Go here:

http://www.tcj.com/?p=1069

Really nice. I daresay our Captain has done more for sharing a love of comics with the masses than this pretentious, elitist, pompous windbag, Heidi MacDonald at The Beat linked to it by saying "Now that's more like it", which was disappointing; I thought more of Heidi than that.

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I wonder if Heidi wasn't being sarcastic with her comment...or maybe she and Cap have some history? Anyway, there were a couple of eloquent defenses posted in the Comments, including one from our own John Dunbar. The Comics Journal author has posted a followup, in which he apologizes for the childish name calling. But he stands by his basic criticism, and quotes extensively from Cap's column to "prove" his point.
I love when some part of the comics industry is snooty or degrading to another part (usually to superhero comics and/or fans) in some kind of "We're better than you" tirade.

This industry as a whole is so small that if every current regular purchaser of American comics and graphic novels got together in one spot, they would still be outnumbered by the number of people who saw New Moon more than once. Switzerland could beat us in a war, without using their knives. There are more species of beetles than there are regular comics readers.

It's like having the number of people who bought a blue Yugo insult those who bought the other colors. No other person who bought a car ever really cares what they think.

So, I see the kinds of stories TCJ writes, and I have a bit of a laugh, shake my head, forget about it, and go back to planning my invasion of Switzerland.

Does anyone have a corkscrew I can borrow?

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! It's a pretty lame website, but I did it myself, so tough noogies

Listen to WOXY.com, it's the future of rock-n-roll!


Apparently, the latest column by this Worcester fellow is a response to Robert Sutton and myself, as he sarcastically put it, "Captain Comics' valiant defenders". I said he was pompous, pretentious and elitist and I stand by it. His followup, containing a rather insincere apology for the name calling, just further proves my point.
I feel like there’s an elephant in the room, here. Because while Worcester’s attack was meanspirited, the correction itself is valid, I think. There have been a number of academic examinations of comics, and for Cap to imply that Weiner’s book is one of the first is misleading.

Most of this stems from a difference in audience. Worcester is writing for the Journal, whose audience is so familiar with the academic side of things that Worcester only lists the last names of the other examples he gives (a portion of his audience might recognize them all; a larger segment is likely too embarrassed to admit they don’t).

Cap writes for the CBG (which leans far more toward mainstream than arthouse stuff) and his syndicated column (whose audience must largely be people new to modern comics, whether or not they read them as kids). With either of those audiences, Cap’s oversight makes much more sense, and is probably the wiser path. With new readers, all those names would just confuse or distract them; some of the CBG audience has probably been exposed to some of the other authors before, but an academic look at superheroes still seems like a pretty new concept to them, since while it’s been going on for a while, Weiner’s book is coming at a time when superheroes and comics are a lot more mainstream than they were before. It may not be new, but it seems new.

I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, that was a nasty thing to say, and there’s a big difference writing for the Journal audience and for CBG and newspapers. But I also think Cap could have phrased his introductory statements about Weiner’s book better, putting them in a more accurate context for his audience without causing undue confusion.

I hate to not completely rally behind Cap here. It really bugs me, because he’s a great guy and nowhere near a nitwit. But he also values accuracy, and the phrasing in question seems to fall short of that. I suspect it was a by-design shortcut, taken in deference to the audience. But the shortcut leaves out some context that might be more essential in retrospect.

In short: Cap’s not a nitwit, and knows tons about comics and comics crit. But he could have shared a bit more of it in that paragraph.

Rob

P.S. As for that follow-up reply, though? Yeah, the guy's a total windbag.
"That's Dr. Nitwhite, not nitwit!"

"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." -Groucho Marx

Check out the Secret Headquarters (my store) website! It's a pretty lame website, but I did it myself, so tough noogies

Listen to WOXY.com, it's the future of rock-n-roll!


Rob, my thinking is kind of similar to yours, in that I see that perspective, but looking at the lede (I've only read what Worcester posted, so can't gauge beyond that) with my editor's hat on, I'm not exactly sure I'd suggest anything be changed.

Is it a little hyperbolic? Sure, but it's a column, and those are allowed to engage in hyperbole. And why can't he be at the forefront — I mean, that's a pretty subjective concept, isn't it? If, as Cap says, he's already written "a number of academic articles on comics," and has now published a book, with more in the pipeline, doesn't that reasonably qualify as "forefront"? And name dropping the others wouldn't really add to the article. If readers already know the academics Worcester cited (and, let's face it, even in comics households, most of those aren't household names), then mentioning them just amounts to an "aren't we clever" nod to those readers; and if readers don't know them, then mentioning them changes Weiner from being at the forefront of something any reader can understand ("academic recognition") to being at the forefront of something the reader isn't interested in ("a group of obscure people I've never heard of").

