Thursday, July 25, 2013

When Worlds Collide - Coda

Browsing through all the tables of contents of the Journal of Popular Culture online I discovered that said anthology published another "In-Depth" section about comics in 1979: Volume XII, issue # 4, Spring. Judging from what I saw I guess that this is the real McCoy. The academic as drooling fanboy is really here, not in 1971. I'll write a review as soon as I confirm my suspicions, that's a promise...

Monday, July 22, 2013

When Worlds Collide

The incredibly incompetent, incredibly ugly drawing you see above (by Terry Fowler) is on the cover of the Journal of Popular Culture Volume V, Summer 1971, which includes an "In-Depth" section titled: "The Comics." The Journal of Popular Culture was first published in 1967 at Bowling Green State University. The first editor was Ray B. Brown. In 1971 he was still in charge.

Arthur Berger opens said section with "Comics as Culture." It's a defense of comics and a defense of the inclusion of comics studies in academia that may seem superfluous today (is it, really, though?), but was quite welcome back then in 1971. Among other things he wanted to disprove two misconceptions: all social strata read comics; comics evolve accompanying the changing times. I'm sympathetic with both views and I believe them to be true. The problem with Berger's approach is that he didn't really engage the material (in a cultural studies context I don't mean the comics themselves only - even if wrongheadedly, in my humble opinion, he does that a little -, I mean: production contexts; real readers and their readings - not hypothetical ones; cultural hegemony - who says what?; etc...). Berger's defense of the uses of comics for escapism, voyeurism, etc... even if typical of early American cultural studies, seems more an attack than a defense to me, but maybe that's just me... His conclusions seem hurried and weakly grounded. Had  superhero comics really changed that much by 1971? Was the (173) "old, infantile superhero" really forgotten? Groundless generalizations and dichotomies like the one saying that high art is against science and progress, despite citing Pop Art along with comics as (176) "reflect[ing] a basic confidence in man's ability to dominate the forces of technology and industrialization" is poor scholarship in my book. Berger's essay ending has some historical relevance now, though (177): "The University of Rome has an extensive collection of comics and perhaps a dozen books have been published in Italy, in the past five or ten years on comics - with particular attention to American ones. There is also a good deal of work in France, Germany, and England on our comics.
And now, thanks in part to the youth rebellion and the various counter culture movements going on, and to a sudden curiosity about the significance of many aspects of our daily life which we have tended to take for granted, we are beginning to mine our own treasures. It's about time." What's interesting in the above quote is that Arthur Berger stressed the importance of youth culture for a renewed interest in comics. That said, what's strange is that he didn't write a word about underground comics. Maybe he wasn't as up to date as all that, after all... or... it was a conscious attitude typical of every sociological view: if it isn't mass consumed it doesn't exist.

Edward Sagarin wrote "The Deviant in the Comic Strip: The Case History of Barney Google." Of this one the less said, the better. Remember when I wrote below "critical discourse can be more or less nomadic, but it must never lose sight of the work being criticized (coastal shipping)[.]" Well this is an essay about zoophilia, not Barney Google, the comic strip. It's also curious that when I read "Google" in there it wasn't Barney Google that came immediately to my mind; it was a certain search engine we all know about instead...

Wolfgang Max Faust (with tech assistance from R. Baird Shuman) wrote "Comics and How to Read Them." It's a close reading of the cover, by Carmine Infantino, of Action Comics # 368 (wrongly described as a title page), dated October 1968. The close reading is decent enough, but it ultimately fails because Max Faust completely ignores what a Mort Weisinger cover is. Faust's essay is proof that, at this early stage of comics studies, the world of academia and the world of comics subculture were too far apart... Either that or being a German before such a globalized world as we live in today didn't help Max Faust to get his facts straight.

J. Eduard Mira wrote "Notes on a Comparative Analysis of American and Spanish Comic Books." The poor English (and a few typos) doesn't help, but, in the same way as Faust, mentioned above, Mira knew next to nothing about American comics. He relied on secondary sources but, even so, he made some preposterous claims. Here're a couple of examples: "[the comic strip] started to appear in its modern form in the 1910's;""[in Spanish comics of the 1940s, I guess, but it's not very clear] We do not find slum children (like "Skippy")." That last one is not completely wrong if Mira meant "Skippy," the series by Percy Crosby; it's wrong if he meant Skippy, the character.
But, anyway, Mira, a graduate from Bowling Green State University, a native of Valencia, Spain, did have some interesting things to say about Spain's 20th century history, culture, and comics. He wasn't as fascinated by mass culture as his American colleagues (he saw perfectly well how cliché-ridden and conservative it really is) and, even if he also criticized European culture as passé and decadent, he was right on the mark when he wrote (219): "The young European is still to a large extent a traditional being and this attachment to old forms of thought makes it difficult to develop something fresh and completely renewing as some of the independent comics are, unless a serious attempt at revision of the medium for communication is operated. Happily, this seems to be the trend among the more progressive sectors of young European artists." I wonder who he meant? Enric Sió?
Finally, a question: why are panels from Brazilian comics illustrating an essay about North American and Spanish comics?

The editors of this supposedly in-depth look at comics saved the best, by far, for last (is it a coincidence though?... I wonder?... The alignment goes as follows: first the male Americans, then the male foreigners - the Teutonic before the Latin -, and then... at the bottom... the women). Free of the fanboy disease, women were the best comics critics in 1971. Maybe they still are...

Phyllis R. Klotman wrote "Racial Stereotypes in Hard Core Pornography" and Joan Zlotnick wrote "The Medium is the Message, Or Is It?: A Study of Nathanael West's Comic Strip Novel." There's not much to be said about Klotman's essay. She analyses the content of a few Tijuana Bibles that include black characters in the diegesis (both sexually active and sexually passive) to describe racist stereotypes and white men centered ideologies re. race, gender and sexual performance. I find it very important that someone pointed out these issues in a public forum (even if this public forum was inside the ivory tower). You may say that the Tijuana Bibles are an easy target (they are), but so is Hergé's Tintin in the Congo and a Belgian court of justice ruled that Hergé didn't want to incite racial hatred. Neither do these playful satirical porn eight-pagers (a problem in Klotman's point of view is that she never acknowledges the Tijuana Bibles' narrative tone), but by perpetuating racial stereotyping perpetuating race hatred is what these filthy publications de facto do. The problem, as I see it, is that Klotman published her essay in 1971 and the Belgian court ruled in 2012. Is Europe forty years late?... Because I repeatedly continue to see a denial attitude in European writers re. these matters... The excuse that these are just caricatures doesn't hold water at all...

Joan Zlotnik didn't write about comics, of course. Nonetheless she wrote some of the most interesting phrases about commercial comics. (The problem is that she seemed not to conceive any other kind; she calls Lynd Ward's work "wordless novels" and Max Ernst's "collage novels;" this is perfectly fine - as we know because we now use the expression "graphic novel," but I, for one, view graphic novels inside the comics corpus; I very much doubt that Zlotnik would agree with that). An example of her essay's tone (238): "Alongside the Milquetoasts [Giggs and Barney Google] grew up the equally absurd supermasculine comic strip heroes like Tarzan, Flash Gordon, Prince Valiant, and Dick Tracy. The seeming repositories of masculinity in the comic strip culture of emasculation, the kind of men women fantasize about after having castrated their own husbands, they were succeeded in later years by Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel." This isn't exactly a sophisticated Feminist reading, but it is a lot better than fans gushing and drooling.

To sum this 42 year delayed review up:

These essays are what I would expect them to be from such a source, but, then again, not entirely: on the negative side, the authors ignore the primary texts (the reprint industry was far from being what it is today) failing to engage with the material. This means that, with the exception of Phyllis Klotman, their evaluative synthesis were done without any previous analysis. Martin Barker denounced these proceedings in his great book Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics. Needless to say that formal analysis was out of the question (even for Klotman). The writers talk about comics dealing with the superficial content alone. Their perceptions aren't even that sophisticated lacking in theoretical grounding. On the positive side I always thought that early academics interested in comics were almost fans (see below). These few examples helped me to form a more nuanced idea. Maybe there was some of that, but mainly I think that it is safe to conclude that Gramsci and the Frankfurt School still had some traction among academics. (Women especially, I'm tempted to say, but this is too small a corpus to drive any conclusions.) I'm all in favor of a more sophisticated view of readers, but I refuse to jump to the other side of the fence saying that there's no text in the classroom. There is and, sometimes, there's no use pretending that the elephant in front of our eyes doesn't exist...


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Harry Morgan

Two days ago I received the French magazine Bananas #4, published in 2012. I lost track of Bananas after issue # 2 and, now, wanting to buy the missing issues I had to start somewhere... I chose # 4 because of a section about Italian artists working in Argentina during the 1950s. To add a certain piquant I bet with myself that Héctor Germán Oesterheld's name isn't cited once in said section. Lo and behold, apart from the image captions (a true progress!, yay!), it isn't, of course... The most outrageous claim though is this one by Gianni Brunoro (28): "(...) this exuberant youth had such a weight [in the Argentinean comics scene of the 1950s] that it generated an «Argentinean [comics] school»." (My translation.) Does this mean that giants Héctor Germán Oesterheld, Carlos Roume, Alberto Breccia, Arturo del Castillo, Solano López and a "few" smaller actors in said scene like, Jorge Moliterni, Garcia Seijas, Julio Schiaffino, Abel Guibe, Eugenio Zoppi, Leandro Sesarego, João Mottini, Angel Fernandez, Carlos Vogt, Daniel Haupt,  Oscar Estévez, Juan Arancio, Gisela Dester, José Muñoz (small at that time, fourteen years of age or so, a giant later),  Horacio Porreca, Tibor José Horvath, Victor Hugo di Benedetto, Alberto Caruso, Roberto Regalado... I could go on... were never there at all?...

Brunoro claims that the Italians living in Argentina revolutionized comics. The only creator who revolutionized comics in those days and place was Héctor Germán Oesterheld and he wasn't Italian. The Italians simply followed North American mediocre pulp models, that's all... and that's not much...

Anyway: long live jingoism and historical revisionism!

But I digress...

