone for any confusion my failure to carefully reread my words before posting may have caused. Why'd I mix Gene and Nat up?

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#506263 - 01/13/03 01:12 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Jamie Salomon:

Oops. This should obviously read "I'm not sure Nat Gertler..." Apologies to everyone for any confusion my failure to carefully reread my words before posting may have caused. Why'd I mix Gene and Nat up?


(Heh ... I can't imagine!)

You can always just edit the original message though. A wonderful feature that's assisted me in the correction of potential blunders many a time.

K

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#506264 - 01/13/03 01:24 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
madget Offline
Member

Registered: 05/11/01
Posts: 4870
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:
Yeah, Daryl, you wouldn't complain that the skeet can't fight back, would you? This is a comicon pastime. To borrow from Jamie's metaphor, we're seeing how many rooms Pat can burrow through before he hits the reality outside his solipsistic mansion.


Personally, I think Pat's just seeing how many posts it takes to make Nat Gertler spontaneously combust.

It's kind of fascinating that he actually manages to get people so worked up over a point as minor as whether or not Hate has mainstream potential, though. Not that I don't understand. It's tough to play a game with someone when you're at least attempting to obey the established rules and they're making up their own as they go.

K

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#506265 - 01/13/03 02:29 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by Jughead Jones:
"Aesthetics." I thought you were an editor.
This Dictionary Image shows the US spelling for the word. Get it? United States? Not effete, not intellectual. United States.
Quote:
I took a four-month course on aesthetics. What we learned was that there is NO OBJECTIVE STANDARD OF BEAUTY. A standard of beauty is based largely on the viewer's own personal tastes, and beyond that on the larger tastes of society.
So, if I say that someone's art looks UGLY to me, you won't criticize

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#506266 - 01/13/03 02:49 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Pat ONeill Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 3064
Loc: PA, USA
Quote:
I'd think someone who presumes to write about art would be familiar with the basics of art criticism.


I am...but the basics I'm familiar with and that I abide by predate the post-modernist idea that there are no standards by which to judge beauty.
_________________________
Best, Pat

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#506267 - 01/13/03 03:14 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by darryl comix:
(to Pat: )
Opinions, nothing more. you're the one making ridiculous value judgements that are 100% opinion and nothing else.
[...]
I never told anybody what art to like; all I've said is that certain art styles DO appeal to a great many people. If those people are not yourself, fine.
I do believe there are a finite number of "gatekeepers" of what is seen on the network and major cable channels, and they're interested in financial return. Radio has FEWER "gatekeepers" and damn few radio stations have the ability to choose the music that personally like to play for the people listening.

This certainly doesn't limit the people from choosing their own entertainment.

But for the mass media, the mass market, there ARE "gatekeepers". Many times people do not realize why LINKIN PARK or some other group gets airplay.

Unless you have known a band that couldn't get a live gig in a town to save their lives.

Maybe you DO know. I don't care.

Point is, the people that produce such things as magazines and TV shows and Radio end up reporting to the real "gatekeepers" and fewer and fewer decisions are made on any sense of "beauty" or "ugly". This frustrates people who do have an outdated version of what is beauty and what is ugly.

Hell, the funniest thing I saw last year was a fight between two art directors argueing over which font to use on a particular project. Both were willing to go to the mat, and it nearly came to blows.

Because of beauty? Financial beauty, most likely. "Which one would the audience most like to see?" To choose one implies the other was "ugly". Both widely used fonts, too!

In recent years, making money showing the ugly side of life has been a trend. Ugly also applies to subject matter as well. I know people who actively avoid some TV shows (not TV in general - that's a different argument) because the TV show would show "gross" things. Subjective rejection.(The edible portions of "Fear Factor" come to mind)

But there are those gatekeepers that cater to the common denominator. They do try to keep up on the latest trends, and even hire young people to figure out what the latest trend is, so they can copy and/or broadcast it, thus making money, even as their programming sets the trends they are following. Very cynical, eh?

Rap was not mainstream when it first came out. Rap was counter-culture in nature. But then, so were many musical styles.

Eventually, it's not art. It's business.

If enough people care about any art, it becomes a business.

Yep.
Very cynical.

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#506268 - 01/13/03 03:54 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Quote:
Originally posted by Pat ONeill:


And that may be exactly the problem. From what I can tell talking to today's art students, art schools no longer teach anything that might remotely be called "esthetics"...the standards by which beauty vs. ugly can be determined.


