What would ¡Journalista! do?: Three reasons to rain on Dirk Deppey’s farewell parade

I meant everything I said about Dirk Deppey, the recently laid-off writer of The Comics Journal’s Journalista linkblog, online editor of TCJ.com, and former managing editor of the Journal’s print version. The earliest iteration of Journalista was indispensable to the formation of the comics blogosphere, and indeed the entire comics internet, as we know it today. Dirk’s stint at the print Journal gave many comics bloggers their first-ever print outlet for comics criticism, from yours truly to the great Joe McCulloch. It also opened that publication up to manga and “mainstream” comics like it had never been before — to my mind an under-discussed and key step in the past decade’s reclamation of genre comics from fanboys, nostalgists, and monomaniacs as an area worthy of genuine critical engagement. Speaking personally, Dirk’s frequently insightful criticism and impassioned industry-analysis polemics were touchstones for me as a growing writer, even if now that influence is less obvious (because he did so much less criticism in recent years in the former case, and because I’m less interested in guns-blazing writing in the latter).

But Dirk has never been a shrinking violet when it comes to warts-and-all appraisals of notable and beloved industry figures as they head for the exits — that’s a big part of why people liked him so much. And it’s in that spirit that I’m saying now that Dirk’s farewell Journalista post was the first one I’d read in months, and the first I’d done much more than skim in years. While my hope is that leaving the Journal will allow him to return to his early strengths, the fact is that they were very much early strengths; if anything, the work he did on the late-model Journalista and on TCJ.com generally represented a major step backward for, or even an undoing of, the valuable work he’d done in years past.

I’m not surprised that the news of Dirk’s ouster was greeted with near-universal sorrow over the move and well-wishes for Dirk himself — they were responses I shared, too. But it seems a shame, and inimical to what Dirk did at Journalista, to let a quickly deleted tweet from Drawn & Quarterly’s twitter account (written, I assume, by a person I’ll refer to as “Schmom Schmevlin”) and an extension of the years-old pointed silence from one-time Deppey sparring partner and blogospheric allfather NeilAlien serve as the only critical appraisals of Dirk’s tenure at TCJ.

With that in mind, here’s a quick list of three major problems I had with Dirk’s work.

1) By the end, ¡Journalista!, for all the hours Dirk put into it, was about as minimal a linkblog as you could think of. The critical and analytical content that drove it in the early years was long gone, and the supplemental stand-alone reviews he used to run were a distant memory. He’d write a few lines about the “Above the Fold” story, mostly paraphrasing whatever he was linking to; beyond that he only even provided a quote or any kind of context for one link per subsection of each entry — the rest was just name/topic, name/topic, name/topic. In the absence of a critical voice or all but the barest context, there was nothing at Journalista you couldn’t get with a fuller and potentially more enriching presentation elsewhere. Eventually, elsewhere is exactly where I got it.

2) I may not be the best person to speak about this, since as I said my engagement with Dirk’s writing was minimal in recent years, but on the increasingly rare occasions when Dirk did offer his thoughts on the issues of the day, his relentless contrarianism too often skewed and obscured his analysis. Perhaps this habit of thought was an outgrowth of his pox-on-both-their-houses Reason-style libertarianism, Dirk’s expressions of which were always redolent with pride for sticking it to both fundamentalist conservatives and latte-sipping Seattlites as though the two were morally and intellectually equivalent evils. (I’d comment further but I assure you I don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to poor politics; when I was at my worst, in fact, Dirk was one of the people who treated me with the most understanding and kindness, and I’ll be forever grateful for that.) Regardless, from his refusal to countenance the idea that the digital-comics landscape had substantially changed in the wake of the iPad despite multiple points of evidence and statements from the major players saying exactly that to his vocal disgust for Facebook-driven PR efforts despite that social network’s obvious utility and near-ubiquity, Dirk frequently rode his hobbyhorses right off the trail, misinterpreting and misrepresenting the positions of his interlocutors in the process.

3) Here’s Dirk talking to Tom Spurgeon about the institution he helmed in both print and digital forms:

Prior to the rise of the Web, the magazine was pretty much the only place where you could get bullshit-free reportage and commentary on comics as a medium and an industry, and the Direct Market therefore tolerated its presence. The Internet changed that, and rendered The Comics Journal essentially superfluous.

