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We’re Going to Do This Every Day?

This could get old real quick. I am lucky, though, because Dan neglected to mention our most recent published items, which gives me a few more work-free links.

Columns:

First, R. Fiore continues his long-running “Funnybook Roulette”, with an entry regarding Sylvain Chomet’s recent animated film based on an unproduced Jacque Tati script.

Ken Parille offers what may be the most exhaustive look at a Moto Hagio story yet written in English.

The universally loved Joe “Jog” McCulloch turns in his first weekly report from the comic-shop front line.

And Vanessa Davis continues her week’s worth of diary entries.

Reviews:

Tucker Stone joins the Comics Journal team, and offers his take on the British war comic, Johnny Red: Falcons’ First Flight.

Chris Mautner reviews the first three volumes of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman.

In other TCJ-related news, I forgot to link to possibly the most thorough take on the recent relaunch, from Sequential. (Thanks to Tom S. for the reminder.)

And Abstract Comics editor Andrei Molotiu posted a lengthy remembrance of his own experiences with this site’s late (and apparently not entirely unlamented) message board.

Also, the RSS feed(s) should be working properly again, so subscribe away if that’s your thing—and did you know that the Journal is on Twitter and Facebook? It is, and Dan and I are not exactly masters of the social media arts, so some of the more sadistic among you may enjoy “friending” and “following” and such, if only to watch us flounder.

In non-TCJ news, The Panelists has begun an interesting series on Eddie Campbell and Daren White’s The Playwright, featuring comments from the man himself.

Blog 2 Comm digs up Fredric Wertham’s forgotten paean to fandom, The World of Fanzines. (Ignore the weird Archie opinions up top.) This reminded me of Wertham’s rebuffed letter of enthusiasm to Graphic Story Magazine — the Bad Doctor had an ironic and too-little-remembered third act.

The novelist Charles Baxter wrote a compelling recent essay on bad reviewers, with several passages that called to mind a lot of what currently passes for online comics criticism.

For example, “To say that something is ‘boring’ is not a statement about a book, although the speaker may think that it is; it’s a statement about the reader’s poverty of equipment.”

And: “A reviewer is entitled to any opinion at all, but he or she earns that opinion based on a description and a judicious citation of evidence. Otherwise, the reviewer is the literary equivalent of Michelle Bachmann, making outrageous statements simply in order to become famous. Is it too much to ask of a reviewer that he should know what he’s talking about?”

Finally, a word of warning to any excitable cartoonists out there, before they react to a negative review that we run.

Ok, we’ll get better at this — stay with us.


45 Responses to We’re Going to Do This Every Day?

  1. noahberlatsky says:

    "with several passages that called to mind a lot of what currently passes for online comics criticism."

    Come on, man. You're at tcj now. This passive aggressive nonsense won't fly. You're going to call someone out, call them out.

    Don't let it be said that Gary Groth's mag ducked a fight!

  2. Tim Hodler says:

    Thanks for the blogging advice, but the writers I'm thinking of don't deserve the traffic.

  3. noahberlatsky says:

    That's both a breach of internet etiquette and rank cowardice, Tim.

    If you want to have a conversation, have a conversation. If you're afraid to have a conversation, or if you're so important now that you're afraid your very sputum will unduly ennoble those you deign to hawk upon, then you should probably just shut up.

    You're not a little clique anymore, as various people have pointed out to you over the last week. You're the fucking journal. Try to pretend you're actually ready for prime time, huh? This shit is embarrassing.

  4. Tim Hodler says:

    This shit is embarrassing. You can say that again.

  5. noahberlatsky says:

    Well, when you start with the passive-aggression, you stick with it, I'll give you that. And I see by the clicking pluses and minuses that it appears to be a popular tactic. So I guess no need to change after all. Carry on.

  6. UlandK says:

    I should have addressed the above comment to Noah.

