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2014.07.18

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Um, I hate to be pedantic but one of Matt's basic statements (that Panter's work is widely taught in colleges in comparison to Frank Miller's work) is almost surely false and in fact the opposite of the truth. The two most widely taught courses dealing with comics are 1) the graphic novel and 2) the superhero. Panter isn't taught in either courses, usually. Miller is often found on graphic novel courses and is a big favorite in Superhero courses (because of Dark Knight Returns, mainly). Also, having edited three volumes on intellectual and academic writing on comics (Arguing Comics, A Comics Studies Reader, The Superhero Reader) I can state with a fair degree of certainty that superhero comics are much more likely to be written about by academics than art comics. For better or worse, there is a large, ever-burgeoning literature on superheroes, and only a few monographs on art comics.

If there is a bias in academic studies, it is not towards Gary Panter but someone like Alan Moore (and to a lesser extent Grant Morrison, the mini-Moore). Here the comparison with Miller is pertinent. Back in the 1980s, Miller and Moore were regarded as equally important. Both have done weaker or more polorizing work in recent years. Yet Moore still remains a heavy favorite for scholarship, more than Miller (and much more than Panter). I suspect the reason is that academic criticism often comes out of English departments and Moore is a far more "literary" creator (in terms of jamming his stories full of symbolism, parallelism, thematic riffs and the like) than anyone else in the field.

All of this is just a description of how things are. In an ideal world of course, Panter would be much more admired and studied than Miller or Moore.

Do you really hate to be pedantic?

oh Jesus Christ, whatever man! Everybody knows what i'm talking about. If you add art classes to the equation it's not even close. They'll teach Panter's paintings without even mentioning comics. I taught a college class on comics at UCLA - no miller, plenty of Panter. Raw is like the rosetta stone of graphic novels for those academic type assholes - wait, wasn't sin city serialized in that? oh no wait, that's right, it was jimbo. one guy gets taken seriously, one doesn't. In the three volumes of comic book writing that *I* edited ("Why Robert Crumb Eats Ball Sweat", "Shut the Fuck Up About Art Spiegelman", and "A Modest Proposal: All Canadian Cartoonists Should Be Reconstituted Into Prison Food", all available on Amazon... i hate to be self-promotional) Miller is vastly underrepresented. And THAT'S the opposite of the OPPOSITE of the truth. It's a motherfucking fact, so put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Okay, I'll admit it, I love being pedantic. In fact I have a chapter on "The Joys of Pedantry" in my forthcoming book "Art Spiegelman Rules, Frank Miller Drools."
It's true that among grown-ups Panter is taken more seriously than Miller. That's because Panter is a visionary artist and Miller is a guy who has done some decent superhero comic.

Backing up a little, I should say that I do agree with Matt's basic point that Miller is a very innovative, breakneck visual storyteller who repays attention -- and should be examined more on that ground (his stylistic experiments) than he has been. Matt's comments about Miller's style in Sin City were very illuminating. The play of black and white in those Sin City books is grounds enough to revisit them.

In terms of Miller's best work -- I agree with the consensus that Dark Knight Return is probably his best work (although in terms of story I prefer Batman Year I). And I might be dating myself here but I honestly think his original run on Daredevil and maybe the Wolverine book he did with Claremont are even more interesting, just because you can see him getting his sea-legs as artists, growing month by month, becoming more ambitious. That was what was exciting about Miller back in the 1980s.

A possible topic for a future program is the way Alan Moore has eclipsed all the other superhero creators of the 1980s, so when people talk about 1980s superhero comics all that gets discussed is Watchmen. That's not how it was at the time. I distinctly remember Miller, Moore, Chaykin (and a few others) being discussed as equals.

I think those discussions are just the nature of the superhero comics beast - only time really separates the wheat from the chaff in serious fans' eyes. Like, superhero fans nowadays mention solid workhorse guys like Esad Ribic or Frazier irving in the same category as transformative talents like Frank Quitely or (however much I myself might not care for him) JH Williams. 25-30 years from now that just won't be the case.

You're all forgetting that great Daredevil issue that Miller wrote about Matt Murdock riding a motorcycle to New Jersey to get into a bar fight all dressed in leather. That's how I remember it at least. Haven't seen it since I set it on fire.

Tim

Someone start the crowdfunding campaign for the "turbo" time-warner internet package for Seneca, please.

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