I thought we’d end (for now anyway!) the roundtable on Charles Hatfield’s Alternative Comics by highlighting some moments from comments.
When I think of Gilbert Hernandez, I don’t exactly think of lusty, go for broke cartooning. What he does do is write these potboiler scripts where the characters are put through the wringer. It’s more for the service of the storyline that for the sake of unleashing the id. And yeah, like I said, he does experiment quite a bit but the final results are quite often mixed. It usually feels quite dry to me. For me, real unrestrained cartooning would be from the likes of Crumb, Gary Panter, a lot of the Zap Comix guys, Fletcher Hanks, Jack Cole, Kirby. That said, though, I did like his surreal story from last year’s Love & Rockets #2, probably the only experimental piece of his I’ve ever liked.
Nonetheless, you make the same mistake as Daryl when you object to his work being judged to the same standards as literary novels. He’s been making literary novels for twenty five years. And the results have been no better than mixed.
But let me just add that there is no need to see abstract comics (the genre or the book) only through the cultural milieu of a comics reader. I have received some of the best responses to it from people very little familiar with comics, who then approached the work in the book with much fresher eyes–and, for purposes of this context, with no expectation of that diegesis. This would have been even clearer if, as I first intended, I had included in the book more examples coming from outside of comics (from Alechinsky, Kandinsky, Pollock, etc.) For financial reasons, and due to the fact that Fanta is more comfortable dealing with cartoonists, we could not do that, though I tried to include a number of them in the introduction.
I actually think serialization remains fairly important, esp. for new or not fully established creators. Comics/Graphic novels can take a very long time to make–and often serializing provides the possibility of some small flow of income while the “whole” is being completed. I think this is still the case. So…while Random House is willing to give David Mazzuchelli enough time and rope to create Asterios Polyp without serialization—most less successful creators are going to need the cash serialization may provide in order to finish the big project. Doing something smaller on the side is one possibility–but, anyway, I think the death of serialization is, at least, somewhat overstated. Love and Rockets, for instance…While it has gone to squarebound yearly volumes…these are still “serial”–partial stories that, I’m guessing, will be collected later in graphic novel form—possibly with some changes. Obviously the superhero world still uses serialization too–although they seem to pay less and less attention to the needs of their serial readers.
And I think the funniest comment of the roundtable, by Jeet Heer:
I have to say, there is something weirdly cultic and hermetic about The Hooded Utilitarian site. Certain susceptible minds seem easily swayed by Noah’s charisma.
A word of advice: if Noah tells you to drink the Kool Aid or chop off your genitals, please don’t listen to him. At the very least, talk to your family first before you move into Noah’s compound.
I think Charles is hoping to respond further to some roundtable points later, perhaps at his own blog, so we may revisit this at some juncture, either here or there. In the meantime, thanks to Charles Robert, Derik, Caro, and Matthias for posting here; and thanks also to our commenters and readers. Hopefully many of you will check out Charles’ next book (on Jack Kirby) when it appears (not too long from now, we hope!)