Pat,
I don't pretend to be an expert on ancient Greek aesthetics, but if you are stating that some of the ancient Greeks believed (a) that objective standards of beauty did exist, and (b) that the beautiful implied, as in the much later Keats phrase, some sort of "truth" about the nature of the world, then I would say that's a fair generalization.

The problem is, though, aeshetics did not begin or end with Plato or any other ancient Greek writer (even if the Greeks coined the word).

I think you fail to take into account the fact that even though perceived ugliness should in theory repel audiences in droves, the fact is that throughout history (and prehistory) there has always been a fascination with the outrageously-ugly. You see it in the Greek myths, with deformed Hephaestus and half-animal Pan standing apart from the perfect Olympian deities. You see it in anonymous folktales and in authored fairy tales like "Beauty and the Beast." You see it in the Gothic novels that sprang out of the so-called Age of Reason, in the Romantics and the Decadents. And yes, the fascination has even been in comic books from the very beginning. Often it may've been projected onto villains, but even technically-handsome heroes like Batman, the Hangman and Plastic Man all have aspects of the grim and the grotesque, while monster-heroes like the Thing and the Hulk brought the grotesque to the fore as never before.

I will agree, Pat, that there can be a literary pleasure in extolling the beauties of nature, of the human form, or what have you. However, even if the ancient Greeks didn't have a word corresponding to our "grotesquerie," I think they knew its appeal: not for nothing did some Greek critics trace the form of the "tragedy" from the so-called "satyr-play," which supposedly involved low comedy with the eponymous animal-creatures.

I think humans have in them both the desire to build things up, and the desire to see them torn down, or at least humbled. These desires occur both in real life (where both can be harmful in varying ways) and in fiction (where both are relatively harmless). I think you've fixed on the first desire as the only desire worthy of inhabiting your aesthetic universe, and that's your privilege. But I think a fuller aesthetics takes in the fascination of both the beautiful and the grotesque, because both impulses are to varying degrees a part of us all.

And you don't even have to like SOUTH PARK to admit that.

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#506269 - 01/13/03 04:31 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Quote:
Originally posted by gene phillips:
I think a fuller aesthetics takes in the fascination of both the beautiful and the grotesque, because both impulses are to varying degrees a part of us all.
In the marketplace of art, many times the public consumer doesn't get to see the "grotesque" because the artist it told flat out the art they don't like won't be duplicated for the masses on their dime.

Some artists have to go from production company to production company, and often have to CHANGE their 'Art' to even get their work in front of the public.

This past weekend Sheryl Crow was featured on 60 Minutes:
Quote:
"I can’t say that the music industry... is one that nurtures artistry. It doesn’t," she says. Before her Grammy Award-winning career finally took off in 1993, Crow spent years as a back-up singer and songwriter for hit-makers while shopping her own material to record labels. "[The industry] works against artistry. It doesn’t create a comfort zone... doesn’t ask you to be creative…[or] original," she says. "It asks you to fit into a format that people can make money off," says Crow.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

Now I'll sit back with my brand new Wired magazine and read about the fall of the music industry.

----


"How much you want to bet that the entire music industry collapses? And I mean soon - like five, ten years. Kaboom!"
--Timothy White(1952-2002) editor Billboard magazine to Charles C. Mann (WIRED magazine, Feb 2003)

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#506270 - 01/13/03 04:37 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
I just want to know how the ancient Greeks drew the line between the art in Hate and Don Martin's work. (Pat: Don was an artist in Mad magazine for many years.)

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#506271 - 01/13/03 04:42 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Dan Carroll Offline
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Registered: 04/04/02
Posts: 4588
Loc: Chicago, IL
Compare and contrast:

[img]http://www.toonisland.com/alan/groening/dmartin4.jpg[/img]

[img]http://www.peterbagge.com/images/hate1.jpg[/img]

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#506272 - 01/13/03 10:54 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Jughead Jones Offline
Member

Registered: 06/26/02
Posts: 814
Loc: Riverdale USA
Quote:
Originally posted by Sock Puppet #9.5:
This Dictionary Image shows the US spelling for the word. Get it? United States? Not effete, not intellectual. United States.


Messrs. Merriam and Webster disagree with you. I stand by my spelling.

