PBS: Although for years comics have been denigrated as a so-called "low art" category, it appears they're becoming more widely accepted and perhaps even validated as a form of art and a long literary narrative. Would you agree with this? Is "form" the right word here? Do you think that this kind of validation is inhibiting in any way, that comics are in danger of becoming less rebellious or creatively free because they're more accepted and being published in the mainstream?
Chris: "Form" seems fine, and sometimes I use the word "language," and while I am genuinely happy that I don't have to explain that I'm not an animator anymore when someone asks me what it is I do, I do worry that beginning cartoonists could feel somewhat strangled by the increasing critical seriousness comics has received of late and feel, like younger writers, that they have to have something to "say" before they set pen to paper. Many cartoonists feel even more passionate about this idea than I do, vehemently insisting that comics are inherently "non-art" and poop humor or whatever it is they think it is, but that attitude is a little like insisting that all modern writing should always take the form of The Canterbury Tales.I'm all for anything and everything in comics; I started drawing them with the specific goal of finding out whether or not they were capable of expressing things other than jokes and contempt. To me, Robert Crumb is a perfect artist because he's one of the most visually sensitive people alive yet he's widely also known as one of the world's great curmudgeons, simply because his emotional range is so wide and his ability to see the world so perspicacious; all artists should hope to be so pluralistic. I do worry that museum shows and literary magazine appearances might start to cloud the general readership's ability to see comics clearly, as anything that's presented as high art immediately blurs a viewer's perceptions with thinking and theory, but I think it also means that more talented and thoughtful people will be attracted to it as a medium.
-Chris Ware, interviewed at pbs.org
The above sentence in (my) italics says basically what I had been hoping for the last several months to say in an essay. I posted this quote from Seth to show how this attitude (somewhat caricatured by Ware) has been around for at least 10 years, but probably for a long time. Maybe Kurtzman's generation argued about it too. Maybe Topffer's. For sure it descends to us from Crumb, who contained it all within himself. He's like the Plato or the Shakespeare. I think Ware describes him very well as "pluralistic," though Crumb seems to be very uncomfortable with any critical seriousness applied to comics and would be the first to make fun of it all. It's in the nature of comics that makes it very difficult to take it all too seriously. It's a weakness and a strength.
What about Art Spiegelman’s work, which you’ve parodied several times?
RYAN: I do appreciate the comic magazine Raw that he put out in the ‘80s. I was a fan of that. Maus, I just thought was okay. Other than that, I guess, I kind of dislike the drive to make comics fine art and fine literature that he seems to promote.
What type of comics are you trying to promote?
RYAN: The other end of the spectrum. I’m doing trashy, weird, crazy, strange, bizarre, disgusting, filthy, horrible stuff that you wouldn’t see in a museum.
-Johnny Ryan interviewed at Wizard