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Sunday, May 31, 2020 

Why a satire but not a serious focus?

Boing-Boing interviewed Benjamin Marra, a cartoonist who's penned a new graphic novel called Terror Assaulter: One Man War on Terror that appears to be satirical work. He also addressed publishing formats along with the interviewer:
JK: I was thinking today that mainstream comics should be available in magazine size format at 100-page each, on slick paper, maybe for a $7.99US or $8.99US price point. Some could perhaps be printed on lower quality paper and offered at cheaper prices. And all could be distributed via comic shops, newsstands, and digitally, simultaneously. I’m thinking back to how popular the magazine format was in the 1970s and also of those great monthly Shonen Jump print anthologies I used to be able to pick up on late night trips to local supermarkets. What are your thoughts about formats and distribution of comics today, Ben?

Ben Marra: I agree with your vision of a comics magazine, except it should be printed on cheap paper to bring the cover price down as much as possible. It’s the stories that are important, not the paper stock. As far as my thoughts on distribution, I love the floppy monthly pamphlet as a vessel for serialized stories. But I think the Big Two have undermined its effectiveness with their business practices. I think the pamphlet comic should cost less and be found in as many retail spaces as possible. I guess I’m describing what it was like to buy comics back in the 70s and 80s. Maybe it’s foolish to think we can’t go back to that place. But I think there are subscription models that Chuck Forsman and Michel Fiffe have employed that are successful with a 24-page pamphlet comic. I don’t have blinders on for pamphlets however. Longform comics appear to be the future (if not present) of successful comics formats for distribution. And I’m all for webcomics. I’ve been doing a daily strip on my Instagram and I think it’s how I will create all my comics going forward. Any distribution method that doesn’t solely rely on the graces and professionalism of Diamond is a step in the right direction.
Printing on cheaper paper is fine, but I still don't see why some people think the serial format in its current incarnation has to remain that way. As I've argued at times, putting everything into one trade won't change that it's serial fiction by any stretch. And without good education and marketing, to say nothing of avoiding heavy handed politics, it certainly be foolish to think we could return to how comics were marketed for many decades. If anything, I definitely will be giving Marra credit for acknowledging Marvel and DC hurt the market with their practices. Especially if they're doing whatever they can to water down the effectiveness of independent publishers to get their products noticed more.

Let's turn to what he says about his new GN:
JK: Please tell me about TERROR ASSAULTER: O.M.W.O.T. In what ways is the narrative thematically conversant with power? What influenced the satirical elements, your story, and overall design of the comic?

Ben Marra: The book is a satire of American action movies and Neocon foreign policy. It’s also a satire of the way masculinity is portrayed and defined in pop culture. All of those things are based on examinations or demonstrations of power. So you could say O.M.W.O.T. is a satire of what power is, what it means. Obviously action movies were a huge influence on me when I created O.M.W.O.T. The title is obviously a nod to Jack Kirby’s OMAC comic book series. I love action movies but I love how ridiculous they can be even more, particularly those from the 80s. The overall design of the comic was influenced by classic comics and printing techniques from the 40s on through the 80s, before digital coloring became the standard. For me the goal was to tell an interesting, compelling, and entertaining story above all else.
It's one thing to write up a satire, but, what if it views masculinity in a negative manner? Just because it's satire doesn't mean it won't. The left has been pushing the notion of "toxic masculinity" for some time, and if this new GN draws from that whole notion, it's not setting a good example at all. Also, what if this turns out to be, not necessarily an attack on "neocons" (Bill Kristol for one is proving they're more an ally to leftists than rightists), but rather, an attack on conservatives in general? And, what if it doesn't run any serious look at how Islamic jihadism's destroyed many a country and society? What good does it do to write satires on serious issues like these, at least if they don't take a view recognizing the gravity of the subjects in real life?

Like I said, the cartoonist does make good enough points how the Big Two's approach to business has crippled the industry severely, but if he takes a leftist approach to the issues his new GN parodies, then he's hardly making an improvement over the Big Two from an artistic perspective.

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"As I've argued at times, putting everything into one trade won't change that it's serial fiction by any stretch. "

How can it be serial fiction if it is not serialized? Serial fiction is fiction told in installments, published one at a time, usually on a regular schedule and often with a cliffhanger ending to each installment. If there is no "to be continued" at the end of the episode, why would you say it is a serial?

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