Our own Ian Burns has joined me in the exclusive "Theme Sketchbook of Frank Oz Puppet Characters Club" with his own super-impressive book of Animal from The Muppet Show (my personal second-favorite member of The Electric Mayhem, after Zoot), which is giving my Yoda collection a serious run for its money. Here are some Fantagraphics-relevant entries as posted by Ian on the Versus the Moon blog (where he posts 2 new ones a week, so keep checking back):
• Review: "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race To Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson will be warmly received by comics aficionados but should also intrigue Disney animation buffs who aren't necessarily plugged into comic strip history. Editors David Gerstein and Gary Groth have not only scoured the planet for the best surviving artwork on Gottfredson's first epic continuity, which ran in newspapers from April to September of 1930; they've provided background essays (by a raft of experts), vintage press materials and artwork to put it into the context of Walt Disney's burgeoning career, and Mickey Mouse's budding stardom.... I have a feeling that this book, crafted with such obvious care, will earn Gottfredson a new legion of admirers." – Leonard Maltin
• Review: "Popeye hawking newspapers? Donald Duck selling gasoline? You'll find them and a whole cavalcade of comic strip characters in Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising, edited by Rick Marschall and Warren Bernard. In a hundred-plus pages you are treated to a sampling of cartoon print ads from the 1890s to 1940s. There are short informative blurbs about the cartoonists (some of whom were featured in ads themselves) and the history behind the ads. A great treat for fans of comic strips, Americana, and ephemera." – The Christian Science Monitor "Top Picks"
• Review: "Not long ago a very interesting book was released which aims precisely to investigate and chronicle the parallel paths of comics and advertising from 1870 until 1940 entitled Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising. Fantagraphics Books offers a hearty volume... which is our guide with text and images to the 'commercial' roots of the comic strip and the amazing work that resulted from comics creators who worked in advertising.... Drawing Power: A Compendium of Cartoon Advertising is a book that will surely pique the interest of those involved in the communication sector, but also all who are drawn to pop culture. An excellent edition from Fantagraphics..." – Lida Tsene, Comicdom (translated from Greek)
• Review: "Richard Sala’s The Hidden is yet another undead saga, though it’s more ambitious than most.... As the backstory deepens, Sala ties The Hidden to older literary traditions, weaving in pieces of folktales and the legend of Frankenstein. Because Sala has had a career-long fascination with B-movies, gothic illustrations, and general ghoulishness, this plot is right in his wheelhouse. But The Hidden isn’t just an entertaining riff on well-worn horror concepts. Taking his cues from Mary Shelley, Sala explores human vanity and arrogance as a way of showing how everything can go so wrong so fast." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Mome 22 concludes the run of one of alt-comics' longest-running and most essential anthologies. Like Weirdo before it, Mome bridged the gap between veteran cartoonists and the new breed... Here’s hoping that as with Zap, Raw, Arcade, and so many that have gone before, another anthology will rise to take Mome’s place. And soon." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Shimura Takako is a master at portraying subtle events in a slice of life story about adolescence that never feels didactic.... One of the things I like about Wandering Son is the way many of the events in the book are simultaneously safe and filled with dramatic tension.... Like the storyline, Shimura’s art is simple but nuanced.... As you’d expect from Fantagraphics, the production quality for Wandering Son is excellent. I hope that more manga is on the horizon from them. While I’ll happily read more cheaply produced manga, it is nice to have a variety of options. Carefully curated manga like Wandering Son is a treat." – Anna Neatrour, Manga Report
• Review: "Jason’s deadpan, anthropomorphic characters make his books must-reads for me.... I'd give [Isle of 100,000 Graves] to my daughter... and my wife... in hopes that, after laughing at the Hangman’s Academy’s students, teachers, and administrators, they’ll agree to dress up in multi-colored hoods and carry instruments of torture next Halloween." – Gene Ambaum, The Unshelved Book Club
• Review: "Chun fills his collections with the best cartoons – the ones that can still delight readers, and Covey uses his lively and inventive design sense to make these old cartoons fresh and vital. With The Pin-Up Art of Humorama, Chun and Covey will once again make you believe that the art of Humorama is still alive and kicking – although the line ceased to exist decades ago. [Grade:] A" – Leroy Douresseaux, I Reads You
