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The Rise of the American Comics ArtistCreators and Contexts$

Paul Williams and James Lyons

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781604737929

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604737929.001.0001

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(p.xi) Introduction: In the Year 3794

(p.xi) Introduction: In the Year 3794

The Rise of the American Comics Artist
University Press of Mississippi

Comics will be the culture of the year 3794

—Salvador Dali (Qtd. in Gravett 2007, 14)

Salvador Dali’s prediction invites one to hypothesize what the world of 3794 will look like—and whether any of its social coordinates will correlate to the ones we recognize at the start of the twenty-first century. Not so long ago, admirers of the medium’s possibilities might have asked whether there could be any similarity between an Anglophone world that considers comics as culture and the one in which they currently lived. Over a thousand years in the future—that would sound about right for the kind of radical cultural reestimation that would have to take place before comics could escape the stereotypes and prejudices surrounding their production and consumption.

This is no longer the case: comics have jumped closer to the promise of Dali’s 3794 in unprecedented ways. If comics are not often considered “culture” in the way some members of the population consider ballet and legitimate theater to be “culture,” the current position they occupy in hierarchies of taste place comics as both high art and mass medium. This transformation is of course complexly related to the industrial, cultural, and academic institutions that have reshaped comics’ production and reception.

As The Rise of the American Comics Artist demonstrates, one way to make sense of this process is to see the comics creator as the prism through which to explore recent changes in the medium. Crucially, shifts in the perception of the people creating comics have been the corollary of such changes, as well as contributing to them. As its subtitle suggests, this book employs the systems and structures of the comics industry to scrutinize the role of the creator critically, whether those contexts are institutional or cultural, economic or generic, ethical or aesthetic. While existing scholarship has addressed how comics is a creator’s medium shaped by the styles, stories, and characters of (p.xii) individual writers and artists (see Sabin 1996; also Hatfield 2005; Raeburn 2004; Witek 1989), The Rise of the American Comics Artist is the first book to offer a detailed survey of the distinctive ways in which the dynamics of comics creativity has been reconfigured in contemporary culture.

The book is organized into five sections, each of which centers on a major way that creators have been understood: as powerful brands able to position comic texts according to the perceived logic of the market; as allegorists and interpreters of international political events; as (simultaneously) artists aloof from the concerns of financial reward and workers for hire; as political actors involved in the arena of representing gender, sexuality, and ethnicity; and finally as literary authors—with consequent implications for how reviewers and critics have analyzed the texts they produce. In each section the creators and texts symbolizing that particular conceptual node undergo critical attention, and each section references the scholarship relevant to its subject, inviting the reader to see what others have written regarding the study of contemporary comics. The creative and commercial decisions made by comics practitioners offer further opportunities for study, and several sections conclude with interviews with landmark creators from the period covered. These interviews correlate with the concerns of that section, illuminating creativity in ways that offer a productive tension with the preceding scholarship.

The historical period covered by this collection begins in the late 1980s, when ambitions for the medium were raised, and voices within and outside the comics industry proclaimed that the successes of Art Spiegelman’s Maus (first published in collected editions in 1986 and 1991), Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen (1987), and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) would propel comics towards new audiences. Few readers would disagree that the material form of comics has evolved since then, or that the type of narratives being written and drawn has expanded the vocabulary of the medium. The Rise of the American Comics Artist continues the process of mapping out how the position of comics has changed, especially in the eyes of reviewers and critics, whether found in universities or newspaper offices or in feminist discussion groups.

Certain articles about comics still perpetuate stereotypes, assuming the medium remains the preserve of awkward pubescent males, as this example from The Times (London) demonstrates: “COMICS. Cheap, flimsy, disposable. Scattered next to dirty socks on teenage bedroom floors” (Greenwood 2004, 15). Usually those stereotypes are introduced to disarm a potentially dismissive reaction by preempting reader skepticism. Nonetheless, this confirms the premise that consumption of comics cannot take place without apology. (p.xiii) British journalist Charles Shaar Murray laments, “Must the graphic-novel wars be fought over and over again?” (Murray 2005, 25). The assumptions made in The Times are being superseded by the new convention of starting articles bemoaning the need to justify the medium (see Paul Gravett qtd. in Allfree 2003, 14–15; also Thompson 2002, 11; Ware 2006, 10). The editors hope The Rise of the American Comics Artist will advance the terms in which we think about the production and reception of comics without contrition.

