The latest 'Dig the Long Box' column went up this week at Read Comic Books. I reviewed one of my all-time favorite single issues, The 'Nam #8. I'm trying to approach this column with a little more transparency than some of my other writing which isn't easy for me. When it comes to 'I' statements in critical writing, 'I' am not a fan.
About a decade ago, I shot an interview with the journalist and novelist W.C. 'Bill' Heinz, if you've never read Heinz's The Professional -- the book Hemingway called, ''the only good novel about a fighter I've ever read'' -- by all means, go, read. Heinz talked for over three hours. He had a very deliberate way of telling a story. He started at the beginning and like the trained newspaperman he was, he took us through every detail. When asked about his role as a combat journalist in World War II, he spent twenty minutes describing leaving the port of New York for the war in Europe -- thank God we were there for a long-form interview, Mr. Heinz, bless him, did not speak in sound bites.
Heinz wrote about sports for the New York papers back when there were 10 dailies in New York with multiple editions. If it was a game played on a court, field, ring or racetrack, Bill Heinz wrote about it. And in his spare time, Heinz wrote novels like MASH, yes that M*A*S*H. He was a stud.
During our interview, Mr. Heinz used a phrase I'll never forget: ''prose poem.'' He was recalling an NIT game he had covered back when the NIT was ''the tournament'' for basketball and the NCAA was for chumps. So Heinz goes on about his prose poem, how beautiful it was, how elegant, how pure -- all this, mind you, about a basketball game. He hands the story to his editor, the editor reads it and looks at Heinz nonplussed. He hands it back to Heinz and says, ''yeah, yeah, fine, fine, Bill, but what was the damn score?'' In all that poetic prose, Heinz never gave the final score.
I think about this story when I read on-line comic book and movie criticism. I'm all for a personal essay full of anecdotes, longcuts and obdurate opinions as long as said details add to the story; 'Montaigne' it up, all I ask is to give me the damn score.
The column on The 'Nam #8 starts with one of those 'hey-look-at-me-type' anecdotes' about the time I saw Platoon in the theatre. It takes me five 'graphs before I give the damn score, but so be it. FYI The 'Nam #8 is a yardstick by which all other comics should be judged. How's that for an endorsement?
I've gotten great feedback about the column, so far. It seems 'the kids' they like the personal touch. I'm curious to see if I can remain Mr. Cellophane as I continue the Long Box column or if I fall into my more comfortable mode as the detached (although passionate) critic. For now, I'm a be me.
A hat tip goes to Read Comic Books godhead, Tyler Goulet, a true professional, who continues to cheer me on in tweets and emails. Thanks, Tyler. Dig the Long Box #2: The 'Nam #8