A comprehensive, critically incisive survey of comics in contemporary culture.
Rather than a professor who happened to latch on to comics as a promising field for research, Chute (English, Art and Design; Northeastern Univ.; Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form, 2016, etc.) clearly has a deep understanding of, experience with, and affinity for comics culture. Best of all, though she analyzes with an academic’s rigor and supports her themes with extensive research, she doesn’t write like a professor. Tackling a tricky subject like Robert Crumb’s objectification and caricature of black female sexuality, she writes, “Crumb isn’t mocking black women, but rather he’s mocking a public discourse that either implicitly or explicitly mocks black women. And yet Crumb always makes tricky or unclear the line between the act of satirizing something and embodying it.” Rather than argue about the cultural legitimacy that comics have achieved, Chute simply treats this as a matter of fact—a fact with which she, as a fan, is very pleased. The result is a study, rife with full-page panels illustrating points she makes in the text, that will enrich the understanding of readers who know and care a lot about comics, from punk zines to graphic novels, as well as initiates who seek an understanding of how this cultural shift came about and what it means to academics who wish to research this fertile field. The cartoonists have even infiltrated the academy, as the author writes in her appreciation of Lynda Barry: “It is telling that Barry is currently a tenured professor, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, of what is called Interdisciplinary Creativity (the best job title perhaps ever!)” Chute also goes deep into the lives and work of Art Spiegelman (with whom she worked on MetaMaus), Alison Bechdel (whose Fun Home made the leap from graphic novel to Broadway), Matt Groening, Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and so many others.
For anyone who wants a crash course in contemporary comics, or wants to teach one, this is your book.