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25 March 2011

Is there a proper name for the "it doesn't matter if it's good as long as you made it" camp of comics creation?

A month or so ago I moved an additional end table into my living room.  The end table was in my parent's living room when I was growing up. It is at least 30 years old.  I has a nice big space for magazines and books.  The four books inside it right include a huge hardback Atlas, McSweeney's 13, The Best American Comics 2007, Ulysses and a Disney Princesses book. 

A week or so ago cartoonist Ben Towle posted this little article about a comic he made when he was a child.

At about 5:30 today I was relaxing in my living room with my wife and daughter after having finished dinner.  I had a turkey burger from Hardees.  Can you believe Hardees has a turkey burger?  I already knew the ending to the episode of Dora that my daughter was watching.  I grabbed Best American Comics 2007 from the end table and started flipping through.  Not reading.  Just looking at the art.  I'm working on several comics right now and I like flipping through anthologies.  Not to steal or to lift but just to get me thinking.  The great thing about anthologies is that you can see so many different ways of looking at the world right there in one book.  The only two comics that I stopped to really study at this time were by CF and Paper Rad.  No matter how many times I read those comics I can't make any sense of them.  Well no more sense than The Beatles Yellow Submarine movie made at least.  But, they hold my attention for sure.  They make me think.  Make me ask questions.  They challenge me.
By the way.  Paper Rad's comics look like this...
At 6:30 this evening I watched the new episode of Batman The Brave and the Bold.  It's my favorite TV show.  The episode was about Superman and it was the best Superman cartoon I've ever seen.  It was everything you need to know about Silver Age Superman in 22 minutes.  During the show there was a commercial for an upcoming TV show on Cartoon Network that looks like this...
I had no idea that there was a Paper Rad cartoon and the last place I would have ever expected to see it is on Cartoon Network.  My jaw was on the floor.  You may as well have driven up my driveway in a Hostess Fruit pie with Ghadafi singing that Friday song.

At about 6:40 I logged in to twitter so that I could tweet about how awesome the Batman episode was.  (You should be following me on twitter already.)  Don't worry, my wife already informed me that I am a dork.  On twitter, I saw that Adam Casey had posted this question, "Is there a proper name for the 'it doesn't matter if it's good as long as you made it' camp of comics?"

Maybe it was the Red Bull I drank after diner but, my head started spinning.

"Is there a proper name for the 'it doesn't matter if it's good as long as you made it' camp of comics?"

"Is there..."  Well, I could answer yes or no.  How about maybe?

There are several questions in there. Or at least it raises several other questions.  The 'it doesn't matter if it's good as long as you made it' camp of comics certainly exists so in theory anything that exists can have a name so, yeah, there could be a proper name.  But what is it?

Comics comics comics comics comics freaking comics.  Back in the days of The Comics Journal's message board there would be endless arguments/discussions on the merits of comics that are created just for the sake of creating comics.  I'm all for 'em.  Go make comics.  Go crazy!

But do they have merit?  Are they art?  What the expletive is art anyway?

I have no idea.

But here is what I want art to be.  Here is what I look for in art...

Art is a creation that creates a reaction in it's audience.  Can it make you think something you were not thinking?  Can it make you feel something you were not feeling?  Can it make you remember something you did not know you forgot?  Can it even on the most atomic, invisible, intangible level make you feel alive?
That's art to me.

So, is making comics just to make comics making art?  Is practice art? Is craft for the sake of craft art?


Is it great art?  Not often?

I love football.  Love to watch the NFL.  I have absolutely no interest in watching a football team practice.  Or even pre-season games. Football for the sake of football.  That's not football to me.  It's practice.

So again, comics for the sake of comics.  Is it art?  No.  Or, well, maybe sometimes.

Let's go back to Ben Towle's comic he made when he was a little kid.  Go look at it.  It's charming right?  It's funny too.  It's certainly comics.  Is it good comics?  Well, it's not Charles Schulz. It's not Moebius.  It's not Jack Kirby.  But it's comics.  Is it art?  I bet Ben would say that it is not art.

I think it's art.  I think it's good art.  I look at that and it takes me to a forgotten place.  I think of the drawings I made when I was a kid.  I can feel the hardwood floor.  I can smell the room.  I can feel the crayons.  I can smell the newspapers I was imitating.  It makes me laugh and feel alive.  It's art.

But the creator does not matter.  It does not matter that I know Ben.  It does not matter that I know how great the comics he makes now as an adult are. It does not matter that I saw it on his blog.  I could have found it in a yard sale box.  What matters to me is the connection between the work itself and the audience.  So, relate that idea back to the question of comics made for the sake of making comics I and I still don't have an answer because I don't care why it was made.  I don't care about the creator.  I care about the point of impact between comic and audience. 

I hear artists talk about little projects they do as "just being an exercise" to them.  Little things they do for practice.  I do it myself.  They probably do not think of that stuff as art.  But, wrap it up as a little minicomic and take it to a show.  Maybe it's some kid's first minicomic.  Maybe it blows their mind and inspires them to make comics.  Is it art then?  I think it just became art.

So forget about the creator.  We just have the comic and it's audience. 

"Is there a proper name for the 'it doesn't matter if it's good as long as you made it' camp of comics?"

What do you call a creation that is not dependent on it's own quality but only on the perception of whoever ends up seeing it?

What do you call a thing that only matters if someone notices it?

I have no idea.  I'm open to suggestions.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith

Editors note:  Talking about these things is very dangerous.  While writing this blog post I crashed a laptop and a PC.  Immediately after posting my initial draft, my daughter woke up crying then threw up.  You have been warned. 
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