Are Comics Artists Painting Themselves Into a Corner?


By Neal Comment

best-american-comics-cover.jpgAs the second annual volume of Houghton Mifflin‘s Best American Comics turns up in bookstores, PW comics expert Heidi MacDonald discusses it as evidence of “the hegemony of the shoe gazer,” which is to say the rather limited scope of a certain strain of independently produced comics and graphic novels. (That doesn’t mean she dislikes it, by any means; in fact, she calls it “as fine a sampling of graphic literature by the Usual Suspects as you will find anywhere.”) “You see, it’s not so much all those badly done autobio comics that’s the problem—we all know what they are and avoid them,” Macdonald says. “It’s the American comics cognoscenti’s emphasis on a narrow canon that excludes anything tainted with the scent of imaginative storytelling… I think the current craze for first person essay in comics has crowded out other genres that it does very, very well.”

A lively debate ensues in the comments section to her post, but the discussion is also being taken up elsewhere—see, for example, a recent panel at the Los Angeles Central Library on “The Future of Graphic Literature.” The comics blog New Rage Order is hosting a video of the event, lasting roughly 100 minutes and grappling with the economic realities of trying to sell all those books as well as the creative issues of craft and genre.