A thing I’m not crazy about on twitter is people who quote a tweet with the sole purpose of trying to make the tweeter look like an idiot. It has its purposes here and there (deplorables, celebrities, calling attention to something someone said to you, etc.), but mostly I’m not a fan of performative shittiness. It’s something I think about a lot--how to be mean in the right way, about the right things--and I’m not sure that I always get it right, or that it even matters, but I really, really try. Most of the time I try to stick your idea is stupid, and here’s why. That second part of that construction seems important. Not always, but very often.
I was thinking about this last night when someone quoted something I said about Fantagraphics last week with a comment along the lines of ‘JFC now I’ve seen it all, this liberal wants a white power Pepe’ and it just had a lot of levels…this performative shitty tweet implying that I’m a performative shitty person. It also touched on something I wonder about sometimes, which is if I’m perceived as contrarian when I blather on about something like Pepe the fucking frog, which I honest to god don’t even care about that much. I mean, on one level, I don’t want to be perceived as a contrarian because that makes me want to horror barf, but on another level I get that it doesn’t take much to be considered “contrarian” when it comes to comics. Comics seems to have a lot of groupthink, which seems like the natural byproduct of an incestuous industry. I’m not sure me having an out-there opinion is so much about me needing to differentiate myself as it is about other people’s need to assimilate. That’s probably just something that’s broken in me, spiritually and socially, but on the bright side I don’t have to go around defending a bunch of assholes all the time.
It's curious to me that anyone would find it controversial to say that Fantagraphics is a publisher that, historically, hasn't shown much interest in engaging in any dialogue with its audience about race. Apart from Fukitor there have been other big race-related dustups that they weren't too interested in talking about, I’m pretty sure. My problem with Gary Groth is that his answer to every question is “ART,” which strikes me as really condescending. That’s not an answer to the questions that are being asked. I think artists are sometimes wise to stay silent when people question the “merit” of their work or whatever, but a publisher…I don’t think it’s out of bounds to ask a publisher to articulate the thought process behind a given choice, or to challenge that choice, even.
I remain skeptical that the high-profile conversation Fantagraphics suddenly wants to have with the nation about interracial unity is centered on a stoner frog. I remain skeptical that the conversation is in fact about love and unity at all. I can think of no better time for Fanta to have gone hard on “art for art’s sake” than Pepe the frog, who's from a comic that sort of looks to be about nothingness, but of course that wouldn’t have played. I think Fanta should champion its artists, by all means; championing artists is a thing that Fantagraphics does really well. But making a pot-smoking frog who likes to pee on things a symbol of diversity? How is that anything other than opportunistic? Lord.
I mean, it’s complicated too because being opportunistic isn’t inherently bad. I can get behind a brand being opportunistic a lot more than I can get behind it saying that gang rape and race wars are avant garde, anyway. But building your brand on a conversation that you’ve refused to have with your core audience more than once? Pretending like you’re some sort of thought leader on this thing that you’re known for being kinda bad at? It’s hypocritical. I’m not outraged by that hypocrisy, but I am interested in it. I’m also interested in the way the people who celebrate people like Groth for his courage in being a dick are the same ones who get all shrill about his detractors not being respectful enough. I guess I think if you want to know more about Gary Groth's legacy you can read his Wikipedia. Like…that’s not really what I feel I have to offer in the 30 mins I have to think about comics today, or even care about paying my respects to other than to acknowledge it obviously exists.