Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why I like Pim & Francie by Al Columbia




It's very simple, really... I can imagine Pim & Francie telling some stupid children's story that would ruin everything. Al Columbia doesn't fall into that trap. He tells no single story, he hints at dozens instead. And I love the eeriness and the materiality of it all (the unfinished look adds to the effect). I love the "early Disney cartoon" gone wrong look... Not to mention the gorgeous cartooning and composition sense...

Thanks Fanta! Unfortunately I can't forgive you the awful recoloring of your Disney comics, or the dismal recoloring of the Kubert Tarzan in the intro to the latest Prince Valiant volume (why the excessive saturation in the latter books? With a proper handling of the marvelous original color proofs and a more generous size - the Maresca treatment - you could have done the definitive Prince Valiant reprint: another missed opportunity!).


Ugh! Is it possible to imagine a faker and flatter and deader coloring? When will this people learn that the Ben-Day dots serve a purpose? Anyway, why is a guy who lives outdoors that white? Is the whiteness needed to stress the book's racism?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Two Brief Notes



The Crib comes out of its hibernation (to call it something) basically for two reasons:

1) Joey Manley left us way too soon!

2) Books like this one (see above) are silenced in an economy where only the lowest common denominator has the right of public exposure (these are barbarian times). My brief note here will not solve anything, of course, but, for the moment, it's the only thing that I can do...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Francesco Guccini's and Guido Buzzelli's Colpo di Stato

Today I received an obscure short story by Francesco Guccini (w) and Guido Buzzelli (a). It's "Colpo di Stato" [coup d'état], published for the first time in Undercomics # 0 (June 1973) and republished in French in the album Démons (1980). The French edition is good enough, but the only reason I'm writing this is because the Italian edition is a tabloid (!). What a joy it is to look at this great artist's work at this size! What I ask myself over and over again is why is Buzzelli so underrated? In any other medium he would have been considered a great master. But comics are something else... we all know that, right?...


Monday, September 9, 2013

C'est Complètement Incroyable!

C'est à lire et à pleurer! Et il y a plus de 3.000 idiots qui aiment ça!

Je vient d'ajouter le commentaire suivant dans le site:

Je veux dire seulement que les scénarios de Sgt. Kirk ont été totalement écrits par Héctor Germán Oesterheld. La modernité de ses idées (et lui, avec ses 4 filles, de 18 à 25 ans, ont payé avec leurs vies en les défendant) a fait de lui le créateur de la bande dessinée pour adultes. Un génie pareil ne mérite pas d'être tué deux fois.

Vendredi, 13 septembre 2013 (hé hé): si vous ne trouvez pas mon commentaire ci-dessus dans le site il y a une explication: certaines gens préfèrent continuer a dire des conneries si ses conneries sont en favour de leur vache sacrée. Mais quand est-ce que je vais apprendre a ne pas intéragir avec les fanboys?!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Feliz Día de la Historieta!



Hugo Pratt, tapa de Hora Cero Suplemento Semanal # 1, 4 de septiembre de 1957.

Hoy se celebra el Día de la Historieta en la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Capital Federal) y en toda Argentina.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

In Praise of Hugo Pratt While Lamenting How He Was Published

I love Hugo Pratt's early drawing style. Here are some examples from Misterix magazine # 228 (January 30, 1953; pages 24, 25 of the "Sgt. Kirk" series, "Hermano de sangre" - blood brother story arc):


As you can see the production values are incredibly poor ruining what, I'm sure, were great original art pages. The layout is great with splash panels on the upper left, three tiers with great action scenes, more suggested than shown, drawn with a miniaturist's art (the effect almost reminds the American flag). The talking heads, full shots and silhouettes at the end increase the range of technical effects shown. Needless to say that I find the splash panels particularly well drawn and impressive. Here's another one from the same issue (page 26 of the series):


I'm not a formalist, but here's what would happen if I were and here's a practical demonstration of what happens when an actual formalist praises racist art; my favorite comment comes from Peter Sattler (even if Jacob´s and Darryl´s are great too); he puts the following line in a formalist's mouth: "I really like the subtlety of hue of this decapitation." As I was saying, not being a formalist I have to point out that this is not Héctor Oesterheld's finest hour. He dehumanized the Pawnees who became cannon fodder (the fact that Sgt. Kirk doesn't kill them - my translation -, "The sergeant's carbine was still loaded. Why didn't he shoot at that moment? In the past he would have[,]" doesn't change anything, really). It's also not credible that he would beat three Pawnee  warriors singlehandedly or almost... (with just the help of young Maha). Oesterheld was still at the beginning of his anti-racist Western, so, many genre conventions were still pretty much in place.

Anyway...

I dream of a true complete Sgt. Kirk reprint with today's production values and a respect for the comics' integrity (I mean the original layouts; the landscape format; original colors when colors were originally applied - by a great Stefan Strocen -; and black and white in the original black and white pages).

To give you an example of what I mean, here's how two of the series' pages were published in Portugal by Bertrand Editora (Sargento Kirk, Vol. 2, 1985, page 11; following the Italian Mondadori edition, which credits just Pratt, but that's a dead horse to beat on this blog by now, 1974):


And here's how these two pages (merged into one above) were originally published:


"Sgt. Kirk: ¡Traicion!" [treachery] Misterix # 245, May 23, 1953 (page 99, as you can see).


"Sgt. Kirk: Deuda de sangre" [blood debt] Misterix # 247 (there's no Sgt. Kirk in issue # 246), June 12, 1953 (page 100).

As you can see not only did one panel (the most spectacular of the lot) disappear because it didn't fit in the new format, but the "missing" parts of the last panel were added by some hack or by Pratt himself in a rush (other additions can be detected in other panels). I can't also stress enough how Strocen's colors are great. According to Dominique Petitfaux in Bananas (see below in another post) # 4 (page 36 - my translation): "Stefan Strocen's colors are remarkable: [he used] anti-naturalistic huge violent flat tints. A sky that can be lemon yellow in one panel, is violet in the next, and green after that... We feel in his choice of colors the influence (which Flora Rey [Strocen's widow] confirmed me) of Pop Art." How can anyone forget all this and butcher the series' reprint?... Wait!...Don't tell me... the answer is: a comics publisher not only can, he's willing to!


"Sgt. Kirk: La Caza del Comanche" [The Comanche's Hunt] Misterix # 226, January 16, 1953 (page 8).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hugo's Swipe File - Coda

My good friend Manuel Caldas wrote the following comment below: “You really hate the poor Pratt!” I have a few comments to comment the comment:

1) I love his drawing abilities, at least while he was in Argentina (the last highly mannered Pratt leaves me cold);

2) I hate his writing (he couldn’t write to save his life, but that’s what happens to most comics artists); he disguised this with tics borrowed from Oesterheld;

3)  He was a sloppy storyteller at times (I mean his layouts, editing and continuity), but I’ll leave that to Faustino Arbesú, as I wrote on this blog already.

All this is irrelevant if we don’t attack the crucial problem of why is the comics canon such a travesty? There are lots of sociological and other reasons, but one of them is because most comics readers (babymen and fanboys, really) can’t spot good writing even if it hits them on the head… hard… But it gets worse: they can judge a good drawing from the tech point of view, but that’s it… They are completely oblivious to what really matters: relevancy, meaning, the artist’s vision of the world.

Do I hate Hugo Pratt’s work? Not really… there are far worst things on the face of the earth. Do I resent the fact that he’s in the comics canon while the true genius behind him isn’t? You bet your pants I do!

That said don't forget that this still is Hugo's Swipe File, so, here goes another one...