So here you have the former managing editor and longtime online editor of the most important comics criticism publication in the English-speaking world saying he didn’t much see the point of that publication once the web came along. I in no way subscribe to Om-tae Evlin-dae’s contention that Dirk destroyed the Journal — he put me in it, so obviously he raised it to heretofore unreached Olympian heights, and at any rate the magazine’s real crash-and-burn days came after Dirk’s departure — but that’s a goddamn bizarre attitude for someone who ran the magazine to have about the magazine. And it very well could explain a lot about the disastrous relaunch of the publication as a web-driven entity. TCJ.com is, frankly, an embarrassment — comically user-unfriendly (just by way of a for instance, I had to manually search it to find Dirk’s aforelinked post on Paul Levitz, which had been voted one of 2009’s best pieces of online comics criticism by one of TCJ.com’s constituent blogs, because the old permalink didn’t work anymore), spastically updated, intermittently focused, and almost entirely removed from the very discourse Dirk claimed had rendered it redundant. That vacuum allowed the emergence as The Comics Journal’s loudest and most prominent critical voice an approach to comics and comics criticism that couldn’t be more diametrically opposed to the traditional ideals and values of both the Journal and its parent company Fantagraphics if it were made to wear a snazzy yellow union suit and call itself Professor Zoom, The Reverse Comics Journal. I’ve never had any clear idea who to blame for all this — Dirk, Managing Editor Michael Dean, Assistant Editor Kristy Valenti, or founder/publisher/longtime editor Gary Groth; frankly, I think the buck has to stop at the top. But here’s how Dirk responded when Spurgeon asked him “Is there anything you might do differently in terms of site development if you had to do the whole thing over?”

…As for site development, I think that Kristy [Valenti] and Mike [Dean] have done about as good job with TCJ.com as anyone could with the available resources.

If you had the potential to change TCJ.com for the better but can look at TCJ.com and think that — and absent yourself entirely from any role in it in the process — that seems to me the very model of malign neglect. And the downfall of what was once the biggest name in comics criticism has got to be discussed as part of Dirk’s legacy, even though the fact that I probably wouldn’t be here without him is part of that legacy as well.

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38 Responses to What would ¡Journalista! do?: Three reasons to rain on Dirk Deppey’s farewell parade

  1. Zom says:

    Whatever your political sins, Sean, I’m absolutely with you on disliking (actually, in my case loathing) people who insist on drawing equivalences between all politicians and downplaying their very real differences.

  2. Wintle says:

    “In the absence of a critical voice or all but the barest context, there was nothing at Journalista you couldn’t get with a fuller and potentially more enriching presentation elsewhere.”

    If you have any recommendations, please share. I’ve pretty much stopped following comic news since Journalista folded.

    Also, Dirk was right about Facebook. Just sayin’.

    • Steven: My favorite one-stop-shopping news sources are my colleagues at Robot 6 and Tom Spurgeon at the Comics Reporter. Brigid Alverson does a terrific job with manga at MangaBlog, too. I should also add that Comic Book Resources‘ RSS feed is headline/summary only, so it’s really not all that inconveniencing or irritating that they might run a lot of straight press releases (from every company) or coverage of superhero comics you might not be interested in, and they cover pretty much everything in one way or another.

      • Wintle says:

        Thanks for the recommendations, man! And thanks for taking my request seriously.

        I am familiar with most of those sites, and frequent them occasionally, but like David and MrJm I prefer the digest format for keeping up on comics news and was hoping there was another Journalista-style site somewhere out there that I wasn’t aware of. I guess I’ll just have to adapt.

        • You’ll manage! In the era of RSS readers, everyone can be their own digest.

          • Martin Wisse says:

            Everybody can be their own digest, true, but the point of Journalista (and Tom Spurgeon’s site) was that it was an edited digest. That, even in the minimal linkblogging format you mention is what Dirk did well and which was the sole reason I read him. He always had a handful of interesting sstories/links each day and had I been left to my own devices, not being involved with comix 24/7, I would not have seen half these stories.

  3. Andrew White says:

    Interesting piece. As someone who wasn’t around for the early years of Journalista and therefore didn’t realize what, if anything, I might be missing when Dirk was mostly just linkblogging, this was eye-opening for me.

