Friday Odds and Ends: BBC does Comics, True Swamp Online, and Serendipity via Twitter

Reader Jacob Stevens Corvidae emailed me with a link to “another Kick-Ass debate”; Kevin Smith on the BBC’s Newsnight Review, discussing both the film and the comic with author Jeanette Winterson (whose novels Jacob strongly recommends) and comedian Natalie Haynes (Part 3 above being especially lively).

A few quotes taken out of context might be depressing to comics enthusiasts, but I was actually delighted to see comics’ new rules of engagement in play. The medium’s potential for great work seemed a settled question (Winterson even name-checked City of Glass), so the debate centered instead on whether they were living up to that potential and that’s a question I’d love to see raised as often as possible.

Also, I just liked everybody on the show.

In other news, our old pal Jon Lewis has brought his ’90s classic True Swamp back to life via the Web. Gotta bookmark that.

And finally, Kazu tweeted a recommendation for this little gem by Luke Pearson so I’m passing it along. An odd but stimulating read.

Discussion (7)¬

  1. Sara says:

    It bugs me when people go on the record as not being comic fans and then are allowed to criticize comics with sweeping stunningly uninformed generalizations like “the comic book world is misogynistic”. argh. I suppose she wasn’t simply “allowed” since there was certainly rebuttal of this, but I felt like the conversation in the video side-stepped the fact that she was making the mistake of conflating the issues of extreme violence and the role of women in comics in such a way to do a disservice to feminism.

    According to Jeanette Winterson, a girl who fulfills a male-oriented role better than the boys do without any traditional female markers is somehow less of a FEMALE. “A female with no female characteristics at all.” argh. how about some obvious gender biases? What *is* a girl supposed to be then?

    I mean, I get that it’s reprehensible for a 11 y/o girl to go around brutally murdering people, but that shouldn’t make it any more shocking than a 11 y/o boy doing the same thing. It’s certainly shocking, but this lady has some hang-ups related to the character being female that I just can’t get my head around. How does the presence a strong ass-kicking 11 year old girl as a primary lead equate to “no place for women but as cardboard cut-outs”. Excuse me, but huh?

    She seems to want to ignore that this girl is actually female because that would destroy her notion of this work and of all works in the comics genre of being misogynistic. “Unfair and inaccurate” indeed.

    I’m somewhat open to her criticisms of extreme violence — I’m no fan of it myself — but she seems unwilling to acknowledge violence as enjoyable fantasy for some people. I hope she’d be willing to consider this for the sake of argument!

    • She’s also wrong about Hit Girl not having ‘female’ traits. What makes her so fun to watch is that in one scene she’s committing murder and in the next she’s using her little girl charms to get ice cream from her daddy. In the climax of the graphic novel her character is handled a little better, and we really get to see both sides of her personality in their extremes: little girl/killer. But the movie actually did a pretty good job with her overall I thought. Big Daddy and Kick-ass is another story…

  2. I think you’re missing her point. She’s not anti-comics, and clearly acknowledges them as a viable artform. Also, she’s incredibly sophisticated when it comes to the wide range of possibilities of gender. Much more so than most authors on the planet. Finally, she has plenty of violence in her books, and in fact her book Sexing the Cherry features an extremely violent female protagonist who some would consider a vehicle for violent fantasies, even as the book also provides a more complex character who appears deeply flawed.

    I’m in the middle of writing a blog about her comments on Kick Ass and how it relates to a talk I just heard from Bill Ford on his vision of environmental salvation (hope to post it soonish). I expect some overlap then with this topic, but for now, let me say this:

    Her concern, I believe, is about the dangers of absorbing shallow media. She’s said elsewhere about a recent novel:

    “People say to me, ‘so is the Stone Gods science fiction?’ Well, it is fiction, and it has science in it, and it is set (mostly) in the future, but the labels are meaningless. I can’t see the point of labelling a book like a pre-packed supermarket meal. There are books worth reading and books not worth reading. That’s all.”

    And there’s a real danger to thinking that a few swipes at a deeper storyline are sufficient. Combine that with her point that all the adrenaline rushing, when combined with shallow story telling, can cause a disconnect from the visceral connection that actually drives love, life, morality, human evolution, etc. THEN there’s a problem.

    But that’s just my take.

    • Well, I certainly don’t think Kick-ass is a truly ‘deep’ comic, but here is why I enjoyed it. The protagonist was a loser, or as he called it, “an asshole.” He knew he was an asshole. He hated himself for being an asshole. And yet he can’t stop this ridiculous Quixotic drive within him. It’s the character’s self-awareness of his flaws that made him compelling.

      In the climax of the graphic novel, instead of strapping on a jet pack and shooting people (which, though entertaining in a silly sort of way, doesn’t really connect to any meaningful character arc). Compare this to what I think is “his moment” in the comic: In a Hail Mary of complete desperation, Kick-ass incites the only thing he was ever good at: getting beat up. Instead of being shot, he challenges the thugs to kill him like a man, and he gets beaten so hard the chair breaks beneath him. And that was the plan. He stands up bloody and broken, but is still ready to play the role of the hero as he prepares for another fight. He didn’t know Hit Girl was going to come out of nowhere and come save him. That’s what makes Kick-ass compelling for me. He’s a terrible hero. He’s not even a really good human being. But he has a drive and belief in this crazy dream that can never be turned off.

      Don’t get me wrong. Kick-ass is not my favorite book or anything, but I think there’s more going on than some of its critics say…but that’s just me.

  3. Sandra says:

    Roger Ebert gave Kill Bill four “stars” and Kick-Ass one “star”. Sure, Kill Bill is a better film by several stars in my opinion, but the motivation Ebert uses is that Kick-Ass is morally reprehensible for all the killing. Say what? Dear Ebert, please be consistent. It’s great that you want to punish immoral killing films but do so across the board.

    It’s strange how people position this movie as based on a comic book since the script was allegedly written in parallel with the comic, not based upon it.

    »I’m going to cover hear ears for all the language and just show her the violence.«

    I read the book version of Dave as a racist, a homophobe and a sexist. The film version has that toned down but, well, how events turned out between him and Katie Deauxma in the film version had me raging in my seat, because I remembered the ass-hole version of Dave from the comic book version.

    Sure, I guess Mark Millar might not think of himself as a big of a jerk as Dave but Dave is presented as such an »everyman«, the »typical comic book reader«. In the film, his friends are these disgusting, Judd Apatow–esque guys who’re all into tricking and »scoring«.

    I don’t know. I don’t know.

    Jacob, you and Jeanette have good points. I’ve read some of her books and found them boring and not that deep, but maybe I should give her a new chance.
    I wish she would make comics. Everyone should, since comics are the best medium. Text authors say »learn to read« to us, well, I say »learn to draw« to them! Or collaborate with an artist.

  4. huh…hoping my pro-kick-ass argument was going to get a swift rebuttal. I meant to post the comment after yours in the thread Sandra. I see where you’re coming from in some of your points though…Maybe I need to give it another read. I think I’m just more sympathetic to the characters…maybe because I remember what it was like to be a hormonal teen without many friends and who felt better about who they were when they read superhero stories.

  5. […] young girl was progress. This is another debate that has raged in other places.  (Comics-god Scott McCloud points out that at least this particular conversation was a sign of progress for comics […]