* Dang, Ken Parille’s Comics Journal year-in-review piece tackles Habibi, 1-800-MICE, Holy Terror, Optic Nerve #12, The Death-Ray, Mister Wonderful, Crack Comics #63, and Ganges #4 as well as any individual review of any of them has done. (And I say that as a person who wrote about 5/8 of those books for the Journal myself.) Parille’s writing is like a really delicious sampler platter — you get the sense he just picked the tastiest morsels of insight on any given book and presented them to you for your delectation, but that there’s a whole lot more where that came from.
* Wonderful piece on Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve #12 by Tim Hodler. I like what he says about the unique characteristics of structuring a longer story as a series of funnypages-style strips, and this: “his storytelling displays a subtlety so far beyond most of what’s being published at the current moment.” Ayup. As alternative comics has begun looking less like RAW and more like Heavy Metal, we’ve lost something in exchange.
* I don’t know why, but a day or two ago the feed for Jessica Abel & Matt Madden’s Drawing Words and Writing Pictures blog dumped like half a dozen posts on me all at once, and there were gems galore in there: Rundowns of their Best American Comics series’s 2010 Notables and 2011 Notables (aka honorable mentions/bigger-picture selections), and notes on Asterios Polyp and Ice Haven.
* Not that I’m opposed to all the Heavy Metal stuff. Duh. I mean, Lane Milburn, holy shit, look at his next book Mors Ultima Ratio:
* On a similar note I suppose, I just happened to really like the drawing of what looks to me like Grendel and Beowulf by Thomas Yeates that Tom Spurgeon selected for his birthday post on the artist. I am a sucker for big monsters in the Hulk/Rawhead Rex vein, admittedly.
* Still on that same note, Sam Bosma reminds me of a lesson I once learned the hard way: Never trust a Mindflayer.
* Ta-Nehisi Coates lets Jay-Z off the hook for his avowed intention to continue using the word “bitch” in his lyrics. While Coates is correct in saying that the context of the use of the b-word in rap is part of the problem, he’s wrong to say “Rap’s ‘bitch’ problem has never been about the word itself” — of course it is. It’s about that among other things, but it’s certainly still about that. Coates does that sort of thing throughout the post: “There is a whole school of thought that holds racism is impossible unless attended by the word ‘nigger.’ And there are plenty of ways to regard a women as bitches, without ever saying the word.” Certainly. But just because Newt Gingrich can go on national television and receive standing ovations and become the presidential frontrunner for a major political party by saying enormously racist things without using period-piece movie-villain epithets doesn’t mean you should ignore it when people do use them. And just because hip-hop and pop culture generally’s misogyny runs deeper than calling women bitches, you still shouldn’t do it. The way to disprove that “bitch” is problematic in and of itself would be to provide examples of a non-problematic, non-sexist way to use it in hip-hop. Coates goes straight for the strawman of “I have never wanted a world where white people were forever banned from using the word nigger,” but of course no one’s actually arguing for expurgating hip-hop’s theoretical equivalent of Huck Finn, because the difference between saying these words and using them is crystal-clear. I guess the closest Jay-Z has come to that sort of thing is “That’s My Bitch,” but for me that isn’t close enough. The long and short of it for me is that there’s no need for bitch as an insult when “asshole” exists, and even less of a need for it as a simple term for “woman” when “woman” exists; continuing to use it despite these genderless equivalents indicates a problem with that gender. I’d be interested to hear of cases where this didn’t hold.
* Tom Ewing and Matthew Perpetua on Lana Del Rey and the issue of “authenticity” in art. Man, are sneer-quotes ever called for there. I thought that most of the controversy around Del Rey centered on whether or not she was any good, and whether or not her sexual politics were retrograde, and the degree to which a major record label was involved in her initial burst of ostensibly organic/viral/indie success. Those are rubrics I can understand: hype vs. talent, and anti-sexism, and not wanting to be lied to by a giant corporation. But I was quite aghast to learn that apparently some people were holding it against her that she used to perform under a different name with a different sound and look and vibe. A world where artists must emerge fully formed in their teens or early twenties with their first quasi-professionally recorded work and then remain preserved in amber for all eternity is a scary, scary world. A Bowie-free, Beatles-free, Dr. Dre-free, Underworld-free, P-Funk-free, Ministry-free, Gaga-free world! Not to compare LDR to any of those artists on a qualitative basis, mind you — see the three aforementioned potential issues with her work — but all I can tell you is rejecting the notion of the authentic self is one of the top five best things ever to happen to me, not just as a consumer and sometimes maker of art, but as a person. By all means try on personae like clothes in a dressing room until you find one that fits you, and take it off and put on new ones whenever you feel like it. What on earth is the harm in that?
(Related: I can’t help but wonder if the backlash against LDR specifically is tied to the phenomenon Scott Plagenhoef addresses in online music culture’s quest to be the first to seize upon a new artist within very narrow, inoffensive aesthetic parameters. If that’s the filter for your interaction with music, a person who radically changes very early on in her career, and changes into a very divisive mode of presentation, is anathema.)