Monday, June 09, 2008

The rise of comic books

In The Times, Michael Saler reviews new books by David Hajdu and Michael Chabon that reflect on the irresistible rise of comic books.
Hajdu focuses on comics and the triumph of youth culture, but the medium is no longer child’s play: today’s comic books are pitched well above the heads and purchasing power of most children. Following Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prizewinning account of the Holocaust, Maus (1992), “graphic novel” has become the preferred term for many of the medium’s most exciting and original works. A castaway art form that began in the “funny papers” now finds a welcome berth in the New Yorker, while Chris Ware’s challenging Jimmy Corrigan won the 2001 Guardian First Book Award. Fredric Wertham must be turning in his grave (no doubt in horror-comic fashion), but as Michael Chabon declares in Maps and Legends, “the battle has now, in fact, been won. Not only are comics appealing to a wider and older audience than ever before, but the idea of comics as a valid art form . . . is widely if not quite universally accepted”.

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