  7. PaulSlade says:

    First of all, welcome back, TCJ.com. It's good to see someone take a hold of this website with some big ambitions for it. Good to see Mr Fiore will still be contributing too.

    On the subject of which, can we have the old TCJ.com archives of Fiore's columns back, please? I never did get round to printing out that piece on Metropolis before Superman and my other favourites from his recent output, so please don't wipe 'em from the web as well.

    Also, what are your plans for the message board? If it's now officially dead and gone, shouldn't we give it a viking funeral or something?

  8. Dan Nadel says:

    We're working on bringing over those old columns, yes, but it won't be for a little while. That said, you can click over to classic.tcj.com and and still read it all. As for the message board — it's also at same URL. Viking funeral: Dunno, I guess you could light your monitor on fire? That's about the best idea I can come up with. [legal notice: comment is satire. if you light your computer on fire, it's your own problem].

  9. Tim Hodler says:

    Thanks, Paul. All of Fiore's previous online columns are still online—you can find them here.

    The message board is dead for now, though you can still access it and read old threads.

  10. EricReynolds says:

    http://sweetfuzz.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/d

    Is that Noah in the pink pants?

  11. PaulSlade says:

    Thank you, gentlemen. I hadn't realised the old site was still up there.

    Also, there's something very appropriate about a comics message board being "dead for now". Kinda like the Human Torch, is "dead for now" I guess?

  12. Tim Hodler says:

    I continue to stand firmly behind the only positions I took in the post: that a critic should know what he or she is talking about, and that dismissing a work of art as "boring" is usually the mark of a lazy thinker. Anyone who disagrees with those statements and wants to argue against them is more than welcome to knock himself out—as you have already demonstrated.

    Further to the point, I believe that ignorance and laziness are real and common attributes—too common in fact, for me to practically be expected to list everyone who suffers from them. (For that matter, I'm sure those adjectives could fairly be applied to things I've written at one time or another. Was I unfairly denigrating myself?) I know you like to see your name in writing, but if you think I'm going to type it every time I mention anything lousy in the world that just happens to also apply to you, you're crazy.

    In other words, get over yourself.

  13. noahberlatsky says:

    Uland, I thought it was fairly clear that I thought it was directed at me, or at HU. I'm happy to say so directly if that'll help.

    I didn't actually think it was posted in response to a particular piece of mine…and I'm not positive that it's even addressed to me in general. It's hard to be since Tim didn't say who he was talking about. If it's directed to somebody else, I'd probably be interested in reading what they have to say. But I can't do that, since Tim wouldn't name them or link to them.

    I think Tim's a smart guy; I respect what he has to say about comics. I don't think he's so smart that I can automatically assume that everything he says is correct, or that everyone he condemns is someone whose opinion I don't want to look at. Especially since I like thinking about opinions I don't agree with. So it's not only as the possible person denigrated, but also as a reader, that I would really prefer that people tell me what they're talking about, rather than make sneering allusions understood only by those in the know.

    I think also when you start the conversation off in passive-aggressive mode, it's hard for your interlocutors not to continue it in the same vein. The whole point of being passive-aggressive is that you don't risk anything. That puts those you're talking to at a disadvantage. It discourages others from being honest. It's just a bad way to have a dialogue.

    I was passive-aggressive, maybe, also, in that I didn't spell out that the critiques of cliquishness I was talking about from last week were those by Heidi and others pointing to the lack of women on the site. I probably should just have said so. I do think there's a link between those criticisms and the kind of cliquishness I'm talking about here. Others will probably disagree though.

    I do really think the thumbs up and thumbs down on comments is really bad for dialogue as well. It turns every thread into a popularity contest, and intimidates those who might want to express dissenting opinions. This site doesn't get so many comments that the moderation needs to be crowd sourced. And comics is cliquey enough as it is without enabling that kind of group think.

