Home | Contents | Photos | News | Reviews | Store | Forum | ICI | Educators | Fans | Contests | Help | FAQ | Info

Indian Comics:  Art vs. Propaganda

In which I debate several issues with Khan, a long-time adversary. We begin in mid-debate by discussing whether Erik Larsen is the best comic book writer. We segue into the differences between art and propaganda.

>> So you define "greatest" as the person you think (with no proof) would be doing the most or best comics if he weren't being paid? <<

>> TO CLARIFY ONCE AGAIN: Larsen is the best becuz he's doing exactly what he wants to do, as /he/ chooses to do it. <<

Thanks for your so-called clarification. My paraphrase of your clarification, above, is accurate.

And since Larsen continues to work for publishers like Marvel and DC, he isn't doing exactly he wants to do. He's doing what they pay him to do, unlike me.

>> i've decided to just plain give up on you, Schmidty, becuz I realize now that you're just some nerd <<

In other words, you're a quitter. You talk about fighting for the truth, but when it comes to someone who can argue circles around you, you walk. FYI, when people talk about "walking the walk," they don't mean in the other direction with your tail between your legs.

>> and not any real artist <<

How would you, a wannabe with one published story, know? Anyone who thinks Erik Larsen is the best has proved his inability to judge good storytelling.

>> Yes [Larsen] would [do comics without pay]. That's why he started doing them in the first place. <<

In your opinion, you mean. Where's the proof, sonny?

>> The act of writing fan fiction is basically the same reason why I write <<

When you have evidence that Larsen still writes fan fiction for free, please provide it. Otherwise, this is more empty hot air.

>> You don't meet this criterion for the same reason why I've given up on trying to teach you anything <<

It would help your "teaching" if you knew more than I did, rather than the other way around. As you may recall, I've been involved with comics more than twice as long as you have. I suppose you could "teach" me the way a dog teaches his master, by barking often enough.

Schmidty doesn't get it?
>> Schmidty: pure and simple, you just don't get it. <<

I "get" that everyone I've talked to disagrees with you—with the exception of your mentor Cloffo, who taught you how to parrot him. Why would I care about your opinion when—to repeat—everyone else disagrees with you?

>> Art is about somebody wanting to make something for whatever reason, and doing it. If that reason comes from within, then it's good art <<

Again, you contradict the posts where you claim creators should pander to the masses to earn big bucks. For the umpteenth time.

To bury your argument further, where's your evidence that Larsen is doing what he wants to do more than Alan Moore is? Moore is writing and publishing five comics under an imprint he owns. What is Larsen doing that compares to that?

By your own silly standard, Moore is the "better" writer. He's putting more of his heart and soul into more comics. Apparently you don't know a labor of love when you see one, but his devotion to his ABC books is obvious to the rest of us.

By the way, his "Fighting American" stories are conceptually similar to PEACE PARTY, in that both address social, political, and cultural issues.

>> (like just to get paid, or in your case, just to make some political stance) <<

Your stupid misreading of my intent is just that, stupid. The first two issues, which are the only PEACE PARTY stories you've read, were about the characters foiling bad guys and, not incidentally, getting in touch with their feelings. The third story is about exploring their superpowers while chasing a loose llama. It's about as political as it sounds.

"Politics" is only one subplot in my stories and—again, as you stupidly fail to realize—politics can be art too. As can religion, history, basketweaving, or any other human endeavor. Art is how you tell a story, not what you tell it about. Which is why MAUS is art and SAVAGE DRAGON, for the most part, isn't.

>> Case in point: /why/ do you want to make _Peace Party_? Have you /ever/ answered this question? <<

Yes, lots of times. Anyone who knows me knows I've written a thousand messages as if Billy and Drew were real people to me. I want to tell their stories. I've written character arcs for each of them. I've envisioned the peaks and valleys of their lives—the births, marriages, and deaths.

Anyone with sense would see that characterization drives my comics. From the initial camping scene to the final confrontation at the ranch house, Billy and Drew act because of their personalities. Politics doesn't enter once into their decisions.

That their stories happen to involve politics and religion and culture is simply a felicitous choice. That you don't see the difference is simply your shortsightedness.

Is improving images Rob's motivation?
>> If the answer is something like, "to improve the image of Native Americans in popular media," then you're some dumb ass. <<

Since you think that's the answer, though it isn't, you're the only dumb ass present. As I told you before, reread the "Post Mortem" in PEACE PARTY #2. That's pure characterization, it doesn't mention politics, and it signals the series direction. What part of that don't you understand?

>> If the answer is, "because I like Native American culture, and think it makes a good foundation for the types of comic stories I like," then you're an artist. <<

Bingo, doofus.

