Looking for Good Writing about Comics
September 19, 2008 5:05 AM   Subscribe

Favorite philosophical, historical, analytic, or lit-critical essays about comic books?

I'm putting together a syllabus for an undergraduate "Comics as Literature" course and I'm looking for new pieces to supplement some of the more well-known analytical pieces I'll be using: McCloud's Understanding Comics, one or two of Wolk's essays from Reading Comics, Umberto Eco's Myth of Superman, and so on. Do any suggestions spring to mind? Thanks in advance for the recommendations.
posted by gerryblog to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
There's a professor at York University in Toronto who teaches an undergraduate comics and cartoons class. His name is Jonathon Warren. I don't know what he puts on his syllabus, but you could contact him (email address should be somewhere on Yorku.ca).

Other than that, though Barthes' Myths doesn't deal with comics directly, its useful in terms of reading visual language.
posted by ndicecco at 5:23 AM on September 19, 2008

I haven't read it yet (despite owning a copy), but there is Roz Kaveney's Superheroes! Capes and Crusaders in Comics and Films.

Based on her other books, I'd say it's probably very-readable media criticism.
posted by Katemonkey at 5:40 AM on September 19, 2008

Best answer: A lot of the best work on comics comes from Europe so you might want to broaden your search out to include "bande dessinee." (My spelling might be off.) If I were putting together such a syllabus, I'd also be sure to include some of Will Eisner's stuff (especially Comics and Sequential Art).

There was a recent article in PMLA on comics that talked about trauma and various books (including I think Palestine-- it is at home and I am in my office so I am not entirely sure). Trauma seems to actually pretty hot in comics studies right now, partly, I think, because of the canonical status of Maus. (There's a fair amount of academic work on Maus specifically, some of which usefully discusses the role of the visual "cartoon" image as a means to negotiate "the unthinkable").

Some other titles that I am not familiar with include:
Pustz, Matthew. Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers.
Gordon, Ian. Comic Strips and Consumer Culture, 1890-1945.
Barker, Martin. Comics, Ideology, Power, and the Critics.
Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What they Mean
Robinson, Lily S. Wonder Women: Feminisms and Superheroes

I should be able to think of more but I am coming up dry. But, I do remember talking to somebody who does do research on comics and she said that most of the best stuff comes from Europe, where they have taken the medium a bit more seriously for a bit longer than they have in North America.
posted by synecdoche at 6:20 AM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and also look at the Teaching Comics site, where they do archive some syllabi.
posted by synecdoche at 6:21 AM on September 19, 2008

A philosopher-friend of mine Aaron Meskin, teaches at Leeds university uk, and does quite a lot on comics (analytic aesthetics).
posted by leibniz at 6:50 AM on September 19, 2008

ImageText, a peer reviewed journal about comics (via).
posted by signal at 7:07 AM on September 19, 2008

The Comics Journal, published by Fantagraphics, occasionally has articles regarding the content of comics rather than the art. I can't think of anything right off hand other than the manga issue article on shoujo manga, but some digging through back issues might produce some results.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:56 AM on September 19, 2008

Check out Rusty Witek's books. You may be particularly interested in Comic Books as History. Also at Powell's.

He taught at my undergrad school, and he's great.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 4:22 PM on September 19, 2008

Don't know if you're interested in a monograph, but consider Daniel Raeburn's on Chris Ware.

This might also be a helpful resource for you.
posted by carrienation at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2008

Scott Bukatman (prof in art history and film studies at Stanford) has written some fascinating and insightful things about comics -- getting beyond the documentary and the fanfic and into the deeply academic. The first book that came to mind was Matters of Gravity (not only about comics, but you probably don't want to assign whole books anyway!), but an author search will bring up more. Bukatman's bibliography will probably also be useful, even if you don't end up using the book. He was a professor of mine, and one of the smartest people I know (of) in this field.

I also recently used Danny Fingeroth's book, Disguised as Clark Kent, about Jewishness and superheros, in a class on Race and Representation. It's less academic in tone and rigor, but if you're interested in raising the issue of race/ethnicity (and especially if you're teaching Maus), it might be worthwhile. I don't know where you teach, but my Michigan State students responded well to the ideas he presents. (Note that although I link to the paperback, which isn't out yet, the hardcover is available now.)

Is there any chance you'd be willing to share your syllabus?
posted by obliquicity at 9:50 PM on September 21, 2008

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