Quote:
So, if I say that someone's art looks UGLY to me, you won't criticize


Nope. I'm sure there's stuff you think is ugly that I don't. There's plenty of stuff I think is ugly that other folks like, like Paul Pope's comics. But that doesn't mean that they are inherently ugly-- someone else might think them beautiful.

It's when people start using these terms as objective measures that I've got a problem with it.
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#506273 - 01/13/03 11:30 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
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Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Clement Greenberg spelled it 'esthetic' and the majority of philosophers would spell it 'aesthetic' -- the point being is there is no point to be made. I believe the 'a' was dropped to bring the word more in line with modern day spelling, but it never really caught on (with an 'a' is clearly the most frequent spelling, so I guess that's something of a point).
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#506274 - 01/14/03 11:43 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
Member

Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/m1111/1811_302/72732951/print.jhtml

Lexicographers often disagree about spellings and definitions as much as everyone here disagrees about comics, which is why using the lack of information in a particular dictionary entry to prove an argument is moot.

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#506275 - 01/14/03 11:45 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
Member

Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
oops. double post.

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#506276 - 01/14/03 01:59 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Quote:
Originally posted by Slawless Jug:
Nickelodeon magazine has a circulation of about a million readers, and using Deppey's estimate on the "Gary Gripes" thread, that's twice as many people as the total of all comic readers. The magazine has a comic section and the artists are not people like Joe Quesada or Todd Macfarlane. They're comic shop pariah like Mark Martin, Kim Deitch, Richard Sala, Kaz, Jordan Crane, Jason Lutes, Steve Weissman, Craig Thompson, James Kochalka, and myself, in the same styles we use in our regular comics. This is the most popular section of the magazine, which I think negates any argument about alt/indy comics lacking mainstream potential.

My own comic sells about 2000 copies. Using the same estimate of 500,000 readers overall, that means my comic is read by 0.4% of comic readers, or 0.00008% of the American population. I understand the relative lack of commercial potential for comics about beer-drinking robots, peeing ducks, masturbating bosses, and guys whose asses fall off, but I still feel- regardless of factors like longevity and name recognition- they have as much commercial potential as people with special powers who wear tights and fight crime.


I have no familiarity with the Nickolodeon magazine comics-section beyond what Slawless Jug has printed here.

But I would ask, SJ, while you and the other altcomics guys may use the same STYLES, are there restrictions on CONTENT? I for one wouldn't expect a magazine based on a part-kiddie, part-nostalgia channel to be another WEIRDO, but then again I might be surprised.

Which might lead to an interesting discussion of how fixed the "mainstream" is. I certainly don't agree that it fits Pat's inconsistent definitions, but I'm not sure Charles' focus on "intent" does it for me either. As Charles noted, THE CRYING GAME was a mainstream success financially even though its subject matter had little in common with most mainstream romances, so, the question of whether the film "is or isn't" mainstream seems as ambivalent as TCG's ambisexual character.

Jamie Salomon probably has the best take here, focusing on how the perception of the mainstream changed over time and in the eye of what beholder.
I'd add that it might help to think of the mainstream as a sort of semi-permeable membrane, that allows some notions to enter the stream of mass entertainment and not others. It's not even always a matter of the subject matter being too controversial, thus inspiring the wrath of the "gatekeepers" (though certainly that DOES happen). Some subject matter is just too difficult for mainstream consumption. I can't imagine the greater part of the mainstream embracing a dense and confusing work like Eco's FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM, yet the same author produced THE NAME OF THE ROSE, which did break through to that wider mainstream. IMO, TNOTR could do so because had an idea that was easy to describe as a moviemaker's pitch: "Sherlock Holmes in medieval times."

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#506277 - 01/14/03 02:55 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
Member

Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
I have no familiarity with the Nickolodeon magazine comics-section beyond what Slawless Jug has printed here.
But I would ask, SJ, while you and the other altcomics guys may use the same STYLES, are there restrictions on CONTENT? I for one wouldn't expect a magazine based on a part-kiddie, part-nostalgia channel to be another WEIRDO, but then again I might be surprised.


NICK magazine is for the 6-14 age group, so of course there are compromises to be made, but I think adult fans of my peers and I would like this work just the same. We're encouraged to do kids' comics in our own voices. I'm not saying the comics we do on our own have the potential for the same numbers, but definitely more than what they are now. Since the previous quote you used, others have done a better job of saying what I've been trying to say--much the content of ind/alt comics has proven successful in other media, and only in comics is it considered esoteric.