On the left: Hugo Pratt, cover of HoraCero Extra! # 1, April 1958.
On the right: William Eugene Smith, Sgt. Aggelos Klonis, Saipan, August 1944.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hugo's Swipe File

The Crib is dangerously becoming the debunk the Pratt myth blog (this must be the only anti-Pratt blog on the whole Internet!). Hugo Pratt the solo creator doesn't interest me in the least, mind you. The comics creator that really interests me is Héctor Germán Oesterheld. Speaking of which... I read another outrageous claim in the Petitfaux book about the little gem that is "Lobo Conrad." It really gave me the creeps. The man can't even remember the story and then, unceremoniously goes on congratulating himself because "Jesuit Joe" is oh, so much better... but, hey,  big news, right? Anyway I'll talk about that another day. This time, and just for the fun of it, I give you, gentle readers, a well known swipe... Notice also how the Caniff half page is a lot better.


The last page of Hugo Pratt's "Ann y Dan" as it was originally published (with the washes; why do they wash away the washes in the Euro versions? They do the same thing with the Ernie Pike stories, let alone, sacrilege!, when they add color!!...). Frontera Extra # 35, September 1961.



Milton Caniff, Terry and the Pirates, the two bottom tiers of the last page, December 29, 1946 (repro from the NBM edition).


Monday, August 19, 2013

Hugo Pratt: The Misinformation Continues (It Never Ends)


Juan Sasturain, Buscados Vivos, 2004.

Let's remember again which Ernie Pike stories Dominique Petitfaux and other European critics claim that Hugo Pratt wrote: "Un blando" ("On ne se refait pas...") Hora Cero # 11, March 1958; "Un buen susto" ("Une aventure dangereuse"), Hora Cero Extra! # 53, November 21, 1961; "Tarawa" ("Tarawa"), Hora Cero Extra! # 1 April 1958; "Untitled" ("Les Dix-sept de la sapinière"), Hora Cero # 13, May 1958; "Guardia nocturna" ("Garde nocturne"), Hora Cero Extra! # 39, April 6, 1961.

Why did I write the titles of the stories in Spanish (the original language of publication in Argentina) and French? Because the smoking gun of this affair comes from an interview with Hugo Pratt by Dominique Petitfaux published in De l'autre coté de Corto [a name invented by Oesterheld by the way]: Hugo Pratt - Entretiens avec Dominique Petitfaux (1990; from the other side of Corto: Hugo Pratt - interviews with Dominique Petitfaux). In this book Hugo Pratt said (45 of the 1996 edition; my translation):
[...] as a matter of fact I wrote myself some of these [Ernie Pike] stories: On ne se refait pas...,Une aventure dangereuse, Tarawa, Les Dix-sept de la sapinière, and Garde nocturne. [Sic for the italics.]
The problem with this is that in another interview published in the above Sasturain book, but conducted by him in 1982, Pratt said (37):
[...] in ERNIE PIKE there are one or two scripts that are entirely mine like the one with the pilot who falls in the jungle and stumbles across a patrol entirely composed of Fidji natives whom he doesn't recognize. There's in there a huge ironic component. I think that my contribution to comics, as far as the stories are concerned, is, precisely, the ironic touch. 
Also (54, 55):
[Juan Sasturain] - What are the [Ernie Pike] episodes that you remember with more fondness or you feel more identified with?  
[Hugo Pratt] - "Francotiradores" in the first place. The ending is very beautiful. There's the best Oesterheld in it: when the two rivals fall dead helping each other and "the same wind scattered their hair." I also remember "Un teniente alemán" as being great. 
[...] [Juan Sasturain] - What about "La patrulla"? It has the atmosphere of JUNGLEMEN.
[Hugo Pratt] - It is set in New Guinea, of course. But the drawings are different. Here I applied some new techniques like the direct inks, without pencils. There's also "Tarawa" that I like a lot because of the atmosphere. With all those palm trees inclined to one side... "Tarawa" is the end of the romantic war, with those individualized marine veterans. 
In the Argentinian interview Pratt would never dare say that he wrote "Tarawa," he just says that he likes it. On the other hand it's curious that he throws a vague "one or two scripts" that he wrote entirely, but just describes the one that he effectively wrote ("Un buen susto"). Unfortunately Sasturain didn't ask him about those other "or two" scripts. Finally Hugo Pratt himself gives us the key to unlock the problem. He clearly states that his trademark is the use of irony and we can't find a shred of irony in, at least, three of the other four stories. Besides, there are two details that are telling: 1) these stories are too wordy for Pratt (he even complained about Oesterheld being too wordy); 2) the main character (or one of the main characters) dies at the end. In "Un blando" lieutenant Leopardi is killed by the Danakil because he tried to save his British prisoner. In "Tarawa" soldier Melvin Levine died because, after being terribly afraid (he shit himself), he lost his mind wanting to avenge his fallen comrades. In the untitled story published in Hora Cero # 13 seventeen Brazilian soldiers are killed on a mad German captains's orders because, after being captured, they refused to talk. "Guardia nocturna" is the only story that I could believe was written by Hugo Pratt (it was published in 1961, it's a bit ironic - dark humor ironic, I mean... -, people die in it, but not in the usual way). The prose style is clearly Oesterheld's though.

If Hugo Pratt wanted to say that, in comics, drawings are the story too, it's fine...In that sense he wrote those stories, but, in that case, didn't he write all the stories that he co-created with Oesterheld? Why stop at five?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hugo Pratt: The Misinformation continues! - Coda (the real one this time)

Will this bullshit never stop? I guess that the great man himself, Hugo fucking Pratt is to blame. Li... er... daydreamer that he was he li... fantasized that he wrote those Ernie Pike stories and everybody in Europe believed his li... delusions. Here the same stories as indicated below are recorded as being by Pratt, plus, this one:


Hora Cero Suplemento Semanal # 1, September 4, 1957.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Visado Pela Comissão de Censura - Coda


The editor of the magazine (director) as he appeared in Mundo de Aventuras # 437, January 2, 1958.

In the last post I wrote: "A no guns policy [...] chopped arms off and forced editors to change plots." In the highly recommended (if you read Portuguese) book by Leonardo de Sá Dicionário Universal da Banda Desenhada (universal dictionary of comics, 34) I learned that the editor of Mundo de Aventuras, José de Oliveira Cosme was part of the censorship committee that censored the mag. Talk about being schizo... My phrase isn't wrong though: this is a case of self-censorship. The censor Oliveira Cosme forced the editor Oliveira Cosme to erase guns, chop arms off and change plots.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Visado Pela Comissão de Censura


The Cisco Kid, by Rod Reed (w) and José Luis Salinas (a), February 21, 1951.




Mundo de Aventuras # 94, May 31, 1951. (Cisco just walks in the thug's direction: is he a fool?)


The Cisco Kid, by Rod Reed (w) and José LuisSalinas (a), February 27, 1951.



Mundo de Aventuras # 95, June 7, 1951. (Cisco just "fell" instead of "being hit.")


The indicia of Mundo de Aventuras # 94.

It's a known fact that an anti-comics campaign existed almost everywhere during the 1950s. In Portugal, on top of that, there was a Fascist dictatorship practicing censorship to all media. A no guns policy, as seen above, chopped arms off and forced editors to change plots. What can be read in bold letters at the bottom of the indicia above is "Visado Pela Comissão de Censura" (surveyed by the censorship committee).

By the way "editor" is a false friend in English and Portuguese. The editor in Portugal is the publisher.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Terceiras Conferências de Banda Desenhada em Portugal, 2013



No próximo dia 18 de Setembro vou participar nas Terceiras Conferências de Banda Desenhada em Portugal, 2013, com uma comunicação intitulada "Héctor Germán Oesterheld na Editora Columba". Desde já agradeço a presença dos que estiverem presentes (o pleonasmo é propositado). 