The broad periodization of the last twenty years is imprecise, but only because this collection tracks a series of parallel impulses in the comics medium, related to each other insofar as each area represents a shift in the wider cultural contexts in which comics creators produce work and that work is read. The origins of these transformations in comics’ cultural context cannot be isolated to a single historical moment, and these shifts are continuing in and around comics in the public sphere; it is hoped the future direction of these changes can be better ascertained by close analysis of the comics industry.

In this collection that scrutiny emerges from around the English-speaking world, and the perspectives offered in The Rise of the American Comics Artist are suitably international—because American comics have a global audience, the field of production is driven by many creators from outside North America, and the financial decisions influencing the majority of comics production are made by multinational corporations. There are good reasons to understand North American comics in a transnational context: the institutional transaction of texts, creators, and capital across national borders has contributed to observable productive tensions in the comic texts themselves. Ana Merino’s chapter on the comics of the Hernandez brothers and Jessica Abel tracks the adjustments of personal identity that border crossings between the USA and Mexico entail (with those adjustments subject to local understandings of gender roles). After Watchmen’s success, Alan Moore was soon joined in the U.S. comic industry by fellow British writers Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison, and in his chapter on this “Brit Invasion” Chris Murray suggests that their ironic distance from the superhero as a defining myth of American superpower facilitated their play with the conventions of the superhero tradition.

Stephen Weiner’s “How the Graphic Novel Changed American Comics” highlights how the idea of the “graphic novel” has come to dominate contemporary discussion of the comic form. Appropriately this chapter begins this collection and cites many of the texts analyzed elsewhere. It has become common in histories of the medium to cite Will Eisner and his 1978 A Contract with God as the first graphic novel and the first instance of that term used to (p.xiv) promote an extended-length comics narrative. While the paperback edition did feature this label on its cover, A Contract with God was neither the first graphic novel, nor was Eisner the first person to coin the phrase. Weiner suggests other contenders also credited for inaugurating the graphic novel—and for having literary ambitions. One figure seems to have a preeminent claim: Swiss writer/artist Rodolphe Töpffer created long-form books combining words and pictures in sequence in the early nineteenth century (published in the U.S. in the 1840s), and we know of no one preceding Töpffer in creating narratives told through sequential images and published in mass-produced books (Gaudreault and Marion 2005, 5–11).

Following the claim by notable comics historian R. C. Harvey, we contend the first use of the term “graphic novel”—used in reference to an extendedlength comics narrative—was originally coined in November 1964 by Richard Kyle in a newsletter circulated to the Amateur Press Association. With Kyle’s permission, the term was subsequently modified and used by Bill Spicer in his Graphic Story Magazine (originally titled Fantasy Illustrated). Harvey also argues that the first instance of an extended-length comics narrative marketing itself as a graphic novel “was the 1976 publication of Beyond Time and Again, by George Metzger, where the term ‘graphic novel’ appears on the title page and on the dust jacket flaps” (Qtd. in Arnold 2003).

So why has A Contract with God soaked up such acclaim for bringing the “graphic novel” into the English-speaking world? Partly because of Eisner’s repeated success in creating innovative comics—from his earlier superhero comic The Spirit to his many graphic novels since A Contract with God. Another reason is that A Contract with God was published outside the standard comic distribution networks of the 1970s (Chute 2008, 453, 462 n.3). In 2003, Time magazine defended celebrating the 25th birthday of the graphic novel concurrently with A Contract with God’s 25th anniversary: “Eisner’s book, published outside the comic book system and pretty clearly the first comix work deliberately aspiring to literary status, by having the term on the front cover, crystallized the concept of a ‘graphic novel.’ But the matter is clearly open to debate” (Arnold 2003). Leaving the debate open seems wise, and the two exceptional aspects of A Contract with God that Time cited could also be seen in the wordless woodcut books of the mid-twentieth century—one of the last of these to be published was Laurence Hyde’s Southern Cross (1951). The woodcut books represent an important part of the history of sequential art in book form, not least in their influence on contemporary comics creators (the woodcut style has been revived by current artists such as Eric Drooker).

