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The Rise of the American Comics Artist

Creators and Contexts

Paul Williams, James Lyons

Publication Year: 2010

Starting in the mid-1980s, a talented set of comics artists changed the American comic-book industry forever by introducing adult sensibilities and aesthetic considerations into popular genres such as superhero comics and the newspaper strip. Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's Watchmen (1987) revolutionized the former genre in particular. During this same period, underground and alternative genres began to garner critical acclaim and media attention beyond comics-specific outlets, as best represented by Art Spiegelman's Maus Publishers began to collect, bind, and market comics as "graphic novels," and these appeared in mainstream bookstores and in magazine reviews.The Rise of the American Comics Artist: Creators and Contexts brings together new scholarship surveying the production, distribution and reception of American comics from this pivotal decade to the present. The collection specifically explores the figure of the comics creator--either as writer, as artist, or as writer and artist--in contemporary U.S. comics, using creators as focal points to evaluate changes to the industry, its aesthetics, and its critical reception. The book also includes essays on landmark creators such as Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware, as well as insightful interviews with Jeff Smith, Jim Woodring and Scott McCloud As comics have reached new audiences, through different material and electronic forms, the public's broad perception of what comics are has changed. The Rise of the American Comics Artist surveys the ways in which the figure of the creator has been at the heart of these evolutions

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. -

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pp. ix-

We would like to express our gratitude to Seetha Srinivasan and Walter Biggins at the University Press of Mississippi for their enthusiasm, encouragement, and support—and our anonymous readers for helping to guide and hone...

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Introduction: In the Year 3794

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pp. xi-xxvi

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...

I: Marketing Creators

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pp. 3-56

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1. How the Graphic Novel Changed American Comics

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pp. 3-13

The American comic book landscape changed dramatically in the 1970s and 1980s primarily because of two factors: first, the creation of the “direct market,” a system where publishers sold comic books directly to specialty comics stores, and second, challenges to the Comics Code Authority that regulated the...

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2. “Is this a book?” DC Vertigo and the Redefinition of Comics in the 1990s

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pp. 14-30

Not only comics publishing but also perceptions of it have changed radically during this century, and the comic book has become a graphic novel, invoking notions of permanence, literariness, ...

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3. Signals from Airstrip One: The British Invasion of Mainstream American Comics

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pp. 31-45

When The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, the American press proclaimed the “British Invasion” of rock and roll. Exactly twenty years later DC Comics ...

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Interview: Jeff Smith

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pp. 46-56

To date, Jeff Smith’s commercial success and critical attention has concentrated on his black-and-white bimonthly series Bone, published by Cartoon Books. Bone narrates the adventures of the three Bone cousins, who are slowly drawn into the political machinations and history of a valley filled with humans, dragons, rat creatures, talking bugs, and other fantastical beings. ...

II: Demo-Graphics: Comics and Politics

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pp. 57-89

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4. State of the Nation and the Freedom Fighters Arc

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pp. 57-67

Comic books have generated increased critical, scholarly, and popular attention; in 2007, Daniel McCabe wrote that they are “much more sophisticated since the advent of Archie or Superman and are now a legitimate area of scholarship.”Recent scholarly studies of the...

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5. Critique, Caricature, and Compulsion in Joe Sacco’s Comics Journalism

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pp. 68-89

Since the early 1990s, when Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust memoir in comic book form, Maus, won a Pulitzer Prize, comics creators have gained increasing attention for producing comics about contemporary events. Joe Sacco’s comics..

III: Artists or Employees?

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pp. 90-134

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6. Too Much Commerce Man? Shannon Wheeler and the Ironies of the “Rebel Cell”

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pp. 90-134

In the end pages of Wake Up and Smell the Cartoons of Shannon Wheeler (1996), a collection of the comics artist’s early work, Wheeler provides a short professional biography that is worth...

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7. Comics Against Themselves: Chris Ware’s Graphic Narratives as Literature

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pp. 103-123

The recent rise in scholarly interest regarding graphic narratives has been precipitous and remarkable. This intellectual ferment is evidenced both by the strength, volume, and range of the comics produced, as well as an attendant enthusiasm and productivity ...

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Interview: Jim Woodring

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pp. 124-134

Jim Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952. His early work found print in various alternative publications such as The Los Angeles Free Press . During his time working in an LA animation studio, he self-published the first issue of

IV: Creative Difference: Comics Creators and Identity Politics

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pp. 135-164

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8. Questions of “Contemporary Women’s Comics”

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pp. 135-149

In the graphic novel The Sandman: A Game of You (published as an edited collection in 1993), a young female character—provocatively named Barbie—ventures into a comic book store, where the adolescent ....

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9. Theorizing Sexuality in Comics

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pp. 150-163

The study of representations of sexuality—even specifically the study of visual representations of sexuality—is nothing new. Clustered mainly around refrains such as liberatory potential through psychoanalytic models (Laura Mulvey, Mary Ann Doane) or agendas...

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10. Feminine Latin/o American Identities on the American Alternative Landscape: From the Women of Love and Rockets to La Perdida

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pp. 164-177

The fall 2007 volume of the academic journal MELUS, which discusses multi-ethnic literature in the United States, was dedicated to graphic narratives and featured essays and reviews of comic works and graphic novels by such authors...

V: Authorizing Comics: How Creators Frame the Reception of Comic Texts

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pp. 177-203

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11. Making Comics Respectable: How Maus Helped Redefine a Medium

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pp. 179-193

Over the last twenty years comic books have undergone a substantial change in terms of types and content available and in their critical reception. The genesis of this shift can be traced to certain events in the production and distribution...

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12. “A Purely American Tale”: The Tragedy of Racism and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth as Great American Novel

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pp. 194-209

In the last ten years, few comics have garnered enthusiastic critical attention equal to Chris Ware’s graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000). In his book, Chris Ware (2004), Daniel Raeburn hails Ware as a “luminary...

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13. “That Mouse’s Shadow”: The Canonization of Spiegelman’s Maus

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pp. 210-234

On May 26, 1985, The New York Times published an important document in the history of the American comic book. In “Cats, Mice and History—the Avant-Garde of the Comic Strip,” Ken Tucker discussed ...

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Interview: Scott McCloud

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pp. 235-242

Scott McCloud was born in Boston in 1960. The major work of his early career was the Eclipse-published superhero drama Zot! (1984–1991), but international fame and academic attention has focused on McCloud’s graphic-novel-length comics...


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pp. 243-246


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pp. 247- 253

E-ISBN-13: 9781604737936
E-ISBN-10: 160473793X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604737929
Print-ISBN-10: 1604737921

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010