    TCJ has always been interested in vigorous debate. (Or IntenseDebate! as the case may be.) You don't get that kind of debate by refusing to talk to the people you disagree with, nor by insisting that those with minority opinions deserve to be voted down or shamed.

  14. UlandK says:

    I hear you. I think you should've spelled it out. Nobody could've known what you were referencing.

    I think it's difficult to not sound like a whiny troll when you disagree with the content of the post; there's a huge perceived-authority gap between the blog footer and the comments section, and I think the author can exploit that in certain ways. I mean, yeah, Tim probably should've just come out with it, if indeed he was referring to your writing.
    But maybe he wasn't.
    I think we'll have to wait and see when it comes to the clique factor. I think some of it is unavoidable, and can seem much more apparent if you're someone who wants to be in the thick of things.

  15. noahberlatsky says:

    Well, now I have!

    I didn't want to spell it out initially because I can't know he was talking about me, and if he wasn't it seems presumptuous. (This is what I mean when I say that starting out in a passive-aggressive mode really puts the people you're talking to at a disadvantage.) But in any case I really do think he should say who it is, whoever it is. Anybody deserves that courtesy, not just me. So…I wasn't actually referencing anything I didn't say. I think it's wrong to denigrate people without naming them. That's the issue, not whether he dislikes my Campbell piece, or my writing in general. I mean, you disliked my Campbell piece, and we had a perfectly pleasant and I think productive discussion about why.

    Since we're talking about it, that piece is here.

    Heidi's piece, which I mentioned above, is here. She links to other essays; the one by Melinda Beasi is especially worth checking out.

    And finally…if Tim's not talking about anybody in particular, then it's a straw man argument, and deserves to be called out as such.

  16. Tim Hodler says:

    My god, man. Who exactly am I denigrating? I can't be held responsible for your overactive imagination. If you want to call out my "argument," go ahead — I didn't know I was even making one. All I did was link to an essay I liked, while referencing a few very general and extremely anodyne (you'd think) statements within it, such as that ignorance isn't a good thing in a reviewer. If I'd favorably mentioned an article about poor grammar, would I have been obligated to list every blogger with subject-verb agreement problems? Would every person on the internet with grammar issues otherwise be justified to show up in the comments, screeching interminably about a 'breach in etiquette?"

    I continue to stand firmly behind the only positions I took in the post: that a critic should know what he or she is talking about, and that dismissing a work of art as "boring" is usually the mark of a lazy thinker. Anyone who disagrees with those statements and wants to argue against them is more than welcome to knock himself out—as you have already demonstrated.

    Further to the point, I believe that ignorance and laziness are real and common attributes—too common in fact, for me practically to list everyone who suffers from them. (For that matter, I'm sure those terms could fairly be applied to things I've written at one time or another. Was I unfairly denigrating myself?) I know you like to see your name in writing, but if you think I'm going to type it every time I bring up anything lousy in the world that just happens to also apply to you, you're crazy.

    In other words, get over yourself.

  17. noahberlatsky says:

    Ah, so it's a straw man argument. And you were just lying in your reply to me when you said that you were thinking of particular critics and didn't want to give them traffic. Lovely.

    The "grammar" bit is simply a red herring — though for that matter, if you said that too many comics critics used poor grammar, I would in fact expect you to link. Why not? If you're thinking of somebody, you're thinking of somebody (or somebodies). If it doesn't apply to anybody in particular, why on earth bother to say it? If you think it applies to somebody but haven't thought it through enough to figure out to who, then take a second or two and sharpen your thinking.

    LIke I said, when you're passive aggressive, you put your interlocutors in the position where they can't reply to you without opening themselves to the further passive aggressive staple, "oh I didn't mean that.; What's wrong with you." You've got the game down very well.

    I didn't ask you to cite everyone your criticism could possibly apply to, so your claim that that's what I asked of you is simply throwing sand. The claim that you were simply speaking of laziness is wrong; you cited two particular charges and said they applied to many comics reviewers. If that's so, it should have been easy for you to find an example. Since you claim the criticisms apply to yourself, you could even have chosen an example from your own writing. Instead you made a general accusation without specifics, and then got snotty when you were called on it.

