SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
I’m juicing fruits and vegetables these days, which is something I never expected to do, what with eating destructive amounts of candy for years on end. I’m also seriously considering no longer writing about or reviewing comic books after 6 years of doing so. I don’t know … the whole thing seems unnecessary, even though the Internet really wants its critics. We don’t really serve a purpose, though, do we? Artists can peer review themselves, and the populace at large can find its own entertainment, just like the journalists can. We can’t point things out, anymore, nor can we really signify something. Too many voices in the room, now. It’s not like there’s a Pauline Kael to stop and tune to, or a platform that’s higher than the others. It’s all the same lunch table, food trays resting on the backbone of something like Twitter, where we all hawk and point. The real cannon lying not with few, but with the sound of overall consensus.
Sure, there’s that concern of context. Critics probably are the best contextulists (making that a word), and there’s a certain need to keep everything straight when narratives are so malleable, and all eras exist now. So maybe that’s the new mission, but it seems so boring – keeping history straight, like some old, grey-beard academic smoking his oak pipe, eyes glazed. I dropped out of college for a reason.
Because I always wanted to have fun with this, if not make it seem a little crazy and spontaneous. I love the ego of it and the notion of setting forth to state a definitive opinion, so others know how to describe a particular piece of art. Criticism allows for a limited amount of creativity, but in those regards, there’s opportunity to go out on the limb and fuck with words, and that’s what I like to do.
When it’s your opinion, the formula shouldn’t matter. As long as the thought translates (and, no, my thoughts haven’t always translated. I know. I’ve read these columns, too). And through that – matched with the thought of a critic’s persona – I thought, maybe, this was a way to create something through other stuff. Almost like rap, sampling the established to get at something new, or at the very fucking least, to flaunt a little “fuck you” for the camera. I took this thing seriously, in that way – too seriously. And now I’m not sure what for.
I’ve certainly learned a lot about a medium, and I’ve certainly learned a lot more about writing. That’s valuable. To me. But ultimately … I’ve become the thing I hate, I think. That is, the guy online who yells, who requires attention and who forces his thoughts on others. I haven’t created shit. Just noise, like every other headline, and now knowing that, it makes reviewing seem so stupid … a waste of time. And I’m of the age now that wasting time feels immature.
But there’s still the itch. “All good junkies go to heaven,” they say. I guess any sense of faith will put you there, even when it’s some dangerous habit, and while reviewing comics isn’t necessarily bloody, it’s still something I do more so for habit than want. Which is a sign. “Pack up the blow.”
One could argue that the point in reviewing – to keep at it – is that it’s still writing, and it’s easily done in the midst of doing other things. That it may, in fact, be useful to keep a toe in the discussion. Mish Way, singer of the band White Lung, makes a good case by being an example of someone who can create, perform and than sit down to still write about other peoples’ music. And she’s good at it, and I admire her work, as well as the life she’s created for herself. It’s a model I wouldn’t mind inhabiting. One where living isn’t consumed in an all-out fashion by one activity, but is dimensional.
The Internet’s tense, though. Even though it’s supposedly wide open, it’s cut into small, social cell blocks, each inhabited by a human being, flawed and fit. And those cells fall so close together, so it’s difficult to tap in and remain at peace. Because it’s like a packed apartment building, and you can always hear the dude next door cumming; or the politico arguing to himself; or the cheerleader chanting. Noise. And if one particular person makes more than the other, the balance is upset, and that’s when the whip cracks. But here we are screaming. Why? I don’t know. But we are, and there’s a number of us – wannabee critics, dreaming of the glory days – constantly placing thought and effort into our online presences and a conversation that’s apparently happening, but rather than conclude on anything we keep going, all for ego. All for the sake of saying “hey, world, don’t forget me.” And what else do we do with ourselves? Personally, I’m not sure. I’m probably after the next manifesto.
Have you ever logged off and just read a comic book? Like you were 13 again? I have. It’s nice. You remember why you initially cared, and why they’re beautiful. You remember the rush. And that’s when you realize you don’t need this. That no matter what you type on a blog, the world and what’s in it still exists, and it will likely go unaltered by what you say. That there is no point in stomping on the soapbox. That Matt Fraction will write another book, with or without your approval, and the sun will come up tomorrow, still yellow and orange.
And that’s the point I’m making. We don’t … I don’t need this, but I’ve pretended the opposite for 6 years, acting as if being a critic were it. That criticism would define me, and that somehow I may define something beyond my lanky frame. Which is why I’ve written the way I have for so long because every piece has felt like a false monument to myself versus something to do.
When I began this piece, it was about quitting, but I’ve realized quitting is weak. You can’t disengage. Not in our world. Instead, you have to approach it with caution, and somehow find a way within it to express yourself without polluting. I think a few of you actually like my reviews, and even though I sometimes despise the Internet and the idea of editorial, I do still enjoy this. It’s why I sat down to write today. If I were done, I wouldn’t bother saying a thing. But I have something to say. Not as a critic, but as a guy who has a little free time, and when he’s done, he’s goes outside and sees. Because the professional critic is dead. None of us are pros. We’re just people with Wi-Fi and the English language, and we’re born to make noise. May as well go with it, see what you can do.
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On Monday, I will post two, short thoughts on two, different comic books, and I’ll just keep doing that each and every Monday because it’s a thing to do, and I can do other things.
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