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November 15, 2004



It's always been that way, one way or another. Crumb and company looked up to Mad, EC and Disney, others have looked up to Crumb, non-mainstream works deliberately moving away from the alternative as a reaction to mainstream, so on. They didn't fetishize it to such lengths, but still.

Anyway, Rowson's review would have been so much better had he decided to stop one paragraph earlier. Or if he had given a reason why comics are stupid, instead of just calling the audience retards. More than anything else, it's tiring to see the 30-something virgin straw-man, or a variation on it, trotted out in responce to anything to do with comics.


Well, I liked the comics issue of McSweeney's.... the only two bits i didn't like were the 'Family Go Cycling' one and the 'Sperm-rag t-shirt' one....both were painfully Crumb-wannabees.

But the rest was fantastic. I for one quite like the way the articles were indulgently on the defensive about comics as an (neglected?) art form (esp. Chris Ware). At least they were being honest.

Rowson, for his part, is easily ignorable.


Do we really need any more indulgent, defensive articles about why comics are an art form, neglected or otherwise? After nearly twenty solid years of reading them (and I date that back only to the last "Pow! Bang! Zap!" boom) I'd rather see artists and scholars just presume they're working in a valid art form, and go on to produce some valid art and criticism. That will make their case far better than the world-weary essays of McSweeney's.

As for Rowson, I think his specific lashes at the anthology aren't easily ignorable, and that's what makes them so troubling. I agree with Isaac, though, that they would have been better served without the last paragraph or two.

Martin Rowson

My review six months ago in Britain's lowest circulation Sunday newspaper seems to have kicked up a storm out of all proportion to its importance, or the importance of the subject of the review. To be honest, I was being deliberately harsh and provocative: first, because I'm a satirist, and I can't resist having a kick at anything which appears to be taking itself as seriously and as pompously as McSweeney's was (and a lot of the comics industry does); second, just to test the water as to just how seriously comics fans take themselves and the object of their interest (I was right on that one); third, because, apart from the cheap shots - and there's nothing wrong with cheapness; it's not just my stock-in-trade, but also should be central to the kind of alternative comics I grew up with - I happened to believe most of what I said. Which, as I sort of remember, is that in the ecology of culture comics exist and thrive in the niche they do, so why do they actually want "respectability"? To increase the earning power of artists? To stop the readers feeling so embarrassed? Because the readers want everyone else in the world to feel exactly as they do? Well, bollocks to all of those, and I'd refer people back to a couple of cartoon strips I did in the Independent in the early 90s, during the last great abortive comics revolution, one of which had Kingsley Amis winning the Booker Prize with his "graphic novel" "BitchSluts from Hell Planet Hampstead", and the other one being about Anita Brookner scripting a new DC comic (with hilaaaaarious results). Basically, while I'm grateful that you got most of my points, I'd ask anyone else reading this to heed d dee. I'm easily ignorable, so just chill out and have a bit more confidence in enjoying what you enjoy- but which I and many other people may not. Love and peace.


Well, I'd prefer to think that I got all of your points, and not just those on which I happen to agree with you.

And I did (and do) agree with many of those points, particularly your feeling that comics artists and fans shouldn't worry so much about respectability. But insisting that nobody take comics seriously is just as absurd and defensive as insisting that everybody should.

Adam Rosenblatt

Hi there. I'm a new reader to this blog but was comforted to find that there are others out there who were disappointed by the narcissistic and derivative work Chris Ware chose for McSweeney's. A recommended alternative, which may not have been published at exactly the same time but fell into my hands within a week of the McSweeney's, is the second Rosetta anthology from Alternative Comics. Though a bit scattered, the work in it shows a wider scope in terms of styles, themes, and nationalities of the cartoonists. It includes two great Jasons (Jason of "Hey, Wait..." fame and Jason Lutes) along with a few other personal favorites I was wounded not to see in the McSweeney's. Also featuring a heartbreakingly beautiful experimental piece by Stefan J. H. van Dinther of the Eiland collaborative, and some really interesting Chinese comics.


Thanks for the recommendation, Adam. The Eiland work is definitely a selling point.

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