The Alabaster Sock

We Will Fight the Threat with Fighting

Posted by Matt on May 18, 2011

Some time ago, Cameron Stewart mentioned on his Twitter feed that he would like to see a show like Marc Maron’s WTF podcast for comics creators. You know, something that goes a little deeper, engaging them on a more personal level, whether talking about their work or their lives, rather than simply go on about the comics culture or what have you. I would agree that this is a good idea. A very good idea, in fact. I love hearing or reading that kind of stuff – the real why of what they do. Not just that, I like to hear about their interests, too, and small talk, and anecdotes. It’s really just great to have real, solid evidence that the names I see on the covers of my books are people. This is why I listen to Maron’s show, as depressing as it can be (seriously, the recent episode with Dave Foley is a downer).

I will always welcome more interesting, thought-out takes on any subject, really. It really helps a medium evolve, and mature, when someone is out there willing to actually discuss it on some kind of an intellectual level. One of things I think is holding back video game discussion, art or not, is that there isn’t really much of an ‘alternative’ sector that is willing to tackle games on anything other than a simple consumer level. There are a few, for sure (on a related note, I discovered the Extra Credits video series on The Escapist, and it is exactly what I’m talking about here. Check it out, gang); unfortunately, due to the short period of time in which games have existed, and the more ‘democratic’ world of information sharing that it lucked into, serious game discussion (and when I say ‘serious discussion’, I don’t mean dry, psuedo-intellectual, philosophical wankfests, but just any sort of thought about what the games are and our relationship to them) is going to have some difficulty becoming as much a viable channel as its equivalents in other arts circles (like movies and music) or non-arts circles (professional sports. Yes, professional sports can be discussed in a non-idiotic fashion). The seeds have been planted, though, so it is really only a matter of time before these channels are more common/gain some legitimacy.

To be fair, it isn’t just games. Comics have a good critical establishment among seasoned professionals and fans, with varied and interesting reporting coming from publications like the Comics Journal, or from individuals like Tim O’Neil, Sean Witzke, David Brothers, and so many more. However, I think comics criticism has trouble becoming a natural component of the form, rather than a tiny, antagonistic niche within another niche. There will always be some level of antagonism between the critical establishment and the peanut-munching crowd; but movie, music, and literary critics, even if they are often treated with disdain, are still not outcasts whose sole purpose is to tell the rest of the people how stupid they are. The issue might be that critics of the other mediums deal mainly with the apathetic, while the comics critics have to deal with the much more frustrating obsessive fanboy set. There are not many casual comics readers, or at least not many that don’t simply occupy another micro-niche (manga, webcomics, indies, etc.) that rarely interacts with the others. So who do the comics critics talk to? Either themselves, or the people who will buy every X-Men branded pamphlet that month. It’s a battle of extremes, a symptom of how small the comics crowd is right now, and that is a limiting agent for comics discussion. Good work is still being done, however, so it’s not that tragic a situation.

So how did we get from interesting interviews to the state of criticism? Well…I don’t really know. In my mind, at least, both those candid interviews Stewart suggested and Maron embodies and the critical culture in various mediums are related. They are both about digging into works, or the people behind them, to find points of interest. For people like me, it’s those points of interest, no matter how deep or trivial they may be, are what keeps us hooked on these things. I like learning things about these things; I like seeing them interpreted in different ways. Whether it’s from the talents themselves or other readers, I just think all culture deserves a little prodding, and I will always be in favour of whatever provides that analysis.

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