NYT comics cavalcade!

Today's exhibit in our ongoing survey of comics' cultural respectability is this Comics Chronicle column in today's NYT book review. What's significant is not just that the Times Book Review is running a serious assessment of three recent graphic novels -- it's that the author, John Hodgman, is willing to acknowledge that "many of the alternative fine-art comics that cross my desk these days are kind of boring." Hodgman cops to the boosterism that has kept this kind of admission out of mainstream comics coverage: "I've been quiet on this point in part because I do believe comics are literature, and do not wish to undermine the cause." It's kind of like that "not in front of the goyim" thing that Jews used to have.

While we're being brutally honest about comics in front of the goyim, I will go on the record with this: Jaime Hernandez is one of the finest cartoonists in the world; his Death of Speedy is maybe my single favorite graphic novel; and yet his strip in the Times Magazine is a disappointment and a wasted opportunity. Presented with a national audience for the first time, this master of the form opts to (a) discard the techniques that are unique to comics, producing instead an illustrated prose story; and (b) concern himself with the reunion between three characters from his ongoing Locas saga, the resonance of which will be entirely lost on new readers.

Still, you can't criticize the guy's command of body language. Check out Maggie in that fourth panel.