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Harry Katz is an independent curator, comics historian, and former head curator in the prints and photographs division of the Library of Congress. He divides his time between Washington, DC, and his family home in Del Mar, CA.
First, I want to comment on Englund's review, which I think is too harsh. This book is about CARTOONS. The sub-title which includes the word "comic" is indeed misleading. This book is not about comic books, it's about cartoons, mostly political but also gag cartoons and comic strips. There is one short chapter on animation (and I agree that it's out of place), and one short chapter on comic books (ditto), but the other 36 chapters are interesting, and the drawings are very attractive and representative of the art. Anything from the Yellow Kid and Blondie, through Clare Briggs, Charles Scultz, and James Thurber, to Jeff MacNelly and Herblock. If you like cartoons, if you like the art, it's a great book to read and browse, and it will be a great book 20 years from now just as well.
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What a disappointment ! ! ! With all the books published over the past fifty years on comic art in general, one would would expect more useful reference material to exist on the subject. Other than the publications of Brian Walker, Bill Blackbeard, Richard Marchall, and precious few others, most authors and editors, including those who produced this volume, fail to understand that not all art that is described by the terms comic and cartoon appeals to the same audience and that these various art forms are not all appropriately discussed in the same book. As an inevitable result we get books which do not fulfill the expectations of those interested in any of the loosely related fields.
Comic strip art and comic book art are closely related -- the initial and constant appeal of both lie in the existence of continuing characters who develope over time, thereby becoming small parts of the lives of the readers. Animation art can be similarly ingrained into the viewer's psyche, as the films that are the ultimate product of such art are viewed and reviewed over the course of many years. But it is hard to do justice to both comic stiip/book art and animation art in the same book, given the very different manners by which the two forms of art are produced. Political cartoons are even less compatible with discussions of comic strip/book art, since they serve a very different purpose and are intended for a markedly different audience. Very few comic strip or comic book fans have more than a passing interest in political cartoons.
Few readers seeing the title "Cartoon America" would expect a volume wherein at least half the text and illustrations deal with political cartoons.Read more ›
A fascinating sampling of the cartoon artifacts in the Library of Congress. Clearly this is not meant to be a two hundred year comprehensive history of this popular art form though the book's editor Harry Katz kicks things off with his chapter: A Brief History of American Cartooning. The rest of the colorful pages are essentially based round the original artwork the Library holds and I was surprised by how much they have, like the 1871 woodblocks used by Thomas Nast for his Harper's Weekly illustrations, a Sunday supplement page of George Herriman's Krazy Kat from 1941 or a Herblock syndicated political cartoon from 1998. In fact the Library has one of the world's largest collections of cartoon and caricature original art which it has been acquiring since about 1840. A recent acquisition was the Art Wood collection of 32,00 originals by 3,000 artists, he also contributed a chapter to the book.
One of the main strengths of the book are chapters from the thirty-five contributors, a rich selection of professions like David Levine on caricatures, Art Spiegelman on the Lionel Feininger's Kin-der-Kids and Wee Willie Winkie's World, Trina Robbins on Rose O'Neill and Nell Brinkley, Paul Conrad on Herblock or John Canemaker on animation art in the Library collection. Each contributor's essay is backed up with reproductions of original art or printed pages.
As a sampling of American cartoon art I thought this was a fascinating look at the subject (though a bit disappointing that there is no bibliography for further study) and handsomely presented, too. My compliments to designer Laura Lindgren for presenting so much visual material in a very sympathetic way.Read more ›
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