What I find interesting in the aforementioned issue of Bananas (that's the real reason why I'm writing this) is Harry Morgan's essay "Brève histoire de la littérature savante sur les littératures dessinées en France." Morgan (a nom de plume, in case you're wondering) says pretty much the same things about comics criticism that I say below. He's more focused than I am and elaborates the differences between the first semioticians (during the 1970s) and the more recent ones (Groensteen et al). He calls what these last ones do (the term is Groensteen's), "stripologie." Not unlike myself he puts David Kunzle in a preeminent position in the history of comics criticism. All in all a highly recommended reading to those of you whose mother tongue is French or aren't monolinguists.


Drawing by Jimmy Beaulieu.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Did Comics Criticism Ever Exist?

I decided to translate the post below, so, here it goes:

The present text was written nine years ago and was never published (I changed some things now, but not much). This means that it far predates the boom of comics studies. Most of what is cited below is trash, but, after separating the wheat from the chaff, the panorama is not as dismal as one might suppose. An important omission below is Thierry Lagarde's mag STP. Even if I cite Bruno Lecigne I didn't mention his magazine Controverse, but, above all, Dorénavant by Barthélémy Schwartz and Balthazar Kaplan was unduly omitted.

Dedicated to João Bénard da Costa... In memoriam...

                                                                                             "I like junk food, but I admit it’s
                                                                                               junk food. Beware of the quasi-
                                                                                               highbrow comics critic who tries
                                                                                               to tell you Frank MIller
                                                                                               and Howard Chaykin write well."

                                                                                               (Harvey Pekar, 1989: 128)

         Countless rivers of ink, paper reams, bits and electromagnetic waves have been used to think about the morphology and the epistemology of criticism. I excuse myself from adding something more (or I'll add little more) to the discussion at hand and fix up the issue quoting Eduardo Prado Coelho. He wrote the best reflections on the problem in Portuguese newspapers: "Unsurprisingly the word "criticism" includes several writing practices. One of these practices happens mainly in academia and consists in, after having "fixed" (to the extent that this is possible) the text under study, "explaining" (insofar as possible) the work according to its various historical contexts: I mean the philological criticism with its historicist dominant. Another is to journalistically present the book in question so that the reader can get an idea of ​​its "content" - it's what's called "a review." A third case is to make a value judgment basing it on a certain sum of arguments - this is evaluative criticism. Finally (but the list could be longer), there's the criticism that seeks interpretative hypothesis about the work in order to put the emphasis on certain aspects that are not immediately obvious. In this case, the value judgment is implicit: the work is worth the effort because there's value in it" (Prado Coelho. 2001: 15; my translation). Obviously these various forms of criticism are not mutually exclusive. In many texts it's possible to find them contaminating each other. I would also add, referring myself to more ambitious criticism, that: 1) criticism implies the problem of aesthetic value, of course, but it also implies, why not?, the ethical value; 2) since, as Adorno put it, the "aesthetic form [is] sedimented content " (1993: 15; my translation), there is no serious criticism without formal analysis; 3) critical discourse can be more or less nomadic, but it must never lose sight of the work being criticized (coastal shipping); 4) against the view defended by formalist criticism, many of criticism's problems are also played in the field of meaning; 5) judging from what's been said until now we can conclude, with Renaud Chavanne, that a complex critical discourse is not about the: "conditions of realization [of the work] which concern the historian [and the sociologist, but I wouldn't be too dogmatic about this point]. It's not about the author's life, which interests the biographer. It's not an accumulation of references, an absurd list of all the works of the author" (1997: 5, my translation). I would also add that a simple account of the diegetic events is not serious criticism.
          Axiology has become a can of worms. The situation became a cacophony of discordant voices, all claiming the legitimacy of their hierarchy of values​​, or simply repudiating the instrumentation of existing hierarchies by all the others. Eduardo Prado Coelho (him again) summed up the situation as follows: "the question of aesthetic value and aesthetic rationality has been undermined by a series of autonomous movements with convergent effects: the consequences of nominalist art from Marcel Duchamp on; the attempts, in Nelson Goodman's line, of transferring the aesthetic to the cognitive; the increasing muteness that took hold of the nephews of Wittgenstein in these matters; the theories of an institutional definition of art following George Dickie; the view that value judgment is simply part of a differentiation process following Pierre Bourdieu's theories; the Habermasian democratism of Yves Michaud " (Prado Coelho, 1998: 8; my translation). Eduardo Prado Coelho could also add Derrida's deconstructionism, but let's move on...

         This brief text is not the ideal place to discuss such complex issues, of course, but honestly, I do not see how does Dickie's nominalism, for example, attack the traditional hierarchy which puts high culture above low culture (or any other distinction). Institutions socially legitimize works and artists, as they always did. This is, in itself, a neutral phenomenon which can only make us ponder on the subjectivity of the entire hierarchy of values ​​since, while academia legitimizes (or legitimized) James Joyce, television legitimizes, in a democratic or manipulative way (?) The Rolling Stones (I must point out, however, that after Bowling Green, and the growing influence of American culture in our lives, the legitimization of mass culture is no longer an exclusive task of the mass media). It is undeniable that there is subjectivity in the process, but Kant (1992) and Hume (1997) knew that already, that's nothing new... The former counters the relativism of aesthetic judgment by intersubjective validation (Dickie's model isn't even, very far away), the latter refutes it saying that certain judges are better than others (in Hume's essay we find Sancho Panza as a winemaker: he and his relatives can only judge the quality of a wine better than a teetotaler). Interestingly Hume himself unwittingly corroborates the subjectivity of these phenomena by saying: "And not to draw our philosophy from too profound a source, we shall have recourse to a noted story in D. Quixote" (Hume, 1997). I. e.: Cervantes' book went from being not too deep a source to lead the literary canon. Or, who knows?, perhaps Hume considered the Quijote a deep book, but Sancho's story was excluded from such heights or depths...

         It's a well known fact that comics have been banned from the "high" spheres of high culture and aesthetic validation. In the end it's just a political struggle. Must we call for a democratic logic applied to culture? Should we report the construction of a taste that marginalizes the lower social classes? It's possible... under the condition that democratization means equal opportunities in the access to quality and not a fall into the exaggeration of considering aesthetically good (or beautiful, but the word is under suspicion too these days...) the work of a mediocre artist only because of his or her skin color or gender (practicing the so-called "affirmative action"). (I know that the idea of genius is now discredited, but if it weren't the case, we wouldn't be far from seeing the approval of legislation in favor of a genius quota for the minorities). On the other hand I have nothing against elitism if it just means that aesthetic quality is only accessible to a happy few (for lack of interest, time, etc... on the part of most people; all these are reasons transversal to all society, mind you...). I'm against elitism, undoubtedly, if it prevents the recognition of aesthetic quality outside the parameters dictated by prejudiced snobs. Returning to democracy and value judgment: imagine what would happen if thousands of non-specialists voted against the technique used by an aircraft or bridge engineer... The disaster, certainly...

        There are two levels to frame aesthetic judgments: personal taste cannot be discussed (everyone has a right to bad taste, no one can completely escape the call of kitsch in all areas: the unspoiled elegance would be attainable only after endless hours of relentless dedication); but, as a society, we must rely on the specialists' judgment (not abdicating, as free citizens, to reveal the possible injustices committed by the intelligentsia). 

         Political correctness is one of the most important cultural earthquakes in this beginning of the millennium. This is so because it drew attention to phenomena of political and cultural domination (which will always exist, have no illusions). If there is abuse by some advocates of political correctness many years must pass until they reach the same amount of injustice caused by their symmetrical opponents. It is not so much the famous "crisis of values​​," but the replacement of old values ​​by new ones... so everything can stay the same, as in all revolutions (cf. Lampedusa, 2000: 24; Buzzelli, 1967).
       What about comics, then? Until Umberto Eco, in the early 1960s, comics were virtually ignored by the intelligentsia (an almost unique case, the other one is Gilbert Seldes, is Wolfgang von Goethe, in 1831, who wrote this extraordinary comment on Rodolphe Töpffer's books: "If for the future, he would choose a less frivolous subject and restrict himself a little, he would produce things beyond all conception" (Goethe, n. d. [1850]) translation by John Oxenford; Goethe, it seems to me, prophesied the so-called alternative comics). Excluding academia, the first critics were artists themselves, or, more frequently, the fans. As the name shows, the fans write mostly in fanzines, but these are too numerous for me to be able to name them all in a brief text. Fanzines in the United States started by being linked to science fiction. The first fanzines devoted to comics in that country were: EC Fan Bulletin (1953) by Bhob Stewart; Comic Art (1961) by Don Thompson and Maggie Spencer; Alter-Ego (1961) by Roy Thomas and Jerry Bails; Spa Fon (1966) by Rich Hauser and Helmut Mueller; Squa Tront (1967) by Jerry Weist, where the already mentioned  Bhob Stewart pontificated with Larry Stark; Panels (1979) by John Benson. (comics criticism in the newspapers is absent from this text.) Talking about books, then (and many must be suppressed too), there are: Comics and Their Creators by Martin Sheridan (1942); the first book entirely dedicated to comics (more specifically, to the field of newspaper comics), The Comics by Coulton Wough (1947) and The Funnies: An American Idiom (1963), a collective work organized by David Manning White and Robert H. Abel; All in Color For a Dime (1970) by Dick Lupoff and Don Thompson with the sequel The Comic-Book Book (1977) by the same authors; Comic Art in America (1976) by Stephen Becker. In a similar vein comes America's Great Comic Strip Artists (1989) by Richard Marschall. With numerous prefaces Bill Blackbeard, could also be cited (it is worth noting his long text in RF Outcault's The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics - 1995 - which goes beyond the mere amateur level). The fans' writing tends to the biographical, hagiographic, their tone and objectives are linked to the popularizing of comics. The language is accessible, theoretical knowledge is implicitly or explicitly absent or almost absent. Despite their love of the comics form these early fans refused to see comics as something more than popular entertainment. They feared being dubbed snobs (?), maybe...    

