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Truth, Justice, and the Comic Book Way

Today we have a really substantial column from R.C. Harvey on Johnny Hart, B.C., and religion in the comic strips. Here’s an excerpt:

Berke Breathed gave Hart’s slam a creditable value. “The good news about Hart’s Islam-is-poo strip,” Breathed said, “is that at least you know a real human has shown up for work with his strip. The paper is littered with cartoonists too—well, deceased—to actually participate in their own strip. It’s a pity because there’s a rather agitated bunch of very alive cartoonists that are waiting for their space to show us what a little passionate cartooning can be. The other side of the Affaire Hart is his disowning of his gag. This is the part where he insults his audience, which he might want to avoid. I’m all for bigotry in the public square [but] for people to respond accordingly, they need to own it. Either Johnny is fibbing or he needs to get back in touch with his inner Id. …”

[...]

Every time B.C. was dropped by newspaper editors hesitant of offending one religion or another, the issue of freedom of expression was conjured up again. If Garry Trudeau is permitted to exercise his religion—“the secular religion of politics” as one wag put it—why can’t Hart do the same with his religion? By way of edging up to an answer, the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten took some B.C. strips around for Trudeau to look at. Trudeau looked at them and laughed.

“Please tell me this is not controversial,” Trudeau said. “What’s the problem—that, God forbid, Hart still believes in God? These are good,” he continued. “What’s important is that he still honors his first obligation, which is to entertain. If he wants to stimulate people into thinking about the nature of faith, more power to him.” Agreeing with the wag quoted above, Trudeau concluded: “Hart is writing about his values as much as I am writing about mine.”

We also have Sean T. Collins reviewing Jillian Tamaki’s webcomic, SuperMutant Magic Academy.

We rarely mention specific ongoing Kickstarters on this blog, at least for comic-book fundraising, mostly because once you’ve opened those doors, it’s hard to establish a consistent and fair policy about who gets the nod and who doesn’t. But I was sorely tempted to break my self-assigned rule when I heard about Ted May’s upcoming Injury 4—luckily for my integrity, before I decided to post it, May made his goal, and now it’s just happy publishing news. (Another interesting sounding project: Dylan Horrocks and Karl Stevens collaborating on The American Dream.)

Also worth a look: Dean Haspiel on coming to terms with his place in the comics industry, and ultimately being happier outside it; Robin McConnell’s road trip to Portland with Brandon Graham, with cameos from such as Zack Soto, Mike Allred, and Craig Thompson; Gary Panter on painter Yayoi Kusama; and Matt Seneca writing about an early, expressive Chris Ware page.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to take newspaper articles regarding science with enormous quantities of salt, but this New York Times article suggesting that the brain treats experiences read about in books in the same way as experiences actually lived couldn’t help but make me wonder how that would shape a person with a really restricted literary diet: someone who reads nothing but superhero comics, say. (It probably helps that I’m re-reading Don Quixote right now.) People often express wonder about the propensity for superhero fans to ignore the ethics of supporting companies against creators’ rights, based on the comic books’ repeated references to responsibility and doing the right thing, but when you think about it, there’s very little actual ethical content in most superhero comics: the good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad guys, and very little short of the willingness to commit straight-up murder separates the two in terms of behavior. They both generally live outside the law and destroy a lot of public property, you know?


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