  4. Tom Spurgeon says:

    I carried about 85 links between by quick hits and randoms monday, tuesday and wednesday. Dirk’s average day in recent times was about 40 or 50 links, with about five to ten being stuff I tend to carry as “go, look” pieces and four or five being stuff from his own site. Just sayin’.

    The problem is that unlike in 2003, more and more people tend not to read one site to get their comics news, or if they do, feel they’re missing out. They tend to read 8-10 and/or follow a bunch of feeds which are collected for them. And if you’re reading my site, Alan Gardner’s, Kevin Melrose’s AM updates, Mangablog and, say, Flog!, you may not also need a site that links to the same pieces they do with very little in the way of commentary or original content. I know I have more and more readers who tell me they don’t read any of my linkage at all and if I were to drop the more original content, I’d probably lose a significant chunk of my traffic as a result. That’s Sean’s point.

    I can see *preferring* the way Dirk lined up those links, for sure, or hating one of the other avenues, or finding his skill at finding those few links he had that maybe no one else did more valuable than most people might, but enough people of Sean’s professional acquaintance weren’t reading Dirk near the end yet still felt totally informed to suggest that if you feel you can’t possibly follow comics news now, that this is a construct of yours rather than a broadly-felt reality.

    • Tom, I’ve got to say that I generally read your original posts and flip through the links only clicking if it’s something I really want to look at. My three mainstays for comic news and reviews are:Your site, Heidi’s and Rich’s, going from the sublime to the ridiculous but it stems from the days when I read three newspapers, going from high end newspapers like The Guardian and finishing up with the Sun!

      • That seems like a pretty normal way to deal with linkblogging, Alistair. That’s basically how I use Tom’s site, too.

        Since apparently this is the thread for the airing of grievances, I’ll take your comment as an opportunity to say that I don’t read Rich, pointedly so, to the level of an ersatz boycott in fact, because I’ve found him to be hugely irresponsible when it comes to posting inference, rumor, or raw blue-sky speculation as fact, in a way that can damage the reputations and careers of the people he’s “reporting” on. Happened to me, happened to other people I know. He’s also a big-time link-swiper who doesn’t credit the sites he gets his stories from but kvetches when he thinks others have done this to him.

      • Tom Spurgeon says:

        Oh, for sure. I think there are all sorts of people that come to sites with all sorts of strategies ranging from “you’re my only comics site” to “you’re my only North American comics site” to “you’re my window into the alt-comics world” to “I like your features but the other stuff I just get off my reader” to “I only come look at the videos on Saturday” to “I read an interview you did with Matt Fraction once.” My understanding is that Sean was saying if you eliminate some of your ways people use your site, you might lose readers, too. Makes sense to me. I read Peter King’s big column on the NFL on CNNSI.com every Monday. It’s my only pro-football column. If it went away, I could find most of what I get out of it from other places, I know this, but I probably wouldn’t. But that’s a preference. I’m sure for many people King’s monday column is their third or their fifth or their 20th NFL column. If King went to a single page of scores and commentaries I know I’d still read it but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people bailed. And so on. It’s a very different reading world out there right now.

  5. David says:

    Thanks for the article. While I agree that TCJ.com is an “embarrassment” – mainly in terms of design – your assessment of Journalista doesn’t match my own experience. It was the most comprehensive daily digest-style comics blog on the internet, and was, for that reason, invaluable. It was always the first comics site I would hit every morning, because I knew that if there was a big story in any area of comics, I would find out about it there. As well, I knew I would get a nice big dose of critical articles, reviews, interviews, art posts, videos, etc., all on one page. I won’t complain about a lack of good comics news blogs, because there are still plenty of them, but after several years of reading Journalista daily, I really think that it was the best one of all, at least for my needs.

    • I definitely don’t begrudge you your take on Journalista, and certainly its approach to presentation had a lot to recommend it. But I think it was only the most comprehensive comics news blog if you do, in fact, make digest-style presentation a precondition. I’m almost positive Comics Reporter linked to more stories and sites on a daily basis for the past few years — although again, since it didn’t do that all in one post per day, I’m sure a lot of people found Journalista’s more concise mode of presentation appealing, just as you say.