       The Comics (1974) by Jerry Robinson (the same author wrote the amply illustrated monograh, Skippy and Percy Crosby - 1978) comes from the same vein of comics criticism by fans and pros described above. Another interesting book written by a professional is The Great Comic Book Heroes (1965) by Jules Feiffer. As far as monographs go, there's: Citizen Caniff (1969) by Claudio Bertieri; Crumb (1974) by Marjorie Alessandrini; Gotlib (1974) by Numa Sadoul; Fred (1975) by Bernard Toussaint, Tardi (1980) by Thierry Groensteen; Un opera de papier: les memoires de Blake et Mortimer (1981) by E. P. Jacobs; Le monde d'Hergé (1983) by Benoît Peeters; Corentin et les chemins du merveilleux: Paul Cuvelier et la bande dessinée (1984) by Philippe Goddin; Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman (1986), by Patrick McDonnell, Karen O'Connell, Georgia Riley de Havenon; Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (1987) by John Canemaker; Foster e Val (1989) by Manuel Caldas; Töpffer: L'invention de la bande dessinée (1994) by Thierry Groensteen and Benoît Peeters; Accidental Ambassador Gordo: the comic Strip art of Gus Arriola (2000), by Robert C. Harvey; Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators. Father of the Adventure Strip (2001) by Brian M. Kane; B. Krigstein (2002) by Greg Sadowski and a long etc... Deserving attention are the collections of interviews (even if these aren't criticism exactly): La aventura del comic (1975) with interviews conducted by Alfonso Lindo; Entretiens avec Hergé (1975) by Numa Sadoul; Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (2000) edited M. Thomas Inge; La nouvelle bande dessinée (2002) by Hugues Dayez; Carl Barks: Conversations (2003) edited by Donald Ault; Artistes de bande dessinée (2003) by Thierry Groensteen, etc...

      The boom of amateur publications occurred in Europe during the 1960s with the publication of the French magazines: Giff-Wiff (1962), Phenix (1966), Schtroumpf: Les cahiers de la bande dessinée by Jacques Glénat (1969, later, in 1984, just Les Cahiers de la Bande dessinée). This magazine is one of the most important critical contributions to the history of Western comics criticism (this text does not include Japan and other countries, with one exception, whose official and other languages I can't read). While it was directed by Thierry Groensteen (from number 56 to number 83), it far surpassed all that had already been done in this field leaving the amateur past behind. It featured appearances by critics as important a Groensteen, Bruno Lecigne, Gilles Ciment, Jean-Pierre Tamine, Benoît Peeters. What was lacking in the magazine was a leap that, for the moment, no one has leapt: to truly separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of aesthetic value.

      Jacques Sadoul is another amateur who published the books L'enfer des boulles (1968) and Panorama de la bande dessinée (1976); ditto Edouard François who published L'age d'or de la bande dessinée (1974). It's also worth mentioning the Belgian fanzine Rantanplan (1966) by André Leborgne, and the Italian fanzine Comics Club (1967) by Alfredo Castelli. The first book entirely devoted to comics published in Italy was I fumetti (1961) by Carlo della Corte. It is also noteworthy the fanzine Fumo di China (1978) founded by Franco Spiritelli, Andrea Magoni, Mauro Marcheselli and Andrea Plazzi. The title of François' book above indicates a certain (to put it mildly) nostalgia (a golden age is something that has been lost). Interestingly enough this supposed golden age didn't happen in France, but in the United States: they were the (very badly) dubbed realistic comics of the 1930s (i. e., they longed for the children's adventure comics published in American newspapers and reprinted in France in mags like Robinson, Hop-Là, etc...). All this activity was linked to recreational associations created to promote a nostalgic enjoyment and preservation of children's comics. There was in France the Club des Bandes Dessinées (Alain Resnais was one of the vice presidents, the president was Francis Lacassin and among the members or sympathizers were Alvaro de Moya, Federico Fellini, Evelyne Sullerot, Umberto Eco, etc...), CELEG (Centre d'Etude des Littératures d'Expression Graphique) from 1964 on, the SOCERLID (Société Civile d'Étude et de Recherches des Littératures Dessinées). In Belgium there was the CABD (Club des Amis de la Bande Dessinée). In Italy the ANAF (Associazione Nazionale Amici del Fumetto). In Spain Luis Gasca founded the Centro de Estudio de Expresión Gráfica and Antonio Martín was one of the pioneers of comics criticism with his magazine Bang! (1968). The fanzine El Wendigo (1974) stands out in longevity. Despite being a fan publication it includes excellent formalist texts by Faustino Arbesú. In Portugal the following fanzines are worth citing: Quadrinhos (1972) by Vasco Granja; Nemo (1986) by Manuel Caldas, Bedelho (1988) by Francisco Gil and Fernando Vieira. The Portuguese Comics Club - Clube Português de Banda Desenhada (CPBD) publishes a newsletter (1977).

The historiography of comics owes much to the fans. Unfortunately, since these are not professional historians, their books and essays are more collections of (bio and bibliographical) data than true history books (with interpretative summaries of events, the contextualization of the work in social trends, formal analysis, etc...). In the United States, besides Jerry Robinson's The Comics, the following books may be cited: Comix: A History of Comic Books in America (1971) by Les Daniels; Over 50 Years of American Comic Books (1991) by Ron Goulart; The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History (1994) and The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History by Robert C. Harvey (1996 - the year in which many comics histories were published to celebrate the art form's supposed birth with the Yellow Kid, a century before). In France we can find Histoire de la bande dessinée d'expression française (1972) and Histoire mondiale de la bande dessinée (1981), both authored by Claude Moliterni; Histoire de la Bande Dessinée en France et en Belgique des origines à nos jours by Henri Filippini (1980); Asterix, Barbarella & Cie (2000) by Thierry Groensteen. In Portugal stands out the pioneering work Os Comics em Portugal: uma historia da banda desenhada by António Dias de Deus (with an addendum by Leonardo de Sá - 1997) and Das Conferences do Casino à Filosofia de Ponta (2000) by Carlos Bandeiras Pinheiro and João Paiva Boléo (Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation also published, by the same authors, A Banda Desenhada Portuguesa: 1914-1945 - 1997 -  and A Banda Desenhada Portuguesa: Anos 40-Anos 80 - 2000). Leonardo de Sá and Geraldes Lino published O Dédalo dos Fanzines (1997). In Spain Fernando Martin stands out with Apuntes para una historia de los tebeos (1967) and Los inventores del comic español (2000). Not forgetting Antonio Altarriba with La España del tebeo (2001 - a history book which, as the title suggests, connects comics characters and dictator Franco's Spain until the democratic transition) or the monumental Atlas Español de la cultura popular: De la Historieta y su uso. 1873 - 2000 (2000) by Jesús Quadrado. Also in Spain I'll cite three books by Javier ComaLos comics: un arte del siglo XX (1977), Del gato Félix al gato Fritz: Historia de los comics (1979 ), El ocaso de los héroes en los comics de autor (1984). In Argentina there are two important history books: Historia de la historieta argentina (1980) by Carlos Trillo and Guillermo Saccomano and La historieta argentina: Una historia (2000) by Judith Gociol and Diego Rosemberg. In Britain, apart from Dennis Gifford's The British Comics Catalogue 1874-1974 (1975), three books by Roger Sabin may be cited: Adult Comics: An Introduction (1993), Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art (1996), Below Critical Radar: Fanzines and Alternative Comics from 1976 to now (2002 - with Teal Triggs). There's some historiography of Underground comics already. I mean: A History of Underground Comics (1974) by Mark James Estrin; Rebel Visions: The Underground Revolution 1963-1975 (2002) by Patrick Rosenkranz; Comix: The Underground Revolution (2004) by Dez Skinn. American alternative comics found their historian in the figure of the Spaniard Oscar Palmer: Cómic alternativo de los '90 (2000). Coming from the underground, the artist Trina Robbins wrote the history of comics created ​​by women in A Century of Women Cartoonists (1993) and From Girls to Grrrl: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines (1999); Wendy Siuyi Wong divulged the history of Hong Kong comics with the book hong kong comics: a history of manhua (2002). Adding to this paragraph, just another long etc...

Encyclopedias are the realm of the fan. As they combine the facet of scholars to that of collectors nothing more natural than trying to catalog everything that exists. I will mention just a few examples: The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), under the direction of Maurice Horn and unfortunately with many mistakes; Encyclopédie des bandes dessinées (1979) under the supervision of Marjorie Alessandrini; The Encyclopedia of American Comics (1990) edited by Ron Goulart; Dictionnaire mondial de la bande dessinée (1994), by Patrick Gaumer and Claude Moliterni.

Since I've cited Thierry Groensteen already I can proceed to the second "kind" of comics critics: journalists and experts. These are not academics just because they are not directly related to academia. Thierry Groensteen, for example, belongs with this category, with numerous popularizing books, and the next one, the academic, with Système de la bande dessinée (1999). Besides being the managing editor of the Cahiers de la bande dessinée during its genuinely interesting phase he's currently the managing editor of the not less important 9e art magazine. Thierry Groensteen wrote: Animaux en cases (1987), L'Univers des manga: une introduction à la BD japonaise (1991), Couleur directe (1993), La construction de La Cage: autopsie d'un roman visuel (2002), etc... Talking about American comics criticism it's mandatory to mention: The Seven Lively Arts by Gilbert Seldes (1924) even if it's is not a book entirely devoted to comics (Seldes argued, showing a pioneer spirit that the "minor" art forms are as valid as the "great" arts"); there's also Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book by Michael Barrier (1981), and Reading the Funnies by Donald Phelps (2001). Excellent is El domicilio de la aventura (1995) by the great Argentinean critic Juan Sasturain. Back in Europe it's worth citing Psicopatologia de la viñeta quotidiana  by the Spaniard Jesus Quadrado (2000), and Sobre BD (2004) a recent book by the Portuguese David Soares. A very special case is Bruno Lecigne who, in his solo book Avanies et Mascarade: L'évolution de la bande dessinée en France dans les annes 70 (1981), or accompanied by Jean-Pierre Tamine in Fac-Simile: Essai paratactique sur le Nouveau Réalisme de la Bande dessinée (1983) wrote some of the best pages ever dedicated to comics. The disclosure of the very rich and complex world of Japanese comics in the West was mainly in charge of Frederik L. Schodt with Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics (1983) and Dreamland Japan (1996).