O cartaz acima é de Marta Monteiro, mas, já agora, uma nota: claro que poderia fazer uma pequena desconstrução e dizer algo assim como "os conferencistas vão dar a voz a quem não a tem (os animais, com a excepção do papagaio que é a voz do dono) por cima dos poderes instituidos." (Neste caso, o poder colonial, mas por que é que o colono é negro?, ou será a sombra da selva que lhe enegrece o braço?) Por outro lado, e esta leitura é que me chateia: poder-se-ía dizer que, mais uma vez, o cartaz veícula o cliché da literatura de cordel, do filme do pobre, da aventura juvenil, da fantasia desabrida, da literatura de evasão... Essa não é, afirmo-o vigorosamente, a "minha" banda desenhada. Se bem que desta vez, e por acaso, até é tudo isso que tem a ver com a minha comunicação a qual se poderia resumir da seguinte forma: o que é que acontece quando um grande artista se vê obrigado, pelas circunstâncias da vida, a exercer o seu ofício numa empresa grosseiramente comercial?    

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hugo Pratt: The Misinformation Continues! A coda of sorts...

We all know the story... Hugo Pratt used Oesterheld's likeness to portray Scribe in the Sgt. Kirk series. He did the same thing in Ernie Pike. Pike's writing may be inspired by Ernie Pyle's, but his looks are a caricature of Oesterheld's face. What Pratt did with Oesterheld he did with himself also. Look who's below in the first page of "Tarawa" playing sergeant Burger.


Maybe Ernie Pyle's looks weren't that different (at least with his helmet on) from Ernie Pike's though...


Hugo Pratt: The Misinformation Continues!

This is outrageous: the misinformation about the great Héctor Germán Oesterheld in Europe continues!

Here I found the following incredible claims:

"(13) SGT. KIRK, dessins de Pratt (quelques encrages par Ivo Pavone, en 1954-55, par Carlos
Ruiz et par Juan Cruz, collaboration de Gisela Dester pour le dernier épisode, des planches
mises en couleur par Stefan Strocen, probablement du n°225, 9-1-53, au n°475, 20-12-57),
scénario d’Oesterheld et Pratt."

"(15) TICONDEROGA, dessins de Pratt (assisté de Gisela Dester à partir de la septième
livraison), scénario d’Oesterheld et Pratt. Gisela Dester (dessins) succède à Pratt en 1959."

"(16) ERNIE PIKE, dessins de Pratt, scénario d’Oesterheld, sauf pour les épisodes 13, 14, 16,
33 et 34, scénario de Pratt, et pour l’épisode 18, scénario de Jorge Mora, frère d’Héctor Oesterheld."


Hora Cero # 11, March 1958



Hora Cero Extra # 1, April 1958



Hora Cero # 13, May 1958


Hora Cero Extra! # 39, April 6, 1961

These are the first pages of 13, 14, 16, 33, mentioned above as written by Hugo Pratt. As you can see the script (Guión) is clearly indicated as being written by Oesterheld. Number 34, below, was indeed written by Pratt, but the story is indicated as being "Por Hugo Pratt" (By Hugo Pratt). (Oh and I bet that "Juan" Cruz is really Carlos Cruz.)


Hora Cero Extra! # 53, November 21, 1961

As for Sgt. Kirk and Ticonderoga I will just post a cover of Misterix magazine and the first page of Ticonderoga. In both cases the script is, obviously, by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Héctor Germán Oesterheld alone.

To show you that I'm fair though, I want to publicly thank Dominique Petitfaux and José Muñoz for the information about the great colorist: Stefan Strocen.


Misterix # 312, September 10, 1954



Frontera # 1, April 1957

PS I really should do a comparative study of themes explored in Ernie Pike and Corto Maltese

Thursday, July 25, 2013

When Worlds Collide - Coda

Browsing through all the tables of contents of the Journal of Popular Culture online I discovered that said anthology published another "In-Depth" section about comics in 1979: Volume XII, issue # 4, Spring. Judging from what I saw I guess that this is the real McCoy. The academic as drooling fanboy is really here, not in 1971. I'll write a review as soon as I confirm my suspicions, that's a promise...

Monday, July 22, 2013

When Worlds Collide



The incredibly incompetent, incredibly ugly drawing you see above (by Terry Fowler) is on the cover of the Journal of Popular Culture Volume V, Summer 1971, which includes an "In-Depth" section titled: "The Comics." The Journal of Popular Culture was first published in 1967 at Bowling Green State University. The first editor was Ray B. Brown. In 1971 he was still in charge.

Arthur Berger opens said section with "Comics as Culture." It's a defense of comics and a defense of the inclusion of comics studies in academia that may seem superfluous today (is it, really, though?), but was quite welcome back then in 1971. Among other things he wanted to disprove two misconceptions: all social strata read comics; comics evolve accompanying the changing times. I'm sympathetic with both views and I believe them to be true. The problem with Berger's approach is that he didn't really engage the material (in a cultural studies context I don't mean the comics themselves only - even if wrongheadedly, in my humble opinion, he does that a little -, I mean: production contexts; real readers and their readings - not hypothetical ones; cultural hegemony - who says what?; etc...). Berger's defense of the uses of comics for escapism, voyeurism, etc... even if typical of early American cultural studies, seems more an attack than a defense to me, but maybe that's just me... His conclusions seem hurried and weakly grounded. Had  superhero comics really changed that much by 1971? Was the (173) "old, infantile superhero" really forgotten? Groundless generalizations and dichotomies like the one saying that high art is against science and progress, despite citing Pop Art along with comics as (176) "reflect[ing] a basic confidence in man's ability to dominate the forces of technology and industrialization" is poor scholarship in my book. Berger's essay ending has some historical relevance now, though (177): "The University of Rome has an extensive collection of comics and perhaps a dozen books have been published in Italy, in the past five or ten years on comics - with particular attention to American ones. There is also a good deal of work in France, Germany, and England on our comics.
And now, thanks in part to the youth rebellion and the various counter culture movements going on, and to a sudden curiosity about the significance of many aspects of our daily life which we have tended to take for granted, we are beginning to mine our own treasures. It's about time." What's interesting in the above quote is that Arthur Berger stressed the importance of youth culture for a renewed interest in comics. That said, what's strange is that he didn't write a word about underground comics. Maybe he wasn't as up to date as all that, after all... or... it was a conscious attitude typical of every sociological view: if it isn't mass consumed it doesn't exist.

Edward Sagarin wrote "The Deviant in the Comic Strip: The Case History of Barney Google." Of this one the less said, the better. Remember when I wrote below "critical discourse can be more or less nomadic, but it must never lose sight of the work being criticized (coastal shipping)[.]" Well this is an essay about zoophilia, not Barney Google, the comic strip. It's also curious that when I read "Google" in there it wasn't Barney Google that came immediately to my mind; it was a certain search engine we all know about instead...

Wolfgang Max Faust (with tech assistance from R. Baird Shuman) wrote "Comics and How to Read Them." It's a close reading of the cover, by Carmine Infantino, of Action Comics # 368 (wrongly described as a title page), dated October 1968. The close reading is decent enough, but it ultimately fails because Max Faust completely ignores what a Mort Weisinger cover is. Faust's essay is proof that, at this early stage of comics studies, the world of academia and the world of comics subculture were too far apart... Either that or being a German before such a globalized world as we live in today didn't help Max Faust to get his facts straight.

