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Abstract Comics: The Anthology Hardcover – September 8, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“The artists assembled by Andrei Molotiu for his anthology Abstract Comics push 'cartooning' to its limits... It’s a fascinating book to stare at, and as with other kinds of abstract art, half the fun is observing your own reactions...” (Douglas Wolk - The New York Times Book Review)

“An impressive collection of old and new work with unique pages covering exactly what the title says... bold... intriguing... This is a book for readers who like fine art or those who would like to expand their sequential art experiences. A hearty slap on the back for Fantagraphics for choosing to create this marvelous example of a widely unknown artistic expression.” (Kris Bather - Comic Book Jesus)

“[Abstract Comics] is designed beautifully... The content serves as a great introduction to a genre of comics that few people knew existed. Molotiu takes somewhat of a scholarly approach to the content, placing the concept of abstract comics within art history in his introduction. He makes a good case... Overall, this is a cool concept and I was surprised by it. I think it’s definitely going to cause some debates about what comics are and are not, and that’s a good thing.” (Eden Miller - Comicsgirl)

“[Abstract Comics] did dare me to eschew my 'western' values of linear, results oriented thinking and simply give way to my intuitive understanding of the art before me . . . to see comics stripped of their representational elements does amplify certain things that are so unique about the medium and probably reveals its potential even more fully. These are comics to be experienced.” (Jason Newcomb - StashMyComics)

“A revealing, thought-provoking and genuinely lovely book that I'll be sure to be rereading in the months to come.” (Chris Mautner - Robot 6)

“Molotiu has created a fun and accessible anthology here, one that’s smart and well-researched but not in the slightest bit obtuse. You don’t need to be an art snob to appreciate it; you just need an open mind. With that, the reward for Abstract Comics is quite lovely. And quite possibly a good opportunity for you to increase your appreciation for the comics format exponentially.” (John Hogan - Graphic Novel Reporter)

“The anthology highlights the wide variety of approached taken to the combination of abstraction and sequential art—approaches resulting in work that is not only graphically bold, but also often proves to be surprisingly humorous or emotionally disturbing.” (The Geek Curmudgeon)

Abstract Comics exists as a testament to the fact that comics like these—investigations of rhythm, colour, layout—can indeed be created…a manifesto for the genre…these are all curious, inquisitive works of cartooning, regardless of their abstraction.” (Sean Rogers - The Walrus)

“Needless to say, one could study the art found within Abstract Comics: The Anthology for months, or one could flip through the entire thing in five minutes, and the conclusions one could draw from either experience of the volume could easily be justified as informed and insightful.” (Alan David Doane - Comic Book Galaxy)

Abstract Comics, perhaps more so than any other recent comic release, highlights the way in which the comics world is markedly changing. Comics are indeed reaching across more disparate audiences and being found in a much wider selection of venues. But what might be the implications of this?... If nothing else, it seems that Abstract Comics makes explicit that the line between comics and high art is beginning to disappear.... Abstract Comics is a necessary addition to the comics canon in that it forces us to continue to think what exactly constitutes the comics form.” (Sara Cole - PopMatters)

“I said, 'It seems to me that when comics become abstract, they really cease to be comics and become, for all effective purposes, simply abstract art.' But this anthology, in its best work as well as in its not-best, shows that that's not true. Comics really are a coherent enough medium to support their own tradition of abstraction. That tradition doesn't quite exist yet. But, in this anthology, [editor] Andrei [Molotiu] shows conclusively that it could.” (Noah Berlatsky - The Hooded Utilitarian)

“Besides being a beautifully done work of artistry and imagination, among particular crowds [Abstract Comics] spurs the question 'If these are comics, then what "are comics"'?” (Neil Cohn - Emaki.net)

“[G]oes one step beyond to leave the accepted definition of comics outdated, noting that the expressive possibilities of this medium and this language are still unknown.” (La Carcel de Papel)

“More proof that comics are truly an art form. They can be just as weird, surreal, absurd, artistic, expressive and transcendent as any other medium.” (Corey Blake)

