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Post By
TC

In Reply To
Omar Karindu

Subj: Omar Karindu is O. K. ...
Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 01:04:01 am EDT (Viewed 2 times)
Reply Subj: Re: ROD, TOD, AND HOMER theory of fandom
Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 09:15:27 pm EDT (Viewed 1 times)

Previous Post

Everything you say is correct about mere judgments of aesthetic quality -- Kant famously remarked that judgments of taste are subjective, but that each person states their judgment as if it were a universal. He meant that we cannot but state our critiques of the aesthetic, in nature and artifice, without at least inadvertantly implying that all others share or should share our judgements. (It's those nasty "to be" verbs, really; even when you carefully avoid them, they are still lurking in "I think" and "I believe" -- after all, who of us would believe or think a thing that we knew or believed was untrue? It's a contradiction in terms.)

But critique can and should go beyond simply saying something is good or bad, and can instead talk about what levels its operating on, what method it chooses, and can attempt to reason out estimations of a work's failure or success...but yes, always by the terms of the critique. It's the way in which the terms of the critique are argued for or against that matters, and this is what makes informed reviews possible.

The blandishment that everything is rich and wonderful and good if only we'd try a little harder misses that -- everyone has a reading process, a method of aesthetic judgement. There is, in short, a context, are multiple contexts, of reading: the world in which the comic is published, the comics around it (before it and after it also), what the reader is looking for, and so on.

Some of those methods are going to be, yes, sorry, richer than others. The question of which is the richer is what's at stake in arguments about the quality of a writer or a comic, even arguments that seem unaware of themselves in that way. They tend to be passionate arguments, of course, because comics affect us emotionally. And arguing someone out of their feelings doesn't work; ask a marriage counselor or a divorce lawyer. THe best that can be done is to try and put the discussion at a level on which even disagreement is at least interesting. Saying "sucks" and "rules" doesn't do that, but neither does "everything works in its way." All of those responses are efforts to abolish debate and thought, not to enrich them.

If someone is not looking for the things that a Brian Bendis Avengers comic is providing, or if they see and can articulate flaws or faults in his method from their critical frame, they deserve to be taken seriously -- not agreed with, but at least they deserve a generous hearing out. Then we may feel free to respond, to reject their ideas, even to acknowledge their points and turn to some other quality or movement in the work from our own critical frame that works. But we cannot ever reasonably expect that we will win as if you are right on some imagined Platonic level, where we and we alone are the arbiter of taste.

As a postscript, I'd argue that while quality is an eternal subject of debate, there are things awful enough that they have no reasonable, honest defenders. You don't, for example, find too many unironic fans of the Friedrich issues of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the early 70s, nor many allies of some of the truly awful comics published at flash-in-the-pan superhero houses (Chip Goodman's Atlas imprint, Harvey's ill-fated superhero line during the "Batman" TV craze) in the 60s and 70s.

These are definitionally works in which basic technical skills, not just subtleties of craft or interpretation, are absent; that is to say, work so poor that it doesn't rise to the level of a style or method that one can critique positively or negatively in the first place. That's not rerally what we're talking about here -- generally, for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, or Image to publish something in the current market, it has to be at least technically proficient in some manner. But it does happen all the same; a quick flip through that behemoth catalogue, Previews, will turn up loads of comics that bad.

