December is upon us, which means we are nearing the first anniversary of SOLRAD’s publication. If I had my ‘druthers, I would have preferred 2020 to be a little lower on the “economic crisis and global pandemic” scale, and higher on the “few beers with friends at a comics show” scale. Still, we’ve had a stellar first year thanks to the contributions of our talented writers and artists. We’re not planning to stop any time soon, and we have a great slate planned for this December.
Let me take a few seconds here to plug our Patreon – which is up and running as of last month. We really could use your help to keep the lights on as we transition into the new year, so if you like what we are doing, please jump over there and pledge to support the work we are doing. Donations are tax-deductible. Thanks!
Anyway, where was I?
As SOLRAD’s publisher, I get to take a little free license on these articles to talk about what I’m thinking about. The boys over at Comic Books Are Burning In Hell recently put together an episode on comics criticism which I thought was fascinating. One of the key points that the crew makes is that critics roughly fall into one of two camps: the camp of critics who are advocates for comics (generally in the capitalist milieu), and the camp of critics who are there to discuss the way the art works, to contextualize it and expand the reader’s understanding of it. (This is something of a simplification, so go and listen to the podcast when you get a chance).
I think that the binary that CBABIH sets up is ultimately a false one. I understand the desire to lump people into these two categories, and there is clearly too much of the kind of comics criticism that is actually a recap of the comic book in question followed by a score on a 5.0 rating scale. But good criticism does exist all over the web, including at SOLRAD, WWAC, TCJ, BF, and others.
To use our magazine as an example, SOLRAD exists to advocate for the people that make comics and to advocate for the comics arts in general. We simultaneously work to deliver comics criticism that contextualizes and deepens the reader’s understanding of the art and the way it works. It’s my opinion that you can advocate for cartoonists (by advocating for better wages, page rates, contracts, etc.) without engaging in the second-hand marketing of books or by engaging with the marketplace as a unifying theme of your writing. The commercial market isn’t escapable, of course, but advocacy does not need to be in service of it – in fact, it can be diametrically opposed to it.
As an online literary magazine for comics, SOLRAD is founded on the belief that criticism of the comics arts is essential for the betterment of the form, the education of the public, and to give the comics arts a place for reflection, discernment, and connection with the larger world. We wholeheartedly believe in both advocacy and context – we want to have our cake and eat it too. We hope you’ll have a little cake with us.
On the docket for this month:
We’ll be debuting the first of what I hope is many “Critical Conversations,” conversations between two (or more) critics discussing a specific work of comics. Ryan Carey and I kick the first of these off tomorrow with a review of Owen Pomery’s VICTORY POINT. Don’t miss it!
You can expect a host of new faces at SOLRAD, including a few comics scholars, as we continue to expand our contributor base. We’ll have some recurring faces too, including a fascinating feature on Jack Chick by Lane Yates.
SOLRAD Presents will continue to hum along, and we’ll see the conclusion of Love Me Like An Autograph by Audra Stang, We started the latest series of Reilly Hadden’s Kricket the Cat comic, and we’ll have more of Noah Van Sciver’s Cartoonist Chats videos.
Finally, ENEMIES OF THE STATE will be back late in December with a critics’ roundtable on MY SOLO EXCHANGE DIARY v. 1-2 by Nagata Kabi. I’m looking forward to getting back on the podcast train.
As always, my inbox is open if you have questions, suggestions, or concerns. Have a great month and let’s talk again in the New Year!