“[I]t's fascinating to see what you can do with comics when you're dealing with non-representational, non-narrative imagery, stretching the limits of the medium.” (Matthew J. Brady)

“What I liked, I liked for more than just the strips themselves—I liked them for the proof they offer that comics really is still a Wild West medium in which one's bliss can be followed even beyond the boundaries of what many or even most readers would care to define as 'comics.' That an entire deluxe hardcover collection of such comics now exists is, I think, one of the great triumphs for the medium in a decade full to bursting with them.” (Sean T. Collins)

“The fact is that comics have always had an abstract artistic potential — and as far as my memory goes, one that is accepted by all worthwhile theoretical definitions of comics. But, until now, its role was secondary, relegated to isolated experiments. It is here that the anthology does its job: presenting an overview and organizing it, Abstract Comics creates a movement. From it, abstraction in comics can move beyond an experiment and become a legitimate possibility — a process that began in the visual arts years ago.” (Eduardo Nasi - Universo HQ)

“The collection has a wealth of rewarding material, some of it awkward, some groundbreaking—on the whole, it is a significant historical document that may jump-start an actual new genre.” (Doug Harvey - LA Weekly)

“An abstract comic? What the hell is that? And more importantly, what’s the point of a comic if it doesn’t tell a story? These are the questions a book like Abstract Comics raises right off the bat. Thankfully, it also answers them. The anthology, edited by Andrei Molotiu, covers the time period of 1967-2009 and is in all respects a Serious (capital S) volume. ... Worth a look, for sure, and maybe more.” (Molly Young - We Love You So)

“Handsomely designed and smartly edited, this anthology of non-narrative comics was one of the year's most unique releases. ...I appreciated all of the "stories" to one degree or another and the cumulative effect of "reading" them all together was thrilling.” (Patrick Markfort - Articulate Nerd)

“As a whole, I like Abstract Comics a lot. I’d say that it works like a good art exhibition, or at least an exhibition unburdened by obligations to teach history, one in which multiple formal and aesthetic connections are there but not shouted out, rather left to be discovered (or not) by the strolling viewer according to his or her inclinations.” (Charles Hatfield - Thought Balloonists)

Abstract Comics is an important book... It is a truly groundbreaking book that points the way towards a whole new conception of comics and challenges readers and artists alike to explore this new area.” (Ed Howard - Only the Cinema)

“Here’s a book that was initially attractive as an intriguing, if intellectual, curiosity, only to reveal itself in short order as a continually fascinating experience. ...Abstract Comics is the most surprising book of the year.” (Rich Kreiner - The Comics Journal)

About the Author

Andrei Molotiu is an artist and art historian living in Bloomington, Indiana. He is the author of Fragonard’s Allegory of Love. Nautilus, a collection of his abstract comics, is forthcoming from Danish publisher Fahrenheit.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606991574
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606991572
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 1.2 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,627,828 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since their ostensible beginnings as passing amusements in the pages of 19th century newspapers, comics have had their peaks (the praises heaped upon George Herriman's Krazy Kat by the literati of the 1920s and 30s; Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize for Maus) and valleys (Frederic Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent) when it has come to acceptance as a genuine art. The slow rise in recognition the graphic novel has received over the course of the past two decades (from Watchmen and Maus to Jimmy Corrigan and Asterios Polyp) has gone a long way toward a wider acceptance of the form. With the publication of Abstract Comics: The Anthology, comics may be moving definitively in the direction of art-as-a-given territory and away from "comics aren't just for kids anymore" qualifiers.

