Comics at the Boundaries of Literature
University of Texas Press 2016
There’s a common myth about the history of comic books and strips. It’s the idea that the medium languished for decades as a sort of time-wasting hobby for children, but now has redeemed itself and can be appreciated even by the literary. University of Georgia professor and comics scholar Christopher Pizzino argues that this history is as false as Clark Kent’s eyeglass prescription. Comics, he says, are still burdened by their early stigma, their status in modern culture tenuous at best.
In Arresting Development: Comics at the Boundaries of Literature (University of Texas Press, 2016), Pizzino offers up an educated and entertaining history of the comics medium, then devotes a chapter to each of four groundbreaking comic artists. In one, he looks at the film noir and manga-influenced work of Frank Miller, creator of The Dark Knight Returns and Sin City. Another chapter examines the work of Alison Bechdel, whose famed lesbian-centered comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, led to pop culture’s Bechdel Test, and whose autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home is now a hit musical. Charles Burns, whose Black Hole tells a haunting story of a teenage plague, is highlighted as an artist unable to sugarcoat his work even when he was trying to have his art published in Playboy magazine. And Gilbert Hernandez, best known for his innovative Love and Rockets series, created with his brother Jaime, shows himself to be nigh-fearless when it comes to his work, blending everything from erotica to violence to a biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Join Pizzino and pop-culture junkie and author Gael Fashingbauer Cooper (no relation to Archie Comics’ Betty Cooper) for a lively look at comics and their evolution, and why the very idea that the medium has safely come of age may be working against it.