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April 20, 2010


Jeet Heer

"his tired canon of alternative comics."

Hmmm... what alternative canon of alternative comics would be better than Ware's two anthologies? Who is he missing that should be in his books? Who does he include that should be excluded?


"I can't help but feel like the guy who came to the party just so he could drop a turd in the punch bowl."

I love that guy!

-- MrJM


Thank you for your support!

Jeet--I don't know if you've got your copy of the book yet (I'm waiting for mine), but as you'll see from my essay, that kind of listmaking isn't really the conversation I'm interested in having. (Particularly on the internet, where it can only serve as chum in the water for all the nitpickers and point-missers who tend to surface whenever this subject is raised.) I look at the values Ware promotes in his anthologies and introductions and some of their blind spots. And beyond that, I think I'll let the essay speak for itself.

If it helps answer your question, though, I think Lynda Barry's selections in the 2008, Abel and Madden-edited Best American Comics, while far from perfect, showed a much better range of what comics can be.

Jeet Heer

Hi Marc,
I have read your essay and was puzzled by it. Which is why I posted my questions. I'm not sure that I see as much a difference between Ware's editing of his two anthologies and Barry's selection. Barry brought together cartoonists who were closest to her own artist practise, which is what Ware also did. As such, the anthology-making that they were engaged in has nothing to do with canon formation (which is an academic excercise, and neither Ware nor Barry are academics and the books they edited weren't counterparts to textbook anthologies) but rather examples of anthology-making as autobiography. Ivan Brunetti's anthologies fall into the same heading as well. http://comicscomicsmag.com/2009/12/anthology-making-as-autobiography.html


I agree that Ware and Barry both stock their anthologies with comics that reflect their own personal aesthetics, but those aesthetics differ in some pretty significant ways, as seen in their selections and their introductions. And I would argue that Ware is certainly advocating for a particular vision and canon of comics when he rules out entire genres and systems of production, advocates realism as the most important aim of comics, or positions his preferred style of alternative comics as the middlebrow ideal balanced between fine-art snobbery and demotic entertainment.

Barry, I'd agree, doesn't seem nearly as interested in drawing those kind of battle lines, and that's a large part of why I prefer her anthology: it doesn't set out to create any canons at all.

By the way, I just got my copy of the book today! Should make for a fine distraction from final papers.

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