  6. Great article Sean, lots to think about in here. Kudos.

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  8. Hello everyone–It seems I’m having some trouble with the comments today. My earlier comment to Steven was lost in the ether before I browsed backwards and reposted it (although the blog told me I was posting a duplicate comment, so it had to have made it into the system SOMEWHERE), and I know of at least one other person who tried to comment but had their comment vaporized without it ever making its way into my moderation filter.

    I assure everyone that I have never, ever deleted a comment on this blog for any reasons other than spam, accidental duplicates, or the express request of the commenter; that could change if I was ever badly trolled, I suppose, but I think I’ve only been trolled twice, maybe three times, in the history of the blog, and those were so minor and inoffensive I didn’t even bother. Point is I’m not blocking or erasing anyone’s comments here. If yours doesn’t go through, please try again! And you might want to copy anything you try to post to your clipboard first before posting, just in case. Sorry for the inconvenience.

  9. NoahB says:

    Thanks for writing this, Sean.

    I’d agree that the buck stops at the top. Gary has long expressed his disdain/disinterest in web criticism, and I think that attitude has made it hard for TCJ to figure out how to adapt now that the web has killed print. I also think that the triumph of the Journal’s original mission has taken the wind out of its sails to some extent. The Journal was about being ruthlessly contrarian and promoting comics as art (not in that order.) Now that comics as art is not a contrarian stance in a meaningful sense…I think they’ve had some difficulty figuring out what to do next.

    I predictably don’t agree that HU is the opposite of the old Journal. I think part of the Journal’s losing its way is that folks can now safely look back on it with nostalgia without really remembering the extent to which it was loathed — and not just by the capes and tights crowd. Pissing people off isn’t the only thing HU does, and it wasn’t the only thing the Journal did — but it is one thing.

    On the other hand — I’m pretty happy being the Professor Zoom of comics criticism. So I can’t really kick.

    Also, at the end of your piece…I read Dirk’s quote as indicating that he didn’t really have the ability to change the site design, and that he didn’t have a role in the process. I could be wrong (I don’t have any knowledge of the internal workings at tcj) but that’s what I got from it.

    And I would like to point out that one thing Dirk did last year was write this, which I think is pretty awesome.

  10. Update: Inexplicably, both my comment and Noah’s went directly into my spam folder, which I’ve never seen happen before. I’m glad I thought to check (which I’d never done before!). Mine had a bunch of links in it, so maybe that was the culprit, but Noah’s only had one, so I have no clue why it would have gotten marked as spam like that. In addition, I noticed that trackbacks from this post to other posts on the blog got spammed as well, which is really bizarre. Anyway I dug Noah’s out–please let me know if you think yours suffered a similar fate.

  11. Jeet Heer says:

    Sean: lots of food for thought here but I think you might be conflating a bunch of different (although overlapping) issues: Dirk’s changing habits as a blogger, the saliancy of the Journal print magazine in the comics world, the saleancy of the TCJ.com in the comics world, among other issues. I also prefer Dirk the fire-breathing essayist to Dirk the link-blogger but he grew tired of that role and I don’t begrudge a writer’s right to move on. And as noted above by Noah, Dirk hasn’t been involved with either the site design or the overall magazine itself for a while.

    The story of how the Journal lost its way is a complicated one and involves more than just one person — I I tried to sketch out a theory here: http://comicscomicsmag.com/2009/08/origins-of-comics-journal.html — but I’d say the larger issue is one of editorial vision and focus. During its heyday the Journal was eclectic enough for divergent views but did have a sense of overall mission. The more recent incarnations of the magazines have suffered from being purely eclectic, offering a range of discordent voices that tend to cancel each other out. So even though the magazine and website still have fine writing, they don’t seem as focused.

    Having said that, there are reasons to hope for better stuff in the future, especially since Gary will be at the helm of the print magazine again and more hands-on than he has been in recent years. I’ve seen some of the pieces in the upcoming Comics Journal #301 and it’ll be a very strong issue, comparable to say issue #200 (the Chris Ware/Schulz issue).

  12. Bill Randall says:

    Sean, I think Dirk’s attitude towards the print Journal, as you report it, is not “goddamn bizarre” but prescient. Your points on TCJ.com’s rough transition underscore why, especially with the resources available, as he delicately put it. (I’m writing from the Aston-Martin I bought with my TCJ paychecks, by the way.)

