The library is a great place for readers to discover comics, and it’s a great place for comics readers to check out things that they want to try without spending their hard-earned cash. I’m looking at comics that I find in the New York Public Library system.
This week, rather than wait in line in the brutal cold (which, personally, I love), you could go the library and check out Charles Hatfield’s academic study of comics, specifically alternative comics including Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar and Poison River, Spiegelman’s Maus, R. Crumb’s revolutionary work, and Harvey Pekar’s subtle recognition of daily turmoils. Technically, yeah, it’s not a comic, but it is heavily illustrated with plenty of examples from the relevant works.
Hatfield spends the first couple chapters examining the nature of comics and making a case for their (I should hope, at this point, indisputed) literary value. For any reader who’s wondered what “good storytelling” is, Hatfield provides several great examples, focusing on page layouts, visual motifs and how sequences are framed. The text not only shows how visual storytelling functions, but also explores how the pages convey information that text alone cannot convey – thematic content, not mere plot.
Dropping references to Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art and, much more often, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, Hatfield takes a clear academic tack to his book. I’m sure that, like me, many readers will think it drags on occasion, especially in the more theoretical chapters. The book really starts to click when Hatfield gets into the meat of talking about the comics themselves.
Though I disagreed with a few points, Hatfield laid out his arguments effectively and moved through his points logically and clearly. Readers interested in comics’ literary merit or readers interested in academic literary texts will certainly appreciate the depth of Hatfield’s research and his, mostly, engaging presentation.
Now, can anybody tell me where I can find a copy of Justin Green’s Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, the only discussed herein that I haven’t read in some form?