Eisner’s claim to have invented the phrase “graphic novel” seems to be an honest mistake; certainly, he has been highly influential in establishing other (p.xv) terms with which scholars understand the language of comics. After Eisner, we may now talk about “comics” as the physical manifestation of the medium on the newsstands alongside “sequential art” to indicate the structural principles of this medium (Eisner 1999; McCloud 1994, 5–9)—although this too is contested (see Chute 2008, 454–55). Comics scholar Hillary Chute has labeled her area of study “graphic narratives,” resisting the “novel” element of the term because it associates longer-length comics work with fiction. Further, as Charles Hatfield’s seminal Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature (2005) notes, using the term “graphic novel” risks obscuring the economic imperative of serialization which often precedes comic books being collected into the graphic novel form (154). Comics creator Joe Sacco, well known for his works of comic reportage, Safe Area Goražde (2000) and Palestine (1996), also questions the term “graphic novel” for “trying to make it sound like we’re really grown-up. But we are what we are … Comics is comics. I don’t feel ashamed—so I don’t need another couple of words to make me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile” (Qtd. in Leith 2003, 2).

Part of the reason for the high sales of Maus, The Dark Knight Returns, and Watchmen in the late 1980s and early 1990s was their production and promotion as a material form that justified the label “graphic novel.” In theory, discerning adult readers were more attracted to these square-bound texts printed on glossy paper stock marketed and sold like books, rather than the “newsstand” comics with their staples (see Wynne 2003, 16). Able to be laminated and distributed through book publishing channels in ways that the comic book format could not, the graphic novel made sequential art into a far more desirable and marketable product for libraries and bookshops.

While the final chapter of Alternative Comics expresses Hatfield’s cautiousness at the graphic novel’s pole position in comics studies, he ultimately accepts the usefulness of the term (2005, 152–63). In arguing for the literariness of comics since the late 1960s and hailing the recent period of maturity as a “confident and thorough exploration of the form’s peculiar tensions, potentialities, and limits” (66), Hatfield confides he once toyed with the title The Rise of the Graphic Novel for his 2005 book (53). His position precedes one of the contentions mapped out here: the legitimization of comics has depended upon the increasing ubiquity of graphic novels and other long-form narratives (5–6). One reason for the need for this collection lies in the five years that have elapsed since Alternative Comics’s publication: creators mentioned briefly in Hatfield’s book have reached levels of critical and public recognition previously seen only in the case of Art Spiegelman, and the field of comics studies has expanded in ways that deserve scholarly comment. Transformations in the field of North American comics Hatfield was beginning to discern (p.xvi) can now be analyzed with fuller and greater complexity from this later chronological moment.

A more specific example of how this collection extends and augments Hatfield’s insights is in the aforementioned commerce between graphic novels and traditional outlets for book publishing. In her chapter on the critical and financial success of the DC publishing imprint Vertigo, Julia Round argues that use of the graphic novel as a publishing form is pivotal to the legitimization of comics. Hatfield notes the lucrative distributional opportunities bookshops and libraries represent, but the intellectual focus of his study is literary form, theme, and characterization in the context of the publishing apertures the comic book allows. He does not explore in detail the implications of the changing materiality of comic texts or the political economy of the industry and its institutions, although Alternative Comics certainly indicates they are important aspects of the contemporary field of comics production (30–31).

As Round discusses, the high visibility of the Vertigo titles and the accumulating star status of their creators enticed many book publishers (Penguin, Gollancz, Mandarin, Boxtree) to enter the field of graphic novel publishing (Sabin 1996, 162–67). However, the sales of the three seminal graphic novels Maus, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns were not repeated, media interest waned, and subsequently comics companies such as Marvel and the new entrants into the graphic novel field sidelined the idea of comics produced for an adult audience (Sabin 1996, 171; Lee 2002). In 2000, Roger Sabin estimated that comics shops in the U.S. and UK were now a third of the number that existed ten years prior (18). The late 1980s moment of the graphic novel’s emergent visibility and its extensive publicizing (although not its invention) represents a pivotal shift in the position of comics within Anglophone culture more generally, and made the developments of the next twenty years possible, although it also sounds a note of caution against contemporary cheerleaders for comics’ acceptance as cultural form. The historical moment this book takes as its starting point also had its publishing stars, its literary prizes, and its hopes that comics would become “just another” artistic medium. Dan Franklin of Jonathan Cape, the company responsible for publishing some of the medium’s most notable recent successes (Daniel Clowes’s Ghost World [2000], Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis [2003]) has cautioned, “I don’t believe it’s going to be a truly mass phenomenon … it’s still difficult to get these books into the bookshops—they’re still full of superheroes” (Qtd. in O’Keeffe 2005, 16).