As for specialized magazines (besides those, already mentioned, whose managing editor was or is Thierry Groensteen) there's the Portuguese Quadrado (1993) and Satélite International (2002) whose writers are: Pedro Moura, Domingos Isabelinho, Marcos Farrajota, João Paulo Cotrim, Paulo Patrício, and others with more occasional participations. In France there was the extraordinary magazine/fanzine Critix (1996), where Jean-Philippe Martin, Evariste Blanchet, Renaud Chavanne, Pierre Huard (coming from academic criticism) and even Fabrice Neaud wrote. The disappearance of Critix bitterly proves that it is not feasible to publish a high quality magazine about comics without institutional support. In the United States there are many specialty mags, but they are almost all made by superhero fans for superhero fans (for instance, the magazine/fanzine Alter Ego, already mentioned as a fanzine, is living a new reincarnation today as a mag). With a more accurate critical spirit, but without getting much farther, in many cases, it's nonetheless mandatory that I  cite the very influential magazine The Comics Journal whose writers are: Gary Groth (an excellent critic who, unfortunately, doesn't write often enough), Darcy Sullivan, Ng Suat Tong, Robert Fiore, Bart Beaty (with a great column about European comics), Gregory Cwiklik, Tom Spurgeon, Robert C. Harvey and dozens of others with more occasional participations. The Comics Journal has been accused of being elitist and snob, but the charge is not fair because with occasional changes in the position of managing editor, and without a coherent editorial policy, the magazine can both give a voice to a conservative critic (RC Harvey or Ray Mescallado, for instance) and to a staunch supporter of the "vanguard." Worthy of note is also the case of Graphis magazine, dedicated to graphic design, which published two special numbers (159, 60-1972 / 73) to comics. The organization was in charge of David Pascal and Walter Herdeg, the articles were written by Pierre Couperie, Claude Moliterni, Archie Goodwin, Gil Kane, Les Daniels, Jules Feiffer, David Pascal, Robert Weaver, Alain Resnais, Milton Glaser, Umberto Eco.

Aesthetic evaluation In academic criticism no longer makes sense. This is so because academics try to avoid essentialism and the canon wars. However, the institution has such prestige that any work it chooses to study immediately wins a status above almost everything else. Maybe that's why there was (and still is) in certain sectors of academia a strong opposition to the study of comics. Maybe these comics haters try to prevent the rise in social status of a minor art form? When Umberto Eco wrote about Steve Canyon, Peanuts, L'Il ​​Abner and Superman in Apocalittici e Integrati: comunicazioni di massa e teorie della cultura di massa (1964)  he received a negative reception from the so-called "apocalyptical" (especially from the Marxists inspired by the line of thought of the Frankfurt School, but also by the right-wing conservatives, staunch defenders of traditional values ​​and the divide between major and minor arts). On the other hand the "integrated" appeared, in the United States, at the University of Bowling Green.

The Cuban case is paradigmatic of the attack on the values ​​of capitalist America. Books like La vida en cuadritos (1993) by Paquita Armas send their stings to the imperialist exploiters of the third world. And yet I sense that, at the same time, American comics have a particular fascination to her. What results, in fact, is a kind of love/hate relationship. But the most famous (and the best, by the way) book of this type of Marxist critique of American imperialism is Para leer el Pato Donald (1972) by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart. A similar approach, but targetting Franco-Belgian comics is La société des bulles (1977) by Wilbur Leguebe. In Brazilian Portuguese there's Uma Introdução Política Aos Quadrinhos (1982) by Moacy Cirne.

One of the first avenues that comics used to enter academia was structural and semiotic analysis (or semiological, if we are not Peirceian but Saussurian). The aforementioned Umberto Eco is a very important semiotician. Other books in this category are: A Explosão Criativa Dos Quadrinhos by Moacy Cirne (1970); El lenguage de los comics (1972) by Roman Gubern; Dessins et bulles: la bande dessinée comme moyen d'expression (1972) and La bande dessinée: essai d'analyze sémiotique (1972) both by Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle; "La bande dessinée et son discours" an anthology published as number 24 of the journal Communications (1976) with essays by Fresnault-Deruelle, Umberto Eco, Luc Routeau, Vicky and Philippe du Fontbaré Sohet, Bernard Toussaint, Michel Rio, Guy Gauthier, René Lindekens, Picquenot Alain Michel Covin; Structuren des Comic Strip (1974) by W. Hünig; Récits et discours par la bande (1977) by Pierre-Fresnault Deruelle, again. We can find the formalist tendency in more recent books such as Case, planche, récit: comment lire une bande dessinée (1991) by Benoît Peeters. The structuralist tendency can still  the detected in the overrated Understanding Comics (1993) by Scott McCloud (McCloud and Will Eisner, who wrote two books on the language of comics, plus Benoît Peeters, are artists, not academics; it's quite natural to write about their practice because they face formal problems every day). Traces en cases by Philippe Marion and Pour une lecture moderne de la bande dessinée by Jan Baetens and Pascal Lefèvre were also published in 1993. Ten years later, in 2003, Principes des littératures dessinées by Harry Morgan was published (I include this book in this list even if the author contests his predecessors of the 1970s). In Italy Umberto Eco has left at least one disciple: Daniele Barbieri, who wrote I linguaggi del fumetto (1991). A curio, just to demonstrate that the periphery also moves is Tralala del Comic (1997) published in Santo Domingo by Faustino Perez. But the best book in this category was mentioned already. It's Système de la bande dessinée (1999) by Thierry Groensteen. Rui Zink's thesis Literatura Gráfica? (1999) is a mixture of many approaches, but the formal theory is also present.

Another route that comics studies used to enter academia was sociology. It's important to cite at this point Luc Boltanski's "La constitution du champ de la bande dessinée" in the mag Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales number 1 (1975). There's also Bandes dessinées et culture (1965) by Évelyne Sullerot. In the field of cultural studies there's The Comic-Stripped American: What Dick Tracy, Blondie, Daddy Warbucks and Charlie Brown Tell Us About Ourselves (1973) by pioneer Arthur Asa Berger and Martin Barker's Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics (1989). The "Bowling Green" approach (indistinguishable from the typical hagiography of fans, with no visible theoretical apparatus behind) can be found in the books of the University Press of Mississippi, for example in M. Thomas Inge's Comics As Culture (1990) and Matthew J. Pustz's Fanboys and True Believers (1999).

Art historians didn't focus much on comics and, on top of that, they haven't done a very good job at it. This is the case of: Historia da Banda Desenhada Infantil Portuguesa (Das Origens Até ao ABCzinho) by João Pedro Ferro  (1987); The Aesthetics of Comics (2000) by David Carrier; Comic Book Nation (2001) by Bradford W. Wright; Los comics de la transición: (El Boom del Comic adulto 1975 - 1984) (2001) by Francesca Lladó. The truth is that, except for a detail or another, these historiographical approaches do not differ that much from those made by amateurs. Perhaps historians are less concerned with recording everything and show a little more concern and method in exploring the social links of comics, but that's it. Carrier's book is not even a history book because he wrote it to try to prove the absurd thesis that the "major arts" evolve while the so-called "popular arts" never change. The books by David Kunzle: The Early Comic Strip: narrative strips and picture stories in the European broadsheet from c.1450 to 1825 (1973) and The History of The Comic Strip: The nineteenth century (1990) are an important exception. Another one is Comic Strips & Consumer Culture: 1890-1945 (2002) by Ian Gordon. Due to his love of statistics, notably in the exhibition catalog Bande Dessinée et Figuration Narrative (1967), we could say that Pierre Couperie had the potential to turn David Kunzle's and Ian Gordon's position way at the top a bit less lonely... Unfortunately his situation as a comics fan (he was a member of the Club des Bandes Dessinées and the SOCERLID) denied him the possibility to avoid hagiography. He also lacked a great reference book...

Psychology and psychoanalysis have not much of a tradition in comics scholarship, but both can also be found. I am particularly referring to four books: Seduction of the Innocent (1954) by Fredric Wertham; Tintin chez le psicanaliste (1985), Psychoanalise de la bande dessinée (1987) both by Serge Tisseron; Les spectres de la bande (1978) by Alan Rey. Donald Ault wrote the essay "" Cutting Up "Again Part II: Lacan on Barks on Lacan" in the collective and multidisciplinary book: Comics Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics (2000) edited by Anne Magnusson and Hans-Christian Christiansen. This last book, published by the University of Copenhagen, is part of a very interesting series of anthologies: à la rencontre de... Jacques Tardi (1982) organized  by Jean Arrouye and Jean-Claude Faur; Bande Dessinée Récit et Modernité (1988) edited by Thierry Groensteen, with essays by: Harry Morgan, Marc Avelot, Jacques Samson (impressive!), among others... The Graphic Novel (2001) edited by Jan Baetens (who also wrote the book Formes et politique de la bande dessinée - 1998), The Language of Comics (2002) organized by Robin Varnum and Christina T. Gibbons, with essays by; Gene Kannenberg, David Kunzle, David A. Beröna, among others...

In the field of specialized academic magazines there's Crimmer's: The Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction and Crimmer's: The Journal of Narrative Arts (1974); Inks: Comic and Cartoon Art Studies (1994) from Ohio State University, The International Journal of Comic Art (1999) whose essays are mostly of two kinds: the disclosure of national lesser known traditions, cultural studies (interesting is the recent series about the pioneers of comics criticism). In these publications we can find essays by Arthur Asa Berger (author of a monograph on Al Capp: Li'l Abner: A Study in American Satire - 1970), Joseph Witek (who wrote Comic Books as History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman and Harvey Pekar (Studies in Popular Culture) - 1989), Mike Kidson, Spiros Tsaousis, Waldomiro C. S. Vergueiro, Marc Singer, Caridad Blanco de la Cruz, Michael Rhode, John A. Lent (IJOCA's publisher and editor), Leonard Rifas, Charles Hatfield, Ole Frahm, Ana Merino, among many others...

