Perhaps now is the ideal time to shed our victim complex. I’m certainly not going so far as to suggest that MoCCA 2008 and the one day Post-Bang symposium that proceeded it will somehow go down in history as a critical turning point in the eternally shifting tides of American popular culture, but seated in the second row of NYU’s Canton Film Center for the majority of latter, it seems safe to say that, for all of the creative fodder comics have managed to squeeze from inflated feelings of inferiority versus notions of “fine art,” at least for the moment, certain aspects of our world have unquestionably changed, seemingly for the better.
The suggestion an all day symposium on the subject of comics occurring within the confines of a well-respected academic establishment is no longer met with stares of bemusement, for starters. Stock newspaper headlines like “Comics Aren’t Just for Kids Anymore” have long since become a running joke in our insular universe, serious discussions on that subject having since been replaced that ever important question: what the hell happened to all of the comics for kids? Our heroes too have been elevated to the level of respect normally reserved for artists toiling away at the forefront of less traditionally maligned fields. Names like Lynda Barry, Gary Panter, and Art Spiegelman often share column space and museum walls with the most respected names in literature and art.
If there’s one criticism to be leveled against an day of excellent panels, it’s the fact that, while there perhaps there are still wars to be waged in the ever-important battle for academic legitimacy, it seems as though we sometimes spend a bit too much time trying to sell our art to ourselves, the last people in the world who need convincing about the medium’s significance.
That said, Friday’s panels were hands down some of the tightest and most illuminating on the topic I’ve attended in recent memory. At the risk of sounding a touch biased, approaching the talk from the perspective of critic, the 3:00 panel, Comics and the Literary Establishment featuring Jeet Heer, Hillary Chute, David Hadju, and Douglas Wolk was particularly well executed.
Of course the stars of the evening were the aforementioned trio of heavy hitters, Barry, Panter, and Spiegelman. Sadly I was unable to attend the Lynda Barry event that closed the evening, in order to jump boroughs to another of the evening’s pre-MoCCA festivities.
I did, however, have the pleasure of sitting second row, center for the hour-long conversation between Spiegelman, Panter, and moderator Bill Kartalopolous. Over the course of the panel, they touched on topics ranging from fine art influences, to 9-11, to San Francisco acid trips. It was a loving reminder in this world of post-bang of a few of the minds who helped light the fuse.
[Check out more videos on our YouTube page].