• Review: "This Fantagraphics edition collects the first two French albums of Les Aventures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec (Pterror Over Paris and The Eiffel Tower Demon) in a large format hardback edition, and it’s beautifully presented. First released in 1976, Jacques Tardi’s story has a timeless quality, set in an alternative, steam-punk universe, shortly before World War I.... Tardi’s art recreates the scenery beautifully, with stunning backdrops bringing the architecture and beauty of Paris to life. ...[A] compelling and enjoyable mystery story with an alternative Victorian feel." – Grovel
• Review: "Comic fanboys have read Sgt. Rock or The Howling Commandos which are realistic in many ways, but there was a time when a comic mag got down right truthful. I’m speaking of Blazing Combat #1-4 (1965-66, Warren) and recently Fantagraphics collected the run in both hardcover and softcover. Blazing Combat was an anthology comic that showed the very dark and very real side of war. A loose followup to the EC Comics War genre books, it showed US G.I.’s dying in terrible ways, commanders giving orders with little regard for consequences and the militaristic definition of collateral damage. Jim Warren let it all hang out when it came to editing Archie Goodwin’s writing... Of course Goodwin is a genius and I’m usually more of a word-man when it comes to comics, but this time it’s the art that captured my attention. It’s a who’s-who of monster talent..." – Chris Marshall, Collected Comics Library
• Review: "Fred [the Clown] is a figure of innocence, a lovelorn sad sack who keeps getting hit by custard pies — and, even harder, by life — over and over again, but keeps standing back up to go on. Langridge mostly tells his story in short wordless comics stories... in his usual style, a crisp modern interpretation of the classic '20s animation look... They're slapsticky stories of a sad clown, using the accouterments of vaudeville and early Hollywood, that nonetheless feel entirely new and fresh and funny. I don't know how Langridge does it, but he does it very very well." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "You must buy @DaveMcKean's NSFW book 'CELLULOID' at your local comics or book store. Or in a plain brown wrapper..." – Neil Gaiman
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere re-formats and re-presents one of our previews of Johnny Ryan's Prison Pit Book 3 to their readers, with Josh West saying "This is set to be 120 pages of ‘once you see it, it can’t ever be unseen’ scenarios and, honestly, Comicsphere couldn’t be more excited! Unbelievably unpredictable, violent, satirical and likely to entertain more than anything else on the shelves through September, the Prison Pit makes Hell look like nothing more than a relaxing Sunday morning stroll through a (really hot) meadow."
• Interview:Comic Book Resources' Tim Callahan has a wide-ranging conversation with Johnny Ryan about Prison Pit and other topics: "I guess I have this fascination with stories where the 'hero' is not a hero at all. He's a loser or an idiot or a scumbag, but somehow the author makes us give a shit about him or her.... I think this is a strain that also runs through my work. It's about bad people, doing bad things, but I try and trick people into caring about or liking these people."
• Preview/Plug:Comicsphere gives the same treatment as above to our excerpt of Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette's Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot, with Josh West saying "...Jacques Tardi returns to the world of guns, crime, betrayal and bloodshed with this stunning, grisly, and remarkably faithful interpretation of Manchette’s last completed crime thriller."
"Athos in America – Jason returns to The Last Musketeer and includes other Jasony stories like 'The Brain That Wouldn’t Virginia Woolf.'"
• Plugs:Graphic Novel Reporter includes almost everything we have coming out over the next 3 months in their "Great Graphic Novels of Fall 2011" roundup, particularly the Adult Fiction and Nonfiction categories (though we feel we should point out that Alexander Theroux's Estonia is neither fiction nor a graphic novel)
• Plug: "We’re over halfway done, and have moved into the last 20 years of the strip with the release of The Complete Peanuts: 1981 to 1982. Can you believe how fast time is flying? Kudos to Fantagraphics for maintaining the incredibly high standard of quality and presentation they established at the outset, with this entry featuring an introduction from cartoonist Lynn Johnston. More!" – Ken Plume, FRED
• Interview:Newsarama's Albert Ching talks to Michael Kupperman about his new book Mark Twain's Autobiography 1910-2010: "One other character I frequently think of when doing Twain — writing that book, or doing him in Thrizzle — is Dave Thomas from SCTV doing Walter Cronkite. Which in some ways is very similar — this kind of roguish, semi-self-befuddled character, roaming around having adventures."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins a multi-part chat with Drew Friedman: "Basically when Monte Beauchamp who edits those books invited me to do a book, I thought about what I like to draw the most. I like to draw comedians and old Jews. So I put those two together and started working on them between assignments over a year. I just got pleasure in drawing them. I could put aside any annoying assignment I had and just get down to drawing those old Jewish faces. That’s what it came down to."
