Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.
Hello, and it’s a pleasure to be blogging for the Truth. This is my first post since the blog migrated from Goshen Commons – you can find my earlier posts here. I’ll be posting bi-weekly reviews of current comics and graphic novels.
I considered renaming this blog for its move, but decided to keep “Commons Comics” (a) because it’s much catchier than any of the bad “truth” puns I came up with and (b) because I believe that comics and graphic novels are, in our visually obsessed time, the best genre for fostering a commons — a “public square” — of storytelling and artistic expression that reflects, processes, imagines and re-imagines the past, present and future of the so-called “human condition.”
Jessica Baldanzi is an English professor at Goshen College who reviews comics and graphic novels in her community blog, Commons Comics.
Part of the reason I’m such an avid fan of comics is that I’m a late convert. Outside of some “Archie,” “Spider-Man” and a few other comics I borrowed from my older brother in my youth, I did not grow up immersed in comics but came to them later, when I read Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” in a graduate literature class. “Maus,” a memoir about Spiegelman’s difficult relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor, was the first “graphic novel” to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1986.
Since then, the genre has taken off. Not only do I make a point of including comics and graphic novels in the reading lists for my literature classes, I also teach a course every few years called The Graphic Novel. (You can see some of my students’ work in this post from last April).
It’s become a cliché in headlines and articles about comics to joke that they are no longer about men in tights — or for that matter, women in skimpy clothes that magically cling to their bodies as they battle good or evil. While true enough, however, such observations are a massive understatement. Comics have exploded as a genre, gracing mainstream media and representing just about any voice or perspective you can think of. Case in point: Here are the covers of just a few of the books I reviewed in the past year.
Aya: Love in Yop City, by Marguerite Abouet. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Building Stories, by Chris Ware. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Marble Season, by Gilbert Hernandez. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
March, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Boxers (Boxers & Saints), by Gene Luen Yang. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Hip Hop Family Tree, by Ed Piskor. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
The Property, by Rutu Modan. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Punk Rock Jesus, by Sean Murphy. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
The range of subject matter and visual style alone in these eight books is staggering — and they only scratch the surface of the diversity in this rich genre. As I argued in my original introductory post last August, although comics historians refer to the 1940s as the golden age of the genre, the voices in that era were limited. This is the real golden age of comics, because it’s open to just about anyone and just about any topic.
Intrigued? If you’ve never read anything “serious” in this genre before, don’t worry: I write these posts for general audiences, so please don’t hesitate to post a question or comment. If you’re a huge aficionado, please also comment — this genre is so vast and varied, I’m always learning from my readers and my students alike.
Here are the covers of the next three books I plan to review:
The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story, by Vivek J. Tiwary. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Beautiful Darkness, by Fabien Vehlmann. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
Sunny, Vol. 2, by Taiyo Matsumoto. Image scanned from graphic novel's cover.
I’m excited to have a new audience, as well as to reconnect with my former readers. Please don’t hesitate to suggest future books for review or other topics. See you in two weeks!