When approaching Abstract Comics some reader reorientation may be required. Robert S. Peterson laments in his review that he was hoping for a book he could "open up and pour over" in the same manner he would Tom Phillips' A Humument (a brilliant piece of visual poetry). The reason for this defeated expectation may lie in the optimal method of digestion of one work vs the other. While A Humument may bear some resemblance to the works on display in Abstract Comics, it is a book composed of both words and pictures with the latter being composed of pictures exclusively. You can read A Humument as you would any work of comics, reading text while simultaneously taking in visuals. Reading Abstract Comics requires a different process of digestion as the normal vehicle of assimilating a narrative (text) is absent. The reader is not even aided by the presence of representational visuals as one might be in a more typical wordless comic or woodcut novel.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoy abstract art, graphic novels, and artists books. I expected this book with "comics" in its title and the word "sequential" in descriptions, to be mostly about some sort of abstract sequential art. Instead, I can find no visual or other kind of sequence in the vast majority of the works illustrated. Indeed, the R. Crumb comic illustrated here does not, for me, have much sequence to it either, but it is so outrageously, intellectually entertaining and hilarious in regard to Crumb's art and attitudes, that I'm delighted to find it here. I think part of the enjoyment in the Crumb is that one expects sequence (development), and instead, one is entertainingly startled by the very upsetting of those traditional expectations.

Most of the illustrated works are no more "sequential" than if one were to take a Jackson Pollack reproduction and stick a grid of boxes over it--great painting, yes--a sequential comic because of the panel grid, no. Neither is putting a panel grid over a group of abstract images (no matter how attractive individually) that have no sense of visual or intellectual order (sequence)in their grouping. Many of the works are attractive, despite having no sequence I can find, and that attractiveness plus the enjoyable, great variety of them, makes this book, on that level, worth having--worth adding to the great variety of comic and graphic novel styles I own. I can imagine, with this book as inspiration, much new and advanced sequential art in the future.

As for the introductory matter, I find it very frustrating. Presumably the "paragraphs" of abstract symbols, followed by the English language words that one might assume, are the translation, are some sort of joke that takes up space. Or is there really a way to "read" the symbol paragraphs?
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Format: Hardcover
When I first came across images from "Abstract Comics: The Anthology" online, I was worried that a lot of it would be non-objective paintings cut out and put next to each other as more of a series. When I received my order and flipped through the book, I was happy to see that I was mostly wrong. Some of the images do seem a bit uncharacteristic of comics, but most of them still conform largely to comic style, just with abstracted story telling. Upon first glance all the images might seem random, but taking the time to "read" the comic, they still are able to read as having a narrative of some sort.

I really liked the brief introduction including in the beginning of this book, it helped give a history of the idea of abstract comics and where it came from. It's hard to say how accurate it is, since there aren't any other references to compare it to. There was also a description explaining that since all comics are in one way or another abstract that "abstract" in this sense does not refer to the painting style, but to the form of story telling where characters and settings are simplified down to their basic principles.

If you're looking for more concrete narrative, you might be disappointed in this book. However if you're interested in comics or abstract artwork, I'd still recommend giving this book a chance.
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Format: Hardcover
Does a comic make sense outside of its narrative form? Does it make sense without text to anchor it firmly in a place and time, within a certain story, within a larger universe?

Throwing all such context out the window, Abstract Comics places pieces of art from a multitude of artists in one long sequence that in theory shows how, as the books puts it, they "create potent formal dramas and narrative arcs, bringing the art of comics...the closest that it, or any other visual art, has yet come to the condition of instrumental music."

The idea of this one hand of the comics medium clapping is constructed by editor Andrei Molotiu, an art professor at Indiana University, Bloomington. Molotiu's introduction to the book gives us a brief yet authoritative history of artistic movements and shows what led us here, to the brink of abstract comic art. This introduction is the crux of the book, firmly anchoring--with all the requisite audacity it requires, something Molotiu should be greatly admired for--comics art with the works of Pollock and de Kooning. The introduction alone is worth studying and reading over and over; it represents an impressive thesis on the abstract and recognizes its place in comics.

The back of the book includes an extensive contributors list, with information about all the artists who participated in this gorgeous anthology. That's pretty much all the text you're going to get, though (which is pretty the point, obviously). And in that respect, Abstract Comics gives you exactly what you put into it. Molotiu has created a fun and accessible anthology here, one that's smart and well-researched but not in the slightest bit obtuse. You don't need to be an art snob to appreciate it; you just need an open mind. With that, the reward for Abstract Comics is quite lovely. And quite possibly a good opportunity for you to increase your appreciation for the comics format exponentially.

-- John Hogan
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