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Author Topic: Nostalgia Ain't What it Used to Be  (Read 2806 times)
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TELLE
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« on: June 25, 2007, 03:42:23 PM »

There's an excerpt from Douglas Wolk's new book about comics at Salon today.  Wolk writes about superhero comics and art comics for a variety of publishers.  The excerpt deals with fan culture and the obsession with comics past --our area of expertise here at Superman through the Ages!

Some interesting points that I generally agree with but I think Wolk undervalues both nostalgia and the artistic qualities of older comics (not to mention Robert Crumb).

Anyway, he talks about important questions: how much of contemporary mainstream/superhero comics production is predicated on a market for nostalgia and why that may be artistically dangerous.  Nostalgia is one of the key pillars of artistic decadence, in superhero comics and elsewhere.  (but is decadence always bad)



http://www.salon.com/books/feature/2007/06/23/reading_comics/

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« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2007, 05:16:43 PM »

I haven't had time to read the whole excerpt yet, but it's a very good point: there is an awful lot of resurrecting old, forgotten characters - often deservedly forgotten - in mainstream comics, or at the very least creating "Universes" ex nihilo in order to evoke old comics (there's something of that in Invincible, for instance). I don't know that it's quite as crippling as Wolk seems to be suggesting, though, and I'm not entirely sure that it's restricted to comics: you could compare it with the recent spate of films based on 1970s TV series (I'm thinking especially of The Magic Roundabout, a series people of my generation seem obsessively obsessed with).

Oddly enough, Alan Moore, who is otherwise the most important man in history, often lapses into this indulgence.
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2007, 08:04:19 AM »

I missed the Roundabout bandwagon, so to speak, but would love to get my hands on a dvd of Hattytown.

I love the exquisite nostalgia-laced references in comics from 1970 on up (but especially prevalent over the last 15 years) but also recognize this as the extremely limited form of marketing to a captive market that it is.  As Wolk notes, we feel these comics are made just for us, our special boys club that rewards a lifetime of comics reading.  And here we are in the Clubhouse discussing it!

On the other hand, Wolk suggests a less uptight way of reading so-called mainstream comics (ie, DC/Marvel style genre comics) as entertainment --the same way I watch a 2 am episode of Law and Order or the occasional ep of Dr Who.  I can still watch a classic on TCM or some arthouse dvd or a CBC documentary.  The two categories of program aren't mutually exclusive.  Maybe it's possible to read comics the same way: Dan Clowes and Brian Bendis maybe can exist in the same universe.  I wouldn't have been able to compare genre comics with genre tv favourably even a few years ago, in terms of writing (visually, they are still very different).

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« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2007, 08:46:37 PM »

Oddly enough, Alan Moore, who is otherwise the most important man in history, often lapses into this indulgence.

Alan Moore's entire career is built on it. However, there is a difference in that he has a willingness to carry the story forward and continue character development.  He never lacks the ability to tell what happens next in a character's life, whether it be Superman, Swamp Thing, Marvelman, or Jekyll and Hyde. Moore clearly capitalizes on nostalgia, but he is hailed as new and exciting because he still does new and exciting things.
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« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2007, 11:26:12 PM »

Alan Moore's entire career is built on it. However, there is a difference in that he has a willingness to carry the story forward and continue character development.  He never lacks the ability to tell what happens next in a character's life, whether it be Superman, Swamp Thing, Marvelman, or Jekyll and Hyde.

In many ways, harping on the use of serial characters from our childhoods is like criticizing Homer for his use of Ulysses et al.  It is the use made of these pillars of our culture (ie Superman) that is important.  That said, Moore's extended runs on "minor", non-pillar/non-iconic characters (Swampy, Chester, Constantine, and Abby) are the most rewarding and memorable to me.  (I haven't read enough of his ABC line to see if this is still true.)  His one-off ventures into Superman/Batman territory, while instantly accessible (because he can use lots of shorthand/we all know everything about Superman/Batman/Green Lantern) and often filled with mini-epiphanies, are less rewarding than a fully-realized dramatic reality, with ties to a larger multiverse.  I suspect that this aspect of U.S. serial adventure/superhero comics is the major draw for most of contemporary fandom (1963-now) --as opposed to the off-sited escapist/power-fantasy model-- but it is also a style of storytelling that made things like Terry and the Pirates, Steve Canyon, Buz Sawyer, Gasoline Alley, Orphan Annie, Thimble Theatre, etc huge hits in their day (and also why I enjoy long comics like Love and Rockets and am starting to enjoy some manga series).

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