Friday, August 22, 2008

Are Comic Books Subversive "By Nature?"

I've been on a comic book kick lately.  No, I haven't been snapping them up left and right.  In fact, the last one I bought for myself was Cerebus 300 in 2004, and that was for nostalgia's sake.  I have no idea what the last one I purchased before that was.  A Madman maybe?  I must've bought it before I got married in 2000, so it's been a while.  No, the kick I've been on has to do with following the conversation around comic books.  I've really been enjoying going to websites like iFanboy, Newsarama, and Comic Book Resources just to see what's new and what's been going on with some of my old faves.  Frankly, I like knowing what's going on without having to buy a bunch of comics.

Lately the most interesting talk has been surrounding writer Robert Kirkman's manifesto encouraging creators to work on books they own and not for Marvel and DC.  It's generated a lot of conversation, and yesterday Ron Richards--one of the iFanboy guys--weighed in.  Ron seems to be a laid back guy.  I like listening to the iFanboy podcast in part because of Ron's personality, so I hate to risk offending him by nit-picking about his post ('cause, y'know, he probably reads my blog all the time).  But, nit-pick I must. 

In his post Ron rejects Robert Kirkman's idea that Marvel and DC should focus on attracting younger readers in part because "comics are a subversive medium by nature and we should continue to embrace that."  That's quite a statement to make.  Comics certainly can be subversive, as in the works of Robert Crumb, but are they subversive by nature?  Let's not forget that Archie is a comic book.  So was Little Lulu.  And Casper and Richie Rich and Donald Duck.  Not only that, but if comics are subversive by nature, then the Franklin Richards comics Ron has been enjoying are by nature not comic books because as far as I can tell they are not subversive, unless we stretch the definition of 'subversive' to the breaking point.

I think that what Ron could have said is something like, "Comics have always had a subversive element, and we should continue to embrace that."  That's a less extravagant claim, and one I agree with.  There usually are things in a culture that need subverting and in ours comic books are well suited for that role.  This less extravagant claim does not provide strong support for Ron's conclusion, though.  Marvel and DC could provide kid-oriented content and still be producing comic books that are by nature comic books.

There's a lesson in all this, boys and girls:  be careful what you say on the internet or some goof who's scraping the bottom of the barrel for blog posts will overanalyze any and every phrase you turn.  Thank you and good night.


Anonymous said...

I can't believe you post nothing about our graphic novel conversations. It hurts me. But, then I have a life. It's not like I'm anxiously waiting for your next blog post...agonizing over what you'll write...sleeplessly...Oh, for the love of Pete POST SOMETHING!!!

Rex Queems (the phony)

Joshua Duncan said...

Sorry! It has to do with . . . er . . . copyright issues. Yeah. Copyright issues.

Seriously, posting on VFO is a good idea. I'll do it tonight if Mary Ann doesn't need the computer for work.