Posts Tagged ‘books about comics’

Hignite on Jaime Hernandez


Thursday, December 2, 2010

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Moebius clouds in Jaime Hernandez's first Locas story.

I recently read some fairly depressing essays about the Hernandez Brothers, pieces that were so ill-informed that I despaired of “comics criticism” as a valid activity. To cheer myself up I went back to Todd Hignite’s The Art of Jaime Henandez: The Secrets of Life and Death. Beautifully designed by Jordon Crane, filled to the gill with original art and photographs, this has been justly celebrated as an art book. But I’m not sure that Hignite’s writing has received the praise it deserves.

Taken just by itself, Hignite’s text is a wonderfully compact monograph which manages to compress many insights into a small package. The book covers, among other things, Jaime’s family background, the influence of classic commercial comics on his art, his interactions with punk music and lowrider culture, the context of the direct market, and the evolution of Jaime’s art and storytelling.


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A Righteous Man


Friday, October 15, 2010

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What do you do when you know the subject of your book is both a good man tied to an important event, and a good—but not great—artist? If you’re N.C. Christopher Couch, you actually don’t know that, and instead prime the pump and inflate, inflate, inflate. Jerry Robinson is responsible for some rare good deeds in comics. Great, even. He helped Siegel and Shuster get (some of) what they deserved. He was a friend and supporter of Mort Meskin. He has worked for international free speech and successfully campaigned to free a jailed cartoonist. He even set up an international political cartoon syndicate. By all accounts, this is a nice man. A thoughtful man. Even a righteous man. And this book, Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics, like a well-meaning award ceremony (come to think of it, kinda like how the comics industry treats most of its grand old men), is a slap in the face disguised as a pat on the back.

Here’s the first line of the Couch’s preface: “Few American artists can claim to have worked in as many media as Jerry Robinson, and with such success in all of them.” Here is a short list of artists (alive, dead, young, etc.) I can think of who have worked in as many or more, with more success: Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Dave Eggers, Charles Burns, Stephen King, Gary Panter, Milt Gross, Matt Groening, Jules Feiffer, Robert Crumb… I could do this all day). This sort of jive hyperbole is doing no one any favors. What it does is make you stop and doubt the rest of what follows.


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Rand Holmes, the Man


Friday, September 24, 2010

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I’ve been lately stuck on writing briefly about books, which strikes me as a peculiar kind of rut — reviews are ubiquitous online, so why do it here? Well, much of my interest in comics lies in accounting for and understanding the history of comics, and so making sense of the overwhelming diversity of subject matter and approaches in all of these books rolling out month after month. Lately I’m most intrigued by books that either (a) explore a hitherto distant figure like Mort Meskin or (b) present a compellingly fresh (for comics anyway) approach to the history of the medium, which brings me to Holmes (more on Meskin soon).

Patrick Rosenkranz’s The Artist Himself: A Rand Holmes Retrospective is a companion of sorts to his previous book on Greg Irons and of course his Rebel Visions: The Underground Comix Revolution 1963-1975. What makes The Artist Himself unique is in the title itself — Rosenkranz has constructed a sprawling portrait of Rand Holmes as a man in conflict with the “the artist himself” — a man trying to carve out a way to live that allowed for art (never an easy feat) and an art that somehow made sense in his life. (more…)

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Wolk’s READING COMICS Revisited: Part Two


Thursday, September 23, 2010

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Douglas Wolk disguised as Scott McCloud

Since Jeet has requested it, here is a reprint of my review of Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics. This essay was originally published in the third print issue of Comics Comics, from June 2007. Following Jeet’s example, after the review, I have added a few brief notes.

For Nerds’ Eyes Only

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean
Douglas Wolk
Da Capo Press, $22.95

Even now, with comic books and “graphic novels” finally cracking through the art/literary establishment glass ceiling, you can count the number of intelligent, knowledgeable American comics critics who actually know how to write on two hands (maybe add a foot in there, too, if you’re feeling generous). In any fair version of that list, Douglas Wolk would certainly be one of the fingers or toes. Unlike a lot of writers about comics, Wolk is a professional, meaning he gets paid to write, and he writes about comics because he wants to, not because it’s all he knows; he’s not just an entitled fan who feels the need to tell you the long, sorry, and interminable story of how sad he is that he doesn’t like reading Sandman as much as he did when he was thirteen years old. (more…)

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Wolk’s Reading Comics Revisited


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

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Wolk's Reading Comics

A few of my older reviews for various newspapers are no longer easily available. So to give them a somewhat more permanent home, I’m going to be posting them here, sometimes with a few words of after-thoughts.

