So here we are. The Dork Awards are done. Rental on the theater’s about to expire, and they’re turning the lights out on us. Time, then, to clear out. Loosen our ties. Kick back. Have a metaphorical drink or ten, and reflect. Makes excuses and shout recriminations. And apologize for our mistakes. It’s time, on other words, for the After-Party…
First things first: I screwed up big-time on the award for Best Funnybook. As it turns out, Supreme: Blue Rose (our winner, if you’ll recall) is actually a mini-series rather than an on-going. D’oh! Should have known better. Warren Ellis doesn’t sign on for open-ended work-for-hire assignments anymore. So… Crap. My bad. Ultimately, though, I suppose I can’t be too upset about it. I really do think it and Best Limited Series winner Pax Americana were the two best comics of 2014, and if they’d had to go head-to-head in the same category, I wouldn’t have been able to reflect that. So maybe it’s for the best. Still… Duhr.
And, as long as I’m talking about stuff I screwed up… I also forgot to discuss two series that really deserved mention: Jason Aaron & Jason Latour’s Southern Bastards…
…and Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising.
Good reads, both, but I’m picking them up digitally, and I didn’t think to check my tablet when I was coming up with my list of nominees. Of course, as soon as I came out the other side of those awards, and decided to get caught up on my reading… D’oh! Again!
Finally, I had intended to discuss Chris Ware’s web comic The Last Saturday in the Artist of the Year category. I’ve never been a huge fan of Ware’s writing. I mean, I get it, but he’s ultimately a miserablist, and I don’t generally find that style of humor very funny. Ware’s an unquestionably great artist, though, restlessly experimenting with form, graphics, and page design. The Last Saturday is not his best work on that front, but it is a pretty awesome take on the Sunday newspaper comic strip. He’s mostly sticking to the grid here, and filling the panels with clean lines, bright colors, and disturbingly effective cartoon character designs. It’s running on the Guardian’s website (http://www.theguardian.com/books/ng-interactive/2014/sep/13/-sp-chris-ware-the-last-saturday-graphic-novel), and is well-worth looking at. I just completely forgot about it.
Snubbings and Middle Fingers
Any other exclusions were (I think. I hope.) intentional. There’s my annual snubbing of Saga and Walking Dead, for instance, which is definitely 100% intentional. What can I say? They’re just not my thing. Especially Walking Dead. I’m not a big fan of the zombie apocalypse. And yes, I know that Walking Dead is really less about the zombies and more about man’s inhumanity to man. So’s Night of the Living Dead. Been there, done that.
And as for Saga… Sigh. Man, I really want to like that book. But I can’t. It’s just too goddamn cute. And, as I’ve said maybe a million times before… I can’t abide cute. But it’s also the dialogue. Far too on-the-nose, of-the-moment, American slang for a world as alien and bizarre as that one. You can get away with that sort of thing to some extent, but there are limits. And Saga crosses them, violently and often. I know, I know. But these are the things that matter to me. Whattayagonnado?
The other major exclusion, to my mind, is Jaime Hernandez’s The Love Bunglers.
It’s a freaking masterpiece, the culmination of a quarter-century’s worth of his work. If you haven’t read it, you totally should. But… It didn’t originally see print in 2014. It came out in… 2012, I think (I’m too lazy to check right now), in the Hernandez Brothers’ Love and Rockets: New Stories annual. It was only the graphic novel reprint that hit the shelf last year, so I didn’t include it.
My Own Stupidity
I also didn’t include Bumperhead, an OGN from Gilbert, the other Hernandez brother, primarily because… I kinda forgot to read it. So it joins the likes of Charles Burns’ Sugar Skull…
…and Farel Dalrymple’s Wrenchies…
…on my list of books that make me wonder what the hell’s wrong with me. With all three of those, I was waiting for a good evening to just settle in with them so I could read them in one go, and that evening never came. That happens too often with me and graphic novels. It’s because they’re comics, I think. I’m so used to sitting down with a single issue funnybook and devouring it in one sitting that I think I should do the same with graphic novel length stuff. But too often that’s not practical, and I need to stop thinking that it is. I should just treat them like prose novels, and read them whenever I have time to sit down with them, even if it’s only for a few minutes. And if it takes me a week to finish, so be it.
Yes, I’m figuring out my life in print. It IS a blog, after all…
Print vs Digital, Revisited
And as long as I’m talking about my life as a funnybook reader… I thought I’d take a minute, here at the end, to talk a bit about the kinds of comics I enjoy, and how I enjoy them. This has been on my mind a lot lately. I’ve been trying to simplify my life a bit, get rid of clutter. And the funnybooks keep piling up in defiance of those efforts. Even after selling off chunks of my collection, I’m feeling just slightly trapped by the things, and clearly something needs to be done.
I could trade-wait, of course, in the time-honored tradition of guys who hit their 40s and realize that they either need to ditch the collection, or build the thing its own wing of the house. But honestly… I love serialized storytelling. I love a “to be continued.” I love the anticipatory thrill of delayed gratification. And besides, on a purely practical level, a lot of the books I really enjoy don’t sell well enough to survive if people trade-wait. The monthly is still the industry’s bread and butter, and if the monthly doesn’t sell, the trades may never appear. So if I want funnybooks worth reading, I need to support them issue by issue.
Which means digital. It’s not an idea I’m averse to. As I said earlier, I’m already reading some books that way, and often saving money by doing it. So I’m a-okay with adding more to the list. Some things are too pretty for that, though. With a book like Mind MGMT, for instance, each individual issue is a work of art unto itself. The marginalia, the way the pages interact with each other, even the thick pulpy paper the thing’s printed on, all add something to the reading experience, and I’d hate to give up the pleasure of that.
My Middle-Brow Heaven
And that line of thought has, of course, lead me to start thinking seriously about the kinds of comics I’m reading, and why. I’m a genre fan, obviously. But I do have standards. I don’t want things explained to me. I want to have them demonstrated. I want to work a little when I read. Something that offers a challenge while still giving me my genre fix is maybe my favorite thing of all. And if you’re not going to challenge my mind, you damn well better be of sufficient technical skill to dazzle me so I don’t have time to think about it.
But I’m also a high-falutin’ artsy-fartsy type who likes weird stuff, a genuine art-for-art’s-sake kinda Clyde. I’ll take a glorious failure over a mediocre success any day of the week. Because that kind of success is usually a polished turd, a work of art that played it safe and tried to hide its weaknesses behind familiarity and narrative comfort. At least the failure is trying, and in trying is made beautiful.
So… yeah. All that probably makes my tastes a little bit schizophrenic. In looking back over my choices for 2014, though, I see a far greater preponderance of dazzling technical skill than I do challenge and genuine artistry. I don’t know if that’s because I got lazy, or because there wasn’t as much cool artsy stuff this year. It doesn’t necessarily upset me, either way. Both kinds of art are valid to my way of thinking. It is just the tiniest bit disappointing, though. I miss my beautiful failures.
A Final Word
And that brings another Dork Awards to an end. I hope you enjoyed (or can at least forgive) my little flights of fancy there at the end (indulge me, alright? It’s been a long month).
At any rate.
Here’s to 2014, a damn fine year for comics. Maybe not as good as the year prior, and hopefully not as good as the year ahead. But a fine year nonetheless. So hoist your beverage of choice in its honor, and let’s call it a night.