> ROD, TOD, AND HOMER THEORY OF FANDOM
> or, a plea that you do better.
>
> Some of you may remember a couple of scenes from THE SIMPSONS. In one, Lisa is babysitting the neighbors’ children, Rod and Tod. The younger boy asks her for a bedtime story, and before she can think of one, he continues, “…about TWO ROBOTS! Named ROD AND TOD!!!” So, Lisa begins to tell this story, making it up as she tells it. “Once upon a time there were two robots,” and the boy is pleased, “Named Rod and Tod…” and the boy smiles, “And one of the robots was just a little bit older than the other one…” and the boy shudders and hides under his covers, wailing, “I don’t like this story!”
>
> In the second, Homer is at a fair where Lynrd Skynrd is playing. They announce that they’d like to play some new material that they’re happy with, but Homer is in the audience bellowing, “PLAY FREEBIRD!!!!” Since he won’t stop, they sigh and start playing the song. Still not happy, Homer yells, “NO! PLAY THAT PART THAT GOES ‘DEERN-DRRUN-DRRINNNN’!!!”, leaving the unhappy musicians forced to play three notes over and over again, at which point a satisfied Homer pulls out his lighter and begins swaying happily.
>
> Both of the above illustrate a perceptual flaw in comics fandom and how they set their expectations; the demand that comics companies produce the exact stories the readers already expect. Any deviation from what the reader wants is treated as an atrocity from the start.
>
> By “fandom”, I mean a great many of you; you readers that post on message boards and blogs, who write letters to the companies, who stand around and often work at comics shops and talk about what’s going on, or who go on at great length to anyone who will listen. I have heard it in every forum. So many of these “readers” don’t understand what comics are.
>
> Comics are a form of literature, and a very special form at that, because unlike most mediums, these are stories can continue and develop for generations. The stories about a given hero can be looked at in different eras and enjoyed on many levels, for the stories themselves, for the different styles of art, the varying qualities of production, of dialogue, or how the stories reflect, or deny, the times in which they are produced. All of this is fascinating, and what it means is that comics have more potential than most other storytelling mediums.
>
> Really. As derided and overlooked as comics are, they actually have the potential to bring stories to more vivid life movies than can, or then most novelists can, or than TV can.
> This is because comics have all the time in the world to tell their stories, and because they are a collaborative effort, which invite input from many creative minds.
>
> Literature is an art. It is the dramatization of vital themes, and reflections on the nature of life. There may be those who feel that comics shouldn’t be taken as seriously as other forms of lit, but I throw that right back in your faces. Comics that are not literate are not worth a fraction of the paper they are printed on.
>
> So, onto fans, and the issue I take with them. Comics draw a wide and varied base of fans. It is the nature of comics fans to imagine that they become experts on the subject pretty quickly, but many of these fans do not have more than basic reading skills, and no ability to recognize the presence or absence of literary themes or even devices. Even so, they blare their angry criticisms and denunciations at full volume. Most fans have no idea what is involved in writing, or editing, or drawing a comics story, but are more than eager to mouth off that a given writer or artist “sucks”, or that a story “sucked”, or that a whole company is no good, or that an editor-in-chief doesn’t know his job.
>
> The reality is, no, that writer does not “suck”, and that artist does not “suck”. You, the griping fan, may not have been turned on or titillated in the exact way you wanted to be by their story or art, but that is a matter of taste, and more often than not, it is matter of what expectations you had to begin with, expectations which may or may not have grasped a story’s actual possibilities, and which the writer had no way of knowing in advance.
>
> Which is good, because if stories are written to meet an audience’s expectations, they are pointless. That kind of readership may as well just read whatever past chapters they liked over and over again, like Homer and his favorite three notes, instead of demanding that they be repeated in the place of new product. They may as well stop reading new things, and just close their eyes, and imagine their own Rod and Tod Robot stories. Or write their own, which will just be repetitions of other writers work.
>
> You might be this kind of fan, because it’s not a rare breed. Here on the Comicboards, you can go to any page and find reams and reams of this kind of correspondence, this kind of obnoxious, insulting diatribes. I have read posts that say that Brian Michael Bendis is a bad writer, or that Mark Millar is a bad writer, or J. M. Straczynski, or Chuck Austen, or that Joe Quesada is a bad editor-in-chief (that one is hilarious; what do ANY of these goofballs know about being an editor-in-chief??). I have read posts that claim that Alan Moore writes “unimaginative crap”, and posts that claim that this is the worst era ever for Marvel comics, or for comics in general. Obviously, NONE of these people know what they are talking about. They aren’t well versed in even very recent comics history. They do not know what is involved in writing a story, or about visual storytelling, or writing dialogue. All they know is that if their immediate expectations are not met exactly, then the writer must be bad, the artist must be bad, the editor must be an idiot, the book must “suck”, and so on.
>
> And below, just in time to provide an example, we have another genius, Halo82, with his “A post CW Marvel and the SHRA is still a flaming pile of crap and Tony is an idiot” post. Well, no, “Tony” is not an idiot, he is a character. More importantly, within the context of Civil War, he is a literary comment on the nature of commitment. Do you commit to something for only as long as all your friends agree with you? Do you stick it out even to the point of doing things you don’t want to do, because you believe that your goal is necessary? How close does this come to “the ends justify the means”?
>
> This is good, thought provoking stuff. All the fanboy hatred for the Iron Man character over the past year, and I haven’t read more than one or two posts that acknowledge this, and that this is the major (not the only) point of the whole story. These are readers who do not recognize what they read.
>
> The truth is, these are very exciting days for comics. I have been reading regularly since 1984, and I have seen many eras and styles come and go. What we are seeing in mainstream comics today is a whole new level of development. We saw something like this in the late 80’s at DC pre and post Crisis, and before that you have to go all the way back to Marvel’s Silver Age for this kind of innovation. Well trained and educated, high quality writers are being given a lot of freedom to work, and the result is that comics stories are being pushed into new directions. This is all for the better.
>
> So, my call to fandom is this: be a little self-aware. A very good friend of mine told me that the recent issue of Waid and Perez's BRAVE AND BOLD “pissed him off” because it was too wordy. This same guy hated the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (the art “sucked”, he prefers Michael Turner) and Frank Miller’s work on DAREDEVIL for big “too wordy” and couldn’t get through WATCHMEN. See what he missed out on? If something is “too wordy’ it’s not because Frank Miller “sucks”. You need to step up your reading game. While most fans are not quite THAT handicapped, most DO need to step up their game to a large degree.
>
> Set aside your weird hatreds and jealousies, set aside your preconceived notions and unreasonable expectations. You are not professional writers, or artists, or editors, and should not be judging and denouncing those who are as if you could do what they do. Drop the words "suck" and "crap" from your vocabulary. True, a story may not be exactly what you want it to be. I tell you this: If you look at a story for WHAT IT IS, rather than for what it is NOT, you will find a lot more enjoyment and surprise in what you read. You will stop missing out on good work.
>

