Don't Say Pitch

Comics and its barriers

As a note regarding my last post about comics and marginalization, @outcastspice kindly pointed out that the history of comics is rife with censorship and legal meddling, so I’ll have to reassess my thoughts on that. Having said that, I still remain wary of the costs of mainstreaming. But even though comics has made great strides into the mainstream under the guise of the “graphic novel” moniker, I do not worry about the increasing mainstream status of comics for a few reasons.

seth self portrait

  1. Unlike other media, the barriers to entry into single-author/auteur comics still remain high despite technological advances. At the end of the day, even with Photoshop and WordPress, a comics creator must still invest the time it takes in drawing a zillion little panels, pouring hours of intensive labour and artistic struggle into a page that will be consumed in less than a minute.
  2. Comic creators are self selecting. By default, the people who end up creating comics, especially those solely authored, are self selecting for they must, above all, embrace a degree of social isolation that most people cannot handle, nevermind enjoy. I also wonder if people who spend this much time in their own heads, not simply personal verbal mental space, but personal *imaginary* mental space, spend more time in a world beyond logos and reason, a world that is far less colonized by dominant power structures than the shared social world.
  3. The medium’s roots will always be humble. As legitimized as comics becomes by being accepted into mainstream institutions: university reading lists, large corporate booksellers, public libraries, etc., it will never hold the stature that literature, music, poetry, dance and the fine arts have. Certain creative channels will always be viewed as lesser. Decorative arts. Graffiti. Pornography. Fan fic. Etc. There will always be “break through” artists that rise to prominence and are feted by the mainstream, but the most mainstream, the most talented and productive breakthrough artists, will never be considered on par with the likes of Beethoven, Dostoevsky, Yeats, etc.

For these reasons, I believe that a fair share of the comics industry will remain fiercely independent, subversive and unapologetic. Every healthy culture needs a space where moral codes are flagrantly violated, where mainstream values are mocked and critiqued, where degeneracy of all forms can flower. Bring on the filth!

suehiro maruo

More:

Comics and the benefits of remaining in the gutter

Comics and the high cost of privilege

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