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March 13, 2008


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Sweet post, Craig, thanks! Ah, the unexpected byways of comics, and film, history.

I confess I never read Dagar or Dr. Spektor, but I have to say that those pages look good. Looks like Santos drew both. The GCD indicates that almost all of Santos' work in US comics was for Gold Key. He did a lot of mystery/horror comics work for them, e.g. Spine-Tingling Tales, Mystery Comics Digest, etc. And plenty of work with Glut, e.g., Tragg and the Sky Gods. I recall that this stuff was well-covered by Jon Cooke, Chris Irving, et al. in CBA #22.

Santos had a long career in Philippine comics. The Lambiek Comiclopedia has a helpful entry on Santos, which fills in some background about his career:


But even better is the information and gallery found at Gerry Alanguilan's online Philippine Comics Art Museum (which is a treasure trove):


Great site. As a kid, I saw the work of Philippine comics artists like Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino, and Rudy Nebres, and of course I could see a family resemblance, style-wise, but I never realized they were all Filipino. Duh. The first Swamp Thing I ever saw was by Redondo, and can be seen at the Museum here:


It's almost TOO elegant, eh?

Your Glut/Santos examples remind me that handsome, fecund-looking artwork is often more than half the battle in comics. The scripts may lend themselves to easy ridicule, but, man, the images have such authority...

On another note, and here I'll pick nits, I'm not sure I agree with the implications of your epigraph, the quote from Brakhage. An amateur may be driven by "his care for the work" first and foremost, but aesthetic pleasure and pride of craft are still informed by shared standards, and so I'd be tempted to say that no one really works "alone," in that sense. No matter how idiosyncratic the artistic work, its participation in larger traditions is what renders it intelligible to us, no?

Ditto criticism: sure, criticism is inevitably subjective, but I don't think it's ever WHOLLY subjective. Not only is it communicated to others (as we do here), and thus part of a virtual conversation, but it's also informed by standards that, while certainly not objective, are not wholly personal either. Robert Scholes makes a point, in his book TEXTUAL POWER (1985), which I encountered as an MA student in 1989, that all criticism involves us in collective interests and entails a social and ideological position. This is a point I was unwilling to grant in 1989 (I thought, what does individual opinion have to do with groups?), but now I think Scholes is correct. In a sense, we are, or seek to be, part of a community through our critical work (TB not excepted). It's a question of social positioning as well as aesthetic judgment. And I'd venture to say the same about Glut's amateur film-making, insofar as it involved him, and continues to involve him, in a community of shared effort and appreciation.

What's exciting to me about criticism is when the balance between communal and individual is readjusted by a critic who, while being part of a community of taste, nonetheless manages to strike out on his/her own in such a way as to have an unanticipated effect on said community. When someone who is part of the conversation says something so unexpected or provocative that it causes a bit of a stir, and sends the conversation in a productive new direction, that's when criticism becomes most interesting to me. It could be said that the best critics in TCJ have done that, recalibrating our understanding of comics in the process.

So, I know that criticism is not objective, but this does not mean that it is entirely subjective either. This reminds me of a course on creativity that Michele once took, in which it was argued that human creative endeavor is only understandable in terms of convention and social context, not exclusively private terms. Otherwise, we have no way of recognizing it as "creative." Point taken, even for the most stubbornly individualistic of artistic (or critical!) endeavors.

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