J. Eduard Mira wrote "Notes on a Comparative Analysis of American and Spanish Comic Books." The poor English (and a few typos) doesn't help, but, in the same way as Faust, mentioned above, Mira knew next to nothing about American comics. He relied on secondary sources but, even so, he made some preposterous claims. Here're a couple of examples: "[the comic strip] started to appear in its modern form in the 1910's;""[in Spanish comics of the 1940s, I guess, but it's not very clear] We do not find slum children (like "Skippy")." That last one is not completely wrong if Mira meant "Skippy," the series by Percy Crosby; it's wrong if he meant Skippy, the character.
But, anyway, Mira, a graduate from Bowling Green State University, a native of Valencia, Spain, did have some interesting things to say about Spain's 20th century history, culture, and comics. He wasn't as fascinated by mass culture as his American colleagues (he saw perfectly well how cliché-ridden and conservative it really is) and, even if he also criticized European culture as passé and decadent, he was right on the mark when he wrote (219): "The young European is still to a large extent a traditional being and this attachment to old forms of thought makes it difficult to develop something fresh and completely renewing as some of the independent comics are, unless a serious attempt at revision of the medium for communication is operated. Happily, this seems to be the trend among the more progressive sectors of young European artists." I wonder who he meant? Enric Sió?
Finally, a question: why are panels from Brazilian comics illustrating an essay about North American and Spanish comics?

The editors of this supposedly in-depth look at comics saved the best, by far, for last (is it a coincidence though?... I wonder?... The alignment goes as follows: first the male Americans, then the male foreigners - the Teutonic before the Latin -, and then... at the bottom... the women). Free of the fanboy disease, women were the best comics critics in 1971. Maybe they still are...

Phyllis R. Klotman wrote "Racial Stereotypes in Hard Core Pornography" and Joan Zlotnick wrote "The Medium is the Message, Or Is It?: A Study of Nathanael West's Comic Strip Novel." There's not much to be said about Klotman's essay. She analyses the content of a few Tijuana Bibles that include black characters in the diegesis (both sexually active and sexually passive) to describe racist stereotypes and white men centered ideologies re. race, gender and sexual performance. I find it very important that someone pointed out these issues in a public forum (even if this public forum was inside the ivory tower). You may say that the Tijuana Bibles are an easy target (they are), but so is Hergé's Tintin in the Congo and a Belgian court of justice ruled that Hergé didn't want to incite racial hatred. Neither do these playful satirical porn eight-pagers (a problem in Klotman's point of view is that she never acknowledges the Tijuana Bibles' narrative tone), but by perpetuating racial stereotyping perpetuating race hatred is what these filthy publications de facto do. The problem, as I see it, is that Klotman published her essay in 1971 and the Belgian court ruled in 2012. Is Europe forty years late?... Because I repeatedly continue to see a denial attitude in European writers re. these matters... The excuse that these are just caricatures doesn't hold water at all...

Joan Zlotnik didn't write about comics, of course. Nonetheless she wrote some of the most interesting phrases about commercial comics. (The problem is that she seemed not to conceive any other kind; she calls Lynd Ward's work "wordless novels" and Max Ernst's "collage novels;" this is perfectly fine - as we know because we now use the expression "graphic novel," but I, for one, view graphic novels inside the comics corpus; I very much doubt that Zlotnik would agree with that). An example of her essay's tone (238): "Alongside the Milquetoasts [Giggs and Barney Google] grew up the equally absurd supermasculine comic strip heroes like Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, and Dick Tracy. The seeming repositories of masculinity in the comic strip culture of emasculation, the kind of men women fantasize about after having castrated their own husbands, they were succeeded in later years by Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel." This isn't exactly a sophisticated Feminist reading, but it is a lot better than fans gushing and drooling.

To sum this 42 year delayed review up:

These essays are what I would expect them to be from such a source, but, then again, not entirely: on the negative side, the authors ignore the primary texts (the reprint industry was far from being what it is today) failing to engage with the material. This means that, with the exception of Phyllis Klotman, their evaluative synthesis were done without any previous analysis. Martin Barker denounced these proceedings in his great book Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics. Needless to say that formal analysis was out of the question (even for Klotman). The writers talk about comics dealing with the superficial content alone. Their perceptions aren't even that sophisticated lacking in theoretical grounding. On the positive side I always thought that early academics interested in comics were almost fans (see below). These few examples helped me to form a more nuanced idea. Maybe there was some of that, but mainly I think that it is safe to conclude that Gramsci and the Frankfurt School still had some traction among academics. (Women especially, I'm tempted to say, but this is too small a corpus to drive any conclusions.) I'm all in favor of a more sophisticated view of readers, but I refuse to jump to the other side of the fence saying that there's no text in the classroom. There is and, sometimes, there's no use pretending that the elephant in front of our eyes doesn't exist...



    

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Harry Morgan



Two days ago I received the French magazine Bananas #4, published in 2012. I lost track of Bananas after issue # 2 and, now, wanting to buy the missing issues I had to start somewhere... I chose # 4 because of a section about Italian artists working in Argentina during the 1950s. To add a certain piquant I bet with myself that Héctor Germán Oesterheld's name isn't cited once in said section. Lo and behold, apart from the image captions (a true progress!, yay!), it isn't, of course... The most outrageous claim though is this one by Gianni Brunoro (28): "(...) this exuberant youth had such a weight [in the Argentinean comics scene of the 1950s] that it generated an «Argentinean [comics] school»." (My translation.) Does this mean that giants Héctor Germán Oesterheld, Carlos Roume, Alberto Breccia, Arturo del Castillo, Solano López and a "few" smaller actors in said scene like, Jorge Moliterni, Garcia Seijas, Julio Schiaffino, Abel Guibe, Eugenio Zoppi, Leandro Sesarego, João Mottini, Angel Fernandez, Carlos Vogt, Daniel Haupt,  Oscar Estévez, Juan Arancio, Gisela Dester, José Muñoz (small at that time, fourteen years of age or so, a giant later),  Horacio Porreca, Tibor José Horvath, Victor Hugo di Benedetto, Alberto Caruso, Roberto Regalado... I could go on... were never there at all?...

Brunoro claims that the Italians living in Argentina revolutionized comics. The only creator who revolutionized comics in those days and place was Héctor Germán Oesterheld and he wasn't Italian. The Italians simply followed North American mediocre pulp models, that's all... and that's not much...

Anyway: long live jingoism and historical revisionism!

But I digress...

What I find interesting in the aforementioned issue of Bananas (that's the real reason why I'm writing this) is Harry Morgan's essay "Brève histoire de la littérature savante sur les littératures dessinées en France." Morgan (a nom de plume, in case you're wondering) says pretty much the same things about comics criticism that I say below. He's more focused than I am and elaborates the differences between the first semioticians (during the 1970s) and the more recent ones (Groensteen et al). He calls what these last ones do (the term is Groensteen's), "stripologie." Not unlike myself he puts David Kunzle in a preeminent position in the history of comics criticism. All in all a highly recommended reading to those of you whose mother tongue is French or aren't monolinguists.

Image:

Drawing by Jimmy Beaulieu.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Did Comics Criticism Ever Exist?

I decided to translate the post below, so, here it goes:

The present text was written nine years ago and was never published (I changed some things now, but not much). This means that it far predates the boom of comics studies. Most of what is cited below is trash, but, after separating the wheat from the chaff, the panorama is not as dismal as one might suppose. An important omission below is Thierry Lagarde's mag STP. Even if I cite Bruno Lecigne I didn't mention his magazine Controverse, but, above all, Dorénavant by Barthélémy Schwartz and Balthazar Kaplan was unduly omitted.

