Tuesday, July 27, 2004

"Basement" dwellers: At Comic Book Resources, Matt Fraction and Joe Casey launch "The Basement Tapes" with a discussion of "comics journalism," among other topics:
FRACTION: The mainstream press is near exclusively PR-driven and its cycles are artificially birthed and manipulated -- I mean, how much "news" has been broken concurrent with a new issue of WIZARD that's been in the production pipeline for three months? You'll see PR hyping Marvel's 50% dominance of the direct market in January, but no analysis that, yeah, but that stunt was born of Marvel double-shipping 75% of their books that month.

So you've got a press that's been forcibly co-opted by the comics mainstream, a mainstream very largely co-opted by a singular genre, and the development of the DM over the last couple years is definitive proof that the trickle-down taste theory (that the success of the mainstream finances the existence of alternatives) is wrong. Now the mainstream has reached the end of some kind of cycle where it's running head-on into the last comfort zone it knew. You could argue any number of reasons for this, but the majors are playing it same as it ever was-- Marvel and DC have built a bridge back to the twentieth century and neutering progressive work while artificially inflating the sales charts and squeezing anyone not in a cape further and further down the charts, off the racks, whatever. The super-hero mainstream is the only game in most comic shops (the manga & shojo issue is a whole 'nother thing), and it's a bloated, unchecked pig.

Where else, then, is there a venue for thoughtful commentary and critique of the mainstream necessary at least in part to elevate it, if not the Internet? Beyond the unchecked, fawning pedantry or pissing that's marked the web's early development (and still clogs most un-moderated forums), there's a developing node of extraordinarily thoughtful analysis starting to blossom on several blogs and from several writers here and there-- and with the mainstream's choke-hold on the DM, where else but the web can such a thing exist? The mainstream is the only game in town, a system existing to perpetuate a system-you know, "Why bother thinking when we can all just be happy that Chris Claremont is coming back to X-MEN again?"

CASEY: Well, hell, it all comes back to the goddamned X-MEN, doesn't it...?

FRACTION: You're never going to escape, Joe.