Female comics creators face challenges like… pigeonholing, harassment and an old boys’ network which sees that the same folks get hired again and again to draw the same things again and again.
Pretentious is pretty much Art Spiegelman’s M.O. His work is about giving comic books some high culture airs. And at a time when most intellectuals are embarrassed to admit to even a vestige of old-fashioned hardnosed cultural discernment, what Spiegelman wants, Spiegelman gets. When he did a simplistic black-on-black cover for The New Yorker in the wake of 9/11, he was saluted as if this were the second coming of Kazimir Malevich and Ad Reinhardt. And when he turned his father’s memories of the Holocaust into Maus, that two-volume comic book, people imagined Spiegelman had done Primo Levi one better, making tragedy hip. The very first wall text at the Jewish Museum informs you that Spiegelman “has torn down the barriers that until recently separated high culture from low.” What on earth is a legitimate museum doing promoting such a ridiculous claim? Hasn’t anybody at the Jewish Museum noticed that those barriers were shaken if not torn down more or less a century ago, by Picasso, Braque, Léger, Schwitters, Picabia, and Duchamp?
As a designer of the page — and the design of the page is key to the comic-book aesthetic – Spiegelman is asleep at the wheel.
Batman did pretty well, so I sat down with the head of DC Comics. I really wanted to do Kamandi [The Last Boy on Earth], this Jack Kirby character. I had this great pitch… and he said “You think this is gonna be for kids? Stop, stop. We don’t publish comics for kids. We publish comics for 45-year olds. If you want to do comics for kids, you can do Scooby-Doo.” And I thought, “I guess we just broke up.”
That’s one frustrating thing about the top 100: how little of it is available to the public. There is only a single volume in print sampling George Herriman’s 30-plus years of “Krazy Kat.” Cliff Sterrett’s “Polly and Her Pals” (#18), Frank King’s “Gasoline Alley” (#29), and Saul Steinberg’s The Passport (#67) are flat-out impossible to come by. A good chunk of the list can only be found in brief excerpts, or in expensive archival hardcovers, or by scouring back-issue bins. Why does America treat one of its great art forms this way? Is it an accident of birth— the way comics have mostly been printed to be thrown away? Is it that they were originally children’s entertainment, and can’t seem to shake off that reputation? Or is it just the sheer volume of garish crap that’s made “comic book” a synonym for “puerile and dumb”? How can the good stuff be plucked out and preserved?
(…) in the catalogue of Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix, the retrospective now at the Jewish Museum in New York, Robert Storr, who used to be a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, is quite cranky about curators who won’t embrace comics with sufficient enthusiasm, and predicts that “someday soon the citadels of culture will be forced to open their gates and let ‘the barbarians’ in.” I am fascinated by this insatiable hunger for institutional legitimization. If pop is so fabulous, why is there this desperate need for the museological seal of approval? Isn’t it enough to be the king of your own realm? The grandiosity of the comic book artists knows no limits.
Form follows function, as the architects say. With words and pictures, you can do just about anything.