I stole the title of this post from a great book by Bart Beaty. Comics Versus Art, dealing with the relationship between the world of comics and the comics world, is required reading if you want to think about these two things together. But it's not the last word since comics and art keep on going. For instance, this month Artforum turned its gaze on comics. Why not? Summer is the slow season. Everyone's on vacation. The New York galleries are full of second stringers from the provinces. Anyway, every few years the art slicks turn their attention to comics. It's been like this since the late 60s.
Artforum, Summer 2014. Cover from "I Am My Goals" by Julien Ceccaldi.
One of the essays in the special section on comics, "Wonder Worlds" by Stephen Burt, covered some of the same ground as I did in the previous post, particularly discussing Thierry Smolderen's The Origins of Comics: From William Hogarth to Winsor McCay. There was a curated section by Art Spiegelman showing the comics that have been meaningful to him after a lifetime of thinking about the subject. Among other things, he discusses the Heta-Uma ("unskilled-skillful") movement in 1980s underground manga, which parallels a tendency in North American comics starting with artists like Gary Panter and Mark Beyer in the late 70s and early 80s and which continues until today.
But in a way, there is something rather old-fashioned about this comics section. It touches briefly on the most recent trends in comics, but it seems obliged to educate Artforum's readers on the totality of comics-as-art--a task too big for one section in one issue of a magazine. (Comics from outside North America, for example, are barely discussed.)
In The Comics Journal, there was a brief exchange about the issue between Paris Review managing editor Nicole Rudick and Comics Journal editor Dan Nadel. Rudick wrote: