TCJ 300: Blood & Thunder (Letters from our readers)

Posted by on December 31st, 2009 at 3:33 AM


Michael Slembrouck:

I thought it was funny that issue 298 of The Comics Journal had a lengthy essay [Comicopia, R.C. Harvey] about the dead chimp/stimulus bill editorial cartoon and how, racist or not, the author failed in the presentation of his opinion, which was preceded by a review that did that exact thing. My initial reaction to Robert Stanley Martin’s review of Speak of the Devil was juvenile, but oh well: This guy’s a jerk-off. I’m a Beto fan (no dis to Jaime, but I prefer Beto) but, sure, Speak of the Devil didn’t impress me all that much compared to some of his other work. I even partially agree with Martin’s complaint (and he has only one, which he harps on and on about for the whole “review”) and it’s that the story could use a little more depth. That’s where I stop agreeing with him, even partially.

Martin correctly identifies his complaints as pedantic, but I’m not sure who he’s trying to impress by painting himself as an expert on high school athletes, girl gymnasts and the suburban mindset. He seems to be rather stereotypical in his opinions of all three, however, which puts his demand for more depth in the form of realism on shaky ground. His claims that no one will believe the crimes portrayed in the story because we all watch CSI not only add to that but are offensive (or, more mildly, irritating). The “fact” that apparently no club anywhere has had their wait-staff dress as bunnies in decades and how this helps to ruin the book make me really start to think that this guy (Martin) is actually not a jerk-off but someone clearly lacking intelligence yet putting on the airs that he’s not. Maybe no club anywhere does currently make its wait-staff dress as sexy bunnies, I don’t know, I haven’t visited every club everywhere regularly for ten plus years to keep up on their dress codes (I have been to a Hooters in the past decade, though, and anyone who claims their outfits aren’t comparable to bunny outfits is blind). But that’s not the point. Clearly, what has made Beto’s comics so great is their realistic attention to minute details of very specific stereotypes.

Everything becomes clear at the end of the review, though. Robert Stanley Martin is one of those people who enjoys saying of an artist: “their early stuff is better, before they sold out,” or something along those lines. This is not the elitist attitude that TCJ has been criticized for, it’s the pretentious claptrap found in any fandom that stops it from being expanded. I stand by my initial reaction and really hope he doesn’t contribute anything else to TCJ in the future. Strong opinions are of course a trademark of TCJ, but they’re intelligent opinions, too.

Otherwise, an excellent issue.


Robert Stanley Martin Replies:

Michael Dean offered me the opportunity to reply to this letter, but I’m not quite sure what to reply to without rehashing the review. Mr. Slembrouck continually misstates or exaggerates what I wrote. Attitudes are attributed to me that I never expressed and do not hold. He finds my views of “high school athletes, girl gymnasts and the suburban mindset” stereotypical, but he doesn’t elaborate on what he finds hackneyed or simplistic about them. Part of me wonders if the letter is a joke. The writing skills on display are pitiful, and the author barely seems to know how to read.

The only complaint that isn’t completely incoherent or nonsensical deals with my criticism of a character’s Playboy-Bunny-style work outfit. However, it’s a straw man. In my review, I wrote that the outfit was an anachronism, and that, in terms of the story, it raised questions about Hernandez’s depiction of her husband. Mr. Slembrouck ignores the latter part of that criticism, and he exaggerates the rest into an absolute, no-exceptions claim that no establishment anywhere today has their servers dress in such a manner. My response is that, beyond drastically improving his reading comprehension skills, Mr. Slembrouck needs to learn the difference between something being generally true and universally so. Of course, Mr. Slembrouck also thinks Playboy Bunnies and Hooters Girls have similar outfits, so maybe that is too fine a distinction for him to understand.

Mr. Slembrouck asks whom I was trying to impress with my critique of Speak of the Devil. The answer is no one. The Journal commissioned a review of 1,000-6,000 words and sent me a copy of the book. I just fulfilled the assignment. I took no pleasure in writing the review. My preference is to talk about work I enjoy, and if I don’t like something, my hope is that it is bad in an interesting way. Speak of the Devil didn’t even manage that. It is a mind-numbingly awful book. I mean that literally; the experience of reading, thinking and writing about it left me depressed. Reading, thinking and writing about Mr. Slembrouck’s insulting and illiterate letter didn’t leave me feeling much better.



Corrections: There were many names on the splash page of Bob Levin’s superb feature article on The Someday Funnies in TCJ #299, but unfortunately, none of them were Levin’s. Readers had to turn to the contents page to learn that he was the author. Sorry. The pull-quote on page 70 should also have been credited to Levin. Sorry. Sorry. If there is any karmic justice, Levin will receive much credit in the future for things he did not write.


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