Review of: Robert S. Petersen. Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels. A History of Graphic Narratives. Oxford etc.: Praeger, 2011. 274 Pages, $ 44.
“[W]hat has this to do with comics?” Robert Petersen’s students often ask, as he reports in his preface (xii). Such inquiries are brought forth by Petersen’s inclusion of rock paintings 25’500 years old, the Egyptian pallet of Narmer, Sandro Botticelli’s illustration of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Japanese prints of the Nara period (710-794 C.E.), William Blake’s illuminated poetry, and Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter – just to name a few – to delineate the history of the graphic narrative. What all of these have in common, according to Petersen, is their ability to narrate by means of images; they are “graphic narratives” (xiv). The term – coined by David Kunzle and elaborated on by Hillary Chute and Marianne DeKoven in an attempt to suggest an alternative to the term ‘comics’ – is selected by Petersen because it encompasses historical and contemporary as well as established and marginal phenomena.