The Rusted Staple Theorem of Comic Criticism
Or Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.
Hint: We're the two English majors.
Just what the internet needs-- another website about comics. We know, god, everyone has a website where all they do is talk about comics. Paul Schrader’s and Megan Thee Stallion’s comic blogs are all anyone is talking about right now. You may not know about them but trust me, in the hidden Twitter circles Mike haunts, they’re all people are talking about. Or so he tells me. He talked me into all of this promising fame and fortune. So why do you need two more palooka’s throwing in their own thoughts about comics?
Maybe you’re right. Maybe we should just shut this whole thing down right now.
But we already paid for a year of web hosting. It would just be wasteful not to use it, right?
So where were we?
Hi there and welcome to From Cover to Cover, this new endeavor of mine and my partner Mike Baxter. (Say “Hi” to all the nice people, Mike.) I’m Scott and I’ve actually hung around the fringes of the comic blogosphere (remember that?), podcasting, and so-called serious comic writing for the past 18-ish years or so. And on the fringes is where I’ve wanted to be, it’s where I like to be because you can do almost anything there, like holding extremely one-sided conversations with an audience that you hope is there. (You’re real, right? I’m not just in a cave staring at shadows, am I?)
And nothing gets more on the fringes of pop culture than comics, even if they’re driving the pop culture right now.
So here we are, another comic website in a sea of comic websites that the world largely ignores. It’s not like superheroes and their mass-manufactured narratives aren’t the hottest thing on the face of the earth right now? But we’re not here to talk about tv shows or movies. We’re not here to tell you what to buy or to rate a comic on some made-up scale.
(But if we were rating comics, I’d rate them on a rusted staple scale. Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s Once and Future gets 8 rusted staples. Gabrielle Bell’s latest minicomic gets one rusted staple. Is one rusted staple better or worse than 8? 8 is more but it’s just really more rust. Is that something that deserves to be used as a pull quote on the back of some flimsy trade collection? Who knows? Who cares? Everything by Gillen, Mora, and Bell is great and you should be reading all of it)
Mike and I have been talking for a while about what we love about comics and what we love about criticism In a lot of ways, how we approach these loves is the same even as where we find that love overlaps but comes from different directions. And that’s one of the things we love about comics-- they’re so different. There are no defined statutes about what a comic needs to be. In a recent trip to the comic shop, I grabbed the latest issue of Jason Aaron’s Avengers and a recent edition of Dan Clowe’s Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. The stack next to my desk (just one of many stacks in the house) has the aforementioned Gabrielle Bell and Kieron Gillen in it but it also has Rumiko Takahashi, Elsa Charrettier, John Porcellino, Grant Morrison, Joe Matt, and Lale Westvind in it. It’s not well balanced and will probably topple over at any moment but this is what we love about comics. It’s the voices, the creators, the stories, and the possibilities that start with a blank page.
And if you looked at a lot of comic websites, you would see only a portion of those comics and voices represented. I can’t say that Mike and I and whoever else we manage to coax into this thing are going to be all-encompassing because there’s just too much out there to be able to read everything. We’ve got our own blinders on as well and realize that there are cartoonists, writers, and artists out there that we don’t even know about. But we want to. We want to find voices and perspectives that will show us something new. And they can be the most established mainstream Marvel or DC creators but they could be doing something fascinating with decades-old characters or they could be some young person in a far corner of the world posting their first comic to Instagram.
We love comics. We love stories. We love art. We love when they’re done well and have something to say.
So that’s who we are. But before we get down to business (and we’ve got plenty of business planned,) I want to thank a couple of people.
First off, I want to thank Rob McMonigal and James Kaplan over at Panel Patter, as well as the rest of the gang there. Rob and I have probably known one another for going on 9 or 10 years now, ever since we were paired together at Newsarama (more on that in a moment.) For 7 of those years, he let me do almost anything I wanted to at Panel Patter, including messing around with the backend code of the site. Rob and James have been partners and friends all that time and we have supported each other through an awful lot. I hope those friendships and support continue as I value their friendship and their own love of comics.
And then I want to thank Ringo-winning comics writer David Pepose. In his dark past, David recruited me (and Rob) to write reviews for Newsarama which was another great experience. I never thought I’d write for one of the “big” sites but David asked and I ended up accepting. My participation waxed and waned over the years but David was a fantastic editor and I still hear his voice in the back of my mind whenever I’m writing something. “Are you reviewing the book or something outside of the book?” “Where’s the discussion of the artist here?” And things like that. It’s been thrilling to watch David’s writing career take off in the last couple of years and I hope that it continues.
So that’s it. I’ve actually been on a writing break for a few months so I really need to get down to it and remember how to talk about comics. Which is what From Cover to Cover is all about.