Below is my review of Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics, from the Globe and Mail, July 21, 2007. After the review, I have a post-script written now.


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A Few Notes on Not So Funnyman


Friday, August 27, 2010

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A little more on Siegel and Shuster this week. Funnyman—a six-issue series and short-lived newspaper comic, 1947-49, featuring a character who fought villains with pranks and gags—was Superman creators Siegel and Shuster’s last grasp at something all their own. It didn’t go so well. The feature is partially reprinted and extensively written about in Thomas Andrae and Mel Gordon’s recent book Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero. It’s an odd entry in our current boom, situated less as a comic book of its time and more as an example of Jewish humor and the changing social mores possible for the artistic duo to capitalize on. (more…)

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Friday, August 20, 2010

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The best surprise of 2010’s ongoing orgy of comics history is Tom De Haven’s Our Hero: Superman on Earth. De Haven, already notable in comics for his Derby Dugan trilogy, which tracked a fictional character and his creator(s) through 20th century comics history, as well as for some excellent writing on Chester Gould, among other topics, has constructed a funny, incisive and warm account of Superman-the-character, and the men who made him in comics, film and television. The central question here is, “What, if anything, has Superman meant, and does the character still mean?” This could be a weight around the narrative, but instead allows De Haven plenty of room to nimbly explore all the facets of the character. De Haven is a wise and self-effacing guide, admitting to a childhood love of Superman, an adult disinterest, and that mortifying moment in 1992 when he stood in line to buy the “Death of Superman” comic book.  (more…)

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What’s Wrong With this Picture?


Friday, August 6, 2010

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Well here we are in 2010 and there is a new book called The Thin Black Line: Perspectives on Vince Colletta, Comics’ Most Controversial Inker, by Robert L. Bryant, Jr. One hundred and twenty-eight pages full of decent black-and-white reproductions of Colletta-inked artwork, a good bit of Kirby pencils, and some very astute before-and-after comparisons.

For the uninitiated: In the wondrous world of superhero, etc., comic books there were and are pencillers and inkers. The pencillers drew the story in pencil, rendering to greater or lesser degrees. The inkers would then draw on top of those pencils in ink, thus preparing the page for photography. Inkers overlaid their own drawing style on whomever they were working over. Some inkers faithfully executed, in ink, the intentions of the penciller; others rendered those intentions in their own style. And still others just drew what they viewed as most essential and moved on as quickly as possible. Inking is no mean feat. (more…)

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Chris Ware and the Comics Tradition


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

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Essays on Chris Ware.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have an piece in a new collection of critical essays devoted to Chris Ware (The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David Ball and Martha Kuhlman). Now, thanks to the wonders of Google Books, parts of that collection are now online, including the whole of my essay. You can look at the book here. The entire book is very much worth reading with many fine critical essays. You can buy a copy here.

My essay begins like this:

In 1990,Chris Ware, then a twenty-two-year-old student at the very beginning of his career, made a pilgrimage to Monument Valley, Arizona in order to investigate the life of George Herriman. Author of the classic comic strip Krazy Kat, which ran in variety of newspapers from 1913 until the cartoonist’s death in 1944, Herriman used  the other worldly desert landscape of the region as the ever-shifting backdrop to his comics. Along with the adjacent area of Coconino County, Monument Valley inspired the dream-like lunar landscape that made Krazy Kat a rare example of cartoon modernism. Eager to learn more about the sources of Herriman’s artistry, Ware felt he had to see landscape of jutting buttes and flat-topped mesas that the earlier cartoonist had so creatively incorporated into his work. This hajj to the Southwest was an early manifestation of Ware’s interest in the history of cartooning, a persistent fascination that has been much more than an antiquarian passion and has had a profound influence on Ware’s body of work.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

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Hergé fans may be interested to know that the latest issue of Bookforum includes a review I wrote of Pierre Assouline’s recently translated biography of the artist.

You can read it here.

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