The End Ain't Nigh
Having written extensively about the comics medium, and even published a magazine (The Comics Interpreter), I was intrigued by your recent cover story with the gimmicky subtitle "Is this the end of the comic book industry as we know it?" ("To Be Continued" by Jason Zwiker, April 23)
I didn't expect any new revelations, but I also didn't entirely expect the meandering, disjointed, and ultimately pointless article enclosed within either. Most of the article was devoted to how to break into the industry as an artist (news flash, it ain't easy) with a quick history of the medium for laymen tacked on; both of which are then uncomfortably sutured to the supposed premise of the medium's demise ("as we know it").
And this demise is in fact the mere transition of format from 24-page pamphlet comics to collections and graphic novels. It's like asking "Is this the end of the movie biz as we know it" when Dolby stereo became ubiquitous. It's only cosmetic.
Pamphlet comics (or "floppies" as the article calls them), which typically come out monthly, exist mostly to provide the creators with a steady paycheck until the stories can be collected. With the rise in print costs as well as changing reader habits and distribution issues, book-length collections are becoming the favored format. In pop culture terms, comics are a marginalized art form that continue to be profitable for big publishers primarily because they provide such fertile ground for adaptation to other mediums like film and television.
If there's a story about the current state of comics, albeit one that dozens of magazines and newspapers have already beaten you to, it's that the medium is experiencing something of a golden age of creativity, acceptance, and artistic freedom, with creators ranging from Alison Bechdel to Adrian Tomine to Marjane Satrapi to The Brothers Hernandez and many more who are creating not just great comics but great literature which will stand up to the best any other storytelling medium has to offer.
Isle of Palms
A Closer Look
In the Rev. Joseph A. Darby's guest column in last week's City Paper he implores Jack Hunter to "take a closer, objective look" at the NAACP, an organization which the Rev. Darby has been affiliated with for some time. ("Frustrated," April 23)
One of the first things a brief survey of NAACP history reveals is a list of its founders, the most prominent and influential being W.E.B. Du Bois. Du Bois is well known for many things, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of his career was his advocacy of a vanguard, integrationist strategy for black advancement. Du Bois' basic idea was to work within existing white institutions, creating a "talented tenth" of the black population around which would grow an intellectual culture, middle class, and other trappings of successful American life.
This "rising tide will lift all boats" argument was in stark contrast to the self-reliant, hands-on, bottom-up tactic advocated by Booker T. Washington, Du Bois' intellectual rival. The major difference of course was that Du Bois was an elitist, a managerial authoritarian, and a Leninist. Washington was a proud black man who believed in community control and self-empowerment. This divide has existed in the civil rights movement and the NAACP ever since.
Perhaps Rev. Darby would be interested in directing the "misinformed" Mr. Hunter to take a look at the NAACP career of Robert Williams. Williams, head of the NAACP chapter in Monroe, N.C., during the late 1950s is one of the forgotten heroes of the civil rights movement. When violent Klansmen terrorized his town, Williams did what any patriotic American would do. After joining the NRA, he organized a defense squad and drove the racist thugs out of town. For exercising his Second Amendment rights in their most Constitutional sense, Williams was suspended by the national NAACP.
In recent years the NAACP has considered granting awards to Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. While I myself am not particularly interested in the distribution of plaques and titles to establishment figures, one wonders if the African-American community sees Powell or Rice as figures worthy of acclaim. Julian Bond didn't seem to think so, but then Kweisi Mfume disagreed. Again, the fissure.
Implying that Jack Hunter is the latest in a long line of "southern avengers" who aim to "silence" minorities is not only an inexplicable misreading of Mr. Hunter's columns, it is unintentionally hilarious coming from a vice president of an organization that has a long history of "shutting up" dissidents within its ranks.