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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

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...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

THE SUBJECTIVITY WAS ROSY

I stumbled across Dirk Deppey's current blog, which I mentioned before in two posts, here and here. He had supplied a link to one of my old essays in which I argued with him, and I thought that my response-essays would probably be the last I'd write about him.

Then I see that he's got a quote from me in his current portal:

"Like most Journalistas, Dirk Deppey is spiritual kin to Fredric Wertham."

I don't have anything new to say about either the original context of my remark or about the wry, jokey context in which Deppey presents it. So instead I'll touch on something that interests me more: the subjectivity of taste.

I've occasionally discussed my belief that the decade of the 1970s, more or less equivalent to the so-called "Bronze Age of Comics," was a crucial creative time for mainstream American comics. Deppey, in a 2007 essay, found the decade more than a little wanting:

And then there were all the old Marvels of my childhood. At last, I could read all the good stuff that I'd heard people praise, but that I'd never had a chance to see!
Actually reading them disabused me of any notion that these were good comics. Jim Starlin's stuff approached "vaguely interesting," once or twice, but beyond that? Crap. Killraven? Crap. Marvel's horror line? Crap. The early Conan and Red Sonja comics had nice art, but were all written in that stilted voice that Stan Lee had used for Thor comics. ("Zounds!") Even those old X-Men comics quickly lost their luster once I could no longer read them with a nine-year-old's eyes. Hell, the first half of Frank Miller's run on Daredevil was nowhere near as cool as I remembered it.


Obviously, I don't care about his opinions any more than Deppey would care about mine. What I care about is the question as to what individual taste means in a social context.

I scraped at the iceberg of an "intersubjectivity solution" here and here, where in essence I was giving one of Tom Spurgeon's broadsides more attention than it really merited. Deppey's above comment also doesn't really amount to much in analytical terms, but as I said in the intersubjectivity essays, both my opinion that Marvel's KILLRAVEN was good and Deppey's ppinion that it was "crap" are right insofar as they capture whatever expectations either of us has for quality fiction. I summed up the essentially non-rational nature of taste in KIRBY'S CHOICE PT. 2:

Every expression of personal taste, I suggest, is informed by what I will now dub "proto-propositions."  In attempting to justify my liking of FANTASTIC FOUR over CHALLENGERS, my mind might initially formulate the proto-proposition, "I like The FANTASTIC FOUR better than CHALLENGERS for the emotions in FF."  With conscious thought I can expand this statement into a full-fledged proposition, one phrased so as to show how the FANTASTIC FOUR characters show many dimensions while those of the CHALLENGERS do not, complete with examples and counter-examples to support my propositional logic.  Equally valid is the proto-proposition of a fan who might not like superheroes of any kind: "I like CAPTAIN MARVEL better than HUMAN TORCH because the first one shows superheroes as silly"...  But no matter how good or bad the formal proposition, it remains rooted in a "proto-proposition" that expresses whatever validates the individual subject...

So, as I'm sure I've said a few other times, it's idiotic to debate tastes; all one can only debate the fully logical propositions one uses to defend one's tastes. Deppey chooses to defend his 2007 tastes by the usual elitist attempt to run down the tastes of others, in this case by claiming that anyone who liked the works must have read nothing but comic books.

I suspect that what protected me from 1970s Marvel worship despite having read a bunch of them as a kid was the fact that I read too much prose at the time to ever consider such comics as the be-all and end-all of storytelling. I wasn't exactly reading Proust as a child, but even 1970s YA novels like O.T. Nelson's The Girl Who Owned a City had a depth and grounding to it that was absent at Marvel — or DC, or Charlton, or anything else that published for the spinner racks during the years that Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were president.

Since I know the kinds of things I was reading around the time I was also reading 1970s comics, I think it far from likely that my liking for Bronze Age comics was a consequence of considering them "the be-all and end-all of storytelling." There may well be some extreme comics-fans who would never read anything but funnybooks. But then, where are the statistics to prove that they were typical of the fandom of the period? I noted in KIRBY'S CHOICE PT. 2 that 'even *intersubjective* agreements are significant only to the degree one finds their statistical dominance important.'

Without any such statistics, Deppey's assertion by itself is just another proto-proposition with nothing to back it up-- and one which validates the individual subject, Dirk Deppey, as a Person of Taste as against the Undiscriminating Rabble.

A final note: I wouldn't mind arguing on some more current Deppey topic if he cared to write something more current. However, an awful lot of space on the site is devoted to the films of Pedro Almodovar, and I can't very well argue about those-- given that they are such unremitting crap.

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