- Omar Karindu

"A Renoir. I have three, myself. I had four, but ordered one burned...It
displeased me." -- Doctor Doom

"It's not, 'Oh, they killed Sue Dibney and I always loved that character,' it's 'Oh, they broke a story engine that could have told a thousand stories in order to publish a single 'important' one.'" -- John Seavey


Hahaha... and I was worried I was talking over the heads of the people I wanted to reach.... very nice post, Omar, as usual.

To clarify, you should not have received an impression that I think that ALL comics are good, or that ALL comics creators are good at what they do. There are many comics that I myself find to be dismal, and many writers and artists as well. My hall of shame list, however, would be beside the point, as well as being a pretty long list.

My issue here is that so many yapping fans are judging various comics and creators as bad on an uninformed or poorly considered basis. The afore-mentioned good friend of mine will bray and almost scream with rage at the thought of Judd Winick, but cannot describe what it was specifically he didn't like about Winick's run on GREEN LANTERN. But guess what? He CAN say that it "sucked"!

Certainly there are terrible efforts on the stands; always have been, always will be. The question is, what makes a comic a bad read? Is it bad because it is poorly written, or drawn, or without substance? That is valid criticism. On the other hand, is it bad because the reader doesn't like the general direction of the book as they perceive it, regardless of how well the story or art may be executed, to which they will not pay enough attention to consider?

I am sad to say that in most of what I read or hear from fans, their complaints follow the latter train, and are as well poorly articulated, and full of false assumptions about the creators. Their dislike is rooted merely in a comparison of what the story WAS, as opposed to their Rod Flanders notion of what it should have been. John Byrne once admonished fans not to criticize his stories for no reason other than that they were not the stories the fans would have written themselves. He was right; no writer can turn out good stories under such restrictive guidelines. There would be no creative process involved.

A comic may be terrible. A reader may post a gripe about it. Still, if that reader's gripe consists of nothing more than some complaints and insults leveled at the writer and the editor in chief, and end in a glum and silly declaration that they've ruined the books' protagonist... in that case, they've said and proved nothing at all. Without considering the story's elements, or the plot, or its underlying themes, valid criticism cannot be given. And in most of these gripes, it is not.

A very new reader who christens himself an expert, as the fans so often do, cannot see a story in the context of the many stories that have gone before. They might think a new story should have portrayed a character in a certain way, because they do not (or even though they DO) know that there are countless stories that portray that character that same way, and that it has been run into the ground. The new story they don't like may be a fresh and much needed new perspective on that character.

