Monday, February 11, 2008

The Canon's Already Under Attack!

Yesterday I posted my declaration of the American Comic Canon, and the comments have been great. I fully expect my Canon to spark debate and discussion, and it already has.

For the record, here's what's been suggested as essential additions to the Canon, followed by my brief rebuttal:

1. Thomas Nast added to Early Comic Strips
--I say yes, although I know very little about Nast. From what I do know, he sounds like an influential pioneer, and that's important to have at the beginning of the Canon, at least for historical perspective. Perhaps he doesn't belong because he doesn't do sequential work, though. What do you think?

2. Teen Titans, Uncanny X-Men, and Squadron Supreme moved from Bronze Age to the Modern Age (and, Squadron Supreme was actually my own suggestion as an addition, but the request to move it to the later era belonged to a reader).
--I say no, because the Titans, X-Men, and Squadron Supreme are the logical conclusion to the promise of the Bronze Age. Squadron Supreme, in particular, takes the O'Neil/Adams formula and projects it onto a larger stage. It, along with the other two titles, are the perfect end point for the Bronze Age. (And, in retrospect, I think I should add Squadron Supreme into that Bronze Age category.)

3. Walt Simonson's Thor added to the Modern Age
--I say no, although Simonson is a wonderful artist. I just don't think this one makes the cut as a singular work, although some of Simonson's page layouts are innovative enough to make it a close call.

4. John Byrne's Fantastic Four added to the Modern Age
--I say no, it's not even close. In many ways, Byrne's FF is a mashup of Silver Age plots with Bronze Age characterizations, and it's not truly representative of the promise of the Modern Era

5. Frank Miller's Ronin added to the Modern Age
--I say no, because Miller is overly represented as it is. Ronin is clearly a transformative work for Miller and you can see him literally progressing to a new style over the course of the book. It's him shedding his Daredevil skin and preparing for Dark Knight Returns, and it's an essential link between the two, but I don't think it stands on its own as canonical.

6. Chester Brown or Seth added to the Modern Age
--I say yes, but I don't know which work(s) I would add. I seriously considered Clyde Fans, by Seth, as an original addition to the list, but it's incomplete. I think he may have a masterpiece that will yet emerge. Chester Brown is important, but what's his major work? I honestly don't know. Suggestions?

7. Cerebus moved from Bronze Age to the Modern Age
--I say yes, definitely. The best, most important Cerebus stuff was during the mid to late 1980s, and it was high Modernist in style and content. I only placed it in the Bronze Age as a kind of bridge between the Undergrounds to the Moderns, but that's not fair to Cerebus.

8. The Authority added to the Modern Age
--I say yes, for two reasons. 1) Even though it's not truly an Image book, it represents the logical outgrowth of the Image approach to super-heroes, and it's worthy of inclusion as a kind of pinnacle of that sub-era, and 2) the comic has influenced other super-hero comics ever since its release.

What do you say? What else did I leave out? What should be removed? How many is too many? Do you love comics as much as I do?

EDITED TO ADD: Abhay has joined the fray HERE.


Marc Caputo said...

Seth - "It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken."

Chester Brown - "The Playboy" and "I Never Liked You." Now, there's some version concerns I have about these. For "The Playboy", I go with the collected version. For "I Never Liked You", I have to go with the floppies, as the first collection was kind of incomplete and the "director's cut" also left me wanting. I need to look at them again, but definitely the Yummy Fur 26-30 under the title "F--k" (eliminations mine. Prude.)

Timothy Callahan said...

Two Chester Brown additions seems excessive--if you had to pick one, would you go with The Playboy? (I haven't read it--I've only read Yummy Fur)

Marc Caputo said...

Give me a day to look them over - that's a tough call.

Chad Nevett said...

I'm thinking the one area lacking majorly is specific single issues. I'm not sure I'd know where to start, but focusing on complete works/runs seems counterintuitive in a medium where a lot of great work has been done on the single issue level.

As a result, would it be, perhaps, more accurate to look at some of the larger bodies of work already included and focus on specific stories/issues rather than complete runs?

nadir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nadir said...

seeing the seth and brown listen what about sacco's stuff. his "reporting" style seems a fresh perspective and others seem to have been open to his influence. see the shooting zone and dmz, if not most of wood's output, in particular.

still have issues with your timing of the modern age, and the lack of SS as a part of it. More so than the NTT and TDPS. how was this comic is not perfectly a fit in the modern age, as you deem it an " era is marked by an ironic exploration of past icons". if that is not exactly was SS is doing, with ample does the bronze ages realism, i am not sure i know what it is.

Timothy Callahan said...

I'm sure Sacco would belong, but I have never read any of his longer work, so I can't speak from experience.

Squadron Supreme is decidedly NOT ironic. It drips with sincerity. It's a direct extension of the "relevant" heroes of the early Bronze Age, and it hits on all the key points--social problems, gender issues, cancer. The biggies.

Marc Caputo said...

Still mulling over "The Playboy" vs. "F--K"/"I Never Liked You" but can't make up my mind. I took about an hour off earlier to try an easier challenge - picking which one of my arms I can do without.

But I noted something about either one. I think that the revised versions from floppies to collections will actually make for an interesting discussion about the introduction of cinematic concepts like "director's cut" into comics. (And....I'm back. Just eBay'ed the floppies.)

nadir said...


rush out and read safe area gorazde. palestine is decent, but sag is simply marvelous. it captures so much of the conflict that no other media was even thinking of at the time. i wish i had read it much earlier than i did.

too much of my thoughts before hand were the serbs are fighting the bonsians, oh.... sag helped really focus the perspective of the conflict. it made me see that comics have so much more potential than i had given them credit for.