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#506278 - 01/14/03 03:43 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
NatGertler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/10/99
Posts: 4618
Quote:
Originally posted by Slawless Jug:
My own comic sells about 2000 copies. Using the same estimate of 500,000 readers overall, that means my comic is read by 0.4% of comic readers, or 0.00008% of the American population.
Captain Math swoops in, points out that you have one too many zeroes in your "0.00008%" figure, and flies off in search of the highest even prime number.

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#506279 - 01/14/03 03:47 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Dan Carroll Offline
Member

Registered: 04/04/02
Posts: 4588
Loc: Chicago, IL
"Who was that masked man?"

"Let's take his lunch money!"

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#506280 - 01/14/03 04:06 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Quote:
Originally posted by Slawless Jug:
[qb]I have no familiarity with the Nickolodeon magazine comics-section beyond what Slawless Jug has printed here.
But I would ask, SJ, while you and the other altcomics guys may use the same STYLES, are there restrictions on CONTENT? I for one wouldn't expect a magazine based on a part-kiddie, part-nostalgia channel to be another WEIRDO, but then again I might be surprised.


NICK magazine is for the 6-14 age group, so of course there are compromises to be made, but I think adult fans of my peers and I would like this work just the same. We're encouraged to do kids' comics in our own voices. I'm not saying the comics we do on our own have the potential for the same numbers, but definitely more than what they are now. Since the previous quote you used, others have done a better job of saying what I've been trying to say--much the content of ind/alt comics has proven successful in other media, and only in comics is it considered esoteric.[/QB]


But it can be difficult to put across content that is considered "esoteric" in any medium, be it comics, film or music (see earlier Sheryl Crow quote)-- and I wonder how often those that do put across such content find success owe that success to a powerful media-patron, which in turn generates most of his/its profit from what I'd call the "real mainstream"-- i.e., mostly genre-work.

Now it doesn't diminish the accomplishments of yourself and the other altcomics guys to note that NICKOLODEON THE MAGAZINE owes some of its success to the pre-sold corporate name of the cable channel. But it must be said that having such a patron makes it easier to get your work out to a larger audience, and that's as true in book publishing and film distribution as it is the comics-world. I essentially agree with you that some altcomics have the potential to enjoy greater success in the "bookstore mainstream" than they ever can/could in the "DM mainstream," but ONLY if they attract those powerful patrons.

Of course, you can have such a patron and still not take off...

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#506281 - 01/14/03 06:10 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Slawless Jug Offline
Member

Registered: 04/11/00
Posts: 276
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
I agree completely about success owed to corporate patronage and I would also agree that the abscence of success can be attributed partly to the lack of patronage. I was only commenting about missed potential markets, which we cartoonists with lackadaisical self-promotional skills can also partly blame ourselves for. Even with those factors as well as that of Nat's correction increasing my numbers tenfold (and these numbers can be applied and adjusted to to any other comic), it's still lower than it could be.

The whole debate of "alt comics are not as popular as superheroes-> that's only because superheroes scare away a potential mass audience-> superheroes have a mass audience in other media-> but other media are more diverse-> if comics readers wanted diversity they'd buy alt comics" is an unwinnable catch-22 doomed to be played forever on an endless loop.

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#506282 - 01/14/03 08:30 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Quote:
Which might lead to an interesting discussion of how fixed the "mainstream" is. I certainly don't agree that it fits Pat's inconsistent definitions, but I'm not sure Charles' focus on "intent" does it for me either. As Charles noted, THE CRYING GAME was a mainstream success financially even though its subject matter had little in common with most mainstream romances, so, the question of whether the film "is or isn't" mainstream seems as ambivalent as TCG's ambisexual character.


Of course, this character was a man. You seem to think you're disagreeing with me (at least that's how I'm reading it), but you're not. My point was that THE CRYING GAME wasn't mainstream. I'd agree with Pat's likely position (which is why I used the example), it's not mainstream. This, however, would contradict some of his stated requisites for being mainstream (again, which is why I used the example). Maybe you do have a problem with the "intentionality" criterion* but you've not stated it here.

p.s. FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM was an international bestseller (not that it was necessarily mainstream, but neither was THE NAME OF THE ROSE).

