Carnival of souls: Some Comics Journal links, some monster art, some music talk, more

* 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.)

12 Responses to Carnival of souls: Some Comics Journal links, some monster art, some music talk, more

  1. Tim O'Neil says:

    I would ask you to elaborate on the issue of “personae,” because I think the way you pose the question is interesting, but I honestly don’t know if I even find your position intelligible. If you’re not a person . . . what are you?

    • Now it’s my turn not to find your position intelligible. How would one NOT be a person? I certainly didn’t mean to say that we weren’t. I just don’t think there’s some One True You.

  2. Alan says:

    For some reason, upon reading your mini-treatise on the authentic self, I thought to myself, “man, if somebody said that at a party, I would give them a righteous high five.” And I am not a righteous high five kind of guy, which means I really, really agree. I think. Or I’m entering a righteous high five phase.

    Regardless, I couldn’t agree more. All the weird nittering I keep hearing about LDR sounds like the highfalutin’, pretentious feedback I’d hear from the shitty artists at art school. Blech. I’d rather bleach my entire body than pretend that malarky made any sense whatsoever… again. They were the types of assholes that would produce unbelievably tedious work and then would gleefully and ritualistically walk us through every soul-killing step of their process. Sweet Christmas, give me a semi-stoned, barely articulate person who produces something odd and, somehow, RIGHT and isn’t quite sure how they made it over… those people. The “artists” with their pride in flat, obvious connections over bizarre, possibly-from-mars leaps because, look, you can see how hard they worked and, wow, aren’t they clever? Oy, art school.

    Anyway, my actual point is: I very much agree with one of your “top five best things ever to happen” to you. I am curious: What are the others?

  3. I was a pretty big fan of (chronological order) losing my virginity, becoming a writer, getting married, and having a baby.

    • Also, I’m really glad you liked the post so much! I do accept high fives in lieu of payment.

      • Alan says:

        I love that you actually have a list of five things that makes sense. ANOTHER righteous high five coming your way. For some reason, it’s important that they are RIGHTEOUS. This ain’t no half-ass, limp, way-to-go-in-that-sales-meeting high five coming your way. Uh-UH! LIFE will be better at the end of this high five.

        Oh, and you–someone I never met–got me into the ASOIAF books. I’ve now finished ‘em all and bug my friends about them. Really wonderful stuff. Thanks for that as well. Somehow a high five doesn’t seem like adequate payment for that. What sounds reasonable? A tip of a hat? A hearty hello? A jig? A jig! I jig at you as thanks. It’s a quick jig. The fiddler’s expensive.

  4. Your first link goes to Closed Caption comics. I think you want this link instead http://www.tcj.com/2011-a-year-in-comic-ambition/

  5. Great post. I totally agree that authenticity is an elusive and basically useless concept. I guess I’m Freudian in believing any act involves a person expressing their true nature, even if they’re trying to disguise or conceal it. Lana Del Rey is young and I think the idea of doing a retro Lynchian chanteuse thing with contemporary, young person’s lyrics is actually pretty fresh, but whatever. Similarly, while I would assume there is probably more to Ke$ha than her lyrics and performing persona, not liking her work doesn’t have anything to do with whether it’s authentic. Authenticity is one of those traps, like attempting from the outside to gauge whether this or that work is more personal than another, or how much effort was put into it.

    • As far as Jay-Z and the use of “bitch”, I felt that “That’s My Bitch” and the Watch the Throne album in general is, while musically adventurous, lyrically really confused, and feels to me like Kanye trying to draw Jay’s worst impulses out. The song in particular felt more like Kanye’s idea (he has the first verse), with Jay trying to somehow justify his presence on the song by making his verse an obnoxious love letter to his wife. The best parts of the album are where they recognize who they are, rich stars in rarefied company, which is often lots of fun but also hard to deal with at times, given where they’ve come from. If, like Kanye, you can write a lyric about how you now realize you can’t find love in a strip club, then how do you then write “That’s My Bitch” or lyrics about how a woman has to blow you to show her value to you? You can use the authenticity-isn’t-important angle and say that these two are just trying on different characteristics for different songs, and that may be true, but one can at least say that those are some shitty characteristics.