Copacetic Comics Studies

Here's a page for all you comics scholars out there -- from just budding to fully flowered, there should be something here for anyone interested in delving deeper into what makes comics tick.  The texts collected together here embody a wide variety of approaches to the study of comics and are organized alphabetically by author and/or editor.  The focus varies from broad to specific, and the level of writing ranges from simple to complex.  Take a look and see what you think.

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Master of American ComicsMasters of American Comics
edited by John Carlin
This is the mammoth catalogue (it weighs over 2 kilos -- almost 5 pounds) for the first ever major retrospective on American Comics organized by a major American museum, or, in this case, museums -- the Museum of Contemporary Art and the  Hammer Museum, both located in Los Angeles.  This beautifully produced book published by Yale University Press covers the entire twentieth century -- the century of comics.  Starting off with Winsor McKay who defined the terms of American comics, the survey continues through George Herriman, Frank King, Milton Canniff, Will Eisner, Harvey Kurtzman, Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and concludes with Chris Ware, with many side trips covering their contemporaries*.  The central text is a 175-page essay by editor John Carlin, which is a general history of American comics that focuses on the artists represented in the exhibition.  It is followed by a series of short essays on individual artists by the likes of Stanley Crouch, Tom DeHaven, Jules Feiffer, Matt Groening, Patrick McDonnell and Raymond Pettibone.  The volume is, of course, heavily illustrated in both black and white and full color and features many examples of both original art and the comics as they appeared in printed form.  The reproductions are uniformly excellent, with perhaps one or two exceptions out of the hundreds presented.  At last, The Establishment is beginning to "get it."  They're only just starting to grasp the whole comics thing, but this is a rewarding initial effort that we certainly hope will open the door to further cultural exchanges between the world of comics and the world of fine art. 
To learn more visit the Hammer Museum's siteHere's the first of five pages of examples from the show. 
*
(Although there are some truly glaring absences:  Carl Barks and Jaime & Gilbert Hernandez coming first to mind.  To look on the bright side, these absences practically insure a curatorial rebuttal by another institution at some point in the future.)
retail price - $45.00  copacetic price - $40.00

The Aesthetics of Comics
by David Carrier
hardback
“The ingenuity with which the classical comic strip artists found ways of telling whole stories in four or five panels has been insufficiently appreciated by philosophers of historians of art.  Carrier has written a marvelous book on these narrative stratefies, from which we cannot but learn something about how the mind processes pictorial information and how the Old Masters coped with the urgent stories simple people had to understand.” -- Arthur C. Danto, Columbia University

retail price -  $29.95 copacetic price - $26.95


Will Eisner’s Shop Talk
Comics legend Will Eisner interviews industry pioneers Neal Adams, C.C. Beck, Milton Caniff, Jack Davis, Lou Fine, Gil Kane, Jack Kirby, Joe Kubert, Harvey Kurtzman, Phil Seuling and Joe Simon.
retail price - $19.95 copacetic price - $17.95


Eisner/Miller

Anyone familiar with the history of film criticism knows of its most famous interview:  Hitchcock/Truffaut, in which the younger acolyte turned successful auteur in his own right -- Francois Truffaut -- interviewed the grand master of cinema -- Alfred Hitchcock.  The interview was released in a large illustrated volume which has been continuously in print for over thirty years.  Well, now the world of comics has an analogous volume. Eisner/Miller presents the younger acolyte turned successful auteur in his own right -- Frank Miller (although, Miller would have to be considered to have a greater renown in comics relative to Truffaut's in film) -- interviewing the grand master of Comics -- Will Eisner. 
And this interview has now been released by Dark Horse in a thick illustrated volume.  While this book was clearly patterned after Hitchcock/Truffaut, Gary Groth has quite rightly pointed out that the discourse on display in Eisner/Miller is not at the same level as its predecessor and he feels that the comparison is merely a marketing ploy.  We wouldn't disagree.  (Groth furthermore seems to feel that Eisner -- at least as he presents himself in this volume -- is a smug and self-satisfied solipsist, but that's another matter...)  Obviously, these kinds of parallels only go so far.  One should keep in mind that, on the other hand,  there is much on offer in Eisner/Miller that is lacking in Hitchcock/Truffautfor example, there really is no cinematic equivalent to Eisner and Miller's exchange on the sensuality of inking (a fact for which, perhaps, we should be thankful).  In any event, only time will tell the respective values of any works, so it may be a bit premature for final judgements.  It is our view that a book length moderated interview between two highly influential comics creators cannot help but have historical significance regardless of the quality of the exchange, and is sure to be of interest to many.  Check it out and decide for yourself what you think.  And, while you're at it, do yourself a favor and read Hitchcock/Truffaut - (copacetic price - $20.00) - it's a classic!
retail price - $19.95 copacetic price - $17.95

