Sunday, 15 May 2011

Unfortunate Relevance of Superheroes: Canon time!

There's been a rather aggressive debate on the Hooded Utilitarian this last week about canon and canonicity. Without getting too involved, it boils down to a debate between those who favour including historically relevant comics, which includes embarrassing superhero comics, in the 'canon', so far as there is one, and those who would want to form a canon based entirely on artistic merit, thus focusing largely on modern, clever, generally awesome Alt comics. Its a big complicated subject which many intelligent people have argued slightly uncivilly about on the blog, and there's a fair bit of room inbetween the two extremes. However, on a personal level, in my 'personal canon', I'd tend more towards keeping things at an artistic level. Not because I'm artistic or anything, but because I'm a tiny bit pretentious like that.

That said, it's made me reconsider what I was doing when I decided to do this 'Unfortunate Relevance' series of posts. As I laid out in the first post, I wanted to look at superhero comics, which are pretty historically relevant to Alt comics, and see if I could find artistic value within them, to find if any of them have anything to offer other than simply teaching good draftsmanship to more artistic creators. See the (utterly unintentional) connection? What I'm basically doing is re-evaluating the 'historically relevant' canon to judge how much of it would make my own 'artistic' canon. In this light then, my previous post could (honestly) be read as concluding that Miller wouldn't make the cut, but implying Moore would. Cos he's better.

With that in mind, I thought I'd approach things slightly differently. Rather than blindly muddling through recommendations from the few friends I have who give a flying one about the comics medium, I'm going to look at The Comics Journal's 'official' canon. I think the consensus on the HU comments has been that this is a list compiled by a bunch of overgrown, be-spotted fanboys with 'I'm the motherfucking Batman' T-shirts, but I feel its a good enough place to start. I'm going to have a look at this list, ignore their influence or historic relevance (which won't be hard as I have almost no knowledge of comics history), and judge them by the standards by which I judge any book, music or YouTube clip. So there's no allowances made for time period, or innovation within comics, if its not as good as any of Joseph Conrad or Jorge Luis Borges' stories, not as affecting as “Maus” or as intriguing as “Blankets”, its gone, dismissed as tedious escapist tripe not far removed from Big Brother. Harsh words, but we play for big prizes.

P.S Interestingly, note the lack of any Frank Miller on that canon, but the plethora of Alan Moore books. At least I can agree with TCJ on that.

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