SMASHback #2: ASSvision

September 20th, 2016

Some more thoughts on the London Graphic Novel Network‘s second S.M.A.S.H. event, as previously discussed here.

You can watch the panel I contributed to below:

My speech at the start of this panel now exists like the death of Orion in/around Final Crisis, in a mini-kaleidoscope of different versions and recordings scattered across the internet – suits me, given the daft flourish about the Tower of Babel I threw in at the end of it!

The other panellists brought a range of expertise, and while there weren’t any heated arguments, I think our personalities and perspectives clashed in a way that was generally illustrative – Hannah was comfortable enough in her own skin to be flip and funny about taste, Katriona‘s contributions were considered and precise, and Mark‘s focus on technical skill neatly offset my own pseudo-academic tendencies.

As for the broader event, if you’d asked me I would have said that the crowd skewed young and “progressive” (not a term I’m over-fond of myself – I like specificity, a sense of what is being advanced – but having just used it like this I can see the appeal of its vagueness) but there was some pushback when Kelly Kanayama/Maid of Nails discussed the use of racist tropes in the first Warren Ellis/Bryan Hitch Authority story during the panel on MEANING.

Reconstructing intent was a running theme of all three panels (the other two were ART and DIVERSITY, remember), and in this instance it took the form of the Good Man defence

SMASHback #1: The Tower

April 3rd, 2016

Back in February, I appeared on a panel at the London Graphic Novel Network’s S.M.A.S.H. event. There were a lot of great speakers at those events (including our own Maid of Nails, friend of the website Kieron Gillen, America’s next top comics critic J.A. Micheline, Mazin off the Kraken podcast, and Jam Trap poet Chrissy Williams), staggered across three panels focusing on MEANING, ART and REPRESENTATION in comics.

The plan was to write series of posts inspired by these talks, but then this happened.

Trying to appear big and clever on the internet has never felt less important to me than it did in the aftermath. 

Anyway, I spoke on the art panel at S.M.A.S.H. and as a comics critic in the company of artists/editors, I figured I would be the least qualified person to talk about the subject so I did what I always do: I overcompensated. Only Mister Attack will ever see the first draft of my introductory talk, the charmingly titled “COMICS ARTISTS ARE WASTING THEIR LIVES”. In the end, I settled for a slightly less arsey approach that focused on different modes of reading, and how we might want to develop our understanding of our own biases so we can better make them fight to prove which opinions are best.

You can listen to what I actually said and the subsequent panel debate here (headphones recommended, audio’s a but quiet!), read the version of this pitch I submitted here, or if you fancy getting the right mix of depth and brevity you can now read the text I brought with me on the day below.

None of these versions are quite the same. None of them quite get across what I thought I was trying to say. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Taste the glory!

If you don’t know Joel (or to give him his Mindless name, Go Complex!) from his work on the Kraken Podcast/London Graphic Novel Network, that’s okay – this is the first of three guest posts so you’ll have plenty of time to get used to his chatty, digressive style!

What I’d say about him – this is Illogical Volume here, hi! – is that in addition to being a nice guy with a lovely face, he’s also the sort of person who makes things/thoughts possible that might not have occurred without him.  Joel arranged the SMASH comics events that The Beast Must Die and I spoke at, and when he’s not bringing Ellis bros and Maid of Nails into conflict over whether the portrayal of Kaizen Gamorra is racist or exposing a hundred plus folks to the wonders of hurricane Ramzee, he frequently manages to make me want to pick a fight with my phone while I’m in the middle of the street just by having opinions about things.

If this sounds like a diss, it isn’t. Even when I find myself arguing with Joel – whether this happens in my head or in real life on the internet – it’s almost always productive, so regardless of whether I agree with him or not I’m always glad to have encountered his brain.

Anyway, that’s enough of my blether – take it away Joel!

Have you read Prophet? Brandon Graham?

Basically: it’s the perfect metaphor for the current state of our capitalist entertainment complex. Or whatever. Neo-liberal blah blah etc.

Speaking of which: Let’s talk Star Wars.

(Altogether now! “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”)

My two cents: The Empire Strikes Back is Batman. Return of the Jedi is Superman. And The Force Awakens is Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (Miles Morales not Peter Parker).

Truth be told: I’ve never really been all that into Star Wars. I was always more of a Star Trek kid which makes sense because – come on – science fiction is way better than science fantasy, right?  Mostly, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek not included, Star Trek is actually about stuff  (even if it’s not exactly what you could call subtle) while Star Wars is simple, clear-delineated between battles of good versus evil.  (One of the many many things that would have made The Force Awakens would have been just Finn actually saying “Wait – are we the bad guys?”) Which is nice and everything but doesn’t really give you all that much to sink your brain teeth into – we’ll leave aside for now how thinking of terms of people being good or evil is basically at the root of a lot of our problems as a species because you already know that already right?

Saying that – I do have memories of watching the Ewoks cartoon a lot as a kid, and I’d like to imagine that was my first contact with the Star Wars universe if only because – how cool would that be? You grow up thinking of the Ewoks as their own separate contained universe, and then the first time you actually watch the Star Wars films and you get to Return of the Jedi and Endor you’re all like “wait a second – are those The Ewoks?” And then your mind is blown and nothing is ever the same.

I’m not saying that didn’t happen (and that sure would explain a lot) I just don’t have any real memory of it.

CDon’t worry. The Ewoks are coming back in a bit.