Thursday, June 10, 2010

Best American Comics Criticism

In the introduction, editor Ben Schwartz frames the just-released Best American Comics Criticism in terms of ‘the rise of literary comics,’ which unofficially began in late 2000 with the simultaneous release by Pantheon of Daniel Clowes’s David Boring and Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan. Though the growing prominence of the 'literary comic' provides a context, BACC’s reach is far greater, including pieces published from 2000-2008 on children’s, superhero, and newspaper comics, as well as literary graphic novels. Schwartz includes many kinds of writing, such as reviews, interviews, introductions to collections, historical and analytical essays, panel transcriptions, etc. -- and even a court document and two comics. In the pieces, novelists, critics, and academics write on comics; cartoonists talk to each other; cartoonists write about artists; critics interview cartoonists, etc . . .

The above lists get at one of the collection’s great strengths: it offers an extremely wide range of writing produced over eight years. Although I can imagine critical disagreements with some individual pieces, it’s harder to imagine objections to the philosophy behind BACC and the volume as a whole. While there’s a great deal to be learned by reading any such collection, Schwartz’s editorial approach makes BACC far more entertaining than I would have thought a collection of criticism could be.

(See the introduction and table of contents here.)

N.B.: An essay of mine is included, but don’t let that dissuade you from buying it; there are over 30 other pieces.