Tuesday, 31 January 2012


 Once, in a world far away and now forgotten, there was an
objective standard by which things were measured. Alas, however,
that was long ago. Today we live in an age of dumbing down. Exams
made easier so that more students pass; participants in a primary school
race all being awarded prizes so that no-one is disappointed or feels
humiliated; people being given jobs on the basis of so-called positive
discrimination rather than ability or merit.

There are no longer winners or losers; there is no longer good or
bad, right or wrong, black or white - or at least that's the way it often
seems in this 'bright new world' of the 21st century. Excellence may
still be rewarded, but so also, all too often, is mediocrity.

In the world of political correctness we live in today, everything is
valued as being of equal worth. That’s why a pile of bricks or half a
sheep in a glass case are now accorded the same artistic legitimacy as
the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or Rembrandt and Constable paintings.
What utter tosh. To claim that the measure of a thing’s worth is defined
only by whether people like it or not is ridiculous. Appreciation is no
indication of quality or craftsmanship. Other criteria must also be
brought to bear.
I can quite understand the natural reservations of those in any
working 'community’ to make critical comment (at least publicly) on
the merits of one another’s work; there is a professional courtesy at play
which prevents them from doing so. In some ways that’s a good thing, but
let’s be honest – it also allows those of lesser or no ability to infiltrate the
ranks, simply because it’s not regarded as ‘good form’ to point out the
failings or inadequacies of others, or to unmask the impostors.
 One of the reasons why the standard of children's literacy, as an
example, is so appalling today is that everything created for them is
aimed at their level. That’s why many of them never progress to a higher
one – they aren't enticed or encouraged or motivated to. If you give them
nothing but inferior quality, that’s what they learn to appreciate. But what
if children like it? Children have the capacity to like whatever is put in
front of them, but that's no excuse for giving them substandard fare.

Without wishing to offend anyone, there are certain strips in the
current incarnation of The Dandy which simply don’t measure up to
an objective standard. And don't be misled by those who claim there isn't
one. It's that kind of woolly thinking that has resulted in unmade beds on
display in art galleries. Also, there are some art styles which do not readily
lend themselves to the medium of sequential storytelling in general, or
children’s comics in particular.

 Contrariwise, Ken H. Harrison, for example, has a fantastically
fluid art stlyle and brilliantly clear sense of storytelling that fulfills
the highest standard expected of a comic strip. He is the only artist to
draw The Broons and Oor Wullie who has even come near - or is on -
the same level as Dudley D. Watkins, talent-wise. There are some
artists who don’t even come close, judging by the standard of the
work they submit. Could they do better? Who knows? But what
they are doing just doesn’t cut it.
And before I'm subjected to the same old tired, predictable and
erroneous accusations of envy, bitterness, etc., etc., I’m merely speaking
as a comics consumer, not a former professional comics contributor. I am
not comparing those whose work I dislike against any level of artistic ability
I perceive, pretend, imagine, wish, or delude myself I may have, but rather
the recognized greats of yesteryear and today. Artists of the calibre of Bave,
BaxendaleBrown, Griggs, Harrison, Law, Main, Martin, Mevin,
MillingtonNadal, Nixon, Parkinson, Parlett, Paterson, Petrie,
Reid, Ritchie, Sutherland, Titcombe, Watkins, and a whole
host of others far too numerous to mention.
Today we live in an age where the utmost quality is no longer the
main consideration - or even a  requirement. In short, anything goes.
Unfortunately, one of the first things to go was a regard for standards.
We can only hope that it's due to make its return sometime soon.


(First posted September 16th, 2011.) 


Dougie said...

At a slight tangent, I had an argument with two adults last week. Their contention was that it's unfair of me to give lower marks to kids' critical and creative writing for technical errors in spelling and grammar. Their stance was "some people find it hard".

Kid said...

Dougie, having seen the indecipherable scrawls that kids call 'handwriting' these days, I'm quite prepared to believe that some of them have passed their O' levels despite the teachers being unable to read a word of what they've written. "Can't read that, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt."

Dougie said...

I have terrible handwriting- it deteriorated badly during my call centre days. But I don't pass work because I can't read it- I ask them to type it instead.

There are also quite painstaking marking guides for written work between S3-6, and exemplar essays. But Curriculum for Excellence doesn't have anything like that yet.

Kid said...

Doubtless the numbers who do it are relatively few, but it's the only thing I can think of which accounts for the total idiots I knew who got their English O'levels.

Christopher M. Sobieniak said...

So I guess your country's getting down to 'our level'. Welcome to the club! :-P

Kid said...

But Chris, is it a club that anyone wants to be in?

Mr Straightman said...

I know Quentin Blake's work isn't to everyone's taste, but he has that knack of making everything he draws look funny - a knack he shared with David Law. Check out the illustrations for Roald Dahl's 'The Twits' - they're great.
However - and I don't think he'd have any great problem with me pointing this out - his style would be all wrong for comics. There's no great shame in this, of course, but illustrators, like fine artists and commercial artists, aren't always right for every job they are offered.