-HI/LOW CULTURE VS COMICS!-

UOW- BCM111-Post 1– “What popular culture do you consume? Explain its popularity using one of the key theories introduced this week?

As both a comic consumer and creator it is clear to see that comics to this day still have a stigma attached to them, granted not to the extent they originally experienced under the comic code, but in some circles, they are still deemed nothing more than low brow entertainment for children. A form of mass-produced stories and artwork that have no meaning in our cultural proximity. As an artform the books reflect social issues like racism, drug abuse, crime, and corruption, presenting these topics in digestible 32-page books from month to month.

From personal experience the artwork in these books are also deemed inferior to high or fine art. due to being mass produced, and commercial. All through my art training both at TAFE Wollongong and here at UOW my work has been called over stylized, kitsch, and not relevant in the art world. This, naturally as a comic creator I found infuriating as art styles like pop art was deemed art, art nouveau was also deemed art. But they were two forms of art that were also commercial, and mass produced. Were held as art. So, what was the difference? In his article Storey outlines the difference between popular culture and high culture “This definition of popular culture is often supported by claims that popular culture is mass-produced commercial culture, whereas high culture is the result of an individual act of creation” (Storey 2015, p.6) Storey challenges this train of thought using Shakespeare as a prime example of the flaws in this definition. “William Shakespeare is now seen as the epitome of high culture, yet as late as the nineteenth century his work was very much a part of popular theatre. (Storey 2015, p.6) Even though Shakespeare is now considered literature, his work originally meant for consumption by the masses.

Maggio in the article Comics and Cartoons: A Democratic Art-Form highlights that comic offer a different view and understanding of the world. “Most discussions of comics engage in the analysis of the content of the art-form. This is-of course-of great importance, especially as in the way that comics offer a critique of the dominant power structure”. (Maggio 2007). One benefit of comics considered low brow entertainment is that these books tend to gain audiences in subcultures that don’t conform or hold the same views as the mainstream, so the ideas and social commentary fall beneath the radar of the elite. These books tackle issues within communities that mainstream media tend to avoid, i.e., when DC Comics depicted one of their heroes Green Arrow sidekicks, Speedy being caught on the front cover about to shoot heroine, or when marvel had Tony Stark-Iron Man- on the front cover surrounded by empty bottles of alcohol and in withdrawal with a label across the image ‘demon in the bottle. Media tends to idealise the people who are called or labelled a hero, whereas these two covers used as an example help shatter that illusion that everyone has private demons, and the world isn’t as media presents it. “Additionally, comics’ subterranean existence allows cartoonists to create a unique aesthetic and a “distinct alternative vision” that often says more about our culture than so-called high art” (Maggio 2007). A prime example of this would be Allan Moore’s V for Vendetta, a social commentary on the government and the control they implement, Moore stating the influence was the Thatcher Government years of the UK.

Refrences:

1- John Storey – What is Popular Culture? (Cultural Theory and popular culture: an introduction, Routledge, pp. 1-16)

2- Maggio , J. . (2007). Comics and Cartoons: A Democratic Art-Form. PS: Political Science & Politics. 40. PP 237 – 239.

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