Holy Superheroes!
by Greg Garrett
This volume is written from a Christian perspective and attempts to locate the superhero ethos and dynamic within a Judeo-Christian framework.  In many respects it is a statement of the obvious, but it is an important statement nonetheless:  anyone ignoring the roots of the superhero tradition that lie within the history of western religious tradtion will be unable to fully appreciate the overall significance of the genre, which, as a result of its recent successful translation into the mainstream media of film and television, is currently enjoying a high point in public consciousness. 
retail price -  $12.99 copacetic price - $11.69


Children of the Yellow Kid:
The Evolution of the American Comic Strip

by Robert C. Harvey
This book documents the exhibition held in 1998 and 1999 at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, WA and the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, CA.  It is an interesting history by noted comics expert Harvey accompanied by over a hundred excellent high quality color reproductions of B & W original art.  These color reproductions allow a much more detailed examination of the artists technique and are a real boon to any students of the medium.  There are, of course, also color reproductions of color originals and printed Sunday pages.  A one of a kind item.

retail price - $29.95 copacetic price - $26.95

Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature
by Charles Hatfield
This is an excellent treatment of contemporary comics.  It is a most edifying -- not to mention satisfying -- experience to see Comics Studies receive the high level of attention from state-of-the-art academic thought that has previously be
reserved for Literature, Film Studies and Culture Studies programs.  Apparently schooled in the French tradition of close reading, Hatfield applies the full force of his thorough-going intelligence to develop a rigorous approach in preparing the ground to provide a solid foundation upon which to erect a durable critique of comics as literature.  He will force you to put on your thinking cap and pay attention; this not a book for slouches. There's a good in-depth review of this work here.
retail price -  $20.00 copacetic price - $18.00

Arguing Comics:
Literary Masters on a Popular Medium

edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester
Another great volume from University Press of Mississippi, this volume assembles between two covers some of America's most well known and well regarded culture critics and essayists writings on the popular medium of comics.  It's a formidable list:  Ralph Bergengren, E. E. Cummings, Umberto Eco (OK, so he's Italian), Sidney Fairfield, Manny Farber, Leslie Fiedler, Clement Greenberg, Irving Howe, C. L. R. James, Gershon Legman, Thomas Mann, Annie Russell Marble, Marshall McLuhan, Walter J Ong, Dorothy Parker, Donald Phelps, Harold Rosenberg, Delmore Schwartz, Gilbert Seldes and Robert Warshow.  Whew!
retail price - $22.00 copacetic price - $19.80

Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers
edited by Sean Howe
This is nicely designed and put together and definitely unique collection of essays on comics and our relationships with them.  This volume features work by writers not widely associated with comics, a fact that serves the dual function of bringing fresh perspectives to the relatively insular world of comics fans and collectors while simultaneously attracting more mainstream non-comics readers to this world.  This is a healthy development for the form.  Here's what you'll find:  Jonathan Lethem on  Jack "King" Kirby; Luc Sante on Hergé and Tintin; Geoff Dyer on Spider-Man and ben-day dots; Aimee Bender on Yummy Fur and Story Telling; Gary Giddens on Classics Illustrated; Geoffrey O'Brien on Nick Fury; Chris Offutt on NoMan(!); Greil Marcus on Uncle Sam; Steve Erickson on American Flagg!; Tom Piazza on Bizarro and Mxyzptlk; Myla Goldberg on Chris Ware and Renée French; Lydia Millet on Little Nemo in Slumberland; John Wray on Jim Woodring; Christopher Sorrentino on the DC-Marvel rivalry; Glen David Gold on Warlock and the nature of collecting; Brad Meltzer on The New Teen Titans and young love; and Andrew Hultkrans on Steve Ditko's hands.  Whew!
retail price - $24.95  copacetic price - $22.45


