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January 08, 2007



Actually, Ben, the only honest comics criticism I was referring to would be one that holds comics in genres with high literary capital (autobiography, observational fiction, etc.) to the same standards it holds comics in low-capital ones (superheroes, etc.), excoriating both when they are derivative, poorly executed, or endlessly self-referential. I thought that was fairly clear from the context.

Your other comments take me to task for believing that I'm right, for having conviction in my criticism, when, as everybody knows, art is always and only subjective. As I said when Kevin made a similar but far less confrontational observation, tastes are indeed subjective--surely that should be the starting point for discussion, not the end?--but if criticism is to be useful for anyone other than its author it should develop more objective claims that illuminate something about the work, not the reader.

For all that some stung partisans like to argue from total subjectivity to dismiss any criticism they dislike, art isn't purely subjective--Paul Hornschemeier really does present a lonely, timid protagonist in the vein of dozens of other lonely, timid comics protagonists. "Melanie & Billy" really does use the death of a homeless girl to decorate Sophie Crumb's life with countercultural chic. Works of art have already taken moral and aesthetic stances by their very creation (some minor or irrelevant, some unignorable and appalling) long before your or I come to them; they should be discussed in moral terms as well as any other that apply. And yes, I do have disdain for several of these stories--because they have earned it.

Finally, I notice that while you criticize me for attributing motivations and "project[ing] my own issues" (a phrase written about yourself, I know, but rather cravenly set up as an implied contrast with me), you have no problem attributing motivations and projecting issues onto me--performing the very thing you claim invalidates my criticism. I guess it really is hard to avoid.

Ben D

"you have no problem attributing motivations and projecting issues onto me--performing the very thing you claim invalidates my criticism.

Not really - I just pointed out some inconsistences in your claims and the implications of your language, that's all.

For me, comic criticism is not a moral battle between me and the comic. For you it is. We can leave it at that.


I don't see criticism as a moral battle, or any kind of battle, between the work of art and the critic (but thanks for projecting motivations again). If you have to twist the source to fit your claims, that doesn't speak too well of them.

Charles Hatfield

Marc, thanks for a fascinating review, and for the sometimes-feisty followup here. Terrific!

I've posted a notice to my blog re: your review; thought you'd want to see.

For the record, I don't share your (IMO) harsh view of MOME, but I do think it's far from what was promised and I agree on certain contributors.

Also, different topic, thought some of your readers might want to read my take on Singer et al.'s SUPERMAN RETURNS. (Er, different Singer!)

Ben D

The notion of the moral battle comes from your language and your elevated response/personal attack on the writers/editors in MOME - it's there in your text -- "disdain," "cozy disdain," "gall, "moral revulsion," "desperation" “angling for respect” etc, etc . . . . It's fine for you to attribute motives to the artists and dismiss them [in what I freely admit is a stylish prose that puts me to shame], yet when the same is done to you it’s “craven.” Why should your writing be exempt from the kind of analysis that you perform? That doesn’t seem fair.


Let's turn it around, Ben: you clearly have no problem interpreting my prose to find evidence for your moral judgments, yet from the start you've claimed that I'm somehow wrong for doing the same with the works in MOME. And my interpretations aren't dependent on pulling words out of context or misrepresenting sources.

It's hypocrisy, and it has turned what was once a promising discussion of MOME into one of those endless discussions-about-the-discussion that dominate too much of the internet. If you have something to say about MOME or modern alt/literary comics artists or the substance of my argument, then by all means, say it. If you have nothing left but accusing others of making personal attacks while doing the same, you can move on.

Harvey Jerkwater

The opening Greil Marcus quote is so beautiful and perfect, I want to find him and have his babies.

Just putting that out there.


That chapter also has a bravura passage where Marcus cites some appallingly earnest 1970s ad copy promoting a James Taylor knock-off, then rewrites it around a less superficially "honest" performer. ("Mick Jagger is about to become your friend.") You've got to read the whole piece.

Gabriel Mckee

I just read this issue of Mome this weekend, and you've summed up my feelings about it perfectly, from Sophie Crumb's narcissim to David B.'s out-of-place sense of storycraft. Excellent review!

Jonathan Bennett

Marc. It's nice to get some direct and negative feedback. I can only speak for myself, but I certainly feel like I've been asking for it. I've had a good experience working for Mome, but it has been a very difficult task. I don't have the fountain of ideas, nor the courage to approach certain subjects that some of my contemporaies have. I didn't mean to be part of "the new guard" but now I do my best to make short stories that Eric and Gary think are good, and that keep me interested at the drawing board. I do think expecting returns from ad copy is a tall order. I think Fantagraphics was just aiming high and hoping to inspire us all to produce our best. I'm confident that if I keep at it I'll break out of my psudo-autobiographical shakles and start down some other path. Though, I'll probably still just parcel out a train of thought on the way down that path for ten pages. Oh well… "I will work harder."

p.s. I still think it's tacky to jump in and comment on a review of your own work. I guess this just felt more like an open discussion at this point. Sorry if I made everyone's eyes roll.


Thanks for writing, Jonathan. Nothing tacky about commenting on a review of your work when it's done with such good spirits.

Bruce Baugh

Jonathan, the rule of thumb they gave me when I started writing for publication is that it's okay to respond if the likely reaction from readers will be something like "that's cool, I'm glad to know that". :)

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