In conclusion: comics criticism is reputed to be nonexistent. And yet...

Being a phenomenon that developed mainly during the last 40 years (not much time, of course) comics criticism cannot aspire to a corpus similar to that of "other criticisms" with older traditions. Moreover comics criticism has almost no recognition and appreciation, brings little to no social prestige to its practitioners and not much money, of course. Despite all that I hope that this text will give some idea, to those who will read it, of the huge variety and the sheer quantity of what, after all, has been done already. As I said at the beginning: from the kid who just writes what's on his mind in a fanzine to the deconstructionist texts of Ole Frham and John Ronan there's a wide vatiety in comics criticism. Sometimes it is maddeningly obtuse, it remains wedded to archaisms and infantilisms, it reveals a dismal lack of methodology, it ignores whole aspects of formal analysis (the colors, narratology, etc...), it turns its back to the subtext and the meaning, it values childish mediocre stories (full of racist and misogynist stereotypes, for instance), it's profoundly anti-intellectual. But it can also be incredibly smart and interesting. Time will separate the wheat from the chaff because, as the old adage puts it: it's not the critic who judges the work it's the work that judges the critic.


F. e. = First edition.

Adorno, Theodor (1993). Teoria Estética. Lisbon: Edições 70. [F. e.: (1970). Asthetische Theorie. Frankfurt am     
           Main. Suhrkamp-Verlag.] 
Buzzelli, Guido (1967). "La Rivolta dei Racchi," in Comics Almanacco (July) [catalogue of the third Lucca comics convention]. Rome and Lucca: Archivio Internazionale Della Stampa a Fumetti. [Graphic Novel.]
Chavanne, Renaud (1997). “Qu’est-ce que la critique?,” in Critix # 2. Argenteuil: Bananas BD.  
Coelho, Eduardo Prado (1998). “Da Pluralidade dos valores (1),” in PúblicoLeituras (July 18). Lisbon: Público Comunicação Social S. A..
            - (2001). “A Ética da Crítica.” In PúblicoMil Folhas (October 6). Lisbon: Público Comunicação Social S. A..
Goethe, Wolfgang von (n. d. [1850]). "Conversations of Goethe With Eckermann and Soret." In Internet Archive.  []. Accessed July 15, 2013. [F. e.:Eckermann, Johann Peter (1848). Gepräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens. Leipzig: Brockhaus.]
Hume, David (1997). “Of the Standard of Taste.” In The Hume Archives []. [F. e.: 
            (1757). Four Dissertations: The Natural History of Religion, Of the Passions, Of Tragedy, Of the Standard of
Kant, Immanuel (1992). Crítica da Faculdade do Juízo. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda. [F. e.: (1790). Critik der Urteilskraft. Berlin and Libau: Lagarde und Friedrich.]
Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi di (2000). O Leopardo. Linda-a-Velha: Abril/ Controljornal. [F. e.: (1958).
            Il Gattopardo. Milan: Feltrinelli.]
Pekar, Harvey (1989). “Comics and Genre Literature: a Diatribe,” In The Comics Journal # 130 (July). Seattle: Fantagraphics Books.

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Crítica de Banda Desenhada Alguma Vez Existiu?

O presente texto tem nove anos e está inédito (fiz agora algumas alterações, mas não muitas...). Quer isso dizer que é muito anterior ao boom dos "comics studies". A maior parte do que se cita abaixo é lixo, mas, depois de se separar o trigo do joio, o panorama não é tão desértico como poderia supor-se. Uma omissão importante é a revista STP de Thierry Lagarde. Embora refira Bruno Lecigne não citei a sua revista Controverse, mas, sobretudo, falta a fundamental Dorénavant de Barthélémy Schwartz e Balthazar Kaplan.

A João Bénard da Costa... in memoriam...

“Eu gosto de junk food, mas admito que é junk food. Cuidado com o crítico de banda desenhada quasi-highbrow1 que vos tenta apresentar Frank Miller e Howard Chaykin como bons escritores”
(Harvey Pekar, 1989: 128; tradução minha)

Incontáveis rios de tinta, resmas de papel, bits e ondas electromagnéticas já foram empregues a reflectir sobre a morfologia e a epistemologia da crítica. Dispenso-me de acrescentar aqui algo mais à discussão (quer dizer, mais ou menos...) e arrumo o assunto com uma citação de quem melhor reflectiu sobre o problema nos jornais portugueses, Eduardo Prado Coelho: “Não é novidade que na palavra “crítica” se incluem diversas práticas de escrita. Uma delas tem a ver sobretudo com o espaço universitário e consiste em “explicar” (na medida do possível) a obra em função dos seus diversos contextos históricos depois de esses contextos terem permitido “fixar” (ainda na medida do possível) o texto estudado: é a crítica filológica com a sua dominante historicista. Outra consiste em jornalisticamente apresentar o livro em questão de modo a que o leitor possa ter uma ideia do seu “conteúdo” – é o que se chama uma “recensão”. Um terceiro caso consiste em fazer um juízo de valor fundamentando-o numa determinada soma de argumentos – é a crítica de tipo judicativo. Por último (mas a lista poderia ser mais longa), teremos a crítica que procura apresentar uma hipótese interpretativa sobre a obra de modo a pôr em relevo certos aspectos que não sejam imediatamente perceptíveis. Neste caso, o juízo de valor é implícito: se a obra justifica o esforço na sua interpretação é porque tem valor para isso” (Prado Coelho. 2001: 15). Claro que os vários tipos de crítica apontados não são estanques: em muitos textos é possível encontrar uma contaminação de uns por outros. Acrescento ainda, referindo-me à crítica mais aprofundada: 1) a crítica traz implícito o problema do valor estético, claro, mas também, porque não?, do valor ético; 2) uma vez que, como disse Adorno, a “forma estética [é] conteúdo sedimentado” (1993: 15), não há crítica séria sem análise formal; 3) o discurso crítico pode ser mais ou menos nómada, mas nunca pode perder de vista a obra (navegação costeira); 4) contra a opinião da crítica formalista, muito do problema crítico também se joga na área do sentido; 5) a partir das condições anteriores podemos concluir com Renaud Chavanne que o discurso crítico elaborado não tem por alvo de reflexão “as condições de realização [da obra] às quais se apega[m] o historiador [e o sociólogo, mas eu não seria muito dogmático na defesa deste ponto]. Não é sobre o percurso do autor, o qual pertence ao biógrafo. Também não é uma acumulação de referências, elaboração absurda da lista de todas as obras do autor” (1997: 5; tradução minha). Acrescento ainda que um simples relato dos acontecimentos diegéticos também não é crítica no sentido ambicioso do termo.

A axiologia é, hoje, uma espécie de camisa de onze varas. A conjuntura transformou-se numa cacofonia de vozes discordantes, todas a reclamar a legitimidade da sua hierarquia de valores ou, simplesmente, a repudiar a instrumentalização das hierarquias vigentes. Eduardo Prado Coelho (ainda ele) resumiu a situação da seguinte maneira: “a questão do valor estético e da racionalidade estética, tem vindo a ser posta em causa por toda uma série de movimentos autónomos, mas de efeitos convergentes: a extensa reflexão das consequências do nominalismo artístico a partir de Marcel Duchamp; as tentativas, na linha de Nelson Goodman, de transferir o estético para o cognitivo; o mutismo ascensional que se apodera dos sobrinhos de Wittgenstein nestas matérias; as teorias de uma definição institucional de arte na perspectiva de George Dickie; a consideração do juízo de valor como uma simples marca num processo de diferenciação, à maneira dos estudos sobre a distinção de Pierre Bourdieu; ou o democratismo habermasiano de Yves Michaud” (Prado Coelho, 1998: 8). Eduardo Prado Coelho poderia ainda acrescentar o desconstrucionismo de Derrida, mas adiante...

Não é este breve texto o lugar ideal para discutir temas tão complexos, como é óbvio, mas, sinceramente, não vejo onde o nominalismo de Dickie, por exemplo, possa atacar a hierarquia tradicional de dominação da alta cultura sobre a baixa (ou outra qualquer distinção). As instituições legitimam socialmente as obras e os artistas, como sempre fizeram. Trata-se, em si, de um fenómeno neutro que só nos pode fazer reflectir sobre a subjectividade de toda a hierarquia de valores já que, enquanto a universidade legitima (ou legitimava) James Joyce, a televisão legitima democrática ou manipuladamente (?) os Rolling Stones (é necessário ressalvar, porém, que depois de Bowling Green, e com a influência crescente da cultura americana nas nossas vidas, a legitimação da cultura de massas já não é exclusivo dos grandes meios de comunicação). É inegável que há subjectividade no processo, mas isso já Kant (apud 1992) e Hume (apud 1997) sabiam, não é nenhuma novidade. O primeiro contraria o relativismo do julgamento estético pela validação intersubjectiva (o modelo de Dickie não anda, sequer, muito longe), o segundo refuta-o afirmando que certos juizes são superiores a outros (no texto de Hume encontramos Sancho Panza como enólogo: ele e os seus parentes só podem mesmo ser melhores juizes da qualidade de um vinho do que um qualquer abstémio). Curiosamente o próprio Hume corrobora involuntariamente a subjectividade última destes fenómenos ao afirmar: “E para não extrairmos a nossa filosofia de fonte muito profunda , recorreremos a uma história notável, contada em D. Quixote” (Hume, 1997; tradução minha). Ou seja: o livro de Cervantes passou de ser uma fonte não muito profunda a encabeçar o cânone literário. Ou então, quem sabe?, talvez Hume considerasse o Quijote um livro profundo, mas a pequena história de Sancho estaria excluída de tais alturas ou profundidades...

