MonthNovember 2012

Can Art Be Comics?

No, I’m not asking whether comics can be art — that’s a tired question that I think has been decisively answered in the affirmative. But if we look at Scott McCloud’s basic definition of comics, “juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence.” Does that include, for example, gallery exhibitions?

After all, what is an art gallery but a collection of juxtaposed pictorial images? Perhaps not all are in deliberate sequence, but at least some consideration is paid to how the pieces are arranged. And of course that’s to say nothing of paintings or other visual arts meant to be displayed in a sequence, such as the sequence of images in The Scrovegni Chapel and Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (to name the first two examples that spring to mind).

McCloud would seem to include art in his definition. He mentions hieroglyphs and Max Ernst’s “A Week of Kindness” in Understanding Comics. But overall fine art doesn’t get much attention. McCloud seems to imply throughout that comics is about storytelling, but his definition doesn’t include narrative, and surely there are examples of non-narrative comics.

Other definitions, such as David Kunzle’s would seem to exclude art (as well as hyroglyphs) like by definition. According to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, Kunzle’s prerequisites for a comic strip include the following: “The medium in which the strip appears and for which it is originally intended must be reproductive in nature; that is, in printed form, a mass medium.”

That definition would toss gallery art right out then, since even though it may be reproduced on posters or in coffee table books, those aren’t the media for which it was originally intended.

But defining a medium by the intent of its creators is slippery, especially in an age in which artists may expect their work to be printed in some form. And what to do about the existence of art exhibitions that are deliberately created to be comics, such as Daniel Duford‘s Sleeping Giant (pictured below)?

daniel duford sleeping giant

It’s not a terribly important question — I’m not interested in seeking “legitimacy” from the arts establishment anyway. But I think it’s an interesting one.

DC Cancels Hellblazer, Launches Constantine

I’m not sure what this means for the Vertigo line in general:

DC Comics announced today that the imprint’s longest running monthly “Hellblazer” series will release its final installment with February’s issue #300. But from the ashes of the popular occult detective’s Silk Cuts cigarettes rises a new series, this one based in the New 52 DC Universe.

Under the guidance of New York Times bestselling author and comic book scribe Robert Venditti, “Constantine” will debut in the wake of his mature audience counterpart’s departure. Joined by artist Renato Guides, Venditti’s stories will take the current Justice League Dark charter member on a trip through the DCU’s magical side roads, promising fans of the character that this Constantine will retain his edge.

Full Story: Comic Book Resources: DC CANCELS “HELLBLAZER,” ANNOUNCES NEW 52-BASED “CONSTANTINE” ONGOING

The Fifth Problem: Math & Anti-Semitism In The Soviet Union

For all intents and purposes, “the fifth line” was a code for asking whether one was Jewish or not. (People of other nationalities, like Tatars and Armenians, against whom there were prejudices and persecution—though not nearly on the same scale as against the Jews—were also picked up this way.) My “fifth line” said that I was Russian, but my last name—which was my father’s last name, and clearly sounded Jewish—gave me away.

Even if I hadn’t been using my father’s last name, my Jewish origin would have been picked up by the admissions committee anyway, because the application form specifically asked for the full names of both parents. Those full names included patronymic names, that is, the first names of the grandparents of the applicant. My father’s patronymic name was Joseph, clearly Jewish, so this was another way to find out (if his last name weren’t so obviously Jewish). The system was set up in such a way that it would pick up those who were at least one-quarter Jewish and everyone of those was classified as a Jew, much like it was in Nazi Germany.

Having established that by this definition I was a Jew, the woman said:

“Do you know that Jews are not accepted to Moscow University?”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is that you shouldn’t even bother to apply. Don’t waste your time. They won’t let you in.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“Is that why you sent me this letter?”

“Yes. I’m just trying to help you.”

Full Story: The New Criterion: The Fifth Problem: Math & Anti-Semitism In The Soviet Union

Literary Fiction As Genre

Edan Lepucki posits that literary fiction is indeed genre fiction and lists its attributes:

1. The Long Title
2. Adultery
3. Scene, Exposition, Scene, Flashback, Scene, Cue Epiphany
4. A Dog barks, someone eats a watermelon, a car drives away.
5. The plate drops!

Full Story: Literary Fiction is a Genre: A List

(via Coe)

Warren Ellis Interview On The New Aesthetic And More

Adrianne Jeffries interviews Warren Ellis:

I think the New Aesthetic is a series of observations. I think most of the trouble people have had with it comes from a misunderstanding of it as a movement.

The New Aesthetic is an act of noticing, as much as anything: we are already in a machine-vision world, we are already in a world where the digital is erupting into the physical, and we just didn’t really notice it, in the entire breadth of its creeping wave, until now. From my perspective, James Bridle collected all this shit up from public sources, put it all in one place for the first time and said “oh, shit.” Some people had real issues, it seems, with what James did next, which was to say, “Let’s start talking about what this means.”

It could become an artistic movement. But, to me, the New Aesthetic is about the sighting of the New Normal.

The Verge: Warren Ellis on futurism, the New Aesthetic, and why social media isn’t killing our children

I thought this line was interesting as well: “I think blogging is a muscle that most people wear out.”

New From Alan Moore: Jimmy’s End Trailer, Occupation Records Single

Above: The trailer for Jimmy’s End, a forthcoming 30 minute film written by Alan Moore and directed by Mitch Jenkins. According to Lex Records, it is the second part of a series of short films collectively called “The Show.” The first, titled Act of Faith, is a prequel to Jimmy’s End and will be released on jimmysend.com on November 19. Jimmy’s End itself will be released on November 25.

Moore has also recorded a single titled “The Decline of English Murder” for Occupation Records. You can find out more, and listen to the song, at The Guardian. You can download it from the Occupation Records shop for £1.00.

Moore had previously recorded “March of the Sinister Ducks” and other works with David J of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets (the band, not the comic). Speaking of whom, Moore once wrote a letter to Fortean Times about one of his performances with J, which has been reproduced online.

Want To Unionize Developers? Focus On Workplace Democracy

I wrote at TechCrunch:

Despite the efforts of many different organizers over the years software developers have resisted unionization. The relatively high pay and good working conditions of developers, the stereotype of geeks as loners and the general decline of unions in the U.S. are all commonly cited reasons. But maybe unions are failing in tech because they’re not addressing the real issue: giving developers more control over their work life.

Developers want autonomy. They don’t want to be jerked around by stupid managers who impose unrealistic deadlines, make impossible promises to clients and just generally disrespect their employees. Historically developers have had two options for dealing with bad management: find a better job or found a startup. But worker self-management would offer a third options — give the developers control over their own work.

Companies like Valve prove that self-management can work in the software industry. Unionization could potentially provide a path to that sort of workplace structure, if organizers can move up Maslow’s pyramid a bit.

Full Story: TechCrunch: Want To Unionize Developers? Focus On Workplace Democracy

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