Arguably one reason superheroes continue to be the dominant comics genre is because of the proliferation of comics source material being adapted (p.xvii) into successful blockbuster Hollywood films. The profitable precedent of Tim Burton’s Batman and advances in the verisimilitude of CGI visual effects has seen films based on the superheroics of Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Superman—with further superhero films planned. Rather than solely targeting the typical superhero comic reader, the young-adult/teenage-male demographic, these films are produced for (and released during school vacations to attract) the lucrative family audiences that substantially boost profits. These films’ source material, the superhero genre once nearly monopolized by Marvel Comics and DC Comics, has historically dominated perceptions of the American comics industry since the 1940s. However, exceptions such as Sin City (2005), Ghost World (2001), American Splendor (2003), V for Vendetta (2006), and From Hell (2001) demonstrate that Hollywood sees the potential for adaptation in numerous comics genres. Looking at press coverage, journalists repeatedly cite the adaptation of comics sources into Hollywood films as evidence they are a legitimate medium (O’Keeffe 2005, 16; Allfree 2003, 14–15; Thompson 2002, 11). Will comics become a permanent satellite of the entertainment industry, or will the medium suffer a finite shelf life? Regardless, the current prominence of comics at the movies is one more indication the medium of sequential art enjoys a new position in Anglophone culture (see Gordon, Jancovich, and McAllister 2007).

Section two of this collection explores the dialogue between comics and international political events. The nature of comics’ cultural status means that these issues may be addressed in ways unavailable to novelists, journalists, and filmmakers working in traditional channels of information dissemination. In Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels (1996), Roger Sabin suggests comics are worthy of our attention precisely because their creators do not look to cultural recognition as the sole factor in measuring a successful product. Borrowing a phrase from Spiegelman, for Sabin the freedom that “flying under the critical radar” permits is one reason the field of contemporary comics is so varied, rich—and controversial (Sabin 1996, 9).

This freedom needs to be understood against a U.S. society where national unity was fetishized immediately after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when questioning the righteousness of America’s presence around the world led to vicious and hostile retorts. Graham Murphy’s chapter regarding Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters (2006–2007) studies how its creators exploited the freedom of the comics medium to comment on the erosion of civil liberties within the United States. Murphy’s chapter concentrates exclusively on superhero comics, historically the best-selling comics genre (and still largely (p.xviii) so), but this collection discusses comics produced in a variety of genres and production forms, befitting the plurality of the medium in the twenty-first century. The Rise of the American Comics Artist illustrates the wealth of genres produced by North American comics creators, from documentary to romance, horror to political satire. This multiplicity is not new to the medium but they are being newly acknowledged. For instance, in the illustrated press of the late nineteenth century, sequential art often served as a means of reportage. In Joe Sacco’s works, the comic creator’s function as an eyewitness journalist is resurrected, as Andrea A. Lunsford and Adam Rosenblatt demonstrate in their chapter, returning to the relationship between international politics and observation in sequential art.

As in other media, certain comic texts assert their distance from more obviously commercial products in order to state their oppositional credentials. In section three, James Lyons explores how the cultural currency of nonconformity that alternative comics profess might reap the very financial rewards they mock. His chapter focuses on Shannon Wheeler’s Too Much Coffee Man, where the transaction between profit, popularity, and providing an alternative to “mainstream” (superhero) comics was self-reflexively acknowledged in a comic text in which that tension was particularly tender. This section also relates how comics creators balance the imperatives of artistic self-justification and commercial survival. In his interview, Jim Woodring confirms that this balance is not an academic abstraction but a lived concern for the professional comics creator. David M. Ball’s chapter, “Comics Against Themselves: Chris Ware’s Graphic Narratives as Literature,” takes as its subject the work Ware produced for The New Yorker magazine and explores the nature of that work with regard to a modernist aesthetic of fragmentation, the institutional maneuvers that sell comics, and Ware’s witty, self-conscious representation of the relationship between comics-as-art and comics-as-apopular-publishing-industry.