Consider the Grey Hulk, or the Merged Hulk. How many new readers casually familiar with the Savage Hulk may have bellowed, "The Hulk should only be the Savage Hulk!!!" This reader, of whom there were countless, has the problem of being entirely unaware that there were 30 years of savage Hulk stories already, and that the creators were ready for a change, and that at least some longtime readers were bored with that, and very excited at these new possibilities.

It may seem that I am saying, "until you now what you're talking about, shut the hell up." I am, but I'm saying a little more than that. Hostility toward comics creators, which abounds, right here on these boards and all over fandom, is so wrongheaded and smallminded. I am tird of hearing it. I am tired of seeing these boards, which should be such interesting places, reduced to mindless attacks and heteful screeds against Joe Quesada, or Brian Michael Bendis, or Mark Millar, leveled by sub-par intellects who are just excited to have a voice. These people barely crasp the greator's intentions, let alone the realities of the creative process.

PS: Omar, I think you know better than to use quotations around statements that no one actually said.

PPS: Even awful comics have their fans, I imagine even Friedrich's S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, ... having just survived reading his work in ESSENTIAL GHOST RIDER #1 and commenting about how dreadful I found it, I was met with many staunch defenders of his work (coincidentally, on the DEFENDERS message board!) Rob Liefeld didn't make and blow a zillion dollars by NOT having fans. They may not admit to it today, but we know they're out there.....





> Everything you say is correct about mere judgments of aesthetic quality -- Kant famously remarked that judgments of taste are subjective, but that each person states their judgment as if it were a universal. He meant that we cannot but state our critiques of the aesthetic, in nature and artifice, without at least inadvertantly implying that all others share or should share our judgements. (It's those nasty "to be" verbs, really; even when you carefully avoid them, they are still lurking in "I think" and "I believe" -- after all, who of us would believe or think a thing that we knew or believed was untrue? It's a contradiction in terms.)
>
> But critique can and should go beyond simply saying something is good or bad, and can instead talk about what levels its operating on, what method it chooses, and can attempt to reason out estimations of a work's failure or success...but yes, always by the terms of the critique. It's the way in which the terms of the critique are argued for or against that matters, and this is what makes informed reviews possible.
>
> The blandishment that everything is rich and wonderful and good if only we'd TRY a little harder misses that -- everyone has a reading process, a method of aesthetic judgement. There is, in short, a context, are multiple contexts, of reading: the world in which the comic is published, the comics around it (before it and after it also), what the reader is looking for, and so on.
>
> Some of those methods are going to be, yes, sorry, richer than others. The question of which is the richer is what's at stake in arguments about the quality of a writer or a comic, even arguments that seem unaware of themselves in that way. They tend to be passionate arguments, of course, because comics affect us emotionally. And arguing someone out of their feelings doesn't work; ask a marriage counselor or a divorce lawyer. THe best that can be done is to try and put the discussion at a level on which even disagreement is at least interesting. Saying "sucks" and "rules" doesn't do that, but neither does "everything works in its way." All of those responses are efforts to abolish debate and thought, not to enrich them.
>
> If someone is not looking for the things that a Brian Bendis Avengers comic is providing, or if they see and can articulate flaws or faults in his method from their critical frame, they deserve to be taken seriously -- not agreed with, but at least they deserve a generous hearing out. Then we may feel free to respond, to reject their ideas, even to acknowledge their points and turn to some other quality or movement in the work from our own critical frame that works. But we cannot ever reasonably expect that we will win as if you are right on some imagined Platonic level, where we and we alone are the arbiter of taste.
>
> As a postscript, I'd argue that while quality is an eternal subject of debate, there are things awful enough that they have no reasonable, honest defenders. You don't, for example, find too many unironic fans of the Friedrich issues of S.H.I.E.L.D. from the early 70s, nor many allies of some of the truly awful comics published at flash-in-the-pan superhero houses (Chip Goodman's Atlas imprint, Harvey's ill-fated superhero line during the "Batman" TV craze) in the 60s and 70s.
>
> These are definitionally works in which basic technical skills, not just subtleties of craft or interpretation, are absent; that is to say, work so poor that it doesn't rise to the level of a style or method that one can critique positively or negatively in the first place. That's not really what we're talking about here -- generally, for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, or Image to publish something in the current market, it has to be at least technically proficient in some manner. But it does happen all the same; a quick flip through that behemoth catalogue, Previews, will turn up loads of comics that bad.