• Interview:Washington City Paper's Mike Rhode had a little pre-SPX Q&A with Noah Van Sciver: "I'm excited to stop by the Fantagraphics table and say hello to those guys and see what's new." Well shucks!
• Lore: "’71 was a weird year for me. I never had quite so many women coming and going, as I did that year in the apartment I shared with Gary. But I was still drinking too much and just overdoing it in general, hedonistically speaking. I was getting very little good work done (gosh, I wonder why?) and was generally pretty miserable." – Kim Deitch's epic memoir-in-music "Mad About Music: My Life in Records" at TCJ.com forges into the 1970s
• Staff picks: Our own Ambassador of Awesome (and funniest Flogger) Janice Headley is the guest contributor to this week's Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" column
Ian Burns has his fortune told by Dame Darcy, July 10, 2010
Ian Burns is the second-most recent staff acquisition here at Fantagraphics (designer Tony Ong holds current "new guy" status) — you may know him as one of the voices who answers our phone and takes your orders, or as the friendly bearded fellow at our Emerald City Comicon booth this year, or perhaps you've read his "Diaflogue" interviews with Leslie Stein and Kim Deitch. If the latter, you know that Ian is a pretty thoughtful guy about comics, and I'm happy to learn that he's been contributing essays to Graphic Eye, the recently-launched comics reviews-and-interviews site headed up by our erstwhile intern, steadfast supporter and good pal Gavin Lees (which in itself is great news). Here's Ian's discussion of "Merlock Jones," the shape-shifting detective in E.C. Segar's Thimble Theatre (as seen in Popeye Vol. 3), and here's his analysis of Jim Blanchard's portrait of Osama bin Laden which appeared on the cover of The Stranger earlier this year. Not only that, Ian's also been contributing to The Comics Journal website, including this well-traveled recent interview with Brandon Graham. (And if you ever meet Ian in person, ask to see his theme sketchbook of Animal from The Muppet Show — it's giving my Yoda sketchbook a run for its money, I tell you what.)
On behalf of everyone at Fantagraphics, let me be the first to congratulate our own Jacob Covey and his beautiful wife, Liz, on the birth of their new baby daughter, Maren, who joined the ranks of the world yesterday morning. Mom, baby, and even daddy and big sister Freya are doing well. Much love from your Fantagraphics family, Coveys.
See that incredible logo at the top of this FLOG post? Designed by our one and only Jacob Covey, seen here with his lovely lady, Liz. It's hard to get Covey out these days, so SEATTLE, I HOPE YOU APPRECIATED IT.
I love what Seattle Twist wrote about our own Larry Reid so much, that I just wanna quote it here: "Mister Larry Reid — Seattle's own kulture chaos kingpin, curating/instigating collisions of art and xcitement in this town for the last three decades, and still ready to kick some 'sick-up-the-butt' art establishment attitude for years to come."AMEN.
You can check out more photos -- including some can't-miss shots of Krist Novoselic's shirt -- over at SeattleTwist.com! And if you missed opening night, don't worry, you have until 2014 to view the Nirvana exhibit at the EMP.
Stop by Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery today and wish Larry Reid a happy birthday! Larry's been one of the most influential figures in the Seattle counterculture scene for more years than he'd care for us to count, and has been instrumental in the establishment of alternative comix as a respected art form. The man's a giant, I tells ya, and we're privileged to have him on our team.
If you want to make Larry happy today (and to make up for me embarrassing him here), first and foremost, buy lots and lots of comic books, and second, "like" the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery page on Facebook — Larry's been posting there pretty much daily, and even if you're out of the area and can't visit the store he's got great comix recommendations and juicy tidbits to share.
Fantagraphics staffers Eric Buckler, Gavin Lees, and an appearance from head honcho Gary Groth!
