Just Mars

Comics as poetry titled "Just Mars"

Just Mars

A bit of a departure here, and also a bit of an homage to the New York School comics poetry of Joe Brainard, Kenneth Koch, et al.


Also, here’s another reminder that I’ll be giving a talk on comics poetry (or poetry comics, or comics as poetry—take your pick) at the New York Comics and Picture-Story Symposium on Monday, August 27th, at 7pm. This week’s meeting will be held in room 305 of Columbia’s Russell Hall. Hope to see some of you there!


9 thoughts on “Just Mars

  1. Can’t wait to see it!

    The New York School tribute comes from having spent some time with an old, mimeographed edition of C: Comics in Columbia’s rare books collection. I feel like those guys kind of beat all of us to everything back in 1964…

    • How much have you seen? My personal tastes tend toward the earnest and devotional rather than the experimental or irreverent, so I expected to appreciate the work more than love it. That’s how I generally feel about poets like those in the New York School.

      But a few things struck me. First was how these comics seemed to prefigure so much that came after, from underground comics right through contemporary art comics. Gary Sullivan has a post you may have seen about how these guys are overlooked in the history of alternative comics. I think he’s right.

      Beyond that, many of the pieces were formally inventive in a way that shows true appreciation for the mechanics of the comics page. I see Lichtenstein and I feel like that dude is condescending to his subject matter. I did not feel that way here. Granted, a lot of the source material is “low art,” but I think Brainard’s and Koch’s sincere love of that material is pretty well established.

      And somehow the physical mimeograph really drove home the context of its creation—how buttoned up most of culture remained in 1964, and how deeply, deeply frustrating that must have been for these artists. I think they’re embracing the “low” with a kind of anarchic, outsider glee, not looking down their noses at it.

      I’m not rock solid on the history, and the New York School isn’t really my bag, but that’s my take on it. At any rate, I took a bunch of pictures of the book, and I’ll send you a link to them.

      • Thanks for sharing that. I have seen examples from that issue, and Brainard’s Nancy work, and some of Koch’s work. It just doesn’t do much for me either intellectually or aesthetically.

        I disagree about Lichtenstein. His work isn’t about condescension despite how much people in the comics world seem to think that.

        • Fair enough. The Brainard/Koch camp has clearly won me over, and I’ll see if I can make a better case for them another time.

          I’ll admit, though, that my reaction to Lichtenstein is more knee-jerk than considered. Can you recommend any reading that would provide better insight? I just found Noah Berlatsky’s essay on the subject. It strikes me as a good take, but I can’t say that I find a stance of “etiolated longing” much more appealing than one of condescension.

          As cultural critiques go, something like Frank O’Hara’s “Ode to Joy” (or a lot of the stuff in C: Comics) strikes me as much more satisfying. Particularly, these works seem to go beyond identifying problems by imagining ways out. The hedonism, the zaniness—even the annoying chattiness and irony—read like strategies to navigate a fundamentally broken world. If we accept Berlatsky’s take on Lichtenstein, isn’t that comparatively bloodless? (Perhaps I’m drawing false parallels, but these works are certainly reacting to at least some of the same things.)

          Anyway, I don’t mean to draw this out forever, but I am genuinely curious why Lichtenstein appeals to you where these guys don’t.

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