The fact that this review landed like a wet turd at midnight begs the question, does no one read the Journal anymore? If the Journal can print a ritual disemboweling of one of Team Comics' most sacred cows without inspiring so much as a blink, well, I don't believe the magazine is penetrating anywhere near as deeply into the "intelligent, opinionated" comic reader demographic as it once did. Perhaps the price increase really hurt the magazine?You think? Perhaps the magazine has simply painted itself into a corner when it comes to comics with its reviews and focus, while comics have been branching ever outward in the last 10 years. Perhaps its just too damn big.
The reality is, from this devoted former Comics Journal reader, is that there was a time when I would have defended the Journal from almost all criticism, not because it was perfect, but because at least it tried. And back in the desperate, newsprint CBG infested '80's, no one else tried to put two brain cells together and approach comics from an intellectual place.
Groth, for all the times his ego ocassionally overwhelmed the actual content of the magazine, had the right idea, and made more than a few years worth of attempts to get his audience to read critical reviews, to break down the language of comics to something that could be studied, addressed with formalism and standards, and taken apart so that we could see the innards. That he and we saw more offal that could have been imagined through the '90's is not his fault.
And yet, somewhere in-between the comics getting mass acceptance again, not just as a juvenile product but with the greater mainstream American public, the Journal, which should have been on the vanguard of the publishing, started to slip out of view. It got too expensive, too thick to read, too much information packed in one space. It was as if going to a quarterly publication allowed them the time to go deeper into their subjects, which one would have thought would have been a good thing, except that its possible to go too deep and simply overwhelm your reader.
And it became hard to find. I recall that quite clearly. And that is just the buying habits of the shops that I went to, so its partly their fault.
But the lack of monthly publishing meant that there was less timely reporting, and a periodical without an imperative to read is a slightly less appealing periodical. Illustration and Comic Art and Sweeneys fall into the same trap sometimes, no question, and we've already seen the change in the publication schedule for Comic Art in response to that.
Without being privvy to any of the nuts and bolts or finances of the Comics Journal, I hope that Gary is making good money, and I greatly enjoy many of the Fantagraphics books, so many props to the whole crew there. I'm just not sure of the Journal itself anymore.