Thanks to everyone who visited the Fantagraphics booth at the 9th Annual Emerald City Comicon! It was great to see everyone there, and we hope you're enjoying the books you bought from us!
We sold out of Prison Pit, Vol. 1 and Werewolves of Montpelier pretty quickly -- which I think is awesome and hilarious for this mostly mainstream show. Is Cannibal Fuckface the next great superhero? Clearly, yes.
We hope you all enjoyed getting your books signed by our artists Peter Bagge and Megan Kelso, and editor Jacques Boyreau, seen above talking "grindhouse" with some ComiCon attendees. Thanks to them for spending time with us at our booth that weekend!
And thanks so much to the Fantagraphics staffers who manned the table. I wanna send out an extra-special thanks to the latest member of the Fantagraphics team, Ian Burns, for working all three days of the con! (Congratulations on the promotion from intern to Customer Service Representative!)
And another extra-special thanks goes to The Comics Journal contributor Gavin Lees who was a welcome weekend-long surprise addition to the team, along with his intergalactic-sweetie Heather (who got to meet Shatner!!!).
• Review: "Though the episodic flow and gung-ho patriotism of the strips are simplistic in both content and conception, the depth they lack is greatly made up for by the vast, epic compositions that contain Crane’s spring-coiled bigfoot cartooning, the explosive you-are-there immediacy of his dogfights and shootouts, and the sensuous intensity of form and shape he brings to gorgeous women and vehicles of war alike. [...] Crane worked in broad strokes, which is what made him a great cartoonist; but in Buz Sawyer he also sometimes discovers quieter places, ones truly worthy of the sumptuousness with which he imbued every panel." – Matt Seneca, The Comics Journal
• Review: "Kalesniko is a major talent, and this book, which depicts a day stuck in traffic on a California freeway, presents considerable space for reflection, gossip, roman a clef and more. [...] Though the text of the story is rich and interesting, Kalesniko's art is amazing; manga-esque yet thoroughly Western, and richly expressive and subtle. Freeway will inevitably place high on many critic's year's-best lists." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "Political commentary often has a short shelf life, but Kreider's collection of cartoons and essays [Twilight of the Assholes] remains potent and pungent, despite its primary focus on the excesses and detritus of the Bush administration. There are no claims of fairness, balance, sensitivity or subtlety here. Kreider's sharp pen skewers holier-than-thou hypocrites, patently phony pious proselytizers, opportunists and idiots of all stripes — gleefully and without fear." – Richard Pachter, The Miami Herald
• Review: "With the core cast established, Segar takes more liberties with the formulas established in earlier books... and Segar continues to find new ways to play his cast off one another. How do Olive and Wimpy react when Eugene predicts Popeye will lose a prize fight for the first time ever? How does Popeye react to being a leader of men? It’s all here, all adventure and all hilarity. Fantagraphics, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading the series to date, continues to provide a gorgeous package – a towering book... with a striking die-cut cover. [...] Popeye Vol. 5: 'Wha’s a Jeep?' stands out as another winning classic comic strip collection, a reminder how great the medium has been and how dynamic it can still be." – Michael C. Lorah, Newsarama
• Review: "The value in this volume [Unexplored Worlds: The Steve Ditko Archives Vol. 2] is not in the stories themselves... but in tracking how Ditko’s art develops. Amid the stock characters of hapless dullards, five o’clock shadow Everymen and saturnine businessmen and the typical rocketships and ray guns of the day, Ditko gains confidence and consistency in his depictions, and an ability to pack more information into fewer images and to guide the reader’s eye across the page for maximum impact. His ability to convey otherworldly horrors flowers as well..." – Christopher Allen, Trouble with Comics
• Review: "...[W]hy is Sergio Ponchione not regarded as one of the top artists in the field today?! [Grotesque #4] is absolutely gorgeous. Lush, bizarre, and moving. The type of comics art which you dwell on a single panel for minutes at a time. The amount of detail and skill in each drawing is astounding. The tones and colors along with the expressive line and brush work create a mood of deep inspection." – P.D. Houston, Renderwrx Productions
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to new TCJ.com honchos Dan Nadel & Tim Hodler about taking the reins of The Comics Journal's online presence: "The initial goal was and remains the creation of a genuine on-line comics magazine (as opposed to blog, or series of blogs), with all of the long-form essays, interviews, reviews, and visual features that come with it. In other words, yes, we're attempting a counter-intuitive web site strategy, in the hopes that quality content will draw people in. We're interested in making a magazine that has a place in the larger visual culture, and can be a go-to source for people seeking insightful writing about comics."