Dedicated to João Bénard da Costa... In memoriam...

                                                                                             "I like junk food, but I admit it’s
                                                                                               junk food. Beware of the quasi-
                                                                                               highbrow comics critic who tries
                                                                                               to tell you Frank MIller
                                                                                               and Howard Chaykin write well."

                                                                                               (Harvey Pekar, 1989: 128)

         Countless rivers of ink, paper reams, bits and electromagnetic waves have been used to think about the morphology and the epistemology of criticism. I excuse myself from adding something more (or I'll add little more) to the discussion at hand and fix up the issue quoting Eduardo Prado Coelho. He wrote the best reflections on the problem in Portuguese newspapers: "Unsurprisingly the word "criticism" includes several writing practices. One of these practices happens mainly in academia and consists in, after having "fixed" (to the extent that this is possible) the text under study, "explaining" (insofar as possible) the work according to its various historical contexts: I mean the philological criticism with its historicist dominant. Another is to journalistically present the book in question so that the reader can get an idea of ​​its "content" - it's what's called "a review." A third case is to make a value judgment basing it on a certain sum of arguments - this is evaluative criticism. Finally (but the list could be longer), there's the criticism that seeks interpretative hypothesis about the work in order to put the emphasis on certain aspects that are not immediately obvious. In this case, the value judgment is implicit: the work is worth the effort because there's value in it" (Prado Coelho. 2001: 15; my translation). Obviously these various forms of criticism are not mutually exclusive. In many texts it's possible to find them contaminating each other. I would also add, referring myself to more ambitious criticism, that: 1) criticism implies the problem of aesthetic value, of course, but it also implies, why not?, the ethical value; 2) since, as Adorno put it, the "aesthetic form [is] sedimented content " (1993: 15; my translation), there is no serious criticism without formal analysis; 3) critical discourse can be more or less nomadic, but it must never lose sight of the work being criticized (coastal shipping); 4) against the view defended by formalist criticism, many of criticism's problems are also played in the field of meaning; 5) judging from what's been said until now we can conclude, with Renaud Chavanne, that a complex critical discourse is not about the: "conditions of realization [of the work] which concern the historian [and the sociologist, but I wouldn't be too dogmatic about this point]. It's not about the author's life, which interests the biographer. It's not an accumulation of references, an absurd list of all the works of the author" (1997: 5, my translation). I would also add that a simple account of the diegetic events is not serious criticism.
   
          Axiology has become a can of worms. The situation became a cacophony of discordant voices, all claiming the legitimacy of their hierarchy of values​​, or simply repudiating the instrumentation of existing hierarchies by all the others. Eduardo Prado Coelho (him again) summed up the situation as follows: "the question of aesthetic value and aesthetic rationality has been undermined by a series of autonomous movements with convergent effects: the consequences of nominalist art from Marcel Duchamp on; the attempts, in Nelson Goodman's line, of transferring the aesthetic to the cognitive; the increasing muteness that took hold of the nephews of Wittgenstein in these matters; the theories of an institutional definition of art following George Dickie; the view that value judgment is simply part of a differentiation process following Pierre Bourdieu's theories; the Habermasian democratism of Yves Michaud " (Prado Coelho, 1998: 8; my translation). Eduardo Prado Coelho could also add Derrida's deconstructionism, but let's move on...

         This brief text is not the ideal place to discuss such complex issues, of course, but honestly, I do not see how does Dickie's nominalism, for example, attack the traditional hierarchy which puts high culture above low culture (or any other distinction). Institutions socially legitimize works and artists, as they always did. This is, in itself, a neutral phenomenon which can only make us ponder on the subjectivity of the entire hierarchy of values ​​since, while academia legitimizes (or legitimized) James Joyce, television legitimizes, in a democratic or manipulative way (?) The Rolling Stones (I must point out, however, that after Bowling Green, and the growing influence of American culture in our lives, the legitimization of mass culture is no longer an exclusive task of the mass media). It is undeniable that there is subjectivity in the process, but Kant (1992) and Hume (1997) knew that already, that's nothing new... The former counters the relativism of aesthetic judgment by intersubjective validation (Dickie's model isn't even, very far away), the latter refutes it saying that certain judges are better than others (in Hume's essay we find Sancho Panza as a winemaker: he and his relatives can only judge the quality of a wine better than a teetotaler). Interestingly Hume himself unwittingly corroborates the subjectivity of these phenomena by saying: "And not to draw our philosophy from too profound a source, we shall have recourse to a noted story in D. Quixote" (Hume, 1997). I. e.: Cervantes' book went from being not too deep a source to lead the literary canon. Or, who knows?, perhaps Hume considered the Quijote a deep book, but Sancho's story was excluded from such heights or depths...

         It's a well known fact that comics have been banned from the "high" spheres of high culture and aesthetic validation. In the end it's just a political struggle. Must we call for a democratic logic applied to culture? Should we report the construction of a taste that marginalizes the lower social classes? It's possible... under the condition that democratization means equal opportunities in the access to quality and not a fall into the exaggeration of considering aesthetically good (or beautiful, but the word is under suspicion too these days...) the work of a mediocre artist only because of his or her skin color or gender (practicing the so-called "affirmative action"). (I know that the idea of genius is now discredited, but if it weren't the case, we wouldn't be far from seeing the approval of legislation in favor of a genius quota for the minorities). On the other hand I have nothing against elitism if it just means that aesthetic quality is only accessible to a happy few (for lack of interest, time, etc... on the part of most people; all these are reasons transversal to all society, mind you...). I'm against elitism, undoubtedly, if it prevents the recognition of aesthetic quality outside the parameters dictated by prejudiced snobs. Returning to democracy and value judgment: imagine what would happen if thousands of non-specialists voted against the technique used by an aircraft or bridge engineer... The disaster, certainly...

        There are two levels to frame aesthetic judgments: personal taste cannot be discussed (everyone has a right to bad taste, no one can completely escape the call of kitsch in all areas: the unspoiled elegance would be attainable only after endless hours of relentless dedication); but, as a society, we must rely on the specialists' judgment (not abdicating, as free citizens, to reveal the possible injustices committed by the intelligentsia). 

         Political correctness is one of the most important cultural earthquakes in this beginning of the millennium. This is so because it drew attention to phenomena of political and cultural domination (which will always exist, have no illusions). If there is abuse by some advocates of political correctness many years must pass until they reach the same amount of injustice caused by their symmetrical opponents. It is not so much the famous "crisis of values​​," but the replacement of old values ​​by new ones... so everything can stay the same, as in all revolutions (cf. Lampedusa, 2000: 24; Buzzelli, 1967).
     
