Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
When you think about it, it only makes sense: Because the comics conversation is so dominated by old arguments, it can be tough to make room for new ones. That’s the thesis of a new post by The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon listing “Three Arguments We Could Be Having.” After we here at Robot 6 pivoted off Spurgeon’s interview with Noah Berlatsky to list the comics arguments we’d prefer never to hear again, Spurge is returning the favor by suggesting three he thinks we’d be better off having in their place: “1) Does reprinting archival comics have a moral component?; 2) Why are so many Direct Market shops still female unfriendly?; 3) What are all these superhero comics really saying?”
In other words, while the current golden age of reprints is a boon to all fans of the medium, what do its practitioners owe the creators of the comics they’re reprinting in terms of not just royalties, but also the best possible packaging and analysis of the material? Everyone’s got horror stories about some creepy store where the wares or employees make it a “shop at your own risk” situation for women and girls — why has that not translated to industry-wide action on those affronted consumers’ behalf? Should superhero comics be expected to have more of a message than “superheroes are awesome,” and if that is the message you go with, shouldn’t that be reflected across the board instead of occasionally having them indulge in really nasty behavior or suffer jarringly grim setbacks to get across the importance of a particular storyline?
I’ll tell you what my big question is: Why do superheroes dominate the online conversation the way they do? Last week saw the release of Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft and Tim Hensley’s Wally Gropius, two gorgeous and weird books that truly make use of the stuff of comics and contain the kind of material you can mentally gnaw on for days on end, but I guarantee you that no matter which comics blogs you read, you read more about Paul Levitz’s return to the Legion of Superheroes. And chances are good that if you’ve read about Daniel Clowes’s Wilson, what you read prominently featured that page where the character makes fun of The Dark Knight. What gives? If you want to make the argument that sheer numbers justify the choice of what bloggers and comics sites cover, I suppose that’s your prerogative. And don’t get me wrong — I read and enjoy multiple superhero comics every single week, and have lots to say about a lot of them. I also understand the need to make a living, which in Internet terms means unique pageviews.
But so much of the comics Internet consists of individual or group blogs where, presumably, there’s no editorial mandate to maximize hits. Indeed, the major selling point of the blogosphere is its lack of the traditional gatekeepers and incentive structures that bedevil mainstream journalism. Meanwhile, even the big group blogs owned by major communications corporations tend to be personality-driven, reflecting the interests and styles of their writers to a refreshing degree — and those writers tend to be interested in all sorts of comics, in their spare time at least. So yes, the nature of the coverage is often idiosyncratic, which is great. But why is that the comics being covered differ so little from what you’d read about on Marvel.com or The Source? Should those of us in the position to do so make an effort to broaden the scope of what we’re presenting to our readers as the comics worth buying, reading, and talking about?
So that’s my argument I’d like to be having. What are yours? Tell us in the comments — maybe we can start having them right away!