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins, on the new TCJ.com: "Since I’m writing for the thing, I may not be in the best position to comment about it, but quite aside from my own minor role in the proceedings, the move is a welcome and long-overdue one. [...] Handing the Journal‘s website to an experienced print/web editorial team with a clear vision of comics and how to talk about them, one that moreover has been on the leading edge of comics criticism for some years now, is a major step in the right direction."
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater concludes his conversation with Stan Sakai: "I own the characters, so I can do basically whatever I want with him, as far as the story goes. Most of it is adventure, I’ve done romances, I’ve done mysteries — I even did Space Usagi, where he goes through outer space. I can pretty much do anything I want with him, so I never get bored. I’m having fun with Usagi, even after so many years."
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks to Renee French: "I've been fishing around. I don't know if it's my age or what, but I'm confused. I have a bunch of obsessions that keep coming back. If I just kind of do something else, like these one-off drawings that I've been doing lately, it's not satisfying. I actually need to feel a little on-edge and crazy, I think."
• Interview:Seattlest's Hanna Brooks Olsen chatted with our own Larry Reid at Emerald City ComiCon yesterday and got "some pretty spectacular insight on what's going on" with us
• Feature:The Seattle Times' Janet I. Tu does her due diligence in her profile of Emerald City ComiCon and asks the president of Seattle's largest comics publisher about the event: "'It's mind-bending how big it is now and how influential,' said Gary Groth, who works at Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books, a graphic-novel and comic-book publisher, and edits the print edition of The Comics Journal, a magazine of news and criticism on comics and cartooning. Groth attributes the growth of such conventions to comics becoming a more integral part of pop culture. 'Or perhaps pop culture has become more comic-book-ized,' he said. 'You see it with comic-book movies or TV shows like Heroes. What used to be seen as essentially kids' entertainment has become grown-up entertainment.'"
• Commentary:Robot 6's Sean T. Collins comments on Alex Dueben's interview with Carol Tyler for that blog's parent site Comic Book Resources: "Having been sucked in by war fever myself several years ago, I find myself more and more moved by accounts of how even the most well-intentioned conflicts make a rubble of countless human lives, both the ones taken and the ones scarred, physically, economically, or emotionally. ...[Tyler is] doing vitally important work."
Last week, Amazon.com temporarily reduced the price of our $125 Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons to a ridiculously low $30. Several prominent folks, including our old pal Neil Gaiman, tweeted and/or blogged about it, and at one point on Monday night, the book had risen to #16 on Amazon's sales charts for ALL books, and to #1 in the bargain books category. Somehow, this led to the following actual, real email exchange about the comic strip Dilbert. A week later, the debate rages on. In other words: Just Another Week at Fantagraphics Books.
Kim Thompson wrote:
That Bargain Books section is pretty sweet sometimes. I just bought an $85 DILBERT supercollection for the office for twenty-two bucks. (Yes, I love DILBERT. I know most cartoonists can't get past the art, but it's funny as hell.)
Eric Reynolds wrote:
LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!
Gary Groth wrote:
Oh my fucking God.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Read [Scott Adams'] blog, which is unencumbered by his godawful art. He's the sharpest comedy writer in comic strips.
I hope yer joking. It's too late to look for a new partner.
Jacob Covey wrote:
What's weird is Kim and Eric haven't ever worked in one of those godawful Dilbert cubical jobs to my knowledge.
Gary Groth wrote:
I bet I've worked in more shitty jobs -including "cubicle" jobs- than everyone here. I hate Dilbert and don't think it's funny. It's humor that's calculated to make working in cubicles more palatable.
Kim Thompson wrote:
I think you're all going by a vision of DILBERT of like 20 years ago. (Newsflash, DOONESBURY isn't about a bunch of college students arguing any more either.) It's blossomed into a relentless examination of deception and self-delusion in the workplace and beyond, based on the premise that 90% of actions taken are taken for reasons that are selfish, idiotic, or both, and boiling them down to their most basic absurdities.