    As for the actual arguments, which are not anodyne at all.

    —I actually believe fairly strongly that many works of art are boring. Tedium and alienation are perfectly reasonable reactions to art. I think those reactions are too often dismissed as inconsequential or even immoral. I don't think critics who see works of art as boring are doing anything wrong.

    —I also think that people generally bring different experiences and knowledge to a work. Slinging around phrases like "ignorance" is a way to professionalize criticism and tell yourself you don't have to listen to people who disagree with you. I don't think a reader or critic has to earn the right to speak about a book. Everyone has the right to speak to and respond to art. Art is (potentially) universal, which means that it's (potentially) for everyone. For me that's one of the lovely things about art.

    I think you can have perfectly reasonable disagreements on those matters. You can't have any sort of reasonable conversation, though, if you spend your time sneering at nameless sinners and congratulating your readers for agreeing with you.

  18. JeetHeer2 says:

    "I actually believe fairly strongly that many works of art are boring." Does anyone disagree with this? But the point is, it's not good criticism just to say a work is boring. You have to actually try and show why its boring, with the tools of the critical trade (apt descriptions, contextualization, comparisons etc.). But there are all too many critics who don't do the work of criticism and just hurl the term boring around as if it ends the argument. To put it another way, throwing around the term "boring" indiscriminately is boring. Also boring: this debate.

  19. RobertSMartin says:

    Noah–

    Don't bother.

    Tim has proven time and again that he's comics criticism's equivalent to a monkey sitting in its cage throwing poo. There's no point in asking him why he's throwing poo. All he's interested in is drawing you in closer in order to fling more poo at you. Arguing with a poo-throwing monkey only makes one look ridiculous.

    Oh, and if Tim wants to dispute this characterization, he would do well to consider his approving quotation of this bit from Charles Baxter:

    A reviewer is entitled to any opinion at all, but he or she earns that opinion based on a description and a judicious citation of evidence. Otherwise, the reviewer is the literary equivalent of Michelle Bachmann, making outrageous statements simply in order to become famous.

    Tim has a real back-to-the-mirror problem there. He opines against unnnamed online comics critics, but he can't be bothered with providing "a description and a judicious citation of evidence."

    Of course, this is the man who reads Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and can't think of anything worthwhile to write about it beyond Frank Miller's appropriateness or inappropriateness as jacket illustrator.

  20. Tim Hodler says:

    If I was reviewing something, I would definitely need to cite evidence. I was just linking to an essay I liked. And believe me, I have no interest in drawing either of you closer! There's a great way to prove me wrong on that, by the way. Go away, and see if I mention either of you ever again.

  21. RobertSMartin says:

    Tim, if you're going to offer an opinion–on anything–back it up.

  22. noahberlatsky says:

    I can agree with that! (The first bit…I thought the debate was just sort of starting to get interesting.)

    I think the quote says something different though; he seems to be saying that the statement "this work is boring" always says something about the critic, not the work. Which I think is a not uncommon view (Tim quoted it approvingly after all), and one with which I disagree.

    But! Don't want to bore you overly! (Too late, I'm sure!)

    Enjoyed your racism essay, by the way. It was nice to see you talking about that topic at greater length.

  23. UlandK says:

    I think if Tim was simply linking to an essay as a recommendation, there's really nothing to back up. I think saying something like "there's a lot of bad comics criticism" is equivalent to saying there's a bunch of bad poetry. We all know it's out there.

  24. RobertSMartin says:

    Uland–

    Tim was using the Baxter essay to attack people while assiduously avoiding naming names or citing specifics of disagreement or dismay. It's an old trick of his.

