Making Comics “Legitimate”: Is That What The Community Actually Wants?

Joey Manley, over here, is talking about a post he made over here, about this book here. And having read all three of these things, I have come to an important realization about comics and why they are not in the "mainstream" even though people are working so hard to legitimize them.

The reason is that what most people to make our passion mainstream are actually doing is trying to legitimize them, and legitimize them within a small subset of the public, which Manley accurately labels as the "establishment" of literary fiction. Manley points out some people are uncomfortable with this because they are afraid of losing their indie cool. I have a better reason to be uncomfortable, or at least feel our. The "establishment" isn't mainstream. Its a ghetto. Sure, its bigger than our ghetto, and it gets talked about by a small subset of the public, (You know who you are. What was Diane Rheim's show about today? Hah! Gotcha! Your one of "them") but it isn't a meaningful part of our public life nor is it the nexus of most writers in America. They write genre fiction. Why? Because most Americans read it. America does not love Zadie Smith. It loves Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Steven King, or even Dean Koontz. If we want comics to truly be legitimate in the eyes of the public as an adult art form, have alot of room for artists of all shapes and sizes, and influence the public at large we need to put out our great genre artist, not our great "literary" ones.

What books like The Best American Comics do, despite the best of Harvey Pekar's intentions, is help foster the perception that comics are for the elite, not the public. At the very least they don't help us much. Because the NPR types (like me) know comics aren't for kids. They read Maus and pretended to read all of Blankets. The New York Times told them too. But the guy who needs to here the message is Joe Republican, father of three kids who works in construction. He thinks comics are dumb kids stuff or boring whiney intellectual crap and hasn't bought one in 30 years. But he also owns an entire collection of B-Movie zombie flicks. We need to put a copy of The Walking Dead in that man's hands. We need to point that lesbian couple at the end of the block towards Queen of Wands. We need to get that 50 year old Harlequin romance novel reader to check out about half the manga printed. That is the America that needs our message.


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