men of tomorrowMen of Tomorrow:
Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book
by Gerard Jones
Years in the making, this is an engrossing history of the dawn of the comic book era.  It's a 384 page softcover with a swell Chip Kidd designed dustjacket.  No published account of the early days of comic books has dug as deeply or provided the reader with as much color as this one.  Learn how a generation of east European Jewish immigrants created an important piece of American culture.  Here's what some notables are saying:  "The fascinating and heartbreaking true story of the goniffs, shmendricks, and shlemiels who gave birth to the superhero comics -- written with all the verve and velocity of a golden age comic book." -- Art Spiegelman   "This book has brought me immense pleasure.  Jones offers amazing new insights into how girlie pulp publishers and mob-related printers got to the top of the comics business.  Men of Tomorrow is an extraordinary read." -- Bud Plant  'Nuff said.
retail price - $15.00  copacetic price - $13.50

 

All in Color for a Dime
edited by Dick Lupoff & Don Thompson, with contributions by the editors, Bill Blackbeard, Harlan Ellison, Ron Goulart, Roy Thomas, and others.
An engaging and informative history of the Golden Age of comics originally published in 1970.

retail price - $14.95 copacetic price - $11.95

 

The Comic-Book Book
edited by Dick Lupoff & Don Thompson, with contributions by the editors, Bill Blackbeard, Ron Goulart,Maggie Thompson, and others.
An engaging and informative follow-up to All in Color for a Dime also focusing on the Golden Age of comics.  Originally published in 1973.

retail price - $14.95 copacetic price - $11.95

 

Understanding Comics
by Scott McCloud
The must-read, must-have masterpiece of comics deconstruction delineated in comics form.
retail price - $22.95 copacetic price - $19.50

Reinventing Comics
by Scott McCloud
The sequel.

retail price - $19.95 copacetic price - $17.95



Seal of Approval:
The History of the Comics Code

by Amy Kiste Nyberg
Yes, an entire book devoted to studying the Comics Code, that works to explain how the stage was set for its arrival, how it came to be and what were its effects.

retail price -  $18.00 copacetic price - $16.20

 

Comic Book Culture:
Fanboys and True Believers

by Matthew J. Pustz
An in-depth, detailed accounting of the sub-culture (and sub-sub-cultures that populate it) of comics fandom and its feedback-loop relationship to the comics upon which it thrives and which in turn are dependent upon the world of fandom to survive.

retail price -  $18.00 copacetic price - $16.20

 

From Girls to Grrrlz: A History of Women's Comics from Teens to Zines
by Trina Robbins
retail price - $17.95 copacetic price - $16.15


The Great Women Cartoonists
by Trina Robbins
A heavily illustrated history presented in an oversize trade paperback by the foremost authority on women in comics.
retail price -  $24.95 copacetic price - $22.45


The Great Women Super Heroes
by Trina Robbins
A heavily illustrated history presented in an oversize trade paperback by the foremost authority in the field.
retail price -  $21.95 copacetic price - $19.75


Bad Language, Naked Ladies, & Other Threats to the Nation:
A Political History of Comic Books in Mexico

by Anne Rubenstein
It’s hard to believe that this book was green-lighted by the publisher, Duke University Press, but we can be grateful that it was as it provides a wealth of information on a hitherto completely (at least by scholars north of the border) unexplored cultural terrain.

copacetic
price -
$21.95



Commies, Cowboys, and Jungle Queens:
Comic Books and America, 1945-1954

by William W, Savage, Jr.
Well, the title pretty much says it all on this one.  Savage uses close readings of specific comics-- five original stories from the period are reprinted in the book in their entirety-- and comics genres popular during this period and combines it with a general history to demonstrate how comics can provide us with vital insights into the culture and psyche of America during this period, and by extension claims that there is much more knowledge to gleaned and disseminated by further like-minded cultural studies of comics.  A landmark study originally published in 1990.

