11 September 2019

Kids rule

For The Comics Journal I wrote about Rebellion’s republishing of old British comics and the overlap with 2000AD, which follows up on things I’ve already hinted at in reviews of the individual books elsewhere, such as here. Plenty of the artwork being brought back into view is well worth reviving—Carlos Ezquerra’s pencils on the cowboy strip El Mestizo for starters—and the reprints from girls’ comics bear out some of the things Pat Mills has always said about the character of that long-gone sector. But speculating about the success of Rebellion’s cultural project and its outreach to new readers is fair game. And so is wondering if new readers or a cultural project are actually the goal, given the conspicuously conservative and 2000AD-shaped pipeline the archives are emerging from, and the heavy lean so far towards existing 2000AD readers, a famously mature demographic at least three times the age of readers targeted by the old comics in the first place. Plus, for all the reasons Marc Singer’s book on the comics scholarship landscape gets into, the fog of nostalgia we currently stumble around in might need dispelling rather than fuelling, especially since the pop-culture criticism industry has decided to have an identity crisis just when assessing this kind of effort with maximum vigour should be its actual job.

In my youth The Comics Journal was what happens when a pop-culture criticism bubbles up from fanzine culture in a field and a language without any academic scholars around to scold it for being unruly, and the results did not feel short of vigour at all. Pop music reviewers had a head start across that rope bridge for sure; but film criticism, to name a close neighbourhood where I have a vested interest, was already in the shadow of a decade of academic thinking before I started reading the stuff, and was trying to Frankenstein some form of film studies into higher education by the time I started writing it. The end result there is an infinity of film reviewers writing semi-academic text while stood in an impact crater and trying to crowdfund their lunch. The crater and the poverty involve forces outside our control; but the prose and the fuzzy vision of what it might care to do about climbing out is all on us.

Whether the spirit of fanzine culture and its pluralist intentions are a comfy fit with modern online caustic po-mo echo chambers, or with travelling in the same wagon as the would-be authoritative critical voice for that matter, might be another question. Three publications hauled my youthful appreciation of visual art above the level of shambles: the Monthly Film Bulletin, the TV reviews in The Observer, and The Comics Journal. Only one of those has ended up with its unparalleled archive effectively unindexed, and digitised in such a way that the material you’re after has to be sensed in the soil and dug out like a truffle.

The article on Rebellion is here at the TCJ web site.


Art


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