The presence of this polarity in 1960s and 1970s comix (a spelling primarily used to refer to countercultural comics) is one of the many legacies that era has bequeathed to contemporary creators. Prominent comix artist Robert Crumb depicted himself as “the long-suffering patient artist-saint” and “the statusquo booshwah businessman cartoonist” in “The Many Faces of R. Crumb” in XYZ Comics (1972) (Rpt. in Crumb and Poplaski 2005, 186; discussed in Hatfield 2005, 119–22). Two California printing presses, The Print Mint in Berkeley, and Rip Off Press in San Francisco, published comix whose characters and content were owned by their writers and artists, preceding the growing propensity for intellectual property rights to remain with comics creators (Skinn (p.xix) 2004, 128–36). Crumb used the back cover of Zap #0 (1968) to challenge the denigration of the medium (according to then prevailing cultural hierarchies) as literature’s inferior: “Did your mother ever tear up YOUR comic books?... Were you given lectures about how comics were CHEAP TRASH put out by evil men? Do you feel a spark of GUILT every time you pick up a comic book? Do you feel like you ought to be reading a good book instead? Let ZAP comics wisk [sic] away all such foolish notions!” (Rpt. in Crumb and Poplaski 2005, 242). Crumb’s defense of comics’ cultural legitimacy has become something of a fragile orthodoxy. The underground’s influence on contemporary North American comics culture is profound, and in addition to issues like creator rights and institutional respectability, one could add controversial sexual subject matter, formal experimentation, explicit commitment to leftist political agendas (especially those concerned with identity politics), and the use of comics as life-writing and self-expression (Hatfield 2005; Hatfield 2008, 139; see also Rosenkranz 2002).

Section four of The Rise of the American Comics Artist considers the politicization of the portrayal of identity that various collectives (such as the Civil Rights movement, the women’s movement, and the Chicano movement) stressed in the 1960s, and Joe Sutliff Sanders, Paul Williams, and Ana Merino contribute chapters on the ways that comics creators have been placed, or have placed themselves, within political debates about affiliation and identity. Williams and Merino discuss the work of the Hernandez brothers and Jessica Abel, with the former contextualizing these creators within “contemporary women’s comics” and the way different material contexts of production invoke particular reading communities. Merino’s study looks closely at these creators’ texts in order to understand the Hernandez brothers’ legacy in Abel’s work on the terrain of feminine Latin/o American identities. Sutliff Sanders’s account of sexuality in contemporary comics situates its representation in antagonistic historic relation to preexisting trends, such as those generated by official sanctions (see Weiner’s chapter in this volume) and the underground comix.

Connections between countercultural comix and contemporary comics culture are not only thematic but biographical: underground publisher Last Gasp’s anthology Weirdo was first released in 1981 with Crumb as editor. Weirdo featured Crumb’s work, as well as that of other comix creators such as Spain Rodriguez and Bill Griffith (creator of the popular character Zippy), before falling under the stewardship of Peter Bagge, an influential and successful figure in the contemporary comics field. Weirdo also published comics by the award-winning Joe Sacco, one of the most critically noted creators (p.xx) of the last twenty years. Griffith co-founded Arcade: The Comix Revue (1975–1976) with Art Spiegelman, an anthology that published their major contemporaries in the field, including Crumb, Spain, Kim Deitch, Robert Williams, Gilbert Shelton, and S. Clay Wilson. The comic series Spiegelman has edited have bridged the underground to the next generation of creators, his later anthology Raw (1980–1991) featuring comics by Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Charles Burns, all prominent ambassadors of contemporary American comics (Skinn 2004, 52, 250).

The graphic novels of the 1980s were influenced by superhero comics from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bradford W. Wright argues that attempts by Marvel and DC to respond to social and political currents at the end of the 1960s led to superhero comics that were self-referential, morally ambiguous, more thoroughly referencing political events, and populated with introspective and disenchanted characters. Though unable to survive financially through the traditional distribution outlets of the early 1970s, these themes would be reused and reworked by successful graphic novel creators in the 1980s onward, such as Frank Miller, Alan Moore, and Alex Ross (Wright 2008, 156).