    I don't mean to speak for Noah, but for myself, it's irritating to see a reference to The Panelists' Campbell roundtable without mention of HU's. The two were scheduled in conjunction with each other and coordinated among the contributors to both sites. Tim has a rancorous history with HU contributors, and in light of that, his omission of HU seems ungenerous at best and despicably petty at worst. In his own piece, Noah called Campbell's Alec work "boring". That combined with the snub of HU likely led to him jumping to conclusion that he was the unnamed target of that jab. By the way, I don't think it was an unreasonable conclusion to make.

  25. JeetHeer2 says:

    "his omission of HU seems ungenerous at best and despicably petty at worst". It's not clear to me that Tim is under any obligation to link to anything at HU or any other site. My current column on racism grew out of discussions started by Matt Seneca and continued at HU and Comics Comics. I didn't feel the need to link back to Seneca and HU because I figured anyone deeply interested in the topic would know about those discussions or could easily find them though a quick google search. And I don't feel that Seneca and HU are now under any obligation to link back to me. You can get as crazy & paranoid as a character in a Pynchon novel if you start worrying about who is linking to who, since the nature of the internet is such that any article could potentially have every word linked to some other site if the writer so minded.

  26. JeetHeer2 says:

    And not every casual allustion to bad criticial practices is necessarily a reference to Noah or HU since neither he nor the site, despite their admirable prolificness, exhaust the potential for shoddy criticism. I've sent Dan and Tim many ideas and links I thought were interesting; sometimes they use them, often they don't. If I were Noah I'd start thinking that there was a conspiracy every time they don't use one of those links. (Hmm… maybe there is a conspiracy. Maybe Dan and Tim are out to get me….)

  27. RobertSMartin says:

    Jeet–

    Maybe there is a conspiracy, maybe there isn't. I don't particularly care, largely because I don't put much value on Tim's opinions. If you go back to where I jumped into this little fracas, you'll see I was telling Noah to just let it go. I did the same with Caroline Small when she got into it with Tim in a comments thread at Comics Comics last year. Mixing it up with Tim, as one correspondent mentioned to me, just leaves one wanting to take a bath.

    Tim's of course under no obligation to link to HU or anywhere else. In and of itself, I wouldn't think anything of it. I sent Tom Spurgeon and Heidi MacDonald notes about the joint roundtable, and I don't believe either of them ever made mention of it on their sites. I have no reason to think that either of them chose to not do so out of any hostility towards me, Noah, The Panelists, or HU. I've personally found both of them very generous and supportive. In light of that, it seems they just didn't find it of sufficient interest.

    The situation with Tim is different. He has a long history of directing public insults at HU, its contributors, and its commenters. He's also proven very fond of couching his attacks on others in passive-aggressive terms. (In other words, he's an asshole and a wimp.) In this instance, Tim pointedly snubbed HU (and not mentioning HU while going out of his way to highlight The Panelists' half of the roundtable is a snub). A few column inches later, he engaged in what Noah and at least one other contributor could easily see as a veiled potshot at their essays. I think they have some justification in taking it personally.

    If you see it differently, then we'll just have to agree to disagree.

  28. Tim Hodler says:

    I'm going to keep this short, mostly to avoid inadvertently sending out secret coded attacks even I don't understand. But for the record, at the time I wrote this post, I had not read Noah Berlatsky's Eddie Campbell review (I still haven't!), and in no way was my link to a recent essay meant to allude to it. And while keeping track of possible links for that day's blog, I happened to have saved a couple from the Panelists, and included them without thinking about their connection to HU. Believe it or not.

  29. spurgeonsofmuncie says:

    For what it's worth, I tend not to post about roundtables and series of reviews [ESPECIALLY AT HOODED UTILITARIAN BECAUSE I HATE NOAH BERLATSKY] until they're done because if I ever link to anything where something hasn't concluded [BERLATSKY SUCKS] and the reader ends their reading of what's there and then feels like they'll have to remember on their own to come back, I get multiple complaints [WHICH MAKES ME HATE NOAH BERLATSKY MORE].

