The Horrible Truth About Art Comics and/or Postmodernism

Today’s New York Times puff piece on comix underachiever Art Spiegelman (Maus, bad New Yorker covers, nothing else worth mentioning) started me thinking about how artists work around their shortcomings. People like me, who have no shortage of ideas but aren’t the best draughtsmen around, end up doing smart, wordy cartoons for alternative newspapers using styles that allow us to avoid having to do a lot of detailed rendering. In other words, we work around our drawing handicaps.

Others have noticed that.

What people may not have noticed, or what I haven’t heard at any rate, is that a lot of trendy art comics types, like, say, Chris Ware and almost everyone working in contemporary fiction, work around their lack of ideas with a lot of dazzling artwork and typography.

Pick up a copy of Ware’s “Quimby Mouse” in a bookstore near you–don’t buy it, you’ll just want to bring it back–and you’ll see what I mean. The damned thingn is beautiful. Unbelievably pretty. And there isn’t a single idea in the whole goddamned book. But people buy it, and pretend that they “get it” when there’s nothing to get, because they feel stupid admitting that they don’t get it. And also because they can’t imagine that such an accomplished artist could be so bereft of original–hell, any–thought.

I’m thinking that postmodernism/deconstructionism is essentially a plot by folks without ideas to convince the world that an absence of ideas is itself an idea. The emperor, no clothes, you know.

So a world divided between idea people and art people has become a world divvied up between smart people who can’t draw and dumb people who can. Bee-yutiful.