thinking caps on! comics and oikoumenikos

In response to this post by Christopher Butcher, excerpted below:

I totally love comics, and the schizophrenic state of my bookshelves will explain that it is not a certain genre, style, or delivery format that I love, but comics as a medium.

This all-encompassing love of comics is not universally shared; I’ve known this for a very long time. I try not to let the clique-ism and self-consciousness bother me when it comes to people dismissing work out of hand, but honestly? I think about the same of someone who writes off manga as a whole as someone who writes off comics as a whole: not much. And it’s not just manga, but any genre/format/style/country’s work. It seems so completely limited in scope, and more often than not those words seem spoken from a position of ignorance rather than any considered or researched position.

My initial reaction is, I’m with Chris. I’m up for anything, in any style, on any topic, by anyone. Those of you who’ve tracked our institutional purchasing patterns over the last two years can testify to that. (Interestingly, I imagine a lot of that comes from my self-image as purchaser for a diverse group of readers and the possibility that I’ve subsumed my own interests as a reader to the simple question “will someone like it?” But that’s a different topic.)

I often wonder at the disparity between the kind of comics reader I am (a fan of comics as a medium, interested in its possibilities of form and content, in every genre and style) and the kind of attitude I try to cultivate in others. I don’t expect anyone else to be as all-inclusive as I am, and I don’t mind when someone lacks interest in any particular title — I just hope everyone finds things that they like. I try to cultivate the attitude that comics is a medium of art and entertainment, on par with any other medium, and that casual fans are normal and welcome.

The idea of all-or-nothing comics fandom, the idea that there are two kinds of people in the world: comic fans and everyone else, is false and counterproductive (and I’m not accusing Chris of it, I’m just saying it’s common). For one thing, it’s intimidating for newcomers to imagine that they need to read everything in order to appreciate anything. For another, someone who reads one comic and dislikes it is consequently discouraged from trying another one. I’d much prefer that people feel that it’s acceptable to only pick up what appeals to them and bugger the rest. Video stores stock both Requiem for a Dream and You’ve Got Mail; you wouldn’t insist that fans of one should try the other, although there are certainly people who would enjoy both.

Most of the most interesting people writing about comics — Chris and Tom and Dirk and everyone else — are like me; we love everything. But sometimes I feel like that very universalism — this (dare I say it) “team comics” mentality — is contrary to some of our goals about mainstream penetration, at the same time that it’s essential to it.

Chris is right, of course, in pointing out that people’s preconceptions about what they like are often built on shaky ground, and that a trained critic can suggest connections that cut across conventional boundaries and help people fall in love with books they would never have thought to read. Like, say, pointing out that Achewood fans would enjoy the hell out of Cromartie High School, or that Sleeper might cross-pollinate with Death Note, or that We3 is interesting for many of the same reasons as the work of Chris Ware and David Mack.

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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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