Heidi over at the Beat had a post at the end of last week in which she argued that indie comics are rarely examined in cultural context.
And yet, it does seem that indie comics and cartoonists are rarely examined in a larger contextual way. This is possibly because the content involves a lot of what some call introspection, and others emo shoegazing—even the greatest one—and maybe because this kind of analysis if of a secondary interest of most of those creating and consuming indie comics? And to be fair, a lot of indie comics are created by an ethnically homogenous groups of suburban white kids. When they stray too far away from writing what they know, as Craig Thompson did with Habibi, the results aren’t awesome. Even a work as great as Building Stories is a personal story—on a most simplistic level, it’s telling us that it’s better to have a happy marriage than lie in bed every night wondering if you should kill yourself.
I disagree with the vast majority of what Heidi says in that post…but I don’t know that a fisking would really be that productive. So, instead, I thought it might be fun to take her post as a challenge, and try to do a roundtable on indie comics in social context.
What “social context” means is a little unclear; Heidi seems to be particularly focused on issues of racism, sexism, and gender, since she’s responding specifically to the recent discussion of Jason Karns work (Heidi has all the links on her post.) I’d certainly be interested in hearing folks talk about those issues in relation to indie cartoonists, but I’d think other approaches would be useful as well. For instance, looking at comics in terms of their relationship to visual art traditions, or to literary traditions, or, for that matter, to comics traditions, seems like it would qualify. Talking about comics in relation to historical events could work too. I’m sure folks could think of other possibilities.
The term “indie comics” also seems like it’s somewhat up for grabs. We’re trying to avoid mainstream superhero titles, obviously, and genre works (manga or otherwise) seem like they should be out too. Heidi expressed interest in focusing on more recent cartoonists (i.e., not Crumb, Clowes, etc. etc.), though again that’s maybe more something to think about than a hard and fast rule.
So…anybody in? I think I’d aim for early October or thereabouts. If you’re interested, let me know in comments, and maybe mention who you might write about if you have an inkling, since I think that would be a nice way to spark discussion and generate ideas.
Anya Davidson’s School Spirits, which Heidi talks about at her post.