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Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature Paperback – August 3, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This critical study is written for people who take comics seriously. Hatfield, an assistant professor of English at California State University, successfully establishes a historical and theoretical framework in which graphic novels can be considered "literature." He begins with the 1960s comix movement, when people began creating graphic fiction that improvised on personal and social themes, and he shows how that artistic impulse has continued to develop. Along the way, he confronts the kind of serious questions that accompany the birth of a new genre of literature, examining Gilbert Hernandez's use of extreme temporal and thematic shifts in Love & Rockets and Harvey Pekar and Art Spiegelman's use of exaggerated cartoons to present tragic real-life experiences. Insights into these issues emerge from a sometimes exhausting survey of critical theory and an invigorating close reading of important comics. Hatfield recognizes the real-world limitations of alternative comics and graphic novels, but he also sees their potential for stimulating readers' appreciation of life. It's hard to imagine anyone coming away from this book without new insights, a deeper respect for comics as a challenging artistic form and sharper reading skills to use when enjoying new comics.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

An outgrowth from the underground comics of the 1960s, alternative comics took shape in the 1980s in such serial publications as the Hernandez brothers' Love and Rockets and the anthology raw, edited by Art Spiegelman, whose Maus later ratified comics as a literary form. Hatfield shows how the movement rejected mainstream comics by snubbing old genres; developing such new ones as autobiography, history, and journalism; employing a wider range of graphic styles; and incorporating international influences. After an overview of the movement, Hatfield focuses on some seminal works in detailed, lucid readings of such milestones as Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar and Justin Green's Binky Brown, as well as autobiographical comics by Harvey Pekar, Robert Crumb, Daniel Clowes, and others. Knowledgeable and erudite, Hatfield makes a compelling case for at least the comics he examines as worthy of serious attention. If his jargon occasionally makes hard slogging for nonacademics (such as when he discusses theories anent the comics-reading process), anyone interested in investigating comics as a serious literary form could find no better starting place. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 182 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (August 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578067197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578067190
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.5 x 10.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,260,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Hatfield has written a very good account of the formal qualities of the comic art form. He deals with the interaction between visual and textual elements in comics at a theoretical level not previously broached. His work shows how these qualities play out in comics creating narratives and meaning for their readers. Having delineated these qualities he then sets about a formal reading of specific works in chapters 3 to 5. In these chapters he addresses both the cultural context of alternative comics and their formal aspects. His central argument is that comics need to be reconsidered in socio-historical and aesthetic terms. While acknowledging comics lowbrow origins he points to the emergence of alternative comics and shows that they offer new ways of understanding fiction and readers' engagement in constructing meaning.

Given that Hatfield is arguing for a greater complexity to the comic art form than is popularly ascribed, and that this requires an interpretative language and theory, his work is direct. Theory of this sort often drifts into abstract language and complex abstractions. Hatfield avoids this pitfall grounding his work in description of comics. Hatfield also addresses broader issues than the simple formal aspects of these comics, or what might in other works be called their literary quality giving a broader context to his work.
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The origin of what we came to call the Direct Market is when Print Mint took Zap Comics national back in 1968.
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