       What about comics, then? Until Umberto Eco, in the early 1960s, comics were virtually ignored by the intelligentsia (an almost unique case, the other one is Gilbert Seldes, is Wolfgang von Goethe, in 1831, who wrote this extraordinary comment on Rodolphe Töpffer's books: "If for the future, he would choose a less frivolous subject and restrict himself a little, he would produce things beyond all conception" (Goethe, n. d. [1850]) translation by John Oxenford; Goethe, it seems to me, prophesied the so-called alternative comics). Excluding academia, the first critics were artists themselves, or, more frequently, the fans. As the name shows, the fans write mostly in fanzines, but these are too numerous for me to be able to name them all in a brief text. Fanzines in the United States started by being linked to science fiction. The first fanzines devoted to comics in that country were: EC Fan Bulletin (1953) by Bhob Stewart; Comic Art (1961) by Don Thompson and Maggie Spencer; Alter-Ego (1961) by Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails; Spa Fon (1966) by Rich Hauser and Helmut Mueller; Squa Tront (1967) by Jerry Weist, where the already mentioned  Bhob Stewart pontificated with Larry Stark; Panels (1979) by John Benson. (comics criticism in the newspapers is absent from this text.) Talking about books, then (and many must be suppressed too), there are: Comics and Their Creators by Martin Sheridan (1942); the first book entirely dedicated to comics (more specifically, to the field of newspaper comics), The Comics by Coulton Wough (1947) and The Funnies: An American Idiom (1963), a collective work organized by David Manning White and Robert H. Abel; All in Color For a Dime (1970) by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson with the sequel The Comic-Book Book (1977) by the same authors; Comic Art in America (1976) by Stephen Becker. In a similar vein comes America's Great Comic Strip Artists (1989) by Richard Marschall. With numerous prefaces Bill Blackbeard, could also be cited (it is worth noting his long text in RF Outcault's The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics - 1995 - which goes beyond the mere amateur level). The fans' writing tends to the biographical, hagiographic, their tone and objectives are linked to the popularizing of comics. The language is accessible, theoretical knowledge is implicitly or explicitly absent or almost absent. Despite their love of the comics form these early fans refused to see comics as something more than popular entertainment. They feared being dubbed snobs (?), maybe...    


                            
       The Comics (1974) by Jerry Robinson (the same author wrote the amply illustrated monograh, Skippy and Percy Crosby - 1978) comes from the same vein of comics criticism by fans and pros described above. Another interesting book written by a professional is The Great Comic Book Heroes (1965) by Jules Feiffer. As far as monographs go, there's: Citizen Caniff (1969) by Claudio Bertieri; Crumb (1974) by Marjorie Alessandrini; Gotlib (1974) by Numa Sadoul; Fred (1975) by Bernard Toussaint, Tardi (1980) by Thierry Groensteen; Un opera de papier: les memoires de Blake et Mortimer (1981) by E. P. Jacobs; Le monde d'Hergé (1983) by Benoît Peeters; Corentin et les chemins du merveilleux: Paul Cuvelier et la bande dessinée (1984) by Philippe Goddin; Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman (1986), by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, Georgia Riley de Havenon; Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (1987) by John Canemaker; Foster e Val (1989) by Manuel Caldas; Töpffer: L'invention de la bande dessinée (1994) by Thierry Groensteen and Benoît Peeters; Accidental Ambassador Gordo: the comic Strip art of Gus Arriola (2000), by Robert C. Harvey; Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators. Father of the Adventure Strip (2001) by Brian M. Kane; B. Krigstein (2002) by Greg Sadowski and a long etc... Deserving attention are the collections of interviews (even if these aren't criticism exactly): La aventura del comic (1975) with interviews conducted by Alfonso Lindo; Entretiens avec Hergé (1975) by Numa Sadoul; Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (2000) edited M. Thomas Inge; La nouvelle bande dessinée (2002) by Hugues Dayez; Carl Barks: Conversations (2003) edited by Donald Ault; Artistes de bande dessinée (2003) by Thierry Groensteen, etc...



      The boom of amateur publications occurred in Europe during the 1960s with the publication of the French magazines: Giff-Wiff (1962), Phenix (1966), Schtroumpf: Les cahiers de la bande dessinée by Jacques Glénat (1969, later, in 1984, just Les Cahiers de la Bande dessinée). This magazine is one of the most important critical contributions to the history of Western comics criticism (this text does not include Japan and other countries, with one exception, whose official and other languages I can't read). While it was directed by Thierry Groensteen (from number 56 to number 83), it far surpassed all that had already been done in this field leaving the amateur past behind. It featured appearances by critics as important a Groensteen, Bruno Lecigne, Gilles Ciment, Jean-Pierre Tamine, Benoît Peeters. What was lacking in the magazine was a leap that, for the moment, no one has leapt: to truly separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of aesthetic value.



      Jacques Sadoul is another amateur who published the books L'enfer des boulles (1968) and Panorama de la bande dessinée (1976); ditto Edouard François who published L'age d'or de la bande dessinée (1974). It's also worth mentioning the Belgian fanzine Rantanplan (1966) by André Leborgne, and the Italian fanzine Comics Club (1967) by Alfredo Castelli. The first book entirely devoted to comics published in Italy was I fumetti (1961) by Carlo della Corte. It is also noteworthy the fanzine Fumo di China (1978) founded by Franco Spiritelli, Andrea Magoni, Mauro Marcheselli and Andrea Plazzi. The title of François' book above indicates a certain (to put it mildly) nostalgia (a golden age is something that has been lost). Interestingly enough this supposed golden age didn't happen in France, but in the United States: they were the (very badly) dubbed realistic comics of the 1930s (i. e., they longed for the children's adventure comics published in American newspapers and reprinted in France in mags like Robinson, Hop-Là, etc...). All this activity was linked to recreational associations created to promote a nostalgic enjoyment and preservation of children's comics. There was in France the Club des Bandes Dessinées (Alain Resnais was one of the vice presidents, the president was Francis Lacassin and among the members or sympathizers were Alvaro de Moya, Federico Fellini, Evelyne Sullerot, Umberto Eco, etc...), CELEG (Centre d'Etude des Littératures d'Expression Graphique) from 1964 on, the SOCERLID (Société Civile d'Étude et de Recherches des Littératures Dessinées). In Belgium there was the CABD (Club des Amis de la Bande Dessinée). In Italy the ANAF (Associazione Nazionale Amici del Fumetto). In Spain Luis Gasca founded the Centro de Estudio de Expresión Gráfica and Antonio Martín was one of the pioneers of comics criticism with his magazine Bang! (1968). The fanzine El Wendigo (1974) stands out in longevity. Despite being a fan publication it includes excellent formalist texts by Faustino Arbesú. In Portugal the following fanzines are worth citing: Quadrinhos (1972) by Vasco Granja; Nemo (1986) by Manuel Caldas, Bedelho (1988) by Francisco Gil and Fernando Vieira. The Portuguese Comics Club - Clube Português de Banda Desenhada (CPBD) publishes a newsletter (1977).



