Monday, July 20, 2015

COMIC-CON 2015

It was another exciting year at San Diego Comic-Con. There's no place quite like it.  As part this year's offerings, a group of scholars offered academic seminars about comics.  The classes included:
  • insights into the enthymematic nature of comic strip argumentation

  • how the application of metadata reveals previously undiscovered patterns in Batman comic books 

  • an analysis of key Uncle Scrooge comics, characters and stories to support [the] argument that Scrooge McDuck is emblematic of the economic patters of comic book franchises and prefigures the transmedia development of comic book characters.

My favorite was the class that introduced us to the "ethnosurrealism" of comics: 

Comics are inherently surreal, juxtaposing images, text and word and thought balloons to create layered stories consisting of a multiplicity of perspectives and states of being.  Ethnosurrealism focuses on culture (cultural notions, cultural practices, and cultural theories) to explore those moments where culturally bound interpretations of story converge at the crossroads of everyday life.  It seeks to make these images, stories and their making, co-present.

You can learn something from every event at Comic-Con, although the lesson may not be the one intended.  

Some art forms wilt under a sustained spotlight-- not because they are inferior art, but because it's in their nature to wilt.  You would not, for example, inspect ice cream under klieg lights. 

The great philosopher John Stuart Mill warned us about over-analyzing what makes us happy, and "putting it to flight by fatal questioning."  He wrote:

The enjoyments of life... will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and... you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe.

One thing I like about Comic-Con is that for four days, it seems like the happiest place on earth.


13 comments:

chris bennett said...

"The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and... you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe."

I believe this applies to the creation of art as well.

BTW: I'm intrigued by that metadata thing (assuming it's the same as what I understand to be the 'bigdata' IT techniques being explored) concerning the patterns underlying the batman comics.

Li-An said...

Don't analyse comics: do comics.

Richard said...

> "The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that"

Couldn't that be exactly what these comics theorists are doing?

I'll take the opposite stance. That which makes me really happy hasn't yet been destroyed by my own analysis of it, but the culture around it can certainly be ruined by some other jerks analyzing it when they don't even understand it emotionally.

The artists ruin music with their analysis, the musicians ruin poetry with their analysis, the scientists ruin philosophy with their analysis, and so on.

Richard said...

And in comics, as it is a hybrid form, you have the art-focused crowd complaining the writing-focused people are ruining it, and the writing-focused people feel the same way towards the art-focused people (they really do, I've heard them say it).

MORAN said...

David, you use a lot of big words too when you write about comics.

David Apatoff said...

Chris Bennett-- Here is a little more about "that metadata thing" which was taught by Edd Schneider from the U. of South Florida, John Walsh of Indiana University, Carol Tilley of the University of Illinois, and Xavier Leonard of Rokenbok Education: attendees were supposed to learn "practical methodologies for locating comics and analyzing their content," "alternative methods of mining data and extracting knowledge from social media platforms such as Vine Wiki," and "the efforts of the Comic Book Readership Archive."

Li-An-- I certainly wouldn't condemn all analysis of comics, but I agree that comics belong first to the artists who produce the work and the people who love the pictures and stories. As the old saying goes, "aesthetics is for the artist what ornithology is for the birds."

Richard wrote: "in comics, as it is a hybrid form, you have the art-focused crowd complaining the writing-focused people are ruining it, and the writing-focused people feel the same way towards the art-focused people (they really do, I've heard them say it)."

While I think there's a lot to be gained from the cross fertilization of different disciplines (for example, writers may bring something fresh and useful to art criticism) people do need to exercise a little restraint in fields where they know nothing. I've ridiculed the writing-focused Dave Eggers for his position that artist Chris Ware is "The most versatile and innovative artist the medium has ever known." People who are ignorant about "what the medium has known" should be a little more circumspect with their opinions.

kev ferrara said...

As the old saying goes, "aesthetics is for the artist what ornithology is for the birds."

This only came to be so after the rise of media and educational empires around the turn of the century, whereupon a certain type of artist with a certain "clever" cast of mind found he could sell himself as much by what he said as by his work. (Effective all the more during a period when writings of a certain type of intellectual with an axe to grind also found their way into the minds of the masses.) Prior to this, aesthetics was a practical matter in studios and ateliers around the world; a rational and fascinating mental assistant for considerate talents interested in producing deeper work. The scraps of thoughts on aesthetics left by DaVinci, Delacroix, Inness, and Dunn, just to name a few, attest to the emphatic practicality of the admittedly heady pursuit when the matter is taken in honest, thoughtful, (and most importantly) paint-stained hands.

Donald Pittenger said...

Um, David. Did you actually attend those academic sessions you cite?

And if so, how long, or how many drinks did it take to restore your sanity?

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Sean Farrell said...

Here is a video of Brad Holland talking about the current challenge to copyrights.
Lots of information.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kDoztLDF73I

Sean Farrell said...

I got that video late but am curious how it turned out if anyone knows.

Nick P said...

I’ve been slowly reading this blog and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s been educational and the art is often lovely. Thanks for doing this blog.

I’m a comic/animation nerd and so I’m geared towards that end of the art world more than the esoteric. I’m not obsessed with realism at all, but I find the abstract and modern arts lend themselves far too easily to con men.

In short, if you spend more time/effort on your speeches/essays/explanations regarding your art than on doing the art I consider you more a BS artist than an actual one.

As a comic nerd I thought you might find this site useful for finding comic artists in particular. It skews more current and more superhero, but there is some goodness within. http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/

There are many talented artists on there, but I thought you’d enjoy a particular few (or many depending on your sense of these things):

David Aja - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=540
John Bolton - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=206
Tomm Coker - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=553
Geof Darrow - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=810
Tommy Lee Edwards - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=363
Duncan Fegredo - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=309
Scott Hampton - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=436
Tomer Hanuka - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=640
Dan Hipp – http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=815
James Jean - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=165
Dave Johnson - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=81
Karl Kerschl - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=420
Michael Lark - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=284
John Paul Leon - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=371
Joshua Middleton – http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=280
Mike Mignola - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=80
Sean Murphy – http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=645
Phil Noto - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=40
Sean Phillips - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=233
Paul Pope - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=379
Frank Quitely - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=130
Andrew Robinson - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=234
P. Craig Russell - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=259
Chris Samnee - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=722
Brian Stelfreeze - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=73
John Van Fleet - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=283
Charles Vess - http://www.comicartcommunity.com/gallery/categories.php?cat_id=657

There are many other artists I like better than these guys, but they didn’t seem your cuppa tea.

And my favorite book cover artist Jon Foster - http://www.jonfoster.com/book-covers.html. Of the current book covers out there I just love his pretty consistently.

As for manga, I have a good collection of my own and I think for you I’d recommend anything by Katsuhiro Otomo – Domu and Akira are findable. He’s an excellent draftsman. His backgrounds are just awesome to me and not tracings of photos as many establishing shots of manga can be.

http://www.comicartfans.com/comic-artists/katsuhiro_otomo.asp. I’m not sure what else would positively impress you. He’s a good gateway to manga.

Thanks.

Nick.

Anonymous said...

And to think that while the rest of us were gawking at power girl, all these other insights were available. Rats.