Friday, March 23, 2012

Tucker Stone Destroys for Fun and Profit

If Tucker Stone only wrote his hilariously scathing reviews on a chalkboard outside of Bergen Street Comics, I would be sure to make extra trips to Brooklyn just to enjoy his prose. I have obsessively clicked on The Factual Opinion some late Sunday nights, when I'm working on some column for a deadline, hoping that his "Comics of the Weak" would miraculously update, even though  half of the comics he writes about so savagely are ones that I regularly enjoy with unrestrained enthusiasm.

But somehow, shifting his weekly take-down of "mainstream" comics to The Comics Journal site has added a weird new dimension to his words. Because now, though his tone is exactly the same as it has been for years, his biting mini-reviews have the weight of authority behind them.

Coming as a weekly (or less-than-weekly, more recently) blog post on his own faux-haughty Factual Opinion site, Tucker's snarky vitriol seemed like harmless but gut-punchingly entertaining pub talk. The sort of ultimate example of how we might all like to rant about the terribleness inside the comics that we find ourselves reading. And if you've been following Tucker's writing over the years, it's seemed that some of his exaggeratedly vicious criticism has become less and less of a pose and more and more of an acceptance that, yeah, these comics are pretty much as bad as he's been saying. At least, that's what seems to be reflected from his point of view. Increasing disillusionment from a source that was barely illusioned to begin with.

The comments, though -- and I should know not to read comments ever, sure, yes, I know -- on his second-and-most-recent TCJ column. His newly-relocated "Comics of the Weak." These comments remind me that because The Comics Journal barely covers front-half-of-Diamond-Previews comics, Tucker's words are not only seen as authoritative about the individual comics he writes about, but they're also seen as representative of an entire massive subsection of comics. Tucker indicts all of "mainstream" comics by ridiculing his particular selections on a weekly basis, to an audience that seems reassured in its bias.

"Aha!" they shout. "We knew those COMIC BOOKS were unreadable all along. Why, we gave them up years ago to focus on archiving our Ernie Bushmiller collections and waiting for the new Alison Bechdel. Thank you, Tucker Stone, for reminding us that we no longer have to waste our time on nonsense."

It reminds me of the "Little Cinema" in the lower level of the small museum here in my town. My wife and I used to go there to see independent and art house films every month or two. And the place would always be packed with retired folks, and they would laugh at all the wrong parts of every movie and applaud at the end of everything, seeming to miss the point of what they saw but yet clearly entertained by every moment. They would, haltingly, scoff at any mention of the big summer blockbuster playing at the multiplex.

I think of that crowd when I read some of the comments underneath Tucker's new column. And I think of these shambling septuagenarians (or worse, their snarling adolescent nihilist pals) interpreting a few funny, too-true reviews as some kind of blanket criticism of everything that comes out of Marvel and DC and IDW and Boom and whoever else publishes comic books that have action and punching and explosions and important conversations about whether society hates the protagonists or fears them. And I think of those readers feeling safe in their choice of sticking with The Collected Nancy Artist's Edition and I hate them in their narrowmindedness.

Then I turn and begin to celebrate all the variety and genre-smashing comics that those readers might be missing if they let Tucker turn them away from everything that the "mainstream" comic book publishers have to offer.

But, sadly, I can't even muster the energy to do that. I can't advocate for Justice League International or Dominique Laveau or X-Factor or Peter Panzerfaust or even the comics I like. I like them, these days, the way I like Chocolate-covered Peeps and the doodles of Inspector Gadget in the corners of my notes for work. But I don't advocate for them, necessarily.

Tucker may be right after all, even if he doesn't mean it. (Though he totally does.) And I'll be obsessively clicking on, waiting for more.

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