Maybe, if there's space, mention of other comics academics might be a worthwhile addition towards the end of the article, but it's not relevant to the story, so why waste those precious up-front words with irrelevant name dropping?

(I think of it this way: If the article were about, say, celebrities, would you expect name dropping? "It's been a long time coming, but female comedians are finally being recognized in Hollywood. At the forefront of the charge is Chelsea Handler." To me, that parses fine, if the article is about Chelsea Handler; the same holds true here.)
I see your point, Alan, and in large part I agree. I'm not sure if name-dropping would do anyone any good, and the article doesn't need it. I guess my reservations are, are Weiner or Handler truly at the forefront of their fields? Forefront is a pretty elastic term, and under certain parameters both could be considered (Handler's hardly the first female comic, but she's one of the first with a long-lasting, successful talk show; depending on how we define what she's at the forefront of changes whether she's at the forefront or one in a string of female comics that reaches back through Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller).

I honestly don't follow enough academic comic crit to argue how and where Weiner should be considered. And I think a little hyperbole is understandable in a column like this, introducing people to books and writers they haven't heard of (Similarly, not every five-star movie review can mean "every bit as good as The Godfather"). But a phrase like "continues a growing trend of" or something similar might cover both bases without discounting the work that's gone before.

It's a big subject that I'm sure Cap has knowledge of (certainly more than I do), and was just skirting to keep the focus where it belonged for the article. He didn't want to lead us into the weeds, but in doing so, seems to imply that there are very few weeds around to begin with.

Then again, as I say, forefront is a very malleable term; I might be reading it differently than I meant it. (And the distinction between Weiner's body of work as a whole and Weiner's new book is an important one, and something I missed: Weiner can personally be at the forefront even if his new book might be too late to qualify.)

All that said: If it comes down to a rumble, I'll bring my switchblade and dance shoes.
I mentioned this before, but Cap reminds me of the late Don Thompson in his wide-ranging tastes in comic books. Although Thompson was a huge fan of super-hero comics, and a Golden Age/Silver Age scholar, he would often reach beyond the genre as well, getting people who wouldn't normally be interested to try out obscure indie or foreign comics once in a while. I give credit to The Comics Journal for their hard-hitting interviews in the '80s, but they lost their relevance over 20 years ago, as they became grounded in their sandbox of philosophical gibberish and pseudo-intellectual elitism. I come from the world of rock-music and film criticism, wherein the pop-culture mainstream and the alternative cult are treated fairly equally. For example, Pulitzer Prize-winning movie reviewer Roger Ebert can recommend 2012 as well The Seventh Seal.
Mr. Worcester has apparently edited at least one book of academic essays about comics, so I'm wondering if maybe there's some personal issue here? Perhaps he's upset that Cap has never reviewed or recommended his own work in CBG?

He didn't put his own name on his list of "neglected" academics, but he did list his co-editor's name. It makes you wonder how he would have reacted if the Captain had given the same review to Worcester's own volume.
It might have to do with the one-handed rivalry between the CBG and the TCJ. The TCJ has always been harsh on the CBG, way back when Don Thompson was still alive. Since Cap writes for the CBG, has a syndicated column that reaches more readers than the TCJ has egos, I'm sure that plays a role.
I don't think we have to bend over backwards to find ulterior motivations: Worcester had a nit to pick, and he did so in a nasty way. It's the sort of online snark that draws hits and gets applause from the journal audience. The target (whether Cap or CBG) seems incidental to me. He likely would have taken that tone with anyone he doesn't know.
Hey, checking in now that the semester is over. (Last 20-page paper filed at midnight Sunday. Woo-hoo!)

Anyway, let me answer the questions posted here:

1) I have never met, nor corresponded with, this Worcester fellow, nor Heidi MacDonald. I do remember a time that I quoted Heidi in my SHNS column, and included a link to the online article I quoted it from. Frankly, that's the only time she's been on my radar, and it's only because Google led me there. As to Worcester, until this thread I was unaware of his column completely. So as far as I know it's not personal.

2) Rob, Alan M. has got my intent right on that lede. I'm fully aware of the academic books already written on comics, as I own most of them. I wrote the lede to A) nod to them, but then B) focus on my topic of the day. Exactly as Alan said. Any more "nodding" and I'm off in the weeds on paragraph one, which is bad writing, so I tried to be clear that I knew of other books but today I'm talking about Weiner and his book. But apparently I didn't make it clear enough, so I'm guilty of bad writing anyway. I guess I shouldn't have used the word "forefront," but I thought he is certainly the latest, which puts him in front until someone else does it. Oh, well. I've written worse.

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