The sorry spectacle of Art screwing itself.
Mark Evanier wrote on his blog yesterday: "I've written a kind of rebuttal to Eddie but it's long and since so many who come to this blog will have zero interest in it, I've posted it over on this page."
Then followed the biggest influx of readers to campbell.blogspot since I installed a statcounter over a month back, so either Evanier has a hell of a lot of readers, or he underestimated their interest in the subject of Vinnie Colletta.
Let's not make a running argument out of the matter, but I do want to address a wider subject and raise pertinent questions (and please consider them rhetorical questions unless you have some profound piece of wisdom that you need to share with me). In my piece I sought to get the thing away from Colletta being 'on trial' and offer a description of my early aesthetic experiences with his work. The problem is: can an aesthetic experience be separated from moral indignation? The conventional philosophical conundrum could be trotted out here: If we look upon a certain work of art by Benvenuto Cellini and find it beautiful, should we then feel guilty when we learn that he mistreated the model, and force ourselves to condemn the work in question? All of Cellini's work? Or is it irrelevant?
Or to put it another way, if it is decided that Colletta behaved badly in his treatment of the work of various artists whom comic-book posterity has come to regard with affection, does this 'judgement' affect even those works where he appears to have behaved well?
While allowing me the right to enjoy whatever I please, Evanier did in a subtle way suggest that Colletta's misdeeds might be backdated (no statute of limitations on this stuff):
"Campbell also displays some samples of alleged Colletta romance art from 1954 to defend the guy. I say "alleged" because a lot of what Colletta signed during this period was ghost-pencilled by others — so much so that I'm not sure which examples, if any, actually reflect Vinnie the Artist, as opposed to Vinnie the Guy Who Had Plenty Of Assistants. But even if Campbell's selections are pure Colletta, what does that prove?"
(Campbell wasn't attempting to 'prove' anything. If you weren't picturing yourself judging in some nutty court of law, such a thought would never have occurred to you. Campbell was describing an aesthetic pleasure.)
The other question is why must we always have to navigate through a comic bookish manichean view of the moral universe? If I do not condemn Colletta then I must be exhonerating him and justifying all his acts.
"A turd is a turd," some rude fellow has just added in comments to my original post. Echoing those very words, one Patrick Dean says on the Comics Journal board about another artist:"Bob Kane was a piece of shit ... I mean, the motherfucker couldn't even paint his own clowns after "retiring" from comics. Fuck that guy."
I consider myself an amateur historian of the arts:
"The historian, whose art is a descriptive one, does not move in this world of moral ideas. His materials and his processes, and all his apparatus exist to enable him to show how a given event came to take place. Who is he to jump out of his true office and merely announce to us that it ought never to have happened at all?" (Herbert Butterfield)
Obviously there are fields in which moral indignation serves a purpose, in political philosohy for instance, where there is a hope to affect the world with a view to improvement, as in the writing of Marx: "Moral indignation against the infamies of capitalism is obvious in all chapters of Capital: it is an essential dimension of what gives such an impressive power to the book."
But what on earth can possibly be achieved by calling Colletta 'a turd' and Kane 'a piece of shit'. What lowbrow arena of artistic notions are we parading in? Who can possibly still have a vested interest? Kirby, Kane, Colletta have all done their life's work and passed on. We have no business taking sides in their affairs. The habit of casting heroes and villains in the story of ART is a habit of low minds, of schoolyard punks (in the original sense of the word) and thickheads.
I guess I don't mean you, Mark. You were in a position to change the course of events, and you brought it about. But to still be harping on about erased figures? It's broken. It can't be fixed. A lot worse crap than that has happened in the last thirty years since then. Everybody we thought was somebody eventually dropped their bundle in some way or other. Adams turned into a fathead (Now you've all got me doing it... but i'm just quoting somebody else), Steranko rested on his laurels... Buscema made himself some rubber stamps... Kirby was never as good again after those Fourth World books... a whole bunch of other guys got complacent... ad infinitum. I still love their best work.
It's the sorry spectacle of art continually screwing itself.
It's so funny it should be a comic book.
in other news.
two interviews with Campbell about the upcoming Black Diamond Detective Agency:
one at Newsarama.
The other is by Jody MacGregor, a local young writer. I do a bit of talking about my work in progress, The Amazing Remarkable Mr. Leotard, and we were in a pub with my pals White and mr j. Jody described the session on his blog a couple of weeks earlier, where in order to fox my supposed habit of googling my name, he referred to me as Eddie Motherfucking Campbell.
Forgive all the cusswords on this post.
Labels: "Make room for me vinnie"