Another aspect of the comics medium’s new dimensions is the emergence of semi-regular reviews in the literature sections of the mainstream newspaper and magazine press, such as The Independent and Guardian in the UK and Time in the U.S. The final section of The Rise of the American Comics Artist notes how comics are accruing markers of institutional respectability such as these reviews, and asks how this affects the way we read comics. What does it mean to see the comics creator as a novelist and the comic text as a work of literature? The Pulitzer Prize that Maus won in 1992, along with healthy sales, marked Spiegelman’s work as exemplary among his peers for its critical and commercial recognition (Sabin 1996, 188). His evolving reception by readers, academics, and journalists—and what that reveals about comics culture—is discussed by Ian Gordon and Andrew Loman.

Readers might wonder why this volume continues the academic criticism on Maus, a field that already includes Joseph Witek’s Comic Books as History (1989), the essays by prominent Maus scholars collected in Deborah R. Geis’s Considering Maus: Approaches to Art Spiegelman’s “Survivor’s Tale” of the Holocaust (2003), and essays by Chute (2006), Doherty (1996), Hirsch (1992–93), Huyssen (2000), Michaels (2006), and Young (1998) (see the Gordon and Loman chapters for further examples). Additional retrospective is warranted since the scholarship growing around creators such as Chris Ware suggests Maus was not an anomaly. As Loman demonstrates, the institutional form of (p.xxi) the literary anthology has widened the gap between Spiegelman and the comics industry, but previously unexplored aspects of Maus come into relief when it is studied in the context of American comics history. Gordon also reflects on the evolution of Spiegelman studies and considers the development of the language of comics scholarship more generally—reflecting on his own response to early comics scholarship in light of the recent development of the field. Spiegelman is one of a few comics creators analyzed more than once in this collection, albeit with distinct interpretative frames. While reflecting the multiple methodological approaches that comics scholarship has adopted, a polyphony that some writers celebrate as comics’ “antidisciplinary” character (Hatfield 2008), this volume acknowledges that certain creators and texts enjoy a disproportionate amount of press. Discussion of key issues in the field requires an extended focus on their significance.

Journalists have seized upon three markers of legitimacy: the “exhibition,” the “literary society,” and most important, the “prize” (see Leith 2003, 2; Thompson 2001, 12; Thompson 2003, 16). These events are taken as examples of an institutionalized level of connoisseurship and critical recognition. By encouraging certain types of comics (financially, in the case of £10,000 prizes) and discouraging others (those texts that are simply not chosen for exhibitions, for example), the medium is tentatively “regulated” and monitored by judges and curators. Perhaps most notable of all was Chris Ware winning the Guardian First Book Award for the graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. Ware’s prize is repeatedly invoked, often to persuade one that comics have “come of age” (Greenwood 2004, 15 and Campbell-Johnston 2005, 19; see also Leith 2003, 2; Thompson 2002, 11; Lee 2002; Jamieson 2003, 8; Rowson 2004, 31; Dewan 2004, 17).

That recurrent metaphor fixes on the medium as emerging from its puberty, having learned from the mistakes of youth, progressing from an (undesirably long) childhood of bullying to an adulthood of acceptance. For this personification of comics to seem teleological, it has to elide the earlier, presumptuous celebrations of the medium’s rites of passage. Crumb’s work, for instance, has been exhibited since the early 1970s (Crumb and Poplaski 2005, 334–37), and Pulitzer-winner Spiegelman could be forgiven for being puzzled at the British newspaper reviews hailing Jimmy Corrigan as “the first comic to win a leading literary prize” (Gatti 2005, 4; Allfree 2003, 14). Do such attempts to tie the medium to legitimate artistic and literary bonafides reveal comics’ insecurity? (Gaudreault and Marion 2005, 12). Paul Williams will interpret the critical respect accrued by Jimmy Corrigan as the result of the successful presentation of Ware’s literary credentials and that graphic novel’s ability (p.xxii) to fit the context of the Great American Novel—with its attendant cultural capital.

Over the last twenty years, the medium of comics has reached new audiences through different print and electronic forms, fostering genres that are newly understood in the public’s broad perception of what comics are. Through an exploration of the changing function, construction, and actions of the comics creator, The Rise of the American Comics Artist has recorded those changes and what they mean for the medium. These circumstances have produced a North American comics culture creating some of the most striking works in the (admittedly short) memory of comics; we hope the following essays match the comic texts they discuss for their originality and insight.

Works Cited

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