Odum and I have been going at it in the comments thread of my Dark Knight post. I’m mentioning it here because that post has slipped behind the front page of Candleblog and it’s an interesting disagreement we’re having. Any Candleblog readers who are into comics should check it out.
I’m posting the two most recent comments here so we can pick this up under this post (if there’s any more to say — there may not be). Other readers should feel free to weigh in. Read the earlier comments first though — they’re good.
Points where we deviate, I think:
1. You define something as “art” based on how it affects you personally – the very essence of a subjective definition. As in “I know it when I see it.” I define art as the media – and then subjectivize it through qualifying it as “bad” art or “good” art… or effective or ineffective, or whatever. I don’t think that how it touches or doesn’t touch me should qualify a term that is in use well beyond me. I think this is especially true if you ascribe such a particularized purpose to art as needing to “change” you.
2. I guess I just don’t see that the medium was “transcended” because I don’t see that it needed any “transcending.” It’s just a broader medium now, and we’re all better off for it, methinks.
Saying every movie, regardless of quality, is a work of “art” and then distinguishing between “good” art and “bad” art isn’t very satisfying to me, and here’s why: A film like Spider-Man 2 can succeed at everything it aspired to — looks great, captures the flavor and tone of the comics, is exciting and entertaining and occasionally touching, and gives the viewer a great two-hour ride. While a film like Catwoman can fail all of those tests. Spider-Man 2 is “good” in all of the ways we expect it to be and Catwoman is “bad.” My whole point is that The Dark Knight does stuff that neither of those films do — it has layers of meaning and it made me examine myself a little bit. The labels “good” and “bad” become a little weak at that point. I don’t want to gush too much here — it was not the greatest film I’ve ever seen or anything, but it was the first super hero movie I can think of that had that kind of depth. I’m using the word “art” to make that distinction. You can use whatever word you’re comfortable with (or simply disagree with me), but do you see what I mean at least?
“I just don’t see that the medium was “transcended” because I don’t see that it needed any ‘transcending.’”
See Alex’s point about the Code. The time frame I picked wasn’t just because I was getting hairs in funny places at the time, it was also the beginning of the direct market (bypassing the news services) and the proliferation of comics specialty shops, and the time when comics publishers began to take creator’s rights more seriously (DC was way ahead of Marvel on this and I suspect that’s why writers like Moore and Miller were drawn to them). And yes, the dimming shadow of the Code was a huge influence on the growing-up of the content of comics in the early 80s.
For a good example of the influence of that period of time on comics, read a Roger Stern Spider-Man arc from the early 80s (Stern was a “good” writer from that time) and then read a Bendis arc on Daredevil from a couple of years ago. Both are mainstream Marvel books written by top writers in the field from the two different eras. The difference is night and day in terms of story and character complexity. Mainstream comics writers can go places now they never could have 25 years ago and it was Miller and Moore (and a short list of others) who made that possible. That’s what I mean by “transcended.”