Kibbles ‘n’ Bits, 12/7/09

200912070249 Kibbles n Bits, 12/7/09
§ Your must reading link: Abhay Khosla analyzes Dark Reign in terms of vagina dentata, Freud’s theories of the head as symbol of secret desires, the castration anxiety behind many of Marvel’s most recent event comics:

The obvious conclusion to draw from DARK REIGN: THE LIST– X-MEN #1 is that at the close of 2009, a woman with an appetite for sex is apparently the very definition of fear and horror for Marvel comic creators and their audience.


You may or may not agree, but Khosla makes a pretty good case. Isn’t it time we put the subtext back into comics?

§ But as much as we love Abhay, this is unquestionably the greatest comics review ever, esp. the bit about the broken heel.

§ For the NY Times, Douglas Wolk reviews a bunch of mostly excellent recent comics , includes works by Kyle Baker, Lily Carré, Gabrielle Bell, and Michael Kupperman.

000cs29z Kibbles n Bits, 12/7/09

§ This week’s trip down memory lane by for former Marvel Bullpenner Scott Edelman goes back to 1956 for a DC Comics Slogan Contest.


§ Is there even a chance in hell you are NOT going to read a story that contains this paragraph?

Undaunted by the naysayers who claimed they have a one in a million chance of hitting it big in this economy, the men have already produced three comic books.


Yes, it is our most favorite variety of mainstream comics story — the detailed profile of local comics makers. This story, from Franklin County, PA, looks at
Gene Tipton and Frank Dunbar of Shot in the Dark Comics, and their plans to someday be as big as Marvel.

§ The Seven Comics Styles of Hercules.

§ Lesbians read comics, and they like Jean Grey, just like everyone else.

§ Apparently a dude “won” World of Warcraft? We’re surprised anyone is surprised as this was very clearly predicted on the Mayan calendar! You can look it up!

Comments

  1. Nate Horn says:

    Here is the only subtext applicable to superhero comics from DC and Marvel – there is no subtext. I guarantee you no one involved in producing comics at Marvel and DC are putting that much thought into what the stories are saying. They’re mass produced products designed to capture as much as the market as possible. There’s no artistic statement of life in them. (It’s fine to enjoy them, just like it’s fine to enjoy ice cream even though it’s devoid of healthy stuff.)

  2. rodney Wall says:

    Subtext can and does exist regardless of intention.

  3. Tommy Raiko says:

    “I guarantee you no one involved in producing comics at Marvel and DC are putting that much thought into what the stories are saying.”

    Notwithstanding Grant Morisson, surely ;-)

    (Is he still doing material in the mainstream publishers’ worlds?)

  4. If the writer and artist are not actively thinking about subtext, would their subconscious supply subtext?

    Sometimes a pen is just a pen…
    Sometimes a sidekick is just a sidekick…

  5. RDaggle says:

    Disagree with Mr. Horn, partly.
    The creators of these books have all read the same texts and academic papers which “explain” what’s going on in genuine works of art.

    Then they re-sell the symbols and themes to a pop culture audience. (Then critics re-explain it all again. Hee!)

    It’s why so little in popular art seems genuinely observed and so much seems to be stale, stapled-together ideas.

    The mainstream marketers have made a business decision about their audience and what they think they fear. Suitable comics are ordered up in bulk.

    It’s very schematic and very dull.

  6. Alan Coil says:

    RDaggle said:

    “The creators of these books have all read the same texts and academic papers which “explain” what’s going on in genuine works of art.”

    I have to disagree. I don’t think many of today’s creators are all that well read, especially here in the United States where video games seem to be the entertainment of choice over reading.

  7. Synsidar says:

    Wow. What a terrific review by Khosla! I’m serious.

    Actually, there’s a similar misogynistic subtext in “Avengers Disassembled.” A woman with a body made for sex isn’t satisfied with being a sex object. Instead, she marries, has kids, goes crazy, seems to recover, begins to fall in love again, but no –! She was actually crazy all the time. Wanting kids and trapping the poor husband for the rest of his life is crazy!

