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Author Topic: The Amazing Disappearance of Michael Chabon  (Read 2184 times)
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Permanus
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« on: November 19, 2006, 10:08:00 AM »

I've been meaning to recommend Michael Chabon's website (http://www.michaelchabon.com/) for a while now, and wouldn't you just know it, on visiting it this morning I find an announcement to the effect that he has grown bored with it following a bout with RSI and is taking it down. It's a great shame: I still hadn't gotten around to reading all the texts on it, many of which were comic-related (there was a description of his script proposal for the Fantastic Four film, which sounded a lot better than the ghastly mess that was ultimately produced, as well as a declaration of his love for Big Barda). Now I'm unlikely ever to see them again.

By bizarre coincidence, I understand he is to appear in an episode of the Simpsons, to be aired in the United States tonight, in which he and Jonathan Franzen are killed. My god, the man's disappearing in front of our very eyes.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2006, 04:01:10 PM »

I find Michael Chabon to have an interesting perspective, and like people with an interesting perspective, you agree with them sometimes but disagree with them at other times. But even when you disagree with them, you don't hold it against them because their views at least, are consistent.

KAVALIER AND CLAY was interesting because it talked about a very interesting idea, the essential Jewish character of comics in their beginning.

I had an opportunity, at the Miami Book Fair, to go to a panel with Will Eisner about this very topic a few months before he died in 2005 (this was around the time FAGIN THE JEW came out). Eisner said that part of the reason that comics were very much a Jewish occupation is because many Jews could not get jobs on Madison Avenue as commercial illustrators, so they made do.

On the other hand...I have to disagree with Chabon with his belief that it is in the original creators that we see something in its true form and that under later creators and with time things became a bastardization of the idea. The fact is, some things are a product not of a single visionary, but of a committee. Superman is the best example of this.

FANTASTIC FOUR was never as good under anybody else as it was under Lee and Kirby (this includes Byrne and Waid's good but catastrophically overrated runs), PLASTIC MAN, and I'd say even Wonder Woman (though I love Pasko) were never as good as they were under their original creator. That does not necessarily mean that ALL comics that outlast their creator are like this.
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Permanus
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« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2006, 12:18:08 AM »

On the other hand...I have to disagree with Chabon with his belief that it is in the original creators that we see something in its true form and that under later creators and with time things became a bastardization of the idea. The fact is, some things are a product not of a single visionary, but of a committee. Superman is the best example of this.

There is a flavour of this in Kavalier and Clay, but I don't think it's an essential tenet of the novel; in fact, the story has them getting pretty sick of the character fairly early on and trying to move to other things. The Escapist is just a means to better things, and indeed, hence his name and function.

I envy you very much for having spoken to Will Eisner, and am interested in the Madison Avenue thing; certainly there is a connection. I'd like to point out that in Europe, comics traditionally flourished in Belgium, indeed the entire Netherlands, a hotbed of Protestantism (to coin a very odd phrase); I don't doubt that this had to do with the rich tradition of engraving that the region is famous for.
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« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2006, 06:16:16 PM »

Quote from: Permanus
There is a flavour of this in Kavalier and Clay, but I don't think it's an essential tenet of the novel; in fact, the story has them getting pretty sick of the character fairly early on and trying to move to other things. The Escapist is just a means to better things, and indeed, hence his name and function.

I'm somewhat torn on the character of the Escapist. On the one hand, he was a character that was wonderfully thought through. He was, like many early heroes, a character that was somewhere between a pulp fiction hero and what would become the modern comics hero. On the other hand, I totally cannot accept the premise that the Escapist could become a colossal phenomenon that defines the superhero genre. A guy named "the Escapist" being the world's top hero? C'mon!

Quote from: Permanus
I envy you very much for having spoken to Will Eisner, and am interested in the Madison Avenue thing; certainly there is a connection. I'd like to point out that in Europe, comics traditionally flourished in Belgium, indeed the entire Netherlands, a hotbed of Protestantism (to coin a very odd phrase); I don't doubt that this had to do with the rich tradition of engraving that the region is famous for.

Will Eisner was as wonderful and lucid and Guru-ish and larger than life as you think he is.

I swear I am telling the truth: I asked the question about the influence of Judaism on the development of comics's early days. Eisner said "I was hoping someone today would ask me that question." And then he went on about it for a bit. Later on, when I went to the signing table for him to sign some stuff, he said to me, "You know, that was a really intelligent question."

I didn't need to drive back home - because after hearing something like that from Will Eisner...I could FLY.

The audience at the Book Fair that day was very interesting - you've got to remember the Miami Book Fair is a place where people like Amy Tan or Frank McCord or Barack Obama go to sell their books. There was only one other fanboy in there, and barely more than 15 people, myself included. Most of them were elderly Jewish ladies. It was REALLY funny, because when the Q&A portion started, one Jewish lady raised her hand.

"So...you do cartoons?" She asked in a thick accent. "You ever do anybody famous?"

Quote from: Permanus
I'd like to point out that in Europe, comics traditionally flourished in Belgium, indeed the entire Netherlands, a hotbed of Protestantism (to coin a very odd phrase); I don't doubt that this had to do with the rich tradition of engraving that the region is famous for.

I doubt there's a sociological, Max Weber-esque connection between "the Protestant Ethic" and where comics come from globally, if that's what you mean. For one thing, tons of great comics artists come from mostly Catholic countries. Carlos Pacheco and that dude that did CELESTIAL QUEST are from Spain. Pablo Marcos is from Argentina. I don't know offhand where Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is from, but I'm betting it isn't Protestant Sweden. And aren't there like, a million guys from the Phillippines working now?

Oh, and speaking of comics in Europe...even though it's not commonly known today, did you know there was one point between around 1935-1941 when Belgrade in Serbia was one of the comics capitals of Europe?

There were a bunch of Serbian comic strips in that period that really set the world on fire, notably "Zigomar," about a Phantom-like character with a "Z" ring.

Nothing further happened in Serbia after 1941 for an absolutely hideous reason: whether it was because ALL of these Serbian artists were taken to concentration camps during the Nazi occupation, or died fighting during the war.

In the industrialized west this is absolutely inconceivable and really hard to wrap your head around: losing an entire generation of young men. Many American comics creators were in World War II, yes, but most of them came home.
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"Wait, folks...in a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
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« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2006, 09:29:55 AM »

Yeah, I've heard about the Serbian comic books, but I've only seen a few examples of them online - the artwork, at least, looked stunning. As you say, Serbia's wartime experience is horrifying, and its ramifications are still felt today.

To be honest, I can't remember the point I was trying to make about Belgian comics; suffice it to say that some of the most popular comics in Europe (Tintin, Blake & Mortimer, Lucky Luke - yes, I know they're barely heard of in the USA) come from Belgium, where the ligne claire tradition comes from. I'm sure this is related to the area's rich engraving tradition, but why I was trying to relate this to Protestantism now is beyond me. I asked Robert Crumb, a great admirer of the engraving of the Netherlands, if he thought the two phenomena were related at a book do last year, and rather disappointingly, he answered that he didn't know because he didn't really read European comics.
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Between the revolution and the firing-squad, there is always time for a glass of champagne.
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