A banda desenhada, é bem sabido, tem sido proscrita das “altas” esferas da cultura erudita e da validação estética. No fundo, trata-se de uma simples luta política. Chamar para o campo cultural a lógica democrática? Denunciar a construção de um gosto que marginaliza as classes sociais mais baixas? Pode ser... na condição de que a democratização signifique igualdade de oportunidades no acesso à qualidade e não a queda no exagero de se considerar esteticamente bom2 o trabalho de um artista medíocre só pela cor da pele ou pelo género sexual (praticando a chamada “discriminação positiva”). (Bem sei que a ideia de génio está hoje desacreditada, mas, se não fosse o caso, só nos faltaria assistir à legislação de uma cota de genialidade para as minorias). Por outro lado não tenho nada contra o elitismo se este significar apenas a exigência qualitativa acessível a poucos (por falta de interesse, tempo, etc... tudo razões transversais a toda a sociedade, é bom que se note...). Já tenho, e muito, se este impedir o reconhecimento da qualidade existente fora dos parâmetros ditados pelos preconceitos snobes. Voltando à democracia e ao juízo: imagine-se o que poderia acontecer se milhares de leigos na matéria votassem contra a técnica utilizada por um engenheiro na construção aeronáutica ou civil... O desastre, certamente...

Há dois níveis para enquadrar o julgamento estético: gostos pessoais não se discutem (todos têm o direito ao mau gosto; ninguém consegue escapar completamente ao canto do kitsch em todos os domínios: a impoluta elegância só seria atingível após infindáveis horas de afincada dedicação); mas, como sociedade, devemos confiar na arbitragem dos especialistas (sem abdicar, na qualidade de cidadãos livres, de revelar as possíveis injustiças cometidas pela intelligentsia).

A denúncia politicamente correcta já é um dos terramotos culturais mais importantes deste início de milénio. Quanto mais não seja porque chamou a atenção para fenómenos de dominação politico-cultural (os quais existirão sempre, não tenhamos ilusões). Se há abusos por parte dos defensores do politicamente correcto ainda terão de passar muitos anos até que atinjam a quantidade dos seus simétricos. Não se trata tanto da tão propalada “crise de valores”, mas da substituição de uns valores por outros... para que tudo fique na mesma, como acontece em todas as revoluções (cf. Lampedusa, 2000: 24; Buzzelli, 1998).

E a banda desenhada? Digamos que até Umberto Eco, no início dos anos de 1960, foi praticamente ignorada pela intelligentsia (caso quase único, o outro é Gilbert Seldes, é o de Wolfgang Von Goethe, em 1831, ao fazer este extraordinário juízo sobre os livros de Rodolphe Töpffer: “Se ele escolhesse, no futuro, um tema menos frívolo, refreando-se um pouco mais, faria coisas capazes de ultrapassar a imaginação” - (Eckermann, 1848 - tradução minha a partir da tradução de John Oxenford (s/d [1850]) - bem se pode dizer que Goethe profetizou a banda desenhada dita alternativa). Excluindo a universidade, os primeiros críticos foram os próprios artistas, ou, as mais das vezes, os fãs. Como o nome indica, os fãs escrevem sobretudo em fanzines, mas estes são demasiado numerosos para se poderem citar todos num texto breve. O movimento dos fanzines nos Estados Unidos começou por estar ligado à ficção científica. Os primeiros fanzines dedicados à banda desenhada no citado país foram: EC Fan Bulletin (1953) de Bhob Stewart, Comic Art (1961) de Don Thompson e Maggie Spencer, Alter-Ego (1961) de Roy Thomas e Jerry Bails, Spa Fon (1966) de Rich Hauser e Helmut Mueller, Squa Tront  (1967) de Jerry Weist, onde pontificavam o já conhecido Bhob Stewart e Larry Stark,  Panels (1979) de John Benson. (A crítica dos jornais, por outro lado, está ausente deste texto.) Falando então de livros, sobretudo (e, também aqui, muitos terão de ser suprimidos), há que citar: Comics and Their Creators de Martin Sheridan (1942) como sendo o primeiro inteiramente dedicado à banda desenhada (mais propriamente, ao campo dos comics dos jornais); The Comics de Coulton Wough (1947) e The Funnies: An American Idiom (1963), obra colectiva organizada por David Manning White e Robert H. Abel; All in Color For a Dime (1970) de Dick Lupoff e Don Thompson com a sequela The Comic-Book Book (1977) dos mesmos autores; Comic Art in America (1976) de Stephen Becker. Numa linha semelhante vem America’s Great Comic Strip Artists (1989) de Richard Marschall. Bill Blackbeard, com inúmeros prefácios, poderia também ser citado (é de destacar o longo texto que escreveu em R. F. Outcault’s The Yellow Kid: A Centennial Celebration of the Kid Who Started the Comics - 1995 -, o qual ultrapassa o mero plano amador). Os livros dos fãs são biográficos, hagiográficos, de divulgação popular. A linguagem é acessível, a bagagem teórica implícita ou explícita é nula ou quase. Apesar do amor que dedicavam à banda desenhada, estes primeiros fãs recusavam-se a ver nela algo mais do que um entretenimento, talvez porque receassem ser apelidados de snobes (?).

Na mesma linha está a história da banda desenhada escrita por um profissional: The Comics (1974) por Jerry Robinson (do mesmo autor é de citar a monografia, amplamente ilustrada, Skippy and Percy Crosby - 1978). Outro livro interessante escrito por um profissional é: The Great Comic Book Heroes (1965) de Jules Feiffer. Ainda no capítulo das monografias há a registar: Citizen Caniff (1969) de Claudio Bertieri; Crumb (1974) de Marjorie Alessandrini; Gotlib (1974) de Numa Sadoul; Fred (1975) de Bernard Toussaint; Tardi (1980) de Thierry Groensteen; Un opera de papier: les mémoires de Blake et Mortimer (1981) de E. P. Jacobs; Le monde d’Hergé (1983) de Benoît Peeters; Corentin et les chemins du merveilleux: Paul Cuvelier et la bande dessinée (1984) de Philippe Goddin; Krazy Kat: The Comic Art of George Herriman (1986) de Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell, Georgia Riley de Havenon; Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (1987) de John Canemaker; Foster e Val (1989) de Manuel Caldas; Töpffer: L’invention de la bande dessinée (1994) de Thierry Groensteen e Benoît Peeters; Accidental Ambassador Gordo: The Comic Strip Art of Gus Arriola (2000), de Robert C. Harvey; Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators . Father of the Adventure Strip (2001) de Brian M. Kane; B. Krigstein (2002) de Greg Sadowski, e um longo etc... De referir são também as recolhas de entrevistas em livro (embora não se trate aqui exactamente de crítica): La aventura del comic (1975) com entrevistas conduzidas por Alfonso Lindo; Entretiens avec Hergé (1975) de Numa Sadoul; Charles M. Schulz: Conversations (2000) com organização de M. Thomas Inge; La nouvelle bande dessinée (2002) com entrevistas conduzidas por Hugues Dayez; Carl Barks: Conversations (2003) com organização de Donald Ault; Artistes de bande dessinée (2003) com organização de Thierry Groensteen, etc...  

Na Europa, o boom das publicações amadoras deu-se nos anos de 1960 com a criação das revistas francesas: Giff-Wiff (1962), Phénix (1966), Schtroumpf: Les cahiers de la bande dessinée  de Jacques Glénat (1969, posteriormente, 1984, apenas Les Cahiers de la Bande Dessinée). Esta última revista é uma das aportações críticas à história da banda desenhada Ocidental mais importantes (este texto não contempla o Japão, bem assim como outros países, com uma excepção, cujas línguas oficiais, e outras, não domino). Enquanto foi dirigida por Thierry Groensteen (dos números 56 ao 83), ultrapassou em muito tudo o que já se tinha feito neste campo deixando para trás o passado amador. Contou com participações de críticos tão importantes como o próprio Groensteen, Bruno Lecigne, Gilles Ciment, Jean-Pierre Tamine, Benoît Peeters. Faltou a esta revista da especialidade dar um salto que, de momento, ainda ninguém deu: separar verdadeiramente o trigo do joio em termos valorativos.

Da fornada amadora acima descrita sai Jacques Sadoul com o livro L’enfer des boulles (1968) e Panorama de la bande dessinée (1976), Edouard François com L’age d’or de la bande dessinée (1974). É ainda de citar a publicação amadora belga Rantanplan (1966) de André Leborgne, curiosamente conhecida por RTP, e a italiana Comics Club (1967) de Alfredo Castelli. O primeiro livro inteiramente dedicado à banda desenhada editado em Itália foi I fumetti (1961) de Carlo della Corte. É ainda digno de nota o fanzine Fumo di China (1978) fundado por Franco Spiritelli, Andrea Magoni, Mauro Marcheselli, e Andrea Plazzi. O título do livro de François é indicativo de uma certa (passe o eufemismo) nostalgia (uma idade de ouro é algo que se perdeu). Curiosamente essa suposta idade de ouro não se situava em França, mas nos Estados Unidos: eram sobretudo as (muito mal) apelidadas bandas desenhadas realistas dos anos de 1930 (ou seja, eram as aventuras infanto-juvenis dos comics dos jornais, reimpressas em França em revistas tais como: RobinsonHop-Là, etc...). Toda esta actividade estava relacionada com as associações recreativas ligadas à banda desenhada. Em França: o Club des Bandes Dessinées (Alain Resnais era um dos vice-presidentes, o presidente era Francis Lacassin e entre os membros contavam-se Alvaro de Moya, Federico Fellini, Evelyne Sullerot, Umberto Eco, etc...), CELEG (Centre d’Etude des Littératures d’Expression Graphique) a partir de 1964; a SOCERLID (Société Civile d’Étude et de Recherches des Littératures Dessinées). Na Bélgica: o  CABD (Club des Amis de la Bande Dessinée). Em Itália a ANAF (Associazione Nazionale Amici del Fumetto). Em Espanha foi pioneira a revista Bang! (1968) de Antonio Martín e brilha pela longevidade o fanzine El Wendigo (1974), o qual, apesar de ter as características amadoras já enumeradas, publica os excelentes textos formalistas de Faustino Arbesú. No campo das associações Luis Gasca fundou o Centro de Estudio de Expresión Gráfica. Em Portugal há a citar os fanzines: Quadrinhos (1972) de Vasco Granja, Nemo (1986) de Manuel Caldas, Bedelho (1988) de Francisco Gil e Fernando Vieira, assim como o Clube Português de Banda Desenhada (CPBD) que edita um boletim (1977).

