In last week’s Ivan Brunetti-covered New Yorker (and what a great cover!), towards the back—’round Joyce Carol Oates’ book review and the literary backmatter—I noticed a couple of ads for—gasp!—the lowly comic book.
Well, sorry, graphic novels, but you get the idea. I love that Vertigo is placing these ads—and they’re pretty strong advertisements—and intrigued with what they’re advertising. First off, this is the New Yorker, and they’re not advertising feminist metafiction or strips with literary pretension—no, they’re advertising pulp. “CRIME,” “LURID”—these are the words that leap out to the reader, along with Constantine’s smoking skull and the Kathleen Turneresque lips of the unknown mystery moll.
Is this a good idea? First, the only detective novels that are reviewed in the New Yorker are by Tommy Pynchon. Second, aren’t smoking skulls, drooling lips, and CRIME CRIME CRIME the stuff of Wertham? Haven’t we moved beyond it?
Not with the rise of such noir-mastery as Ed Brubaker’s Criminal and Darwyn Cooke’s The Hunter adaptation, nor Greg Rucka’s outstanding Gotham Central. We’ve also started to tenuously dip our toe back in the romance and Western pond—genres which I am happy to see stagger back into the limelight.
If the 90’s implosion of superhero drek coupled with the small press and internet explosion of the 00’s results in greater diversity—or even restoring the diversity of the early years of comics—I’ll be happy.
I’m quite fine with this type of stuff being pitched at the New Yorker crowd—which is, of course, in the modern days just chock full of comics fans. And not all comics can be Asterios Polyp, although why Random House isn’t plastering ads for it in the all the literary magazines is beyond me. Not to mention that, like a lot of people, I’ve got Shelby Foote and William Faulkner fighting for bedside table space right alongside Jack Kirby and Victor Gischler. With Pynchon and such cross-genre cinema enthusiasts like the Coen Brothers and Tarantino legitimizing pulp for a modern audience, I think this is a strong market for Vertigo, and one I’m happy to see them exploit.
So: lurid it up, Vertigo!