    And the Journal’s “crash-and-burn days,” my days, I think are a projection you share with Jeet Heer and others. There’s really not much difference in, say, TCJ #58 and #273. Except #273 has a decent design and a breadth not possible in 1980, with an excellent Eddie Campbell interview besides. That said, for all the talk of decline, the only specific complaint I’ve read is that it stopped reflecting Gary Groth enough. Jeet makes the claim here, and above. But there was a time the knock on TCJ was that the writers acted as Groth’s mouthpieces!

    I really think the talk of “crash-and-burn days” is a generation of readers not seeing how things have changed. The Journal emerged in one market and subculture, and even in 1999 you can get a handle on “Comics” with a corner store and a few touchstones. It was all very nostalgic, from Crumb to Seth to Ware to mouldering Golden Age comics. By 2005 that wasn’t true, even less now. One of Dirk’s legacies as a print and online editor is grappling with the shift. For comparison, Tom Devlin’s issue #238 looked young and fresh at the time but seems conservative now, even the end of an era. Both fit in the Journal’s overall legacy, which is not coddling certain aesthetics and cliques, but offering an umbrella for taking comics seriously. If it’s only good when Gary Groth has a hand in it, then it dies when he does. I think it’s more generous than that.

    (PS I am slow enough that Jeet got in before I finished this. We both point to the same of his articles and draw different conclusions, funnily enough.)

    • Bill, I’m not sure why you feel my objections to Dirk’s tenure at TCJ all stem from want of a history lesson, but for what it’s worth I think that history lesson is a weak one. Comparing a recent Journal to the magazine’s Empire-Strikes-Back-on-the-cover days is the equivalent of tee-ball, just for starters. But if you really haven’t heard specific complaints other than “not enough Groth,” here are a few: The magazine stopped doing news and original reporting; it stopped effectively editing its interviews (my Brian K. Vaughan piece ran pretty much as I handed it in, all the ums and uhs and incomplete sentences left intact, to my horror); it regularly published HU-style pieces, my objections to which are listed elsewhere in this thread; it then effectively ceased publication, its sporadic print issues plagued by delays and its new now-flagship web iteration marred by horrendous design. I could go on, I suppose, but honestly, that you can straight-facedly contend that cartoonists as vital as Ware, Crumb, and Seth constitute “nostalgia” is indictment enough.

      • Bill Randall says:

        Sean, the history lesson’s because you’re assessing a legacy, and I think the history shows why you’re wrong? Thank you for the extra reasons behind claiming the decline, but of all you mention the loss of news & reporting’s the only big change I see. Sporadic publication, long unedited interviews, even those dreadful HU-style pieces, all were standard in my experience. It always seemed held together with paperclips and scotch tape.

        And my pointing out the nostalgia in Ware, Seth, Clowes is descriptive, not dismissive of their work. A day after I agreed to join HU for the brief year I did, Noah tore apart a positive review I had in TCJ of Ware’s 2nd sketchbook and Acme #18. So slow down with the indictment, alright? Even if it’s a nice flourish at the end.

  13. I’m not entirely following some of your thoughts, Sean. When you say:

    “and almost entirely removed from the very discourse Dirk claimed had rendered it redundant.”

    Does your use of “discourse” refer back to this opening appraisal?

    “It also opened that publication up to manga and “mainstream” comics like it had never been before — to my mind an under-discussed and key step in the past decade’s reclamation of genre comics from fanboys, nostalgists, and monomaniacs as an area worthy of genuine critical engagement.”

    And though I’m no defender of Berlatsky’s Brigade, it doesn’t seem to me that his Freudianisms and Marxisms are anything I’ve not encountered before in “classic” JOURNAL history. I honestly don’t read you here.

    • No, I meant the overall comics-internet conversation. The Journal was once the central outlet of comics criticism; it’s now peripheral at best. The argument that the Internet made it superfluous doesn’t hold water because there are other sites that do play a central role for the kinds of people who once read and wrote for the magazine. TCJ.com could have been that site but isn’t.

