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Masters of American Comics Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (November 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030011317X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300113174
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 9.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

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 canon—from George Herriman to Chris Ware—by 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.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker

More About the Author

In the early 1980s, after having graduated from the Pratt Institute, Paul Karasik studied briefly at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where he was a student of Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, and Art Spiegelman.

In 1981, Spiegelman, with his wife, Françoise Mouly, invited Karasik to become associate editor of their seminal international comics and graphics revue, RAW. While serving in this position Karasik co-edited Bad News with fellow cartoonist Mark Newgarden,which ran work by many of the RAW cartoonists, including Kim Deitch, Ben Katchor, Richard McGuire, and Jerry Moriarty.

In 1994 Karasik collaborated with David Mazzucchelli to adapt Paul Auster's novel City of Glass into a full-length comic. This adaptation was cited by The Comics Journal as one of the "100 Best Comics of the 20th Century". It has been translated into more than a dozen languages and was excerpted in The Norton Anthology of Post-Modern American Fiction.

Karasik's book, The Ride Together: A Memoir of Autism in the Family (2004), co-written with his sister, Judy Karasik, employed the format of alternating prose and comics chapters to tell their story of growing up with an older brother with autism. The Ride Together was named the Best Literary Work of the Year by the Autism Society of America.

Karasik co-edited of Masters of American Comics (2005), the coffee-table companion catalog to the first major American exhibition of comics, co-sponsored by the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

His recent anthology highlighting the work of the (previously) obscure Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks, I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets (Fantagraphics, 2007), won a 2008 Eisner Award, the highest honor in the industry. A second volume, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation (Fantagraphics, 2009), when combined with the first, comprises the complete works of Fletcher Hanks, a cartoonist whom cartoonist R. Crumb called "a twisted dude."

Paul Karasik's gag cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If 'art' can be defined as a view of the world or reaction or politicizing or representational through the many guises of that term as perceived by one who paints, sculpts, photographs, or draws, then the premise that 'comics' or 'cartoons' deserve the stature of an art form is certainly a viable decision. This large and generously illustrated volume, produced to accompany a museum exhibition, is probably as fine a treatise as is currently available, and if the book is representative of the exhibition to soon follow at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, then expectations can be justifiably high.

Editors/curators John Carlin, Paul Karasik, and Brian Walker have complied a group of 15 comic artists, those whose works have been significantly before the public since the 1940's. By limiting the number of cartoonists presented, the writing contributors of this large volume have concentrated more on issues as defined by comics, the effect of comics on the reading American public, the viability of comics as a forum for public statement and parody, and as a means of entertainment. While many of the artists' names will not be familiar (Chris Ware, Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, EC Segar, Chester Gould, Charles Schultz, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Ari Spiegelman, Gary Painter, George Herriman, Jack Kirby and R. Crumb) certainly their comic strips, comic books, and individual drawings will strike chords of acknowledgement with the public. And the proliferation of comic book character driven films has already paved the way for the public's interest in a comics survey.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on July 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The newspaper comic strip has been around for a little over a century and the earliest comic books are around eighty years old themselves. That's a reasonably long time, and there have been a lot of people who've worked in the field. Many have been pretty mediocre, a small group have been good, and there are an elite few who've been truly great. Although you may not agree with the complete list (I don't), Masters of American Comics does a pretty good job selecting the artists who belong in this elite group.

This coffee table book is divided into two parts. In the first section, we get a history of the comics in general, with a particular focus on the contributions of the elite artists. The second section is a collection of essays by various writers both inside and outside the comic industry; each essay deals with one of the fifteen featured artists.

Who are these artists (who also often wrote their material)? The first (both chronologically and within the book) is Windsor McCay whose Little Nemo in Slumberland remains one of the most wildly imaginative comic strips ever. McCay, incidentally, was also one of the very earliest animators. Lyonel Feininger's career was pretty brief, but his Kinder-Kids strips offer some more mind-bending art. George Herriman was the creator of arguably the greatest comic strip ever, Krazy Kat. E.C. Segar brought Popeye to the world in a comic strip that was far more clever than any of the cartoons.

Frank King's Gasoline Alley dealt with more of the mundane aspects of life, but did so brilliantly; it is the longest active comic, though King's successors have made it a pale shadow of its former self.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Carroll VINE VOICE on February 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
MASTERS OF AMERICAN COMICS strives to be an overview of this interesting group of artists, but suffers from the fatal flaw of examining comic strips and comic books in the same work. These two very different types of storytelling don't really belong together and it gives the book a split personality. While beautifully illustrated and well-researched, this would have proven to be more valuable had it focused on one genre or the other. Despite my affection for both of these men and their creations; Charles Schulz and Jack Kirby are just not natural companions in any book. Also missing were any number of comic strip artists. Al Capp, Noel Sickles, Walt Kelly, and Alex Raymond are all mentioned but are given the short end of the stick here. Their presence would have been preferable to Crumb or Panter's; not because these men are not talented, but rather it would have made this work more cohesive. I understand this is a companion book to a joint exhibition of Hammer Museum and The Museum of Contemporary Art, but as such the exhibition suffered from the same flaw. If you are interested in the history of the comic strip in America this will be a nice sampler, but it obviously could have been much more.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A nice budget book, with lavish photos of rare original comic art from private collections. You will love it, enjoy.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. C. Bonner on September 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I loved the idea of reproducing much of the art from the original work, with editor's notes, erasures, pencil lines all showing. However, the mixture of the work of hugely popular mass-market artists like Schultz and (in the underground, Crumb) with more recent avante-guarde artists like Panter seemed odd to me. Peanuts was a cultural phenomenon, but has anyone actually ever read "Jimbo". I didn't, even when I bought "Raw" years ago. I appreciate boomer artists raised on the pulps would want to do something more "high-brow", but for me, the very nature of the medium mitigates against the sophisticated existentialism of, say, Chris Ware. Sure, I guess that has it's place, but what makes comics great is how the artists develop ways of making it easier for anyone to read and understand, not harder.
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