    SRS

  8. Kid Kyoto says:

    “Subtext can and does exist regardless of intention. ”

    I believe that’s called ‘making stuff up’. Or maybe post-modernism. Can’t remember which.

  9. The book in question was written by Matt Fraction. Do you really think the author of CASANOVA is unaware of the psychosexual subtext of his work? Come on!

  10. Synsidar says:

    I believe that’s called ‘making stuff up’.

    You’ve never heard of unintentional themes?

    SRS

  11. arch 14 says:

    One doesn’t have to agree with Khosla (his review seems to be tongue-in-cheek even as it raises interesting questions), but it is a bit scary (or surprising, at the least) to read some people (on numerous sites) arguing that the only possible message of a text is the one explicitly intended by the author.

    I also have to agree with Stuart Moore (and Khosla mentions this in his essay too) – Fraction is clearly aware. This isn’t sub-text. This is text spoken by the protagonist (antagonist?) of the comic.

  12. The Beat says:

    News flash: even monthly comicbookals can be analyzed in a context other than their own internal continuity!!!!

  13. Nate Horn says:

    “News flash: even monthly comicbookals can be analyzed in a context other than their own internal continuity!!!!”

    But they shouldn’t be. It’s like examining ice cream for nutrients. I mean, sure, there’s a little bit there and you can find anything if you look hard enough, but the people making Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are just trying to sell it to the largest possible audience, they’re not trying to infuse anything worthwhile in there.

    And I’m not even someone who regularly defends this stuff. I’m just saying an attempt to dig into a Marvel or DC superhero work for some deeper meaning is largely a waste of time – unless it’s Grant Morrison (good catch, Tommy!).

  14. Huh….apparently I’ve been reading way too much into “X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills” all these years! Who knew?

  15. The Beat says:

    Shouldn’t be? Why not? Everything else is.

    One of the reasons comics got OUT of the “crappy kid stuff” ghetto is that people realized that the stories were saying more than just fistfights. Art that resonates is the art that lasts.

  16. Jim Sheridan says:

    Nate, I think the “comics to ice cream” analogy does not work, simply because one is an art form/ literature and the other is not.

    Superhero comics made for simple entertainment can be as loaded with subtext (consciously or not) as children’s stories, as Disney cartoons, as action movies, etc.

  17. Did anybody check out the Twitter feed from the “broken heel” review? The two most recent items are:

    If we invest in security gates there won’t be any money for books that will be tragic for the boys who love reading and those that nearly do 4 days ago

    Boys when leaving the library please remember to have your books issued! This from a sad librarian who has large quantities of books missing 4 days ago

    Excellent stuff.

  18. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    There’s a difference between post-modernism and making stuff up (which does happen) and noting trends that are unintentionally revealing of the author’s beliefs, prejudices and personality.

    For example, if on your television show, all the black male recurring characters are large, muscular, loud, self-righteous authority figures who turn out to be wrong and then the hero needs to kill them, you probably don’t belong to the KKK or consciously want to hurt black people. But a viewer would probably right to diagnose that you have, erm. Some very *specific* issues about race. Either that, or a black high school principal who you really hated.

    If a character’s ex-wife is (in the stated text) literally turned into a ravening monster by the intense desire for sex and must be killed to save the world… well. It’s, er. Suggestive of woman issues, or at least ex-wife issues, let’s put it like that.

  19. mark coale says:

    “I’m just saying an attempt to dig into a Marvel or DC superhero work for some deeper meaning is largely a waste of time – unless it’s Grant Morrison (good catch, Tommy!).”

    As someone who has presented three papers at the Comics Arts Conference in San Diego over the years, I respectfully disagree.

    I would certainly agree the majority of stuff maybe, but not everything, unless we throw out all the stuff by Moore and Gaiman and Robinson and Busiek and Ellis and Fraction and so on.

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