Kibbles ‘n’ Bits: EC reconsidered, kids ignored and you’re a bad stalker, Charlie Brown

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§ Dog bites man: Webcomicker Zachary Weiner has a Kickstarter for a collection of his strip Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, which made its goal in three hours and is now up to $80K. Over at Fleen, Gary Tyrrell looks at some of the interesting incentives Weiner used.

§ Over at the (finally) redesigned Good Comics for Kids blog, an all-star roundtable looks at how the Big Two are doing with comics for kids in the wake of the cancellation of Superman Family Adventures. Things could be better:

Scott: Both DC and Marvel lack commitment to a long term plan for their all ages series, knowledge of what appeals to today’s readers and awareness of the children’s publishing industry.

Michael: I agree with all that and would just build off that last point. For some reason, both companies are insistently focused on trying to make kids comics work in the Direct Market, a system that really only works for readers with lots of discretionary income and transportation to a comics specialty shop. That audience includes some parents, but doesn’t include the kids themselves.

And where they’ve thought at all about general bookstores, from the outside it looks like their strategy is pretty half-hearted.


As I’ve noted here many times, kids’ comics in bookstores are actually leading the category, even setting aside the Dork Diaries/Wimpy Kid hybrids. But as I’ve also noted here, the Big Two, anyway, don’t have a corporate mandate to be entertainment for little kids. That’s for all the cartoon networks and so on. Graeme has further commentary.

Rubble 03 Kibbles n Bits: EC reconsidered, kids ignored and youre a bad stalker, Charlie Brown

§ Everyone has been talking about Gary Groth’s essay on EC comics because Groth is a great critic who doesn’t do it nearly enough.

The artists toiling in comics who cared about such matters were few and far between and usually at the level of craft, not art. The few artists who did have a sophisticated grasp of the concept, or the integrity to implement their beliefs, toiled in obscurity (such as Barks or Stanley) or were marginalized (like Kurtzman and Krigstein). There was no place for them. (The cultural context of newspaper strips was entirely different, but the cartoonists in that area still thought of themselves as something less than artists — as newspapermen, cranking out dandy entertainments to build readership — of which Caniff was probably the nonpareil practitioner and proponent. Although George Herriman thrived in this context, thanks to the patronage of Hearst, the absence of a genuine aesthetic context had its drawbacks — just as our more self-conscious age of artistes has its own set of drawbacks.)


Groth’s essay is a rebuttal of sorts to Chris Mautner’s revisionist take on EC Comics, which Fantagraphics, Groth’s publishing company, is reprinting. This is kind of a generational debate thing. To comics scholars over a certain age, EC Comics—and two or three from a list consisting of Barks, Stanley and Eisner— were the only expression of comic books as more than just pulp potboilers for the entire pre-Underground era. To folks after a certain age, EC comics are mostly very beautifully drawn, better written pulp potboilers. (Tom Spurgeon touches on this dichotomy here.) I guess it’s possible to have a third view—Kurtzman and Krigstein were trying for more, but most of the ECs were just ludicrously good fun. One era’s pulp potboiler is another’s native culture. Anyway, to generations bottle-fed on Clowes/Hernandez formula, ECs aren’t too revelatory but they sure knew how to draw.

If anything, EC—and Barks, Stanley and Eisner—stand as proof that no matter how menial the conditions cartoonsits are forced to live in, the will to make better art was always there. Comics win.

§ Anyone who was following the story of how Marvel sold original art to a Winnipeg art gallery in 1973 will want to read Joe Krolik’s comment here.

§ Former Charlie Brown voiceover actor apprehended on the way to Mexico after stalking the plastic surgeon who performed a boob job on his now-estranged girlfriend. Would this have been as funny if he had voiced a Thundercat?

Comments

  1. I have to dive in that awesome GC4K roundtable later, but I tend to agree with Heidi that it’s not necessarily any publisher’s obligation to publish comics for kids. I think Mike Pawuk is making more of an economic argument, though — he’s saying the audience is there and he wants to spend his library’s money, if only DC and Marvel would give him something to buy. This is actually something we’re planning to address at ComicsPRO during the Papercutz session. (Not the superhero comics for kids thing, but the economic incentive to meet audience demand thing.)

    I’d also sound a note of caution on the “give up on comics for kids in the DM” line of thought. It’s tempting to think that way since you’re 100% right about the bookstore channel being better for kids’ comics, but there are more than a few DM stores with active kids’ sections and serve family-focused communities. When they’re well-promoted, we can sell more copies of a kids’ graphic novel in a single comic book store than any regular bookstore.

  2. george says:

    Re EC: I remember an early ’80s interview where Frank Miller criticized EC for excessive wordiness: the captions with almost every panel, and so on. He likened them to “a movie with a narrator who never shut up.”

    Miller may not have known then (and I didn’t, either) how much EC was borrowing from radio dramas of the time, and from the era’s movies, which often had voice-over narration.

    A lot of the EC stories are fairly predictable now (if you read a lot of them, you begin to recognize the formulas), but compared to other comic books of the time, they were superb. Especially the art.

  3. george says:

    Just read Groth’s article. Excellent. I’m glad he mentioned that Kurtzman’s eye for talent wasn’t flawless: he wasn’t impressed with Alex Toth, Gene Colan or Russ Heath. Or Joe Kubert, who (like Colan) only had one story published by EC. And Colan claimed in an interview that Kurtzman was personally insulting to him — called him a shmuck, IIRC. Shows that even a genius can have his unattractive side.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] by Eddie Campbell. The piece spins off of the current discussion on the place of EC comics which I mentioned the other day. Campbell’s response is specifically to Ng Suat Tong’s declaration that EC comics were [...]

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