  14. Hey Jeet–I’ll agree that the issues overlap, but my hope was that by distinguishing between three separate objections, I avoided conflating anything. Your main objection seems to pertain to item #3, the TCJ/TCJ.com-related stuff; right there in that item I admit really not knowing who was steering the ship, and express my preference for pinning the blame on Gary as the head honcho. That said, Dirk was listed as Online Editor for at least part of TCJ.com’s most recent incarnation, unless I’m badly mistaken, and has to take some blame. Moreover I criticize him specifically for the myopia inherent in saying a) the magazine he helmed in two different media was obsolete, and b) that TCJ.com is as good as it can be with the available resources. I get the sense that that’s a hidden slam of those resources on Dirk’s part, and good on him for it, but I guarantee you the magazine had more resources available to it than most comparable other sites, and a lot of its sloppiness could be fixed for free with minimal effort. All those points stand regardless of whether the actual decisions were Dirk’s or not, since he’s basically endorsing them regardless.

    I should also say that I don’t begrudge Dirk’s decision to move away from writing he didn’t really enjoy anymore. My point was simply that I moved away from the writing that resulted. It’s more directed at the notion that late-model Journalista was ideal or indispensable as a comics-news source; I don’t think it was either.

    With regards to the Journal’s overall decline, I think you’re right that the lack of editorial vision is a major factor, probably the largest, but that’s a separate issue from Dirk’s absentee-landlordism.

    Noah: First, thanks again for your patience as I got to the bottom of wtf happened to your comment. I will say that I’m well aware of how hated the Journal was (and remains!), and it’s not that HU is hated that’s my problem with HU, it’s what I regard to be generally really atrocious tastes in comics; a sort of slippery, protean intellectual dishonesty in articulating the superiority of those tastes (and the methods used to articulate them) over others; and an atmosphere of self-congratulation for same; all of it often perversely facilitated by the passive-aggressive and ostentatious abandonment of the very notion of taste, relative merit, the value of the very act of criticism, and the value of the very medium of comics. The fact this is all occasionally done with the sort of antagonistic scorched-earth rhetoric of prime take-no-prisoners Journal stuff is the least of its problems.

    That’s all pretty harsh, so I want to add that this is all despite the fact that you, personally, seem like a really friendly and chill guy even when dealing with your harshest critics, including me! I’ve certainly had nastier exchanges with any number of writers and critics, Dirk included (nastiness on both their part and mine). But that’s sort of my point: It’s not HU’s role as the Gary Groth obituary of Carol Kalish to the wider comics discourse’s Peter David that rankles, it’s all the underlying values and methodology. It’s much deeper than pissing people off. I’m always more saddened than pissed.

    Finally, that Dirk piece really is great. I think I’d only read the autobiographical page before, never realizing that was just one-quarter of the whole.

    • NoahB says:

      Gah! My response to you is above under Bill’s. Stupid nested comments; I’ll never master them….

      Move it down here if you can do that? Or leave it above…if you prefer…it adds a nice dada touch….

    • NoahB says:

      Hey Sean.

      I don’t get the self-congratulatory sneer. I think my tastes are superior to yours, and I’m happy to say so. You do the same when you argue with me or others, I’m pretty sure. You think the Journal wasn’t self-congratulatory? You think Gary’s critics weren’t enraged by his perceived arrogance (or fuck it — by his actual towering arrogance?) That’s complete bullshit, as you’d know if you thought about it for half a second. Every single thing you’re saying about me — the charges of intellectual dishonesty, the claims of lousy taste, the accusations of arrogance and self-congratulation — it’s all the exact same stuff people said about Gary. It’s what one says about one’s intellectual opponents, I guess. (Not the only thing obviously. You can also accuse them of being insular and stupid and/or venal, which is what the Journal did back in the day I think.)

      The one thing people didn’t say about Gary is that he was passive-aggressive — and it seems like a pretty weird accusation directed at HU. You want to come over and fight? Come over and fight; happy to have you. When I disagree with someone, I say who they are and explain why I disagree to the best of my ability. Cheerfully aggressive; not passive.

      I shit on your taste, I fuck your relative merit in the ass, I urinate freely on your criticism, and I think your comics aren’t even worth defiling. If that gives you an enjoyable frisson of sorrowful superiority, so much the better, I suppose.

      Anyway…glad you finally read that whole essay of Dirk’s. He’s such a great writer; I’m crossing my fingers and hoping he starts writing criticism for the Journal or some other outlet soon.

      • HJ says:

        Ladies and gentlemen, the attitude that soured my interest comics criticism and the personalities behind it.

