Comics criticism

I’d hoped to link to the online version of the Ellen Forney story at Tablet today, but it’s still not up, which makes me think that probably it’s an error, and may never show up. So, you’ll just have to live with that. The transcript starts running tomorrow, with pictures!

I mentioned offhand to a friend that it would be neat to see a line of republications of the serious comic criticism books that have appeared in the US over that past fifty years or so, and he asked me what I meant. So I went and poked around and found that to my knowledge, historical surveys aside, I meant more or less five books:

Krazy Kat, the art and life of George Herriman, by Patrick McDonnell

Winsor McCay, by John Canemaker

Comics and Sequential Art, by Eisner

Comics as Culture, by Thomas Inge

The Comic Stripped American, by Arthur Asa Berger

There are some other books that didn’t get on to the list – I was excluding Fantagraphics’ comprehensive republications of giants such as Kelly, Herriman, McCay, and Schulz as well as the wonderful Smithsonian surveys of golden-age books and dailies assembled by Bill Blackbeard in the, uh, seventies, I think.

I also did not suggest the McCloud books (as they remain in print and are likely to for the foreseeable future), and I did not suggest books dealing with non-US or European traditions of the form, due to personal ignorance.

I’m also aware of scattered instances of serious critical evaluations of comics outside of the CJ over the past few decades; I assume there has been serious growth in academic writing about comics as well over the same period of time. Anyone have some suggestions to make this a better list?

Feel free to suggest histories and surveys; I left them off because there are so many, including some that are both well-researched and include sensitive critical analysis.

November 24, 2003

3 thoughts on “Comics criticism

  1. Steve

    Krazy Kat is in print. Comics and Sequential Art is readily available. Winsor McCay is a tough book to find at a decent price – I just got a copy this week! I’m not familiar with the other two.

    Another I’d recommend is Comics: Between the Panels by Steve Duin and Mike Richardson. This is the best new book of overall history I’ve seen in the last few years.

  2. Paul

    What about these?:

    Graphic Storytelling, by Will Eisner
    Visual Storytelling: The Art and Technique, by Tony Caputo
    The Aesthetics of Comics, by David Carrier

    And if we consider the best works on comic script writing, can this list be readily enlarged?:

    Writing for Comics, by Alan Moore
    Writers on Comics Scriptwriting, by Mark Salisbury
    Panel One: Comic Book Scripts, by Neil Gaiman, et al

    Finally, I wonder what works might be considered the “epitome” of comics? What would a short (or even long!) list of Exemplars of sequential art’s range of potential look like? Would you include:

    Blankets, by Craig Thompson
    Ghost World, by Daniel Clowes
    From Hell, by Alan Moore
    Mr. Punch, by Neil Gaiman
    Quimby the Mouse, by Chris Ware
    The Best of Little Nemo in Slumber Land, by Winsor McCay

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