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Quote of the Day | The most subversive comics of all

The Bash Street Kids

The Bash Street Kids

“Unfortunately, the curators of the exhibition ‘Comics Unmasked’ at the British Library have been overwhelmed by the Gothic vision, at the expense of every other contribution to the medium. And as creative as [Alan] Moore’s gothic is, it is still a lot less interesting than the material that has been left out of the exhibition. It is an aesthetic for adolescent boys who think that unhappy and twisted stuff is correspondingly profound, while comedy is trivial and facile. The truth is often the other way round, where horror and gore are really just sentimentality, prurient and moralistic at the same time, while comedy allows marvellous slippages of meaning that are much more intelligent [...]

The gothic does encourage some flashes of imagination, but it is quite taxing to see yet another raddled prostitute eviscerated – in spattered ink, of course – for the entertainment of troubled adolescents. How much wittier to peer through the Desperate Dan-shaped hole that Desperate Dan leaves in a brick wall – right down to the buttons on his shirt. Where are those truly subversive characters, the Bash Street Kids? They’ve been elbowed aside by the showroom dummies (an unintended self-satire) in the Guy Fawkes masks that loiter in the shadows of the exhibition, threatening nothing.”

– author James Heartfield, arguing that the British Museum exhibit “Comics Unmasked” omits the most subversive comics of all, kids’ comics like The Beano and The Dandy

Desperate Dan horsemeat

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Comments

4 Comments

Certainly thoughtful points made there, but I think the most interesting thing about the quote above is that unquestioning equivalence it draws between “subversive” and “intelligent” or “profound”. In a sense, anything can be subversive. The Alan Moore comic can be just as subversive as the comic strip and vice versa. Is the exhibition explicitly for the “subversive”? If so, that isn’t made clear. If it is more about recognizing great works or works demonstrating intelligence or higher levels of meaning, then judging them on a scale of what is “subversive” and what is not, as Heartfield suggests, seems futile and oblivious.

Suppose you were a pompous ass. Now suppose you were a critic. But I repeat myself.

I don’t knock anything by Alan Moore, but I think even he was/is tired of the way that the dark twisty intelligent vision of his has been bastardized, copied and ruined by comics again and again and again and seldom in an equally intelligent fashion.

There is a lot to be said for the genius of humor, and I say that because all too often it is ignored in favor of these violent adolescent fantasies of a way too nihilistic reality.

So yeah. I wouldn’t dismiss Alan Moore’s work, anymore than the British museum should have ignored comic comics.

Guys, it’s Spiked Online. Their whole MO is tiresome, attention-seeking contrarianism (usually of the right-wing, libertarian, we’ll-tell-you-who-the-REAL-racists-are variety). The argument isn’t being made in good faith, so engaging with it all is a waste of your time.

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