The historiography of comics owes much to the fans. Unfortunately, since these are not professional historians, their books and essays are more collections of (bio and bibliographical) data than true history books (with interpretative summaries of events, the contextualization of the work in social trends, formal analysis, etc...). In the United States, besides Jerry Robinson's The Comics, the following books may be cited: Comix: A History of Comic Books in America (1971) by Les Daniels; Over 50 Years of American Comic Books (1991) by Ron Goulart; The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History (1994) and The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History by Robert C. Harvey (1996 - the year in which many comics histories were published to celebrate the art form's supposed birth with the Yellow Kid, a century before). In France we can find Histoire de la bande dessinée d'expression française (1972) and Histoire mondiale de la bande dessinée (1981), both authored by Claude Moliterni; Histoire de la Bande Dessinée en France et en Belgique des origines à nos jours by Henri Filippini (1980); Asterix, Barbarella & Cie (2000) by Thierry Groensteen. In Portugal stands out the pioneering work Os Comics em Portugal: uma historia da banda desenhada by António Dias de Deus (with an addendum by Leonardo de Sá - 1997) and Das Conferences do Casino à Filosofia de Ponta (2000) by Carlos Bandeiras Pinheiro and João Paiva Boléo (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation also published, by the same authors, A Banda Desenhada Portuguesa: 1914-1945 - 1997 -  and A Banda Desenhada Portuguesa: Anos 40-Anos 80 - 2000). Leonardo de Sá and Geraldes Lino published O Dédalo dos Fanzines (1997). In Spain Fernando Martin stands out with Apuntes para una historia de los tebeos (1967) and Los inventores del comic español (2000). Not forgetting Antonio Altarriba with La España del tebeo (2001 - a history book which, as the title suggests, connects comics characters and dictator Franco's Spain until the democratic transition) or the monumental Atlas Español de la cultura popular: De la Historieta y su uso. 1873 - 2000 (2000) by Jesús Quadrado. Also in Spain I'll cite three books by Javier ComaLos comics: un arte del siglo XX (1977), Del gato Félix al gato Fritz: Historia de los comics (1979 ), El ocaso de los héroes en los comics de autor (1984). In Argentina there are two important history books: Historia de la historieta argentina (1980) by Carlos Trillo and Guillermo Saccomano and La historieta argentina: Una historia (2000) by Judith Gociol and Diego Rosemberg. In Britain, apart from Dennis Gifford's The British Comics Catalogue 1874-1974 (1975), three books by Roger Sabin may be cited: Adult Comics: An Introduction (1993), Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art (1996), Below Critical Radar: Fanzines and Alternative Comics from 1976 to now (2002 - with Teal Triggs). There's some historiography of Underground comics already. I mean: A History of Underground Comics (1974) by Mark James Estrin; Rebel Visions: The Underground Revolution 1963-1975 (2002) by Patrick Rosenkranz; Comix: The Underground Revolution (2004) by Dez Skinn. American alternative comics found their historian in the figure of the Spaniard Oscar Palmer: Cómic alternativo de los '90 (2000). Coming from the underground, the artist Trina Robbins wrote the history of comics created ​​by women in A Century of Women Cartoonists (1993) and From Girls to Grrrl: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines (1999); Wendy Siuyi Wong divulged the history of Hong Kong comics with the book hong kong comics: a history of manhua (2002). Adding to this paragraph, just another long etc...



Encyclopedias are the realm of the fan. As they combine the facet of scholars to that of collectors nothing more natural than trying to catalog everything that exists. I will mention just a few examples: The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), under the direction of Maurice Horn and unfortunately with many mistakes; Encyclopédie des bandes dessinées (1979) under the supervision of Marjorie Alessandrini; The Encyclopedia of American Comics (1990) edited by Ron Goulart; Dictionnaire mondial de la bande dessinée (1994), by Patrick Gaumer and Claude Moliterni.



Since I've cited Thierry Groensteen already I can proceed to the second "kind" of comics critics: journalists and experts. These are not academics just because they are not directly related to academia. Thierry Groensteen, for example, belongs with this category, with numerous popularizing books, and the next one, the academic, with Système de la bande dessinée (1999). Besides being the managing editor of the Cahiers de la bande dessinée during its genuinely interesting phase he's currently the managing editor of the not less important 9e art magazine. Thierry Groensteen wrote: Animaux en cases (1987), L'Univers des manga: une introduction à la BD japonaise (1991), Couleur directe (1993), La construction de La Cage: autopsie d'un roman visuel (2002), etc... Talking about American comics criticism it's mandatory to mention: The Seven Lively Arts by Gilbert Seldes (1924) even if it's is not a book entirely devoted to comics (Seldes argued, showing a pioneer spirit that the "minor" art forms are as valid as the "great" arts"); there's also Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book by Michael Barrier (1981), and Reading the Funnies by Donald Phelps (2001). Excellent is El domicilio de la aventura (1995) by the great Argentinean critic Juan Sasturain. Back in Europe it's worth citing Psicopatologia de la viñeta quotidiana  by the Spaniard Jesus Quadrado (2000), and Sobre BD (2004) a recent book by the Portuguese David Soares. A very special case is Bruno Lecigne who, in his solo book Avanies et Mascarade: L'évolution de la bande dessinée en France dans les annes 70 (1981), or accompanied by Jean-Pierre Tamine in Fac-Simile: Essai paratactique sur le Nouveau Réalisme de la Bande dessinée (1983) wrote some of the best pages ever dedicated to comics. The disclosure of the very rich and complex world of Japanese comics in the West was mainly in charge of Frederik L. Schodt with Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics (1983) and Dreamland Japan (1996).



As for specialized magazines (besides those, already mentioned, whose managing editor was or is Thierry Groensteen) there's the Portuguese Quadrado (1993) and Satélite International (2002) whose writers are: Pedro Moura, Domingos Isabelinho, Marcos Farrajota, João Paulo Cotrim, Paulo Patrício, and others with more occasional participations. In France there was the extraordinary magazine/fanzine Critix (1996), where Jean-Philippe Martin, Evariste Blanchet, Renaud Chavanne, Pierre Huard (coming from academic criticism) and even Fabrice Neaud wrote. The disappearance of Critix bitterly proves that it is not feasible to publish a high quality magazine about comics without institutional support. In the United States there are many specialty mags, but they are almost all made by superhero fans for superhero fans (for instance, the magazine/fanzine Alter Ego, already mentioned as a fanzine, is living a new reincarnation today as a mag). With a more accurate critical spirit, but without getting much farther, in many cases, it's nonetheless mandatory that I  cite the very influential magazine The Comics Journal whose writers are: Gary Groth (an excellent critic who, unfortunately, doesn't write often enough), Darcy Sullivan, Ng Suat Tong, Robert Fiore, Bart Beaty (with a great column about European comics), Gregory Cwiklik, Tom Spurgeon, Robert C. Harvey and dozens of others with more occasional participations. The Comics Journal has been accused of being elitist and snob, but the charge is not fair because with occasional changes in the position of managing editor, and without a coherent editorial policy, the magazine can both give a voice to a conservative critic (RC Harvey or Ray Mescallado, for instance) and to a staunch supporter of the "vanguard." Worthy of note is also the case of Graphis magazine, dedicated to graphic design, which published two special numbers (159, 60-1972 / 73) to comics. The organization was in charge of David Pascal and Walter Herdeg, the articles were written by Pierre Couperie, Claude Moliterni, Archie Goodwin, Gil Kane, Les Daniels, Jules Feiffer, David Pascal, Robert Weaver, Alain Resnais, Milton Glaser, Umberto Eco.



Aesthetic evaluation In academic criticism no longer makes sense. This is so because academics try to avoid essentialism and the canon wars. However, the institution has such prestige that any work it chooses to study immediately wins a status above almost everything else. Maybe that's why there was (and still is) in certain sectors of academia a strong opposition to the study of comics. Maybe these comics haters try to prevent the rise in social status of a minor art form? When Umberto Eco wrote about Steve Canyon, Peanuts, L'Il ​​Abner and Superman in Apocalittici e Integrati: comunicazioni di massa e teorie della cultura di massa (1964)  he received a negative reception from the so-called "apocalyptical" (especially from the Marxists inspired by the line of thought of the Frankfurt School, but also by the right-wing conservatives, staunch defenders of traditional values ​​and the divide between major and minor arts). On the other hand the "integrated" appeared, in the United States, at the University of Bowling Green.



The Cuban case is paradigmatic of the attack on the values ​​of capitalist America. Books like La vida en cuadritos (1993) by Paquita Armas send their stings to the imperialist exploiters of the third world. And yet I sense that, at the same time, American comics have a particular fascination to her. What results, in fact, is a kind of love/hate relationship. But the most famous (and the best, by the way) book of this type of Marxist critique of American imperialism is Para leer el Pato Donald (1972) by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart. A similar approach, but targetting Franco-Belgian comics is La société des bulles (1977) by Wilbur Leguebe. In Brazilian Portuguese there's Uma Introdução Política Aos Quadrinhos (1982) by Moacy Cirne.