Gary Groth wrote:
That's the problem: the strip is essentially gutless, so generic and so absent specificity as to be meaningless. Selfishness, sloth, and idiocy are its constant (easy) targets -vices to which no one can object- and executed in such a cutesy, innocuous way that they prompt a reflexively knowing and self-satisfied smirk.
The strip you linked to perfectly encapsulates the strip's modus operandi of recapitulating the Peter Principle in the most banal way imaginable. It reflects, regurgitates, and therefore flatters the reader's own "insight" on the workplace and panders to his sense of superiority to the bureaucracy he serves (or is served by).
The problem with the Doonesbury analogy is that Doonesbury was good. (Plus, you're ten years off: the college stuff took place 30 years ago.)
Kim Thompson wrote:
It's true that Adams is fundamentally pro-business (in the sense that many military comedies are actually pro-Army) but the idea that he's an agent of Satan intent on narcotizing the cubicle workers is hippy-dippy talk, unless you adhere to the notion that any blowing off of steam (e.g. laughter) just delays the inevitable revolution when workers will throw off their shackles and string up the man.
Gary Groth wrote:
That's a Dilbert-ish response, which suggests that its flattening perspective is contagious. Pop entertainment doesn't have to be anti-revolutionary in a hippy-dippy Marxist 1970s kinda way in order to be nauseating, status-quo supportive crap. The fact that it's not single handedly holding back a revolution that will never come just makes it more insidious. The rank ad file would remain narcoticized if Dilbert didn't exist, but its existence sure doesn't hurt.
Eric Reynolds wrote:
Irresistible force, meet immovable object.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Wait, when did Kenneth Smith start sending me emails signed "GG"?
This is the kind of apocalyptic society-is-doomed rant critics will periodically unleash on more or less harmless pop-culture successes which I genuinely can't take seriously enough to respond to. If you're going to go medieval on any work of (to stretch the definition to a breaking point in DILBERT's case, admittedly) art that rests on the foundation that in theory capitalism might be an OK system, then it's a bit like criticizing rock music from the point of view that electric guitars are pure evil.
I did get the DOONESBURY timeline wrong. Time flies!
Gary Groth wrote:
I am not asking for every comic strip to be an Adorno-esque revolutionary screed, but if the whole purpose of the strip is to comment on contemporary economic and commercial life, it's hardly asking too much to invest the work with a degree of conscience or acuity and not serve as a hypocritical feel-good bromide for a mindless status quo that it celebrates and criticizes at the same time.
Mostly, though, it's just lame - as any humor would inevitably be if it's foundation is based on social arrangements being "OK" (or, as I would put it, hunky dory). What a concept!
Anyway, I get it. Pop culture and -especially billion dollar pop culture successes- are harmless and criticizing them on political or moral grounds is going "medieval," because, y'know, they're, like, harmless and don't mean anything and why don't I chill out and sit back and take it easy for God's sake.
I consider it a success whenever I can elicit a dig at Ken Smith.
Kim Thompson wrote:
It's a hypocritical feel-good bromide that postulates that pretty much everyone in the world is a selfish idiot and all personal and professional interaction spirals inevitably into entropy? By what standards, compared to SHOAH?
Any humor that is not based on a socialistic view of the world is ipso facto lame?
Any pointed examination of human behavior within a certain context/matrix is invalid unless it fundamentally challenges that context/matrix? (E.g., the HURT LOCKER conundrum.)
It's possible there is a middle ground between apocalyptic doom-laden rants and dismissing-as-utterly-harmless, but this would require living in a non-Manichean world which, as we know from Mister A (or Rorschach), is a craven compromise with the forces of evil.
I think there is plenty of pop culture that is insidious and subtly destructive, and that's worth pointing out (although perhaps not quite so Howard Beale-ishly), but I also think it's possible to overreach and I think it can be morally dubious and qualitatively good at the same time. Sometimes I begin to suspect that ALL good art (or decent entertainment) is actually morally dubious at best.
Eric Reynolds wrote:
This could be the greatest critical roundtable in tcj.com history.
Gary Groth wrote:
• Kim was the first to cite capitalism and is, now, the first to cite socialism. There's a Manichean world view on display here, but not mine.