*quotations are to acknowledge the fallacy one could fall in here. For the record, intentionality is an interpretation that comes through a dialogical relation between reader and text, reducible to neither and consequently not purely subjective nor objective. Just because something isn't with mainstream appeal any longer (the mainstream art being constructed so as to appeal to the largest collective sensibilities at time t), doesn't mean it ceases being mainstream altogether through some sort of historicist accretion. In fact, the more likely it is to be forgotten by future generations, the more successful it is at being mainstream (in contrast to whatever room of Pat's mansion we're currently having tea in). Relatedly, something once thought of as purely mainstream could be, upon further reflection, discovered as being quite apart from the mainstream sympathies of any generation (including its own). In order for that to happen it is necessary, I would argue, for mainstream qualities not to be purely reducible to the receiver only (e.g., in the form of mainstream appeal at a particular time).
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#506283 - 01/15/03 02:05 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
gene phillips Offline
Member

Registered: 09/30/99
Posts: 5910
Loc: Houston, TX
Quote:
Originally posted by Charles Reece:


Of course, this character was a man. You seem to think you're disagreeing with me (at least that's how I'm reading it), but you're not. My point was that THE CRYING GAME wasn't mainstream. I'd agree with Pat's likely position (which is why I used the example), it's not mainstream. This, however, would contradict some of his stated requisites for being mainstream (again, which is why I used the example). Maybe you do have a problem with the "intentionality" criterion* but you've not stated it here.

p.s. FOUCAULT'S PENDULUM was an international bestseller (not that it was necessarily mainstream, but neither was THE NAME OF THE ROSE).

*quotations are to acknowledge the fallacy one could fall in here. For the record, intentionality is an interpretation that comes through a dialogical relation between reader and text, reducible to neither and consequently not purely subjective nor objective. Just because something isn't with mainstream appeal any longer (the mainstream art being constructed so as to appeal to the largest collective sensibilities at time t), doesn't mean it ceases being mainstream altogether through some sort of historicist accretion. In fact, the more likely it is to be forgotten by future generations, the more successful it is at being mainstream (in contrast to whatever room of Pat's mansion we're currently having tea in). Relatedly, something once thought of as purely mainstream could be, upon further reflection, discovered as being quite apart from the mainstream sympathies of any generation (including its own). In order for that to happen it is necessary, I would argue, for mainstream qualities not to be purely reducible to the receiver only (e.g., in the form of mainstream appeal at a particular time).


Both PENDULUM and ROSE were bestsellers, but I would consider that ROSE had more mainstream potential thanks to the Holmes angle, even had there been no movie adaptation (which gave the Eco story even more mainstream exposure than it could likely get in prose form). Similarly, while I don't know if CRYING GAME had earlier existence as a play or prose novel, it gained quite a bit of mainstream exposure once it became a movie, and so I would deem it(even if neither you nor Pat do) a part of the mainstream, even if it keeps one foot in the smaller stream of canonical litfic.

I don't have any problem with interpreting intentionality as a dialogic exchange, but that wasn't clear from your statement that to interpret mainstream status "one must interpret the intention and direction of an art piece." Similarly, I would agree that one can discover deeper currents in artwork thought to be "purely mainstream"-- Dickens being an obvious example--but I wouldn't go so far as to say those currents put it "apart from the mainstream sympathies of any generation." After all, there are passages in Dickens (the concluding lines of COPPERFIELD for example) that were in their own time and are still as mawkish as any sentimental mainstream novel of any period. But one reads Dickens for those parts of Dickens that do have lasting relevance to the concerns of canonical litfic.

PS: I withdraw the use of the term "ambisexual," by which I meant "combining aspects of both sexes," but this doesn't even quite fit the secondary dictionary definition, which is "unisexual" (as opposed to the primary "bisexual").

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#506284 - 01/15/03 06:34 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
Broaden your own definition of "mainstream" at will, but to me it cheapens the notion of what "avant-garde" is. If some form of entertainment is considered (perhaps by peers of the creator) "progressive" (in that genre) , but that item then becomes popular (rebroadcast on cable channels or something), at what point does that item earn consideration as being "mainstream"?

If the peer of the successful creator tries to hawk his (formerly "progressive") work outside the genre's normal audience and fails, does the genre itself remain considered "mainstream" because of the one success, or how does that work?

If some cable channel decides to show avant-garde films, does that make them "mainstream"?

God, I hope not.

----
excuse me if any of my usages are off target; hopefully my point is clear.

