Sunday, September 05, 2004

Examining the graphic novel: The Seattle Times uses this weekend's Bumbershoot arts festival as an opportunity to speak with Peter Bagge, Eric Reynolds, Gary Groth, Paul Levitz and John Jackson Miller about the state of graphic novels -- and comics criticism. Here's Groth:

"It's full of happy talk. There is a sense of a boom market. You don't want to rock the boat. We've reached a point where anything that even purports to be serious in comics form is praised."

The reporter, Mark Rahner, continues:

"Consequently, Bagge, Reynolds and Groth aren't naming names. But this reader will.

"A pair of the high-profile releases illustrates the problem: Art Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2 — The Story of a Return (both from Pantheon).

"Spiegelman is revered for busting the medium's doors wide open with his brilliant, Pulitzer-winning Holocaust tale, Maus, in the late '80s. That makes his prosaic reflections on the 9/11 attacks even more disappointing. To sum up: He was worried about his daughter, and he doesn't like President Bush. Filling nearly half of the brief, oversized book with reproductions of old newspaper comic-strip pages that gave him comfort, Spiegelman's self-indulgent new work leaves the impression that he's spent the intervening years listening to his own praise and may have had just one great story in him.

"Satrapi's underwhelming sequel to her acclaimed account of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution spans her socially stunted adolescent years in Vienna before returning home. Her experiences include dealing drugs for a boyfriend and briefly winding up homeless."