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Masters of American Comics Hardcover – November 11, 2005
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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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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 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.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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The box it was shipped in was in perfect condition the inner protection, well there was none!
I purchased this book as a gift for the person who viewed the exhibit with me, it's an excellent book, a great retrospect.
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. Chester Gould's Dick Tracy brought hard-boiled crime to the comics, and Milton Caniff raised adventure to a new level with Terry and the Pirates (and later Steve Canyon).
More modern artists include Charles Schulz, whose Peanuts is probably the most popular strip ever. Will Eisner brought a new respectability to the medium with The Spirit. Jack Kirby, the first real comic book artist in the bunch, is well-worth mention for his part in creating most of the great Marvel superheroes (and a few DC characters too). Harvey Kurtzmann does not have a single famous character, but his role in the EC comics of the 1950s and the early Mad Magazine was considerable.
R. Crumb was a major figure in the early underground comics movement. Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter and Chris Ware are all still active and further extending the boundaries of what comics can be. Spiegelman would also win a Pulitzer for his Holocaust epic, Maus, demonstrating that the medium was more than just kids' fare.
There is a heap of art in Masters of American comics, much of it in color, making this quite a treat, and an excellent companion piece to the museum exhibition which inspired it. It also shows that quality and popularity are two almost separate fields: the big strips of today - Garfield, Dennis the Menace, Cathy, Marmaduke, et al - are not even mentioned. Yes, you might not like every artist selected (for example, I cannot find much to like about Panter, whose distinct art must be an acquired taste) and you might think of others worthy of inclusion (for example Steve Ditko, Alex Raymond or Bill Watterson). Nevertheless, this book is a gem which not only provides a history of the comics, but is a great pleasure to read.