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#506285 - 01/15/03 10:12 PM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Charles Reece Offline
Member

Registered: 08/18/99
Posts: 10013
Loc: us of fuckin' a
Gene, I was happy to elaborate a bit more on intentionality, but I fail to see how you could fairly read the following as some sort of need to intuit the intention of the author (if that’s how you were reading it):
Quote:
One must interpret the direction and intention of an art piece in order to posit how mainstream it is, not just question Wanda and Merle at the 5 & dime.

when I explicitly stated that interpretation is needed to postulate the degree of mainstreamness. But, whatever, it’s clear now, I trust. We seem to be on the same page except for:
Quote:
I don't know if CRYING GAME had earlier existence as a play or prose novel, it gained quite a bit of mainstream exposure once it became a movie, and so I would deem it(even if neither you nor Pat do) a part of the mainstream, even if it keeps one foot in the smaller stream of canonical litfic.

Where I’d suggest that the mainstream can be changed by encountering subject matter that isn’t typically dealt with in its purview. If this external subject matter were merely latently mainstream all along, then it would rule out the mainstream ever being able to really change. But perhaps you're thinking that any change in the mainstream is some sort of self-actualization in which the avant garde is dregged up from a communal unconscious. That doesn’t seem right to me (like my mom really loving free jazz, but just not knowing it yet), because this would just be question begging. That is, if the avant garde is just latent mainstreamness, then where are the collective avant garde predilections stored and how did they get there to begin with? If all of this is starting to sound like an anti-platonist screed, that's because it is.

Thus, to answer Shoe’s [oops, meant Sock] question (even if it wasn’t addressed to me):
Quote:
If some form of entertainment is considered (perhaps by peers of the creator) "progressive" (in that genre) , but that item then becomes popular (rebroadcast on cable channels or something), at what point does that item earn consideration as being "mainstream"?

External subject matter (or form, style, and whatever else might reside outside of the prevailing attitude) would become mainstream at that point when it is no longer external, but internal to the mainstream. This is one way that the mainstream changes, by getting used to what was once “otherness”. I’m not sure what genre has to do with it, though, since all of this could and usually does happen within most (but I’m not sure all) genres. Additionally, I'm not sure why you use 'entertainment' here since it's often synomous with 'mainstream' or at least a primary criterion.
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#506286 - 01/16/03 10:30 AM Re: Why are Superheroes more "Mainstream?"
Sock Puppet #9.5 Offline
Member

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 523
I think that perhaps what the public might accept with animated fiction might be too visceral (for public taste - ala mainstream) if done with movies, and most likely illegal if done in a "reality" setting like the "JACKASS" stunts.

If done in a reality setting, such as the STEVE-O movie, DON\'T TRY THIS AT HOME the "art" obviously crosses the line from fiction to reality. The JACKASS movie made more that $64Million at the box office before DVD rentals.

If portrayed as fiction, would this be as popular?
Probably not, but it's unclear. True this may be a "fad" in entertainment. (always around, popular in recent times)

But the same entertainment that borders on the "socially unacceptible" "reality" MIGHT be considered differently if it was apparently fiction.

The fictional "reality" movie that was the "BLAIR WITCH PROJECT" was reportedly initially popular because the rumor was started that it perhaps WAS real. Great gonzo marketing that worked.

Blurring the line between the fictional entertainment and the "reality" shows should eventually reach the point where real people are harmed, obviously.

We've heard of the kids that die trying the "JACKASS" styled stunts.

Many of us have watched car chases in movies, and some have watched the police video-ed chases on FOX...

At one point there may be an opportunity to watch a crime in progress from the point of view of the criminal. "JACKASS WITH GUNS" if you will.

Most would consider this unacceptible entertainment. Not even entertainment.
Yet it's only one "reality" step away from "PULP FICTION" and it's entirely possible with today's technology that this kind of product is made.

What was THE THREE STOOGES is today's JACKASS and what was PULP FICTION becomes tommorrows' ... ??

Perhaps I am not being fair, making the leap between fictional entertainment and reality entertainment. Most people are comfortable reading about killers after they're in custody. Until then it's still probably considered news.
But what would happen if OJ Simpson decided to write the tell-all of all celebrity tell-alls?

Unfortunately, that would be considered mainstream. I shudder to think of it, but the possiblity does still exist. The "notorious" criminal aspect will almost always be so.

But when the average (previously unknown) creator wishes to become "notorious" you end up with reality based shock event entertainment.

You get mainstream exposure, but a cult following.

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