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July 19, 2010


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Ben Owen

I agree with both you and Sturgeon that Leith's piece seems strikingly out-of-touch. I'm happy to bemoan the sad man tendency he describes, but it's stupid to describe it as if it were the majority of non-genre comics (And I'm not entirely happy with that distinction, since a number of the great alt-comix of recent years have been genre-bound, and if you don't believe me then stare at Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit until your eyes bleed from its awesomeness. Or Lauren Weinstein's The Goddess of War. Or anything by Josh Simmons.). And I take Spurgeon's point about Lynda Barry being a bestseller as right on the nose. She's been producing brilliant comics for three decades and shows no sign of slowing in terms of innovation, nor turning to self-pity even as she explores autobiography. And what else has succeeded in the marketplace? Persepolis? Fun Home? Autobio comics, sure, but by women, and hardly self-pitying. I think you're right that a certain bunch of guys who get book design work and covers for the New Yorker have a conspicuous presence beyond the comics world that perhaps other artists don't enjoy, but I think that their presence is actually helping to broaden both the appeal, and the content, of smart comics, by creating a larger marketplace for smart comics. I'm too tired to reason this out, but I just have this sense that now is a great time for comics--there are just so many more kinds of comics than there have been in the US for a very very long time, possibly ever (although my history is kind of hazy, and I get the sense that comics were pretty massive just prior to the total saturation of TV). Comics are narrowing at all. They're broadening suddenly and surprisingly in all directions. Spurgeon's mentioning of Picturebox and Adhouse is important. I'd add the late, great Buenaventura and Top Shelf to that list too, and Last Gasp, and if we're broadening beyond the Anglo comics axis, also NBM, Viz, and Vertical. These are all comics publishers with wildly different sets of priorities and aesthetics, but all of whom publish art comics. Shit, even Image is doing it (If you haven't read Bulletproof Coffin by now then please do so immediately. I'm concerned for your health.). You never have to read another sad man story again, and you can still find more comics than you'll ever wish for.

Ben Owen

I meant to say: "aren't narrowing." Sigh.


That seems like an extremely narrow view of the art form. The authors he mentions are the most mainstream of indie comics. He certainly didn't seem to look very hard.

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