Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sgt. Pepper's Litpop Comics Club (2)

Before I continue moving (mowing?) down the list of creators mentioned in response to earlier posts (here's Part 1, and here, um, the Prologue, or something), perhaps I should clarify again that the point of the exercise is not to dismiss (or approve, for that matter) any of them as valid candidates for a "serious" Best-Comics-of-2008 list.

Rather, it's a purely selfish, self-indulgent exercise on my part, meant to hone my tender critical faculties and give me a better understanding of what my own "standards for greatness" are and how they work. The best way of doing that I can think of right now is to hit these standards with whatever names and works I can come up with, and try to figure out whether I find they make the grade, and why. Of course, this is all bound to terribly rushed and superficial here. The next step, then, after separating the wheat from the chaff, would be to go back and examine the individual works more closely.

And I'd still like to strongly encourage everybody else to chime in and do the same for themselves, using their own standards. I love what Dick Hyacinth is doing over at his blog, for instance (though he clearly needs tags, so you can get all the Meta-Best-of-List craziness with one click); because the lists resulting from his survey (here's the one for 2007, by the way) are intriguing, certainly, but more so because of the discussions generated in the process.

What comics still emphatically lack, after all, is a sturdy canon. In part, this is because there aren't quite as many great comics yet as there are, say, films or novels or plays or short stories or poems. But it's also because we don't have a good idea of the required standards yet. What makes a good comic? More significantly, what separates a "good" comic from a "great" comic that future generations should be nudged towards? It's still a relatively young form, and it will probably be a while before comics are a permanent fixture at high schools and universities the same way prose, drama and poetry are. But the sooner we start talking about standards, the better, surely.

And few people seem to be doing that, unfortunately. I can see a lot of Best-of and me-likey lists out there, but nobody seems to be talking about their standards for these things. So either people don't consciously think about standards, or they don't share them - both of which is fine for the time being, but neither of which is likely to get us better comics, or a better understanding of comics and what we want from them, in the long run. So, whoever you are, if you are reading this and are in the business of doing Best-of lists or reviewing comics in general, I'd love to hear what your standards are, no matter how broad or narrow your focus is.

Aaand... I guess that's all for today, then. Next up: less theory, more practice. Scout's honor.

1 comment:

Dick Hyacinth said...

I'm not especially good with html and whatnot, but I think I've managed to put labels on my posts again. Not sure where they went in the first place, but at least they're back now.