One of the first avenues that comics used to enter academia was structural and semiotic analysis (or semiological, if we are not Peirceian but Saussurian). The aforementioned Umberto Eco is a very important semiotician. Other books in this category are: A Explosão Criativa Dos Quadrinhos by Moacy Cirne (1970); El lenguage de los comics (1972) by Roman Gubern; Dessins et bulles: la bande dessinée comme moyen d'expression (1972) and La bande dessinée: essai d'analyze sémiotique (1972) both by Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle; "La bande dessinée et son discours" an anthology published as number 24 of the journal Communications (1976) with essays by Fresnault-Deruelle, Umberto Eco Luc Routeau, Vicky and Philippe du Fontbaré Sohet, Bernard Toussaint, Michel Rio, Guy Gauthier, René Lindekens, Picquenot Alain Michel Covin; Structuren des Comic Strip (1974) by W. Hünig; Récits et discours par la bande (1977) by Pierre-Fresnault Deruelle, again. We can find the formalist tendency in more recent books such as Case, planche, récit: comment lire une bande dessinée (1991) by Benoît Peeters. The structuralist tendency can still  the detected in the overrated Understanding Comics (1993) by Scott McCloud (McCloud and Will Eisner, who wrote two books on the language of comics, plus Benoît Peeters, are artists, not academics; it's quite natural to write about their practice because they face formal problems every day). Traces en cases by Philippe Marion and Pour une lecture moderne de la bande dessinée by Jan Baetens and Pascal Lefèvre were also published in 1993. Ten years later, in 2003, Principes des littératures dessinées by Harry Morgan was published (I include this book in this list even if the author contests his predecessors of the 1970s). In Italy Umberto Eco has left at least one disciple: Daniele Barbieri, who wrote I linguaggi del fumetto (1991). A curio, just to demonstrate that the periphery also moves is Tralala del Comic (1997) published in Santo Domingo by Faustino Perez. But the best book in this category was mentioned already. It's Système de la bande dessinée (1999) by Thierry Groensteen. Rui Zink's thesis Literatura Gráfica? (1999) is a mixture of many approaches, but the formal theory is also present.



Another route that comics studies used to enter academia was sociology. It's important to cite at this point Luc Boltanski's "La constitution du champ de la bande dessinée" in the mag Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales number 1 (1975). There's also Bandes dessinées et culture (1965) by Évelyne Sullerot. In the field of cultural studies there's The Comic-Stripped American: What Dick Tracy, Blondie, Daddy Warbucks and Charlie Brown Tell Us About Ourselves (1973) by pioneer Arthur Asa Berger and Martin Barker's Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics (1989). The "Bowling Green" approach (indistinguishable from the typical hagiography of fans, with no visible theoretical apparatus behind) can be found in the books of the University Press of Mississippi, for example in M. Thomas Inge's Comics As Culture (1990) and Matthew J. Pustz's Fanboys and True Believers (1999).



Art historians didn't focus much on comics and, on top of that, they haven't done a very good job at it. This is the case of: Historia da Banda Desenhada Infantil Portuguesa (Das Origens Até ao ABCzinho) by João Pedro Ferro  (1987); The Aesthetics of Comics (2000) by David Carrier; Comic Book Nation (2001) by Bradford W. Wright; Los comics de la transición: (El Boom del Comic adulto 1975 - 1984) (2001) by Francesca Lladó. The truth is that, except for a detail or another, these historiographical approaches do not differ that much from those made by amateurs. Perhaps historians are less concerned with recording everything and show a little more concern and method in exploring the social links of comics, but that's it. Carrier's book is not even a history book because he wrote it to try to prove the absurd thesis that the "major arts" evolve while the so-called "popular arts" never change. The books by David Kunzle: The Early Comic Strip: narrative strips and picture stories in the European broadsheet from c.1450 to 1825 (1973) and The History of The Comic Strip: The nineteenth century (1990) are an important exception. Another one is Comic Strips & Consumer Culture: 1890-1945 (2002) by Ian Gordon. Due to his love of statistics, notably in the exhibition catalog Bande Dessinée et Figuration Narrative (1967), we could say that Pierre Couperie had the potential to turn David Kunzle's and Ian Gordon's position way at the top a bit less lonely... Unfortunately his situation as a comics fan (he was a member of the Club des Bandes Dessinées and the SOCERLID) denied him the possibility to avoid hagiography. He also lacked a great reference book...



Psychology and psychoanalysis have not much of a tradition in comics scholarship, but both can also be found. I am particularly referring to four books: Seduction of the Innocent (1954) by Fredric Wertham; Tintin chez le psicanaliste (1985), Psychoanalise de la bande dessinée (1987) both by Serge Tisseron; Les spectres de la bande (1978) by Alan Rey. Donald Ault wrote the essay "" Cutting Up "Again Part II: Lacan on Barks on Lacan" in the collective and multidisciplinary book: Comics Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics (2000) edited by Anne Magnusson and Hans-Christian Christiansen. This last book, published by the University of Copenhagen, is part of a very interesting series of anthologies: à la rencontre de... Jacques Tardi (1982) organized  by Jean Arrouye and Jean-Claude Faur; Bande Dessinée Récit et Modernité (1988) edited by Thierry Groensteen, with essays by: Harry Morgan, Marc Avelot, Jacques Samson (impressive!), among others... The Graphic Novel (2001) edited by Jan Baetens (who also wrote the book Formes et politique de la bande dessinée - 1998), The Language of Comics (2002) organized by Robin Varnum and Christina T. Gibbons, with essays by; Gene Kannenberg, David Kunzle, David A. Beröna, among others...



In the field of specialized academic magazines there's Crimmer's: The Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction and Crimmer's: The Journal of Narrative Arts (1974); Inks: Comic and Cartoon Art Studies (1994) from Ohio State University, The International Journal of Comic Art (1999) whose essays are mostly of two kinds: the disclosure of national lesser known traditions, cultural studies (interesting is the recent series about the pioneers of comics criticism). In these publications we can find essays by Arthur Asa Berger (author of a monograph on Al Capp: Li'l Abner: A Study in American Satire - 1970), Joseph Witek (who wrote Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman and Harvey Pekar (Studies in Popular Culture) - 1989), Mike Kidson, Spiros Tsaousis, Waldomiro C. S. Vergueiro, Marc Singer, Caridad Blanco de la Cruz, Michael Rhode, John A. Lent (IJOCA's publisher and editor), Leonard Rifas, Charles Hatfield, Ole Frahm, Ana Merino, among many others...

In conclusion: comics criticism is reputed to be nonexistent. And yet...

Being a phenomenon that developed mainly during the last 40 years (not much time, of course) comics criticism cannot aspire to a corpus similar to that of "other criticisms" with older traditions. Moreover comics criticism has almost no recognition and appreciation, brings little to no social prestige to its practitioners and not much money, of course. Despite all that I hope that this text will give some idea, to those who will read it, of the huge variety and the sheer quantity of what, after all, has been done already. As I said at the beginning: from the kid who just writes what's on his mind in a fanzine to the deconstructionist texts of Ole Frham and John Ronan there's a wide vatiety in comics criticism. Sometimes it is maddeningly obtuse, it remains wedded to archaisms and infantilisms, it reveals a dismal lack of methodology, it ignores whole aspects of formal analysis (the colors, narratology, etc...), it turns its back to the subtext and the meaning, it values childish mediocre stories (full of racist and misogynist stereotypes, for instance), it's profoundly anti-intellectual. But it can also be incredibly smart and interesting. Time will separate the wheat from the chaff because, as the old adage puts it: it's not the critic who judges the work it's the work that judges the critic.




Bibliography:

Note:
F. e. = First edition.

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