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Hardy Hero

Joe McCulloch brings us the week’s releases, as well as some thoughts on Richard Kyle and early fandom. Kyle is a fascinating figure whose magazine Graphic Story World remains a touchstone in early comic book history. He also famously commissioned Jack Kirby’s “Street Code.” I interviewed him a few years ago and have yet to transcribe it, but one of the days…

Still, from this excerpt, we can glimpse the true thesis of Kyle’s essay. He is fascinated by that most second-half-of-the-20th-century of all aesthetic preoccupations: the division between “art” and “trash,” which we might rephrase to ‘high’ and ‘low’ art. “Art,” to Kyle, appeals to the emotions and the intellect, while “trash” appeals only to one, yet because trash is embodied in “the spirit of the thing,” it can evade the scrutiny of art’s critical practice, and, sometimes, in its perennial success, prove itself more important. Specifically, “costume heroes” of the Golden Age disregard personal interest in favor of “idealistic beliefs of justice and right,” their dual identities emphasizing the capacity for the ordinary within the extraordinary, the simple humanity latent in the liberation of joyous power – “the hearts of these paper dolls.”

Thus, the “[e]ducation” of Victor Fox — “blue jeans gaping at the knees, being drummed out of kindergarten” — was that his eventual darkening of the superhero milieu in Blue Beetle, amping up sexualized peril for the heroines and stripping down the villainesses’ attire as the vogue for crime comics crept forward, only led to his rejection by a public given to “a mean streak of decency.” On first blush, this seems patently absurd – the (adolescent) public quite obviously loved pre-Code crime and horror comics; that’s why the Senate held hearings for a fast-crashing Bill Gaines to melt down over. But then, Kyle himself was a writer of adult-targeted crime novels, and perhaps saw a distinction between superhero comics and other types, the former appealing bang-on to impressionable children through the unique traits of the comics form, “where symbols can artistically replace representative realism more easily and convincingly than any other story-telling medium,” allowing idealism to flower.

Elsewhere:

David Lasky points us towards his earlier work.

A fine gallery of 3-D comic book imagery.

Stoner 70s fantasy over here.

OMG: A comic book character is dying this week, guys.

Some new Marvel editorial tips.

Not comics: Documenting the installation of Jay DeFao’s The Rose at The Whitney.

 


One Response to Hardy Hero

  1. Craig Fischer says:

    I’ve always loved THE ROSE—and THE WHITE ROSE (1967), Bruce Conner’s film chronicling the process of moving THE ROSE out of DeFeo’s loft. Here’s an interview with Conner about the move and the film:

    http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/311

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