"An immutable fact," said Francine R. Wise (Jicarilla Apache) in Indian Country Today, 12/27/00, "[is that] to be a Native American in any century is to be political." Since I'm writing about Native American characters, that means I'm writing about politics by definition. It means my characters' lives happen to involve them in political issues—not that I'm writing about politics instead of telling stories about my characters.

>> I seriously think you just want to do _Peace Party_ to improve the popular depiction of Native Americans. <<

I seriously think you don't know what the hell you're talking about. No, really, I mean seriously.

>> WHY do you want to do that? I really don't know. If it's some personal reason, then I'd have more respect, but I have the feeling it's just because they're the most oppressed minority group there is <<

I've written how I've been interested in other cultures since I was a child. I'd call that a personal reason. See The Genesis of PEACE PARTY for more.

>> you feel, is your good deed for your lifetime. <<

Even if that were true, you'd still be wrong.

>> And that's propaganda, not art. <<

Better people than you have noted that all politics is personal. So I'd say my motives are intertwined, just as Dickens's and Kafka's and Steinbeck's were. I'll "settle" for the same accolades they earned by writing sociopolitical and -cultural stories.

More important, I think you're confusing the commentaries I write—for instance, most issues of Indian Comics Irregular—with my storytelling. If I'd written 100 comics and two opinion pieces—rather than 100 opinion pieces and two comics—you'd realize what you're obviously missing. As it is, you can't see my intent and you can't grasp my explanations.

Is PEACE PARTY propaganda or isn't it?
But why so much speculation? You've read my comics. Rather than try to guess my intentions, why don't you judge the comics on their merits? Do they read like propaganda to you or not?

If your answer is yes, recall that you gave them an A- rating and chose to subscribe. So either your opinion was wrong then or your opinion is wrong now. Either way, you're flip-flopping like a flounder. Hardly a triumphal moment for the black wannabe who claims to the "realest."

>> More important, your definition of "greatest" is completely at odds with the standard definition, and you do nothing to justify it. <<

>> I /open/ the freaking piece /dismissing/ the standard definition (which you yourself quoted), then spend the /rest/ of the piece explaining why I do so, and then you say this. Incredible. Absolutely incredible. <<

What part of my message didn't you read? The key part, apparently. I pointedly asked how you knew Larsen wanted to express his passions more than some unknown kid—or more than Alan Moore, for that matter. If you answered that point, please repeat your answer. Otherwise, I repeat that you didn't justify your choice.

>> You're right. So what? Why respond to this if it's so meaningless, right? <<

Because I have some dim hope that you'll realize how stupid you sound. But more important, because I like to burst your pompous bubble. Anyone who thinks he's a writer after one story, who claims he's the "realest" "brutha" around, who believes he's destined for greatness, deserves it.

It's so much fun, in fact, that I think I'll post this on Usenet for all to see. And I'll add it to my site as a great statement on art vs. propaganda. Thanks for the contribution to Blue Corn Comics, guy.

Erik Larsen the best...guffaw!

As I said, a child puts more passion into his finger-painting than most adults do their work. That doesn't make the child a better artist, except by your made-up definition. Your mistake is that you think art must be pure to exist. Wrong, as countless examples show.

In case you didn't know, patrons commissioned Michelangelo to do all those statues and paintings he did. Oddly enough, many people consider him, not you and your paper dolls, the best. His subject matter—religious propaganda—didn't hinder his art because he was so incredibly talented.

Artistic talent is only vaguely related to artistic motive. Purity of motive guarantees nothing about the outcome. The sooner you learn that, the sooner you'll learn to judge what real art is. As it is, your judgment is almost as childlike as the art you appreciate.

Schmidty a "small person"?
>> See Schmidty, you're such a small person, it's a joke. I mean, every response you've ever made to me has been a veiled attempt to try to prove your worth to me <<

If you say so, junior. Too bad that doesn't explain the myriads of activities I pursue that don't involve you.

Maybe you mean I'm trying to prove my worth to my hundreds of correspondents? If so, they don't seem to mind, since they keep corresponding.

And what do I need to prove, since every week people tell me my work is good? Celebrities, professors, teachers, writers, and artists are all hopping aboard the PEACE PARTY bandwagon. Pro artist Rob Davis signed on to pencil my stories (Pro Artist Rob Davis Joins PEACE PARTY Team), so he thinks I'm on the right track. If you think I'm waiting for your approval, guess again.

>> you haven't done it because there's nothing there, which is what everybody I've CC'd these discussions to kept trying to tell me for days <<

I assume "everybody" means Cloffo and maybe your pet goldfish. From what I've seen, you've provided zero backing for your position. I've backed mine with several independent opinions.