É aos fãs que se deve muita da historiografia da banda desenhada, mas, infelizmente, uma vez que estes não são historiadores profissionais, os livros que escrevem são mais colecções de dados (bio e bibliográficos) do que verdadeiras histórias (com as necessárias sínteses interpretativas dos eventos, integração das obras na sociedade da época em que foram criadas, análise formal, etc...). Nos Estados Unidos, e para além do livro de Robinson, pode citar-se: Les Daniels com Comix: A History of Comic Books in America (1971); Ron Goulart com Over 50 Years of American Comic Books (1991); The Art of the Funnies: An Aesthetic History (1994) e The Art oif the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History de Robert C. Harvey (1996 - ano em que se publicaram muitas histórias da banda desenhada para comemorar o seu suposto nascimento com o Yellow Kid, um século antes). Em França podemos encontrar Histoire de la bande dessinée d'expression française (1972) e Histoire mondiale de la bande dessinée (1981), ambas da autoria de Claude Moliterni; Histoire de la Bande Dessinée en France et en Belgique des origines à nos jours de Henri Filippini (1980); Astérix, Barbarella & Cie de Thierry Groensteen (2000). Em Portugal avulta a obra pioneira Os Comics em Portugal: uma história da banda desenhada de António Dias de Deus (com uma adenda por Leonardo de Sá - 1997) e Das Conferências do Casino à Filosofia de Ponta (2000) por Carlos Bandeiras Pinheiro e João Paiva Boléo (a fundação Calouste Gulbenkian publicou também, pelos mesmos autores, A Banda Desenhada Portuguesa: 1914-1945 - 1997 - e Banda Desenhada Portuguesa: Anos 40-Anos 80 - 2000). De Leonardo de Sá e Geraldes Lino é o Dédalo dos Fanzines (1997). Em Espanha destaca-se Fernando Martin com Apuntes para una historia de los tebeos (1967) e Los inventores del comic español (2000). Sem esquecer Antonio Altarriba com La España del tebeo (2001 - uma história onde, como o título indica, se faz a ligação entre as personagens de tebeo e as Espanhas franquista e da transição democrática) e o monumental Atlas Español de la cultura popular: De la Historieta y su uso. 1873 - 2000 (2000) por Jesús Quadrado. Ainda em Espanha cito três livros de Javier ComaLos comics: un arte del siglo XX (1977), Del gato Félix al gato Fritz: História de los comics (1979), El ocaso de los héroes en los comics de autor (1984). Na Argentina contam-se duas obras importantes: História de la historieta argentina (1980) de Carlos Trillo e Guillermo Saccomano; La historieta argentina: Una historia (2000) por Judith Gociol e Diego Rosemberg. Na Grã-Bretanha, para além de Dennis Gifford, com The British Comics Catalogue 1874-1974 (1975), podem citar-se as três obras de Roger Sabin: Adult Comics: An Introduction (1993), Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels: A History of Comic Art (1996), Below critical Radar: Fanzines and Alternative Comics from 1976 to now (2002 - com Teal Triggs). A banda desenhada dita underground já vai tendo a sua historiografia com: A History of Underground Comics (1974) de Mark James Estrin; Rebel Visions:The Underground Revolution 1963 - 1975 (2002) de Patrick Rosenkranz; Comix: The Underground Revolution (2004) de Dez Skinn. A banda desenhada alternativa norte-americana encontrou historiador na figura do espanhol Oscar Palmer: Cómic alternativo de los ’90 (2000). Vinda do underground, a artista Trina Robbins historiou a banda desenhada feita por mulheres em A Century of Women Cartoonists (1993) e From Girls to Grrrl: A History of Women’s Comics from Teens to Zines (1999); Wendy Siuyi Wong divulgou a banda desenhada de Hong Kong através do livro hong kong comics:a history of manhua (2002). A acrescentar ao presente parágrafo, apenas mais um longo etc...

 As enciclopédias são o reino preferido do fã. Como este alia a faceta de estudioso do tema à de coleccionador, nada mais natural do que tentar catalogar tudo o que existe. Darei apenas alguns exemplos: The World Encyclopedia of Comics (1976), sob a direcção de Maurice Horn e, infelizmente, com muitos erros; Encyclopédie des bandes dessinées (1979) com supervisão de Marjorie Alessandrini; The Encyclopedia of American Comics (1990), edição de Ron Goulart; Dictionnaire mondial de la bande dessinée (1994), de Patrick Gaumer e Claude Moliterni.

         Uma vez que já citei Thierry Groensteen posso passar à segunda “espécie” de críticos de banda desenhada: os jornalistas e os especialistas. Estes não são críticos universitários apenas porque não estão directamente relacionados com nenhuma destas instituições. Thierry Groensteen, por exemplo, integra-se nesta categoria, com inúmeros livros de divulgação mais ou menos popular, e na seguinte, a universitária, com Système de la bande dessinée (1999). Para além de dirigir os Cahiers de la bande dessinée durante o seu período verdadeiramente interessante dirige e publica actualmente a não menos importante revista 9e art. Thierry Groensteen escreveu Animaux en cases (1987), L’Univers des manga: une introduction à la BD japonaise (1991), Couleur directe (1993), La construction de La Cage: autopsie d’un roman visuel  (2002), etc… Nos Estados Unidos é obrigatório citar: The Seven Lively Arts de Gilbert Seldes (1924), embora este não seja um livro inteiramente dedicado à banda desenhada (Seldes defendia, demonstrando pioneirismo, que as artes “menores” eram tão válidas como as artes “maiores”); Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book de Michael Barrier (1981); Reading the Funnies de Donald Phelps (2001). Excelente é El Domicilio de la Aventura (1995) do grande crítico argentino Juan Sasturain. De citar é ainda Psicopatologia de la viñeta cotidiana do espanhol Jesus Quadrado (2000), e o livro recente do português David Soares, Sobre BD (2004). Um caso “à parte” é o de Bruno Lecigne que a solo em Avanies et Mascarade: L’évolution de la bande dessinée en France dans les annés 70  (1981) ou acompanhado por Jean-Pierre Tamine em Fac-Simile: Essai paratactique sur le Nouveau Réalisme de la Bande Dessinée (1983) escreveu algumas das melhores páginas alguma vez dedicadas à banda desenhada. A divulgação do muito rico e complexo mundo da banda desenhada japonesa no Ocidente esteve sobretudo a cargo de Frederik L. Schodt com Manga! Manga!: The World of Japanese Comics (1983) e Dreamland Japan (1996).

No capítulo das revistas da especialidade (para além das ligadas a Thierry Groensteen já referidas atrás) há a citar em Portugal as revistas Quadrado (1993) e Satélite Internacional (2002) onde escrevem: Pedro Moura, Domingos Isabelinho, Marcos Farrajota, João Paulo Cotrim, Paulo Patrício, e outros, com participações mais ocasionais; em França a extraordinária revista / fanzine Critix (1996), onde escreveram Jean-Philippe Martin, Évariste Blanchet, Renaud Chavanne, Pierre Huard (vindo da crítica universitária) e, até, Fabrice Neaud. O desaparecimento da Critix prova amargamente que não é viável a existência de uma revista de qualidade sobre banda desenhada sem apoios institucionais. Nos Estados Unidos há muitas revistas da especialidade, mas quase todas são feitas por fãs de superheróis para os fãs de superheróis (caso da revista/fanzine Alter-Ego, já citada como fanzine, a viver hoje uma nova reencarnação). Com um espírito crítico mais apurado, mas sem chegar muito mais longe, em muitos dos casos, é digna de nota a revista The Comics Journal onde escrevem: Gary Groth (um excelente crítico que, infelizmente, pouco tem exercido), Darcy Sullivan, Ng Suat Tong, Robert Fiore, Bart Beaty (com uma óptima coluna sobre banda desenhada europeia), Gregory Cwiklik, Tom Spurgeon, Robert C. Harvey e algumas dezenas de outros com participações mais ou menos ocasionais. A revista The Comics Journal tem sido acusada de ser elitista e snobe, mas a acusação é injusta porque, com a mudança constante do responsável editorial, e sem uma política coerente, a revista tanto pode dar voz a um crítico conservador (R. C. Harvey ou Ray Mescallado) como a um defensor acérrimo da “vanguarda”. Digno ainda de nota é o caso da revista Graphis, dedicada ao design de comunicação, que publicou dois números especiais (159, 60 - 1972/73) sobre a banda desenhada. A organização esteve a cargo de David Pascal e Walter Herdeg, os artigos estiveram a cargo de Pierre Couperie, Claude Moliterni, Archie Goodwin, Gil Kane, Les Daniels, Jules Feiffer, David Pascal, Robert Weaver, Alain Resnais, Milton Glaser, Umberto Eco.

         Na crítica universitária a valoração deixou de fazer sentido. Os críticos universitários aspiram a uma objectividade científica ideal, mas impossível de atingir. A instituição tem tal prestígio que qualquer alvo de estudo por ela escolhido ganha imediatamente um estatuto acima da mediania anónima. Talvez seja por isso que houve (e ainda há) em certos sectores universitários uma forte oposição ao estudo da banda desenhada. Tratava-se de evitar a subida de status social a uma arte muito menor. Quando Umberto Eco escreveu sobre Steve Canyon, os Peanuts, L’Il Abner e Superman em Apocalittici e integrati: Comunicazioni di massa e teorie della cultura di massa (1964) recebeu um acolhimento negativo por parte dos ditos “apocalípticos” (sobretudo os marxistas inspirados na linha de pensamento da escola de Frankfurt, mas também os conservadores de direita, acérrimos defensores dos valores tradicionais e da divisão artes maiores/artes menores). Por outro lado os “integrados”, surgiram, nos Estados Unidos da América, na universidade de Bowling Green.