• There is a long list of morally dubious great art - Riefenstahl, Pound, Celine, the usual suspects- because their aesthetic virtues trump their moral vices or at least can be appreciated while holding one's nose. Unfortunately, Dilbert has no aesthetic virtues at all; its observations of the human condition are art-free and, not to put too fine a point on it, but we have both been too polite to mention what a visual eyesore it is even among the visually desiccated ranks of today's newspaper strips.
• I wondered why images of Dilbert flitted through my head when I was watching Shoah last week.
• A pointed examination would have to be just that - pointed.
• Postulating (postulating?) day after day and year after year that pretty much everyone in the world is a selfish idiot and all personal and professional interaction spirals inevitably into entropy devolves rapidly into a one-dimensional, reductive and even dishonest schtick (because not everyone in the world is a selfish idiot and all personal and professional interactions don't spiral into entropy - or do they? Maybe I'm behind the curve on this one) that's numbing in its repetitiveness and simple-mindedness. Even savage critiques of the way we live -think Face in the Crowd of Elmer Gantry- feature real human beings with whom we can empathize and who refuse to sink into nihilism and entropy. Dilbert isn't pointed, isn't a critique, isn't an examination - it's a relentless of glib, shallow cliches about office politics and managerial ineptitude that a million office drones could probably come up with if they just typed and scribbled long enough.
It has no juice, it has no fire. It's a sedative.
• Funny you should mention Network. A little shrill, sure, but at least it had guts and passion eloquence and a touch of humanity. Dilbert is just a load of crap.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Hey now, I take grave exception to the claim that we've been "too polite" to mention the hideousness of the art, I referred to "his godawful art" days ago, and then to Breathed "drawing better than Scott Adams, but everyone does, including Cathy Guisewite and 90% of the submissions in our slush pile."
I think we're played out on this. I'm not sure I can quite wrap my head around defending DILBERT against the charge of constituting, basically, "feel-good nihilism" although it sounds like a great genre. If Barnes & Noble had a section for "feel-good nihilism" I'd make a beeline for it every time, and not just for the DILBERT books.
Gary Groth wrote:
"Feel good nihilism" has ben a post-modern genre for years and has its own section in B&N. Where've you been?
You're right, you mentioned the hideous art e-mails ago; but in my defense, it cannot be said too much or too often.
Look, I know right at this moment, at 10:59 PM at the end of a grueling Tuesday, you believe that Dilbert is a not only a laff riot, but a shrewd, pointed exercise in sociological observation, but take my word for it just this once - it is a a piece of shit. There are issues facing us that are legitimately open to debate - should we have national health care, should we be landing troops on Libya, is Ditko as good as Kirby? - but this is not one of them.
Dilbert is the antithesis of everything Fantagraphics stands for - believe it, baby.
Kim Thompson wrote:
As in most cases, I am right and you are wrong.
DILBERT is not a sociological observation. It's (for the most part) an ongoing exercise in analyzing how something that is theoretically sensible and logical (corporate business structures built to produce things and make money) is undone by human nature (stupidity, selfishness, cowardice, etc.) to actually consistently do the opposite of what it's intended to achieve. One could argue equally convincingly that it's a paean to capitalism (laid low by its flawed practitioners) or a postmortem/condemnation of it (a system that doesn't take into account its practitioners is inherently doomed).
Leaving aside whether it's well drawn (it isn't) or well written (it is, a series of precise, almost haiku-like mockeries that remove any shred of humanity or individuality for pure conceptual humor), I can see where its adamant refusal to engage the moral or political underpinnings of capitalism or corporate culture might be infuriating for anyone who needs to strain his entertainment through his own sociopolitical colander of correctness. (Also the lack of humanity could be off-putting, I guess, if you're into the whole humanity thing.)
There's also the question as to whether it's funny or not, which is probably impossible to resolve because any sentence that starts off "This is not funny because..." is automatically meaningless.
Yes, once Dilbert is completely divorced from the historic/political/cultural/economic context that it clearly inhabits and exploits and after that pesky "humanity thing" is expunged from the equation and he strip is neatly turned into an abstraction (or "pure conceptual humor" you've really got something there.
Are you sure Scott Adams isn't a pseudonym for "Watson"? The results couldn't be appreciably different.
Kim Thompson wrote:
Er, uh, what?
No fair! That was going to be my opening argument against Arlo and Janis.