Unless your alleged correspondents have read PEACE PARTY, they can't judge whether it's propaganda or art. Nor can they take your word for it, since you don't seem to know yourself. So why should I care what these alleged correspondents think?

And if you've CC'd these discussions to that many people, you've done more than I have. Clearly, you're the only one here trying to justify your positions. Naturally, you accuse me of doing what you're guilty of.

>> My thinking was that because your cause was noble, you had some artistic merit <<

Since you don't understand my cause, no wonder you don't understand my comic's merits. Unlike 99% of the people who have read it, that is. Hmm, the opinion of one 24-year-old or dozens of opinions of readers in their 30s, 40s, and 50s? Tough choice...but I'll have to go with theirs. See Comic Shop News 629 for a typical example of someone who gets it.

I'll give you one more hint. My catch phrase is "Two young heroes fight everything from prejudice and pollution to supervillains and the supernatural." The key word here is "everything," meaning the full range of human experience.

Like love and hope, fear and death, politics is part of that. If I had meant to suggest politics was my goal, I would've limited myself to "prejudice and pollution." Instead, I'm doing all the passionate superhero stories Larsen is doing...and more.

Desperately trying to intellectualize
>> But all I'm seeing is somebody who's desperately trying to intellectualize his whole existence, and thus doesn't realize that existence isn't intellectual. <<

Look who's talking...the lonely journal writer who posts his innermost thoughts on his website, hoping someone will read them. The lonely columnist who writes a weekly screed trying to persuade someone of his views. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

One fact alone shows how myopic your "vision" is. You've responded to my messages within hours...a day or two at worst. I'm responding to your message after more than two months. That's how much I want you to know what I think.

Now tell me again: Which of us is desperately trying to justify his existence?! Exactly. Case most firmly closed.

By the way, I don't even think about your insults because they're so inanely illogical. Trying to "intellectualize my existence"? Uh, you accused me before of being only intellectual and not understanding the real world. Which is it, o contradictory one? Too intellectual or not intellectual enough?

Your constantly shifting opinions are one of the saddest jokes I've seen. I'm not trying to prove myself, I'm trying to help you overcome the flaws in your so-called reasoning. To help you master a dictionary when you don't know the meaning of common words like "best" or "racist." To help you understand the difference between your opinions and the facts.

>> So what? Indeed, that's where the /best/ art comes from -- when you're taking care of an ailing relative, and it drives you crazy inside <<

"So what" is that you stupidly didn't address all these ailing artists when you proclaimed Larsen the best. Did you mean Larsen is the best compared to some small subset of the whole universe of artists? If that's what you meant, you should've said so.

>> And again, becuz I'm too stupid to realize <<

Stop right there. You've just said it all.

>> you'll never understand this, the best entertinment is when a guy paid to create responds to his conditions by putting his response into what he's paid to create. <<

And which comic book creator isn't doing that? Alan Moore? Mark Waid? Frank Miller? John Byrne? Kurt Busiek? Walt Simonson? Todd McFarlane? Again, where's your evidence? Where's your justification for picking Erik Larsen over everyone else?

Again—to belabor the obvious—I'm the one who's putting up hundreds of pages of material to create and extend my comic book universe. To give one tiny example, I'm running a Create a Native American Superhero contest that has nothing to do with politics. Meanwhile, Larsen is doing nothing except writing comics for pay, and you're doing nothing, period. Looks to me like I'm the best artist in the world by your silly standard.

>> Erik Larsen was my pick becuz I follow his work on a regular basis, so I'm familiar with it, but you're right, there could very well be a better guy out there we don't even know about. <<

"I'm right"...jackpot. Why didn't you just say so in the first place? My whole point was that you couldn't justify your choice of Larsen. Now you finally agree, admitting a large number of artists could be better than him. Including me.

Nighty-night, Khan-Boy. Don't forget the butter, because you're toast.

The debate continues....

More on politics in comics
Comic book stories offering political and social commentary

Related links
Khan reviews PEACE PARTY
PEACE PARTY #2's Author's Forum (extended version)
Defining great American literature
The political in literature

* More opinions *
  Join our Native/pop culture blog and comment
  Sign up to receive our FREE newsletter via e-mail
  See the latest Native American stereotypes in the media
  Political and social developments ripped from the headlines

. . .

Home | Contents | Photos | News | Reviews | Store | Forum | ICI | Educators | Fans | Contests | Help | FAQ | Info

All material © copyright its original owners, except where noted.
Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

Copyrighted material is posted under the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act,
which allows copying for nonprofit educational uses including criticism and commentary.

Comments sent to the publisher become the property of Blue Corn Comics
and may be used in other postings without permission.