Monitor is an irregularly published overview of publications from the previous six months that may be of relevance to comics studies scholars. The introductory texts are the respective publishers’. Do you have suggestions or information on new releases that have been overlooked and should be introduced on our website? Please let us know via email: email@example.com.
→ See previous Monitor posts.
Desegregating Comics: Debating Blackness in the Golden Age of American Comics
Qiana Whitted (ed.)
Rutgers University Press
“Some comics fans view the industry’s Golden Age (1930s-1950s) as a challenging time when it comes to representations of race, an era when the few Black characters appeared as brutal savages, devious witch doctors, or unintelligible minstrels. Yet the true portrait is more complex and reveals that even as caricatures predominated, some Golden Age comics creators offered more progressive and nuanced depictions of Black people.
Desegregating Comics assembles a team of leading scholars to explore how debates about the representation of Blackness shaped both the production and reception of Golden Age comics. Some essays showcase rare titles like Negro Romance and consider the formal innovations introduced by Black comics creators like Matt Baker and Alvin Hollingsworth, while others examine the treatment of race in the work of such canonical cartoonists as George Herriman and Will Eisner. The collection also investigates how Black fans read and loved comics, but implored publishers to stop including hurtful stereotypes. As this book shows, Golden Age comics artists, writers, editors, distributors, and readers engaged in heated negotiations over how Blackness should be portrayed, and the outcomes of those debates continue to shape popular culture today.”
Litcomix: Literary Theory and the Graphic Novel
Adam Geczy, Jonathan McBurnie
Rutgers University Press
“Critical studies of the graphic novel have often employed methodologies taken from film theory and art criticism. Yet, as graphic novels from Maus to Watchmen have entered the literary canon, perhaps the time has come to develop theories for interpreting and evaluating graphic novels that are drawn from classic models of literary theory and criticism.
Using the methodology of Georg Lukács and his detailed defense of literary realism as a socially embedded practice, Litcomix tackles difficult questions about reading graphic novels as literature. What critical standards should we use to measure the quality of a graphic novel? How does the genre contribute to our understanding of ourselves and the world? What qualities distinguish it from other forms of literature?
LitComix hones its theoretical approach through case studies taken from across the diverse world of comics, from Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s groundbreaking manga to the Hernandez Brothers’ influential alt-comix. Whether looking at graphic novel adaptations of Proust or considering how Jack Kirby’s use of intertextuality makes him the Balzac of comics, this study offers fresh perspectives on how we might appreciate graphic novels as literature.”
Understanding Superhero Comic Books: A History of Key Elements, Creators, Events and Controversies
“This work dissects the origin and growth of superhero comic books, their major influences, and the creators behind them. It demonstrates how Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America and many more stand as time capsules of their eras, rising and falling with societal changes, and reflecting an amalgam of influences. The book covers in detail the iconic superhero comic book creators and their unique contributions in their quest for realism, including Julius Schwartz and the science-fiction origins of superheroes; the collaborative design of the Marvel Universe by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Steve Ditko; Jim Starlin’s incorporation of the death of superheroes in comic books; John Byrne and the revitalization of superheroes in the modern age; and Alan Moore’s deconstruction of superheroes.”
Hero Me Not: The Containment of the Most Powerful Black, Female Superhero
Rutgers University Press
“First introduced in the pages of X-Men, Storm is probably the most recognized Black female superhero. She is also one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, with abilities that allow her to control the weather itself. Yet that power is almost always deployed in the service of White characters, and Storm is rarely treated as an authority figure.
Hero Me Not offers an in-depth look at this fascinating yet often frustrating character through all her manifestations in comics, animation, and films. Chesya Burke examines the coding of Storm as racially “exotic,” an African woman who nonetheless has bright white hair and blue eyes and was portrayed onscreen by biracial actresses Halle Berry and Alexandra Shipp. She shows how Storm, created by White writers and artists, was an amalgam of various Black stereotypes, from the Mammy and the Jezebel to the Magical Negro, resulting in a new stereotype she terms the Negro Spiritual Woman.
With chapters focusing on the history, transmedia representation, and racial politics of Storm, Burke offers a very personal account of what it means to be a Black female comics fan searching popular culture for positive images of powerful women who look like you.”
The Archie/Sabrina Universe: Essays on the Comics and Their Adaptations
Heather McAlpine, W. Ron Sweeney, Jess Wind (eds.)
“Intersecting with fan studies, TV and comics studies, queer, disability and feminist studies, as well as popular culture and media scholarship, this collection of essays is the first to offer critical examinations of Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the broader Archie/Sabrina comics universe. Its authors interrogate these texts in an effort not only to make sense of their chaotic stories, but to understand our own ongoing fascination with their narratives. Contributing to a greater cultural conversation about representation in media, authors find unexpected value in the oftentimes ridiculous (mis)adventures of the Archie/Sabrina expanded universe.”