  15. Alan Choate says:

    I agree with Collins here. Also, contra Noah (and ignoring his last response) I would never have described the Comics Journal in my days of reading it as having been “contrarian,” that is, contesting things just for the sake of it. They took positions for a reason. That said, I’m not sure if Berlatsky & Co. even manage to be contrarian, which at least implies some kind of engagement with the material.

    • Alan Choate says:

      That is, I agree about the Hooded Utilitarian. I found the D&Q tweet irritating because it wasn’t clear if the tweeter was blaming Deppey for the new online version of TCJ. My understanding is he wasn’t involved. Are we blaming him for not being? Was he asked?

      Right now, HU has a considerable edge over anything appearing on TCJ because their bare-bones site design is simply more readable. If it’s that easy to fill the current void, anybody can do it. It wouldn’t be difficult to pull together a “web magazine” with a confrontational style and mimic the things about HU that work, without being a whirlpool of narcissism.

      • NoahB says:

        Hey Alan. Despite your claims of generalized disgust, I’m reasonably sure that there’s at least one post somewhere on HU that you’d like, narcissism notwithstanding. (Is it narcissistic to seek out and publish people who don’t agree with me? Or does the narcissism come from disliking things I’m supposed to like? Or is it just because I disagree with you? Or is it because I use big words that are inappropriate for a working-class comics critic? Or what?)

        Anyway — you probably know this, but I’d urge you to check out The Panelists, the new tcj.com blog. They’re great, and may be more aligned with your taste. I think they’re a really positive addition to tcj.com.

        The Panelists include Charles Hatfield, Craig Fischer, Jared Gardner, Alex Boney, Derik Badman, and Isaac Cates, smart folks and thoughtful critics all.

        • DerikB says:

          Thanks for the plug, Noah. The check’s in the mail.

        • Alan Choate says:

          I think since I’d just seconded Collins’ criticisms, “whirlpool of narcissism” makes sense without needing to suggest I’m enforcing an American caste system. I don’t like any posts on the Hooded Utilitarian, including mine. I haven’t read the Panelists, the Hooded Utilitarian, or any of this thread. I demand to know exactly how much I must be expected to read before I can get busy people to waste time arguing with me. There have been major critics who never read anything they wrote about. Many were functionally retarded. The point is their discourse relates only to itself, is vital, and you must know the complete works of Kant, Zizek, Frege, and the Pseudo-Dionysius in the original Swedish like the back of your hand or you are a fucking peasant who has no business questioning me. If I ever do read something I’ve been talking about, I’ll bounce back trumpeting that I was more right than I imagined, and if anybody who’s actually read the intellectuals I’m shaking at you shows up and corners me, I will disavow reason itself. How much life would you like to spend talking to me? I’ll just keep bouncing back! [/Cloying emoticon]

          • NoahB says:

            Ah, you can’t hate it that much; that was totally in the spirit. Made me laugh.

            I think you would like the Panelists though. I hope my endorsement doesn’t prevent you from checking them out.

  16. Robert Boyd says:

    Interesting post. I suspect that as we talk about this, Dirk becomes a representative of a bunch of changes to the Journal that we all deplore. What is the word for that? Synedoche? Anyway, ways the Journal evolved or failed to evolve are interesting to us that have a long relationship with it. I can’t remember the first issue of the Journal I bought, but I can well remember the first time I didn’t buy an issue–the shock at finding myself indifferent. At a certain point,reading the Journal had become a chore I dreaded. This reflects changes in my life as well as changes in the Journal. But it was a major moment in my life as a comics reader.

    So maybe the Journal is an anachronism. I suspect it will evolve. I can’t imagine that Kim and Gary are satisfied with it as it is now.

  17. Alex Buchet says:

    Sean, Alan,

    I think you’re over-harsh in your estimate of HU. Yes, I’m saying this in part because I’m a contributor there, and you seem to put all HU contributors in the same basket…But my stuff couldn’t be more different from Noah’s. The same can be said about Vom Marlowe, Sean Robinson, Domingos Isabelinho, Kinukkity, James Romberger, etc…not to mention the many guest posters.

    I’ve only worked with Noah for half a year, but one thing I’ve picked up is that he genuinely wants to promote a diversity of writings, even if it goes against his personal grain.

    There’s no HU cabal.

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