From Publishers Weekly
This ambitious new book from Yale accompanies an exhibition of the same title debuting this fall at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Both focus on the 15 "Masters" of American comics, including George Herriman, Jack Kirby and R. Crumb. Well known figure like Jules Feiffer, Pete Hamill and Matt Groening, among others, contribute essays on each of the artists. These are complemented by a 175-page essay by Carlin, "Art History of 20th Century American Comics." Unfortunately, this essay is a disorganized and overly academic attempt to tell the story of comics through just these 15 artists, with little context for their achievements, thus failing to elucidate what makes them so special. Going too far the other way, the individual essays vary wildly in depth and intent. Jonathan Safran Foer's piece is little more than a memory of his friendship with Art Spiegelman, while Brian Walker casts much needed light on Lyonel Feininger's little known cartooning career. If the book is an uneven example of scholarship, it will still deserve a place on the comics reference table for the lavish number of full-color pages celebrating the glorious achievements of the cartoonists profiled. They show what the text sometimes doesn't: the vital impact these artists have had on the form. (Nov.)
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In 1906, a group of newspaper executives attended a talk entitled "Is the Comic Supplement a Desirable Feature?," which charged that "crude coloring, slapdash drawing, and very cheap and obvious funniness" would numb people to "the finer forms of art." By contrast, the cultural prestige that comics currently enjoy is exemplified by this book, which features appreciations of a familiar canonfrom George Herriman to Chris Wareby a starry list of contributors, such as Dave Eggers and Jules Feiffer. Not all the contributions are equally valuable. Raymond Pettibon's appreciation of Will Eisner turns into a free-associative rant about the editorial pages of the Times. But an essay on Lyonel Feininger, who eventually abandoned comics for a high-art career, and taught at the Bauhaus for several years, is illuminating. Hundreds of color reproductions allow the ingenuity of the artists' work to speak for itself.
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