Contributions by Thomas Andrae, Martin Barker, Bart Beaty, John Benson, David Carrier, Hillary Chute, Peter Coogan, Annalisa Di Liddo, Ariel Dorfman, Thierry Groensteen, Robert C. Harvey, Charles Hatfield, M. Thomas Inge, Gene Kannenberg Jr., David Kasakove, Adam L. Kern, David Kunzle, Pascal Lefèvre, John A. Lent, W. J. T. Mitchell, Amy Kiste Nyberg, Fusami Ogi, Robert S. Petersen, Anne Rubenstein, Roger Sabin, Gilbert Seldes, Art Spiegelman, Fredric Wertham, and Joseph Witek
A Comics Studies Reader offers the best of the new comics scholarship in nearly thirty essays on a wide variety of such comics forms as gag cartoons, editorial cartoons, comic strips, comic books, manga, and graphic novels.
The anthology covers the pioneering work of Rodolphe Töpffer, the Disney comics of Carl Barks, and the graphic novels of Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware, as well as Peanuts, romance comics, and superheroes. It explores the stylistic achievements of manga, the international anti-comics campaign, and power and class in Mexican comic books and English illustrated stories.
A Comics Studies Reader introduces readers to the major debates and points of reference that continue to shape the field. It will interest anyone who wants to delve deeper into the world of comics and is ideal for classroom use.
Since academics have helped legitimize comics as an art form to be taken seriously, it only makes sense that an entire book of scholarly essays put illustrated fiction under the microscope. It very well could serve as the required reading for that course I never had the opportunity to ace.
The editorial work accomplished by Heer and Worcester is simply impressive. Not only have they managed to gather material that is challenging, well-written, well-thought and that should enable a big leap forward in comics theory and criticism, but the two editors have also succeeded in giving each text the necessary space and context.
While such critically acclaimed graphic novels as Art Spiegelman's Maus (1986, 1991), Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan (2000), and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home (2006) established the artistic legitimacy of comics, academic comics scholarship has thriven apace. The 28 essays Heer and Worcester collect reflect the various approaches to writing about comics taken by writers in the burgeoning discipline. Those include the historical in pieces on nineteenth-century graphic storyteller Rodolphe Töpffer and other progenitors of the medium; the formal in esoteric pieces on the craft and art of comics, covering such aspects as the 'verbal-visual blend' of words and pictures, the ways artists indicate panel sequencing, and sound representation in Japanese manga; and the critical-analytic in considerations of seminal works by Ware, Spiegelman, and others. Most of the essays focus on American comics, but several examine works from Japan, Mexico, and France, where scholars have deemed comics 'the ninth art.' The contributions range in readability from totally accessible to highly rarefied and borderline pedantic. Still, altogether they attest to the artistic importance of a long-neglected medium.
Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester have, once again, performed admirably in producing another compendious survey of comics scholarship. Their earlier effort in this vein, Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium, scanned the historical landscape for essays about comics written by various literary critics and the like; their current production, A Comics Studies Reader, compiles 28 essays by contemporary scholars and critics. The result is a sort of panorama of current serious thinking about the art of cartooning in all its forms.
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