    I violate this standard all the time, of course [A MORE MODEST HATRED AGAINST ROBERT STANLEY MARTIN], because I can be a pretty sloppy [HATE HATE HATE BERLATSKY] blogger.

  30. spurgeonsofmuncie says:

    The hidden message coding from the old board still works, right?

  31. noahberlatsky says:

    I didn't think you were referring to the Campbell essay! I don't even know if your post was written before or after my essay, honestly. Uland brought that up particularly, not me.

    I didn't think you should have linked to our roundtable. I don't think you should ever mention us if you don't want to. I presume you don't usually (or ever) read HU. I don't usually read your writing either! Mutual ignorance, mutual bliss.

    Since I did happen to read this though: you weren't talking about poor comics criticism in general. You were saying, "comics critics do these things." Failing to say which critics is simply flabby thinking. It's a straw man argument. It's more about patting yourself and your readers on the back than about actually engaging in a discussion of what criticism should be or why. It's passive aggressive nonsense, basically. As I said before, TCJ deserves better.

    Tom S., you don't need to put your Berlatsky hatred in subliminal brackets. You've said in public and repeatedly that you're not that interested in my writing! Which is fine! Different strokes and so forth. Nonetheless, you very kindly linked to our redesign — for which I am (as ever) grateful. [TOM SPURGEON IS LOVELY.]

    And I'm sort of sorry to hear that Jeet believes that HU does not exhaust the possibilities of bad criticism. We will keep trying!

  32. grapesgrapes says:

    has anyone seen Wicker Man (1973)? it addresses these issues of men made of straw and ho w communities dea l with thme.. (they burn them)

    Poignancy.

  33. Joe McCulloch says:

    I'm trying to decide if Gary Groth is Britt Ekland or the maypole in this scenario.

  34. noahberlatsky says:

    Has to be the maypole.

  35. JeetHeer2 says:

    Maybe we should try and be honest here: to say that Tim hates Noah is a ludicrous understatement. Iago’s hatred of Othello, Ahab’s hatred of the White Whale, John Wilkes Booth’s hatred of Lincoln, Dr. Doom’s hatred of Reed Richards, Humbert Humbert’s hatred of Clare Quilty, Richard Nixon’s hatred for the media: you can take all this animus and combine it together and you’ll still only have a pale shadow of the enmity Tim has for Noah. Every morning Tim wakes up and asks himself, “how can I passively and aggressively attack Noah today?” Every night as he prepares for sleep, his only respite from the otherwise unremitting work of Noah-bashing, Tim prays to his dark Gods for the strength needed to keep belittling the Hooded Utilitarian site.

  36. noahberlatsky says:

    Um…okay. But…maypoles. What is tcj.com's position on maypoles?

    Pagan and terrifyingly phallic? Or just a harmless ritual?

  37. patford says:

    Noah: "You despise me don't you Tim."
    Tim: "I probably would if I gave it any thought." http://www.artoffilm101.com/mediac/400_0/media/DI

  38. EricReynolds says:

    Years ago, I was talking to someone who hated Gary Groth. I was attempting to play the peacemaker, but he interrupted and said, "You don't understand: every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is to grab the newspaper and turn to the obituaries and look for Gary Groth's name."

    Are we there yet, Tim?

  39. spurgeonsofmuncie says:

    That person was the late Fred Rogers.

  40. FrankSantoro says:

    start building my coffin!

  41. mrgrab says:

    Don't any of you people have actual paying work of some sort that needs doing? Or, I don't know, some comics to read?

  42. ChanceFiveash says:

    Now THIS is some classic good ole' 80's TCJ Blood and Thunder shit!!

  43. patford says:

    With "shit" being the operative word.

  44. steven samuels says:

    Paul, are you saying this thread isn’t “message board” enough for you? Looks like it never left.

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