Robot 6

Quote of the day | Bad comics are the disease. Jaime Hernandez is the cure.

…Hernandez’s comics are in many ways an antidote to all the things that drive comics fans nuts despite their seeming appetite for wallowing in such things for weeks, months, years on end. Sexism in comics is always worth fighting because sexism is pernicious and harmful and thus worth calling into question every time it’s encountered, but for many adult fans part of the solution really is to put down the terrible comic that enrages you and buy something like Love & Rockets: New Stories #4 for its fragile, sympathetic portraits of a wide range of human experiences.

Tom Spurgeon, in yet another excellent piece on Jaime Hernandez’s Maggie & Hopey masterpiece “The Love Bunglers” from Love and Rockets: New Stories #4.

There’s a sense one gets when issues involving lousy or ugly or offensive comics are discussed on the comics Internet that the superhero genre is the extent of the comics experience. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good in the sense that for most of the North American comics market, superheroes are if not the only game in town then at least the Super Bowl compared to the Pee-Wee League games being played by other kinds of comics, so the numbers necessitate a serious engagement with the genre’s problems and the problems of its publishers. And if you treat superhero comics as paramount, then your critiques of its practices gain in urgency, an urgency that’s probably required if those critiques are to be heard and responded to.

But it’s bad because, well, it’s not true. If you’re looking for realistic and well-rendered women characters, or for women creators operating on an equal playing field, or for a serious examination of issues of gender and sexuality in all their glory and misery, then yeah, you can kick against the pricks and hope that someday an issue of Captain Copyright or the Teen Trademarks will deliver these things. Or you can put those comics down, walk a few aisles over or click on a different website, and discover things like Jaime’s “Browntown”/”The Love Bunglers” suite, which over the course of two issues of Love and Rockets packs in more quality fiction about love, aging, motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, divorce, adultery, sexual assault, queerness, mental illness, adolescence, friendship, and sex than the last half-dozen comics-internet contretemps–causing comics combined. It needn’t be an either/or choice, mind you — it never has been for me and it likely never will be either. But there is a choice.

The best thing about Jaime’s comics in particular, from a superhero-fan standpoint, is that like many of the best superhero comics, they play off decades of accrued continuity without being slavishly beholden to them. Jaime’s been working with his cast of Los Angeleno ex-punkers since the first Reagan administration, and “The Love Bunglers” brings the stories of several of them to places that are perhaps best appreciated by people who’ve followed them over the course of that journey. But as Spurgeon forcefully argues in his piece, there’s something refreshing about that, too. Hernandez is making precisely the comics he wants to make, without worrying if this makes him accessible to any particular kind of audience — be it an audience of theoretical “new readers,” or an audience that treats what has come before as a gospel never to be deviated from. The audience he cares about is the audience for good comics. Aren’t you a part of that audience?

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7 Comments

Truer words…

I appreciate the sentiment and I agree to some extent. Personally, I’m definitely extremely grateful that comics like Love and Rockets exist, and as someone who is interested in a pretty wide range of comics, it’s true that they can serve as a kind of antidote when I’m sick of the BS of super-hero comics.

But as has been pointed out by many people on several occasions, some (most?) readers of super-hero comics are in it because they love super-heroes specifically. Maybe it’s a love of the genre more than it is a love of the medium. Or maybe it’s a combination of both.

In other words, some people want to read good, non-sexist super-hero comics. That’s a pretty simple desire. And for those people, Love and Rockets and all the other great non-sexist comics out there from every other genre are not going to work as an antidote to anything, because what these people want are good, non-sexist super-hero comics.

Basque, what you say is true enough but it’s worth pointing out that if your main interest is reading superhero comics and you want something that is great and non-sexist, you really should read Jaime Hernandez’s “Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34″ (from Love and Rockets, volume 3, #1 and #2). That’s a great superhero comic that works both as a genre entertainment while deploying all the skills Jaime brings to his other stories. Also Clowes’ The Death Ray is worth reading — one of the best superhero comics ever).

Yeah, I respect and can’t really speak to those people other than to suggest to keep on fighting. It’s weird to me to be so monolithic about a single genre. I don’t encounter a lot of people like that with film, but I do know several people whose entire prose reading is mysteries and whose entire interest in theater is classic musicals. I do get a little uncomfortable when people conflate those specific appetites with the entire medium, but I can’t really speak to them with a statement like I made here.

I tried to write a longer piece about this, but my writing has suffered a bit over the last few months and I was unable to make that piece come together. There’s a strain in the overall commentary right now of “Quit Reading And Talking About Crappy Comics” and I don’t agree with that except in that I think it’s a solution for some fans with wider appetites — or potentially wider appetites — to consider if the one kind of comic book is upsetting them, and it’s good to remember context like I mention in the previous graph here. But I don’t want people to stop talking about DC or Marvel or sexist comics or whatever. I actually wish there was more varied talk about those things, but people should talk about what they’re passionately interested in, for sure.

Good point, Jeet.

And well put, Tom.

Steven R. Stahl

October 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I don’t encounter a lot of people like that with film, but I do know several people whose entire prose reading is mysteries and whose entire interest in theater is classic musicals.

You might be interested in this article — http://www.straight.com/article-402353/vancouver/genrefiction-fans-quell-hunger-ebooks — on the reading habits of genre fiction enthusiasts.

SRS

Basque:

“In other words, some people want to read good, non-sexist super-hero comics. That’s a pretty simple desire. And for those people, Love and Rockets and all the other great non-sexist comics out there from every other genre are not going to work as an antidote to anything, because what these people want are good, non-sexist super-hero comics.”

It’s not just a simple desire, it’s a valid one. A noble one! If you’re interested in a genre then you should absolutely want to read good, non-sexist examples of that genre. Where things get weird is in the bass-ackwards nature of the North American comics industry, wherein superheroes are so prominent that what should be a localized problem within one specific genre ends up conflated with the entire medium.

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