Webcomics are still a part of "popular culture"
Submitted by m_estrugo on February 11, 2004 - 18:43
Today, I went to an exposition about Romanesque art. I love going to these events as I'm an enthusiast of history of art and that stuff.
Anyway, the place had leaflets announcing upcoming events; one of these leaflets featured Roy Liechenstein's famous picture "Wham" for an upcoming exposition about Pop Art. I was curious and got one, to read about this interesting exposition and entertain myself in the bus.
"Pop Art is a 20th century art movement that utilized the imagery and techniques of consumerism and popular culture ... Pop Art favored figural imagery and the reproduction of everyday objects, such as ... comic strips."
Comics are part of popular culture. Comics are everyday objects, apparently as banal as a can of soup. Or, at least, that was the perception of comics in the United States around the half of the XXth century.
Ocassionally, some exceptional works were praised because of their beautiful art and/or its expressivity; anyway, the most outstanding comics of the XXth century, such as the daily strips "Wash Tubbs" by Roy Crane, George Herrimann's "Krazy Kat" or the fabulous "Spirit" by Will Eisner (oh, yes, I love older daily strips) were just a part of popular culture, and as such, nothing more but products to be consumed and disposed of rapidly, light years away from "the beauty arts" such as painting or sculpture, as banal as a Coke.
Or, at least, that was the situation on the last century on the US. And how it is now? Did this perception change on all these decades?
In my opinion, comics (and especially webcomics) are still part of popular culture, even if there's a growing number of creators considering comics more as a way of expression rather than a mere facility. This "comic as a piece of art" awareness has grown bigger on other parts of the world, like Europe, where creators have widened their point of views about comics, where comic conventions and new releases are usually commented on the cultural section of the newspapers, where libraries feature specialized sections for comics together with novels, poetry books and biographies.
But, still, even in Europe, comics are perceived by a grat majority of the society as just another artifact of popular culture, like fast food, sports events or TV reality shows. And it shows!
At the time I type this, the most popular webcomic around is Penny Arcade, a comic strip that narrates the antics (?) of two gamers. Not surprisingly, videogames have also became an icon of popular culture on these last decades. And the number of webcomics featuring either gamers or the characters of the same videogames they play or played has grown enormously, for the despair of some columnists. And, while it's true that there's a large number of artists trying to use comics as a means of expression, far beyond fashions and fads, the truth is that the number of banal webcomics out there outnumber them easily. Despite dreams and theories, at this moment, webcomics are part of the popular culture of the early XXIth century, and it's unlikely that they will become a "higher art" on the short/medium future.
With this, I don't want to satanize popular culture. Nor I want to say that we, webcartoonsits, are condemned to be "vaudevilians" for the rest of our lives. I just wanted to remember that, unlike some people tend to think, comics, and by extension webcomics, are still part of the popular culture, at least, for a while.