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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Part 1 concerned itself principally with defining "socialization," so it's only fair that Part 2 should be concerned with the "network" part of the title.  This makes up all those people determined to "curse the darkness," usually in the name of some better cosmos that could be achieved if only people did what was required of them.

Since I've stated here that I am a liberal, it annoys me a bit that there aren't any conservative comics-critics worth assailing online.   I suppose that if I wanted to go after one of comics' few Big Guns in that department, I could sift through old CEREBUS issues and refute him point for point.  But there's no satisfaction in that, since I feel sure Dave Sim would never read them.

Therefore, if there's a "conservative network" in the comics-blogosphere, I haven't found it.  All one usually comes across are isolated remarks from a Jim Steranko or a Bill Willingham.

Thus my only regular source of "darkness-cursers" has been the "ultraliberal network," going by my definition of ultraliberals as I defined them in STINKING ULTRALIBERALLY.  Some of these bring a fair degree of intelligence to the process of justifying their animadversions, be they Heidi McDonald or Gary Groth.  But most of the ones I've assailed here are strikingly awful in terms of logical argument.  I find this a source of distress.  It's expected that conservatives (or their extreme kinded, the ultraconservatives) should justify their socialization projects in terms of eternal verities like God and Country.  But real liberals are better known for justifying their arguments in terms of pure logic.  Even though it's a given that ultraliberals are just as married to "pat formulas" as their ultraconservative analogues, one would think that the ultraliberal network would show greater influence from their liberal kin.

I spent a fair amount of time tearing down the faulty logic of Kelly Thompson, but at least she did attempt to establish a methodology to prove her conclusions. But those conclusions are predetermined by her unpalatable theme statement:

These [objectivized] portrayals shape how we view and value women and contributes to everything from sexism in the work place to eating disorders.
Thompson takes the standard ultraliberal position that, if you think a given depiction marginalizes your ingroup or someone else's, it should be terminated.  Thompson, as I noted here, projects the appearance of tolerating other's points of view.  But at no time does she conceive an artistic cosmos in which sexualization of varying degrees might have some purpose.  Her ideal "socialization network" doesn't really allow for dissenting views.

The same principle applies to Chicken Colin, whose Sequart hatchet-job against me was significantly entitled, "Not the Way WE Play the Game."  In other words, in Chicken Colin's demented consciousness, there's a "we" out there that can automatically disinclude anyone who disagrees with him.  It's obvious from his gasbag assault on my work that he had no compunctions against lying in that instance.  But are there other such instances?

In a 5-29-12 essay, Chicken Colin decides that the best way to convince fans to appreciate a new work-- Martin Eden's SPANDEX: FAST AND HARD-- is to denigrate the bulk of comics fandom. 

If 2012′s sales figures are to be trusted, today’s hardcore super-hero fans are predominantly reactionary creatures. They don’t like change and they’re not particularly interested in variety either. It’s certainly not hard to imagine that the mass of the Big Two’s readership would dismiss Martin Eden’s Spandex: Fast And Hard out of hand even if they hadn’t heard that it featured the sub-genre’s first entirely LGBT super-team. For in the simplest of terms, Eden’s art just doesn’t seem to be taking things seriously enough. In fact, he doesn’t even seem to care that those who aren’t already deeply committed to the super-book might notice how fundamentally absurd the sub-genre’s conventions are. Nothing marks out the rank-breaking intruder into the costumed crimefighter’s shelf-space so much as a creator whose work is characterised by a rejection of the slightest trace of faux-realism, teeth-grinding angst, and machismo.

I've no interest in whether the Eden work is good or bad; it's possible that it's a great book even though a fool likes it.  What I quarrel with is this sneaky attempt to graft a political label on an entire group without actually having the courage to assail that group for their politics.

Can one attempt to use "reactionary" without the connotation of politics?  So far every online definition I've located seems to find that connotation implicit.  From Free Dictionary:

 "Characterized by reaction, especially opposition to progress or liberalism; extremely conservative."

One presumes that had Chicken Colin really wanted to divorce the word from political nuance-- especially when thumbing the tub for "the sub-genre’s first entirely LGBT super-team."-- then he would have done so from the beginning.  Thus when he says that the "hardcore super-hero fans" are opposed to change and uninterested in variety, it's tantamount to indicting comics-fandom for not being passionate about the sort of change Chicken Colin endorses.  This apparently includes not just stumping for LGBT rights in the real world, but also putting aside whatever story-tropes Chicken Colin doesn't happen to like: "faux-realism, teeth-grinding angst, and machismo."

Is Chicken Colin privileged not to like these story-tropes in terms of taste?  Yes, absolutely.  But what marks him as a weak-minded ultraliberal is that he can't stand the thought that others might not value his preferences, whether narrative or political.  So the greater part of superhero fandom must be condemned as "reactionary" with the implication that their politics are associated with their attachment to such outmoded concepts as "machismo." 

Obviously, this is a comic which is intended to respect the very same genre that it’s also radicalising, and yet the style in which it’s presented threatens to alienate the knee-jerk fan-boys every bit as much as its content will upset the more homophobic of readers. After all, doesn’t everybody know that Ninjas should be dressed in scarlet or black, but never ever pink? What would people think if ninjas wore pink?
In other words, there's nothing worthy about the superhero genre unless it's "radicalized" through the proper sociopolitical lens.  Talk about a "knee-jerk" reaction-- which in itself marks Chicken Colin as simply another kind of reactionary from an ultraliberal perspective.  No, there's nothing inventive about making ninjas scarlet or black  But by the same token, making them pink doesn't earn one any particular merit either.  Inversion is the easier and simplest tool in the funnyman's repertoire.

It's clear from his remarks that Chicken Colin understands nothing about showing "respect" for a given genre.  If he had it, he'd be able to see value in even explicitly conservative comic books, as long as there was something meritorious in the visions they brought forth.

It's unavoidable that human beings, wherever they live, must be subjected to socialization processes.  To some extent, what we choose to accept or to reject defines who we as thinking and willing agents are.

But art doesn't deserve to be socialized.  Exigent circumstances may require that it be advance-censored, like Jack Jackson deciding to tone down some of the nudity in his comics in order to get the story circulated to juvenile readers.

That's not the same, however, as the Sneetchlike stratagem of condemning one kind of art, one kind of audience, over the type favored by one's own dull-witted "network."

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