O caso cubano é paradigmático do ataque aos valores da América capitalista. Livros como La vida en cuadritos (1993) de Paquita Armas lá vão mandando as suas ferroadas aos imperialistas exploradores do terceiro mundo. E no entanto parece que, ao mesmo tempo, a banda desenhada norte-americana exerce um fascínio particular na autora. O que resulta, na realidade, é uma espécie de amor/ódio, mas o caso mais famoso (e o de maior qualidade, diga-se de passagem) deste tipo de crítica marxista ao imperialismo americano é Para leer el pato Donald (1972) de Ariel Dorfman e Armand Mattelart. Uma abordagem do mesmo teor, mas feita com base na banda desenhada franco-belga é La société des bulles (1977) de Wilbur Leguebe. Em língua portuguesa do Brasil temos Uma Introdução Política aos Quadrinhos (1982) de Moacy Cirne.

Uma das primeiras avenidas que a banda desenhada utilizou para entrar na universidade foi o estudo estrutural e semiótico (ou semiológico, se não formos peirceianos e sim saussurianos). O já citado Umberto Eco é um semiólogo eminente. Cabem também nesta categoria os livros: A Explosão Criativa dos Quadrinhos de Moacy Cirne (1970), El lenguage de los comics (1972) de Roman Gubern; Dessins et bulles: la bande dessinée comme moyen d’expression (1972) de Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle; La bande dessinée: essai d’analyse sémiotique (1972) também de Fresnault-Deruelle; “La bande dessinée et son discours”, obra colectiva, número 24 da revista Communications (1976), com ensaios de Fresnault-Deruelle, Umberto Eco, Luc Routeau, Vicky du Fontbaré e Philippe Sohet, Bernard Toussaint, Michel Rio, Guy Gauthier, René Lindekens, Alain Picquenot, Michel Covin; Structuren des Comic Strip (1974) de W. Hünig; Récits et discours par la bande (1977) de Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle. Mesmo em obras mais recentes como Case, planche, récit: comment lire une bande dessinée (1991) de Benoît Peeters, ou no muito sobrevalorizado Understanding Comics (1993) de Scott McCloud, a marca estruturalista pode ainda ser encontrada. McCloud, tal como Will Eisner, o qual escreveu dois livros sobre a linguagem da banda desenhada, e Benoît Peeters, são artistas, não são universitários. É natural que escrevam sobre a sua prática pois confrontam-se com problemas formais todos os dias. Também de 1993 é o livro de Philippe Marion Traces en cases. Ainda em 1993 há a registar o livro de Jan Baetens e Pascal Lefèvre Pour une lecture moderne de la bande dessinée. Dez anos depois, em 2003, foi a lume Principes des littératures dessinées de Harry Morgan (incluo o livro nesta lista embora o autor conteste os seus predecessores dos anos 70). De resto, em Itália, Umberto Eco deixou pelo menos um discípulo: Daniele Barbieri, o qual escreveu I linguaggi del fumetto (1991). Uma curiosidade, só para demonstrar que nas periferias também se produz é: Tralalá del cómic (1997) publicado em Santo Domingo por Faustino Perez. Mas o melhor livro dentro desta categoria já foi citado acima. Trata-se de  Système de la bande dessinée (1999) de Thierry Groensteen. A tese de Rui Zink Literatura Gráfica? (1999) é uma mistura de muitas abordagens, mas a teoria formal está também presente.

Outra via de entrada dos estudos sobre banda desenhada na universidade foi a sociológica. É importante referir o ensaio de Luc Boltanski : “La constitution du champ de la bande dessinée” na obra colectiva Actes de la Recherche en sciences Sociales número 1 (1975). De Évelyne Sullerot há a registar: Bandes dessinées et culture (1965). No campo dos cultural studies destaca-se Arthur Asa Berger com The Comic-Stripped American: What Dick Tracy, Blondie, Daddy Warbucks and Charlie Brown Tell Us about Ourselves (1973); Martin Barker com Comics: Ideology, Power and the Critics (1989). A aproximação do tipo “Bowling Green” (indistinguível da hagiografia típica dos fãs e sem nenhuma abordagem teórica visível) pode encontrar-se nos livros da University Press of Mississippi, por exemplo em M. Thomas Inge e Matthew J. Pustz: Comics as Culture (1990), Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers (1999), respectivamente.

Os historiadores de arte têm-se debruçado pouco e não muito bem sobre a banda desenhada. São os casos de: História da Banda Desenhada Infantil Portuguesa: (Das Origens até ao ABCzinho) (1987) de João Pedro Ferro; The Aesthetics of Comics (2000) de David Carrier; Los comics de la transición: (El boom del cómic adulto 1975 – 1984) (2001) de Francesca Lladó; Comic Book Nation (2001) de Bradford W. Wright. A verdade é que, tirando um ou outro pormenor, estas abordagens históricas não se diferenciam assim tanto das efectuadas pelos amadores. Talvez os historiadores estejam menos preocupados em registar tudo (mas mesmo tudo) e revelem um pouco mais de método e preocupação em explorar as ligações entre sociedade e obra, mas é só. O livro de Carrier nem sequer é um livro de história porque o mesmo escreveu-o para tentar provar a tese absurda de que as “artes maiores” evoluem enquanto as ditas “artes populares” nunca mudam. Os livros de David Kunzle: The Early Comic Strip: narrative strips and picture stories in the European broadsheet from c.1450 to 1825 (1973) e The history of the comic strip: The nineteenth century (1990) são uma excepção importante. Outra excepção é Comic Strips & Consumer Culture: 1890-1945 (2002) de Ian Gordon. Devido ao seu gosto pela estatística, nomeadamente no catálogo da exposição Bande Dessinée et Figuration Narrative (1967), diria que Pierre Couperie poderia tornar a posição de David Kunzle e Gordon menos solitária... Infelizmente a sua situação de fã (foi membro do Club des Bandes Dessinées e da SOCERLID) tirou-lhe a capacidade de evitar a hagiografia. Faltou-lhe também uma grande obra de referência... 

A psicologia e a psicanálise têm pouca tradição na abordagem à banda desenhada, mas ambas se podem encontrar também. Refiro-me sobretudo a quatro livros: Seduction of the Innocent (1954) de Fredric Wertham; Tintin chez le psicanaliste (1985), Psychoanalise de la bande dessinée (1987) ambos de Serge Tisseron, Les spectres de la bande (1978) de Alan Rey. Donald Ault escreveu o ensaio ““Cutting Up” Again Part II: Lacan on Barks on Lacan” no livro colectivo e pluridisciplinar: Comics Culture: Analytical and Theoretical Approaches to Comics (2000) com organização de Anne Magnusson e Hans-Christian Christiansen. Esta última obra, editada pela universidade de Copenhaga, faz parte de uma série muito interessante de actas ou, simplesmente, de recolhas de ensaios: à la rencontre de... Jacques Tardi (1982) com organização de Jean Arrouye e Jean-Claude Faur; Bande Dessinée Récit et Modernité (1988) com organização de Thierry Groensteen e ensaios de Harry Morgan, Marc Avelot, Jacques Samson (memorável!), entre outros… The Graphic Novel (2001) com organização de Jan Baetens (dele é também o livro Formes et politique de la bande dessinée - 1998); The Language of Comics (2002) com organização de Robin Varnum e Christina T. Gibbons e ensaios de Gene Kannenberg, David Kunzle, David A. Beröna, entre outros...

         No campo das revistas da especialidade universitárias há a registar a revista Crimmer’s: The Journal of Narrative Arts e Crimmer’s: The Harvard Journal of Pictorial Fiction (1974); Inks: Comic and Cartoon Art Studies (1994) da Ohio State University; The International Journal of Comic Art (1999) cujos ensaios são maioritariamente de duas espécies: a divulgação de tradições nacionais menos conhecidas; os cultural studies (interessante é a série recente sobre os pioneiros da crítica). Nestas publicações podem encontrar-se os textos de: Arthur Asa Berger (autor de uma monografia sobre Al Capp: Li’l Abner: A Study in American Satire - 1970), Joseph Witek (o qual escreveu o livro Comic Books As History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman and Harvey Pekar (Studies in Popular Culture) - 1989), Mike Kidson, Spiros Tsaousis, Waldomiro C. S. Vergueiro, Marc Singer, Caridad Blanco de la Cruz, Michael Rhode, John A. Lent (o editor da revista), Leonard Rifas, Charles Hatfield, Ole Frahm, Ana Merino, entre muitos outros...

         Em conclusão: a crítica de banda desenhada tem fama de ser inexistente. E no entanto...

         Devido a ser um fenómeno que se desenvolveu sobretudo de há 40 anos para cá (muito pouco tempo, claro) não pode ter ainda um corpus semelhante ao de “outras críticas” com tradições mais antigas. Por outro lado a crítica de banda desenhada é uma actividade que quase ninguém reconhece e aprecia, não dá grande prestígio social e muito menos dinheiro. Espero que o presente texto sirva para dar uma pequena ideia a quem o ler da enorme variedade e do muito que, apesar de tudo, já se fez. Como disse no início: desde o miúdo que escreve “umas coisas” num fanzine aos textos desconstrutivistas de Ole Frham e John Ronan, de tudo um pouco se pode encontrar na crítica de banda desenhada. Por vezes esta é irritantemente obtusa, continua apegada a arcaísmos e infantilismos, revela falta de metodologia, ignora aspectos inteiros da análise formal (as cores, a narratologia, etc...), volta as costas às temáticas e ao sentido, valoriza esteticamente histórias simplistas e infantilóides (cheias de estereótipos racistas e machistas, por exemplo), é profundamente anti-intelectual. Mas também pode ser incrivelmente inteligente e interessante. O tempo se encarregará de separar o trigo do joio porque é bem verdade o velho adágio que diz: não é o crítico que julga a obra, é a obra que julga o crítico.

1Expressão intraduzível, literalmente “sobrancelha alta” ou “testa alta”, integrada nos campos semânticos
 relacionados com a intelectualidade, a cultura erudita e as boas maneiras. Highbrow opõe-se a lowbrow
 (“sobrancelha baixa” ou “testa baixa”, baixa cultura, costumes populares). Quanto à elocução “junk food”,
 infelizmente tanto a mesma como a coisa entraram de tal modo no nosso quotidiano planetário que me dispenso de mais comentários. 
2“Belo” seria mais apropriado, tratando-se de estética, mas o “conceito” caiu em desuso.


P. e. = Primeira edição.

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