copacetic
price -
$19.95


 A Life in Comic Fandom
by Bill Schelly
One fan’s personal memoir of his life in comics fandom.

retail price -  $15.95 copacetic price - $14.35


Manga! Manga!:
The World of Japanes Comics

by Frederik L. Schodt
Written in 1983, this is the seminal text on manga that opened American eyes to amazing multiplicity of Manga.  There is still no better work on the subject.  Heavily illustrated; includes 96 pages of Manga.
retail price -  $25.00 copacetic price - $22.50

Dreamland Japan:
Writings on Modern Manga

by Frederik L. Schodt
This 1996 sequel to Manga! Manga! brings the reader up to date on the developments in Japanse comics.  Heavily illustrated.
retail price -  $19.95 copacetic price - $17.95


Black Images in the Comics:
A Visual History

by Fredrik Strömberg
foreward by Charles Johnson
hardcover
As we all know, visual stereotypes have been a staple of comics and cartooning since their inception.  Nowhere has this been more apparent and problemlatic than in the representation of people of African heritage.  This book attempts both a history and a deconstruction of black images in comics.
retail price -  $15.95 copacetic price - $12.75

<>The Language of Comics: Word and Image
edited by Robin Varnum and Christina T Gibbons
The first and still best English language collection of critical essays on the relationship between words and images in comics.
2001, University Press of Mississippi; ISBN 1578064147
retail price -  $18.00 copacetic price - $16.20



The Immediate Experience:
Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture

by Robert Warshow
While the majority of the essays in this volume are devoted to areas of popular culture other than comics, this book rates inclusion here by virtue of its focusing upon comics a degree of discernment with a level of intellegence that was practically unprecedented at the time of its writing (1945-55) and provided the public with precise and prescient views that continue to hold their own up to the present day.  Included are a brief essay on Krazy Kat as well as an extended multi-facted piece on EC comics, Wertham, the Kevauver hearings, and how he, as a parent, related and responded to his eleven year-old son’s devotion to EC comics.  Also ntoable is the fact that the publishers of this re-issue, Harvard University Press, decided to grace the cover with one taken from an EC comic drawn by Al Feldstein that combines elements of horror and SF.

retail price -  $18.95 copacetic price - $17.05

 

The Comics
by Coulton Waugh
Another oldie but goodie.  Originally published in 1947, this ground-breaking work was re-issued a while back by that stalwart suporter of comics criticism, The University Press of Mississipi.  The first serious tome devoted entirely to deriving and developing a larger and deeper understanding and appreciation of comics, The Comics is a landmark text in the history of the study of american culture.

retail price -  $14.95 copacetic price - $20.00 (out of print; one copy in stock)


Comic Book Nation:
The Transformation of Youth Culture in America
by Bradford W. Wright
The best cultural history of comic books ever produced.  A must read, we say.
retail price -  $19.95 copacetic price - $17.95

 

other books about comics
 


Graphic NovelsGraphic Novels: Everything You Need To Know
by Paul Gravett
While we admit to being turned off by any book that claims to be "everything you need to know" on any subject, we will grant Mr. Gravett the benefit of the doubt and assume that this particular sub-title was the publisher's idea and not his own -- as this book is actually the best single volume introduction to the world of graphic novels yet produced (
and, to be fair, the cover text was changed to the much more appropriate, "Stories to Change Your Life").  It's unique organizing principle of choosing thirty standard bearers of specific sub-categories of the form and then grouping together other works perceived as related makes for an efficient way to get acquainted with the medium and what it has to offer.  And we must say that we admire the taste on display here as it overlaps at so many points with the Copacetic Canon.  An excellent choice for anyone desiring to get a handle on the brave new world of graphic novels but not sure where to start, and a must for every library.
retail price - $24.95  copacetic price - $22.00


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prices and availability current as of 1 March 2007