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Saturday, August 10, 2013 

Comparing comics to poetry is risky

The Atlantic argues that making comparisons between comics and poetry has both promise and danger, and it's partly due to the poor quality of modern mainstream:
"Bang! Pow! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!"

Mainstream headlines along those lines have become a running joke among comics fans. The joke remains a bitter one, though. Comics these days are treated as serious art by galleries and museums; they are treated as serious literature by mainstream reviewers. And yet, the bang and the pow linger. Dan Clowes and Alison Bechdel are certainly successful and respected, but when you say "comic book," your average person and/or journalist doesn't think of Maus. They think of superhero movies.
When I see headlines using sound effect words for loud noise, even I sometimes feel depressed, because even if the papers are spotlighting superhero tales, it does turn the whole subject into a farce, and dampen the impact of what could be a straightforward look at the adventure genre, but most often is anything but.

And the writer of this piece acknowledges how the once mighty superhero genre has fallen:
Personally, I'd be happy to see the disappearance of many of the pulp comics that Chute ignores. Mainstream superhero comics at the moment are almost unbelievably awful; if Marvel and DC went out of business tomorrow, I wouldn't shed any tears. But still, I think comics might want to take a moment or two to think before it embraces poetry as the alternative to either pow or bang. Contemporary poetry, after all, has its own problems—not least among them being the fact that virtually no one reads it.
Mainstream comics certainly aren't embracing poetry if the publishers and writers intend to keep being as awful as they are. And that's why virtually no one outside the immediate audience reads them, even if they do watch the movie adaptations. Using publicity stunts, controversy and crude storytelling laced with discrimination and poor political ideas as a means to make short-term gains is not how you turn any genre in comics into poetry.

So it wouldn't make any difference if you began seeing mainstream or independent comics with elements of poetry tossed in coming out; if the story's bad, the use of poetry alone won't compensate for the tastelessness.

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I'm glad that they acknowledge that DC and Marvel are producing awful comics these days. We need more reporters to speak out about this.

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