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2019.06.25

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Good to have you back, gentlemen.
I think I've only ever seen Mike Diana's work in Zero Zero and maybe a few other anthologies. It struck me as being in the line of Mark Beyer but less controlled and thoughtful.
I have to say -- and this might mark me off as an old codger -- I don't really buy the argument of social harm just because this stuff is so incredibly marginal. I mean the only people likely to encounter it are people who were already into zines and the special world, so people who already encountered, say, S. Clay Wilson or Johnny Ryan. That's a very special subset of comics and not one that has any really power or prominence. And the alienation effect of the work cuts against any reader identify with it or seeing it as model to act on.
I honestly think the distortion of female bodies and pervasive celebration of vigilantism (in comics and in movies) does far, far more harm.

Should add to the above that none of this is meant as a defense of Diana as an artist (as against Diana's legal right to draw as he pleases).
From my (admittedly limited) exposure to his work, Diana seems like a minor figure in what is a highly esoteric sub-genre of comics.

I don't think that it marks you off as an old codger, and don't know that I disagree with anything you're saying. What I was trying to get at--and I don't think I did a very good job of it at all--is that conversations about potential harm have been poorly served by comics in general, and have almost constantly leaned towards extremist arguments on either side, driven by personal animosity and hurt feelings. There's no real nuanced or complicated discussion--it's just a Speigelman-esque "the squares can't handle our bawdy-ness" coupled with a erudite faux intellectual regurgitation of the Bill of Rights laced around empty, consumerist-worship claims of "the value of art" versus pearl clutching Simpsons characters and "millennial" cliches with zero interest in any history that doesn't connect directly to their own lives and narrow cast peer groups. I think the truth of potential harm and impact from the work of Crumb, Wilson, Ryan, Diana--it's not something that is well discussed when the groups discussing it so often despise one another as completely as they often to, and are choosing to have those discussions in a medium that only suits a certain type of shitty personality, shitty argument tactics, and lowest-common-denominator audience.

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