a review for Copacetic Comics by Andrew White
The latest issue of Cometbus, "Post-mortem", aims to be "a wide-ranging survey of the underground, a census of sorts, to look honestly at where we had succeeded and where we had fallen short." It's about building institutions, in other words -- interviews with Epitaph Records, Thrasher Magazine, and Fantagraphics, but also with smaller projects you probably haven't heard of, tease out a series of questions related to how institutions emerge and how they survive. Why do some projects last when others fail? How do we building sustainable institutions while staying true to our principles? Cometbus doesn't avoid the complexities of these questions, from the fact that underground communities don't always care well for their sick and elderly to the reality that some projects fail simply because their founders can't get along. The chapters on comics stumble a little; for instance, an interview with James Sturm on CCS doesn't even mention the school's hefty tuition fees, but they're still a welcome addition and help a comics-focused reader consider how the issue's lessons might apply to our world.
Though relevant at any time, "Post-mortem" offers an especially welcome--and even strangely comforting--line of inquiry at a moment when we're all wondering about what the world is now and what it will become. The interview format means that lessons learned don't come as a series of trite self-improvement action items, but as real feelings from real people. The key quote comes about halfway through, and it isn't a spoiler to quote here because it's helpful to read from the beginning with this sentiment in mind:
He said, “We thought, here’s twenty or thirty people from all different parts of the world talking to each other, and putting out magazines, and so forth. It sounds grandiose, but we had the hope that somehow we were going to change world culture that way.” And you do, I told him. You did. “And you do,” Dan agreed. “But you only move it an inch.” A good inch, I said. “Exactly. That’s what the prism of old age teaches you.”