Relatively awesome

July 1, 2010

I’ve mentioned this before, but the Komikusu roundtable over at The Hooded Utilitarian makes for really interesting reading. Noah Berlatsky offers a conclusion of sorts that explores the potentially touchy nature of promoting awesome comics and the fact that encouraging people to read awesome manga is less of a minefield than other kinds of awesome comics advocacy:

“Nobody in the roundtable says that the problem is that readers’ tastes suck. Nobody says the problem is that bloggers aren’t doing enough to promote the right kind of manga. Both Shaenon [Gaerrity] and Deb [Aoki] mention Naruto in a ‘yep, the manga we’re talking about aren’t going to sell like that’ kind of way — but they don’t seem resentful of Naruto’s success, the way Sean Collins seems resentful of superheroes (despite the fact that he reads them himself). In fact, unless I’m missing something, nobody in the roundtable says anything mean about mainstream, successful genre manga at all.”

I think he nails it when he makes the point that there can be a crusader component when people try and convince fans of super-hero comics to read what might be considered more literary material, that there’s a moral imperative involved. It has the strange effect of turning the act of reading comics into something like eating five servings of vegetables or flossing twice a day or something equally virtuous but not intrinsically pleasurable.

It’s sent me off on a mental tangent, and I wonder how people would define their comics reading tastes if circumstances forced them to do so? I would categorize mine as eclectic, though I would be extremely reluctant to do so precisely because that adjective, neutral as it should read, feels somehow like I’m congratulating myself for liking more than one kind of thing. So I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on categorizing their tastes and the potential pitfalls and moral implications of doing so.

Updated to add this very entertaining rant from Emil Petrinic‘s Twitter feed:

@MangaCur Eclectic really is a terrible word because in people’s minds it doesn’t mean “varied” it means “snobby, out of mainstream”.

@MangaCur It reminds of “Best American Comics” collections, which of course are in fact “Comics by my friends that you aren’t reading…”

@MangaCur “…because you have no taste you stupid peasants.”

@MangaCur I also hate the very notion of “literary comics” like the plague. It’s something asshole New York literati concocted…

@MangaCur …so they could easily tar all else as complete shit. All else being pretty much all comics. Rant concluded 🙂

Updated again, as Noah Berlatsky has taken a moment to characterize his own tastes and give me the vague sense that I’m being ridiculed for reasons I don’t fully understand.