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In essays on the subject of centricity, I've most often used the image of a geometrical circle, which, as I explained here,  owes someth...

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I'll bet you didn't know that the Simpsons' famed "Comic Book Guy" had an evil twin brother. True, in ordinary society he doesn't go by the name I give him above, but in truth, the genesis of such an oppositional pair was every bit as cosmically unavoidable as the pairings of Isis and Osiris, Chaos and Order, and Zan and Jayna.

It's because "Artcomic Book Guy" goes by the civilian name "Douglas Wolk" that I hope to warn off as many people as possible from reading what looks like a masterpiece of sententious pronouncements: his READING COMICS.

I must admit that though I started out with vaguely-positive hopes for the book, I gave up after the first hundred pages, in the middle of chapter called "Superheroes and Supereaders." Thus this is not a review of anything but those first hundred pages.

Despite Wolk's tossoff references to Kant and Barthes (represented by the phrase "pleasure of the text"), the early chapters of RC resemble nothing so much as an idle comic shop employee (which Wolk was at one point) sitting around regaling you with all sorts of observations that strive for pith and end up as something that merely sounds like it.

I suspected I was in trouble when he started talking about how superheroes were successful because they were "metaphors," though the way Wolk employs the term, he ought to have said "allegories," which Frye neatly defined as "forced metaphors." None of these psuedo-intellectual pronouncements about Superman or Batman or Hawkman rise above the cracker-barrel level of philosophy.

I quit reading on page 101 upon encountering of Sergeant Wolk's howling sentence-constructions:

"It [an adult's getting a thrill from nostalgic comics] also suggests that you're sublimating 'adult' impulses into something that's not exactly maturely sexual."

And then:

"Within a few months, [Stan] Lee had changed his tune a little-- or rather, developed his public persona: a smiling huckster forever talking up his goods' similarity to Classic Literature, which meant Shakespeare and not a lot else."

With even a little work a competent journeyman could make some real, non-glib argument out of these propositions, but Wolk couldn't be bothered. He's ARTCOMIC BOOK GUY, flying to the rescue of artcomics everywhere, so there's no need for arguments of more than one side.

Take a hint, Artcomic Book Guy. If you're trying to speak on behalf of sophisticated comics--

Try saying something that at least SOUNDS sophisticated.

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