There is more good stuff right now than there has ever been. Don't give up now! We've almost reached the other side!
--Heidi MacDonald, The Beat
Problem is, Heidi ... we're not going to get there together. Not at this rate. We're like the fox, the hen, and the corn needing to get across a river. The comics blogosphere will eat itself.
I've not been back in comics long, but the tension is obvious. Paul O'Brien touched off the latest "Mainstream vs. Indy vs. Manga War", and it flared up elsewhere, but this is like the Cold War: the skirmishes are just the erupting into view of an otherwise simmering conflict. Somehow, the publishing company or country of origin of a comic has become the central debate, instead of the art and writing. And while making minute distinctions in comics is nothing new, as comics fans love to have someone to look down on from their low social perch, it seems like it's become more entrenched and heated with the advent of the WeboComicBlogoNet. Everyone has an opinion, and now they can publish it ... and calm debate doesn't generate many hits.
Part of the increase in rhetoric comes from the pressure placed upon the old indy/capes dichotomy by the onslaught of manga. For years, both sides claimed they would be the one to penetrate the mainstream and champion the cause of sequential art in hearts and minds everywhere. One would do it with bold, four-color action, the other with intricate, heartfelt observations of life. And then manga comes along, does it, and renders the conversation moot. I would expect both sides are a bit embarrassed, if they even acknowledge what's happened. Manga is now the mainstream, and everyone else is fighting for a smaller piece of a smaller pie.
So - "BoreGate 2005". I'm going to avoid commenting on the personalities involved, because that's a mugg's game. The vitriol and bile is hot and heavy, but I really can't tell how much is for effect. The hyperbole has escalated to the point that reasoned responses just get swallowed whole. I really have no desire to choose sides in this one ...
... because I reject the battle lines that have been drawn up.
I think this constant petty squabbling between fans of manga, the mainstream, and indy comics is pointless and self-defeating. Though some would like to see the comics mainstream die a horrible death, I really can't see how that helps anyone or anything, other than increasing the nose-cutting to face-spiting ratio. Indy darling Tom Beland just posted about how he's a Spider-Man fan from the Old Skool, and I know he's not alone. Like it or not, mainstream superhero comics are part of sequential art in America.
What sticks in my craw in this debate is how insufferable the "Indy" flag-wavers can get. I can almost understand capes-n-tights fans that myopically follow the DC/Marvel Continuum, because at least they are following characters and stories. To bang the drum for "Indy" is to root for publishing concerns, to frame the debate in terms of "that which is not Marvel/DC", to cede the Big Two the front rack and define "'Indy" as "Other".
What is "Indy"? Since Harvey Pekar's latest, The Quitter, is published by DC, is he no longer "Indy"? Is he now The Man? Is a title like Tarot somehow inherently better because it's not published by Marvel or DC? Is Warren Ellis mainstream or indy? Fell is instantly better than Desolation Jones or Jack Cross because of the names in the legal boilerplate? The man may even write some manga - that'll really crack the internet in half!
Just like the last time I actively read comics, I entered to catch up on the mainstream events and have ended up drifting to a much wider range of comics. I recently added a "Greatest Hits" to my sidebar, containing my favorite posts. There's an "Indy", a manga, and something from the Big Two. My interest in current comics far outstrips my finances or my available time, and I agree with Heidi that the comic landscape is strewn with brilliance. But they don't come from one place. There's great stuff in the manga isle at Borders Books, in the monolithic crossovers of the Marvel/DC "mainstream", and in the indy listings at Khepri.com.
I don't care if it's a multinational conglomerate or a basement inkjet, I'll read what appeals to me. I don't feel the need to be an activist, and I don't feel the need to let Marvel/DC frame the debate. I am not reacting for or against them in the slightest, because I have no interest in being a foot soldier for someone's else's' economic concern. I don't want "mainstream" comics, or "Indy" comics ... I want good comics.
We're in this together, folks.