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Some use pen and paper to make a comic, while others employ a stylus and a computer screen. But photographer Seth Kushner moves beyond the idea of utilizing a camera to document life to instead capture images to tell a story in a sequential narrative. Y’know, comics. In the past few years, Kushner has come to be a significant force in comics, both for his photocomix like CulturePOP at Trip City and for his more traditional photography work profiling comic creators. For the latter, he’s best known in comic circles for his partnership with writer Chris Irving, which produced the website Graphic NYC and recently the printed book Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics.
As both a chronicler of comic creators and a comic creator himself, Kushner is an interesting subject to talk about the current landscape of comics. From the American reception to photocomix (as compared to the European adoration for them as fumetti) to his personal and iconic photography of comic creators that’s far beyond the grainy bygone magazine photographs we’re used to. In his work, he allows the comic creators themselves to live up to the lofty nature of the comics they produce. And his comics work, both in the photocomic CulturePOP and his more traditionally drawn series Schmuck, Kushner keeps his personal aesthetic for being “up close and personal” with his writing and treatment of his subjects.
Last month, Tim Marchman let loose with a scathing article in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the superhero-comics industry that was the talk of the internet for a couple of days and kicked up a few Twitterstorms, most notably with writer J. Michael Straczynski. But then people pretty much moved on.
The thing is, Marchman was supposed to be writing a review of Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner’s book Leaping Tall Buildings, a collection of interviews with, and photographs of, famous comics creators. You can get a taste of their work on their Graphic NYC blog, and as one who has been following them for a while, I can tell you, it’s awesome.
Although Marchman’s article appeared in the Bookshelf section of the Journal, he mentioned the book only in passing — and while his comments were positive, he billed Irving as the editor, not the writer, and skipped Kushner altogether. Now Kushner has posted a response to the piece, titled Who Reviews the Reviewer? at the Trip City site. Actually, Kushner says straight out that he isn’t reviewing the reviewer, but he does have some things to say about the article: