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Reading Comics


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About the Author

Douglas Wolk writes about comics and music for publications including the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, Salon, and The Believer. He lives in Portland, Oregon.


As the graphic novel flourishes and gains legitimacy as an art form, serious comics criticism is an inevitable byproduct, and PW contributing editor Wolk's analytical discourse is a welcome starting point. The volume contains two sections: "Theory and History," an explanation of comics as a medium and an overview of its evolution, and "Reviews and Commentary," a diverse examination of creators and works. This section spans Will Eisner's pioneering efforts as well as the groundbreaking modern comics by the Hernandez brothers, Chris Ware and Alison Bechdel. Since there are decades worth of books already focusing on the superhero genre, the raw clay from which the comics industry was built, the relatively short shrift given to the spandex oeuvre's insular mythologies is a wise choice that allows the nonfan a glimpse into the wider range that comics commands. Wolk's insightful observations offer much to ponder, perhaps more than can be fully addressed in one volume, but the thoughtful criticism and knowledgeable historical overview give much-needed context for the emerging medium. B&w illus. (July) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"(A) welcome contribution to the field." Metro "(Douglas Wolk) writes sensitively about the awe-inspiring amount of time and effort it takes to write and draw a graphic novel, an ill-rewarded job that's only ever done for the love of it". Sunday Telegraph "(Douglas Wolk's) writing style is breezy and engaging... This enthusiasm is Reading Comics' main selling-point. It should do well among a twenty-something demographic that is starting to explore the field for the first time..." Observer "Douglas Wolk is an evangelist for comic books. In his authoritative, passionately argued Reading Comics, he draws our attention to a spectrum of creations that promise at least the equal of that of much contemporary literature. Wolk makes a likeable and unpretentious guide, never hectoring or waxing polemical, and his enthusiastically imparted knowledge should ensure that readers go on to investigate his recommendations." TLS "Critics in any artistic field could learn from Wolk's willingness to express not just appreciation but joy. His enthusiasm is as infectious as it is refreshing... Wolk knows comics as well as he loves them. He has a keen eye for both the surface appeal that makes the reading of comics enjoyable and the underlying patterns that make it rewarding; he is open-minded, bending over backwards to ensure that his own opinions are not mistaken fro facts, yet not lacking the courage of his convictions... Wolk's contribution is intelligent, discerning, incisive and terrifically engaging: not the last word, but a very good place to start." Irish Times "(s)ubsidiary literature is beginning to appear - most obviously Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics, which wears its learning lightly and entertainingly..." Glasgow Herald"

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Veteran comics fan and journalist Wolk sounds off at length about comics theory and history and about particular creators and works that intrigue him. The fine theory and history section holds plenty of weight for both fan folk and newbies to comics. In one chapter, Wolk sheds welcome light on how superhero comics work, why they appeal, and why new readers and outsiders find it so difficult to understand the interlocking multiuniverses that wrap characters, the industry, and fans all up together. By contrast, the reviews and commentary section has more value for aficionados. There are simply not enough illustrations for uninformed readers to follow Wolk's analyses, which can speak largely to those already familiar with the work of David B., Steve Ditko, Gilbert Hernandez, Hope Larson, and Alison Bechdel among numerous others he discusses. A particular plus is Wolk's assessment of how creators work both the mind and the eye in innovative and not always successful ways. Indeed, for Wolk, failures can be as interesting fodder for analysis as successes. Recommended for academic libraries and for public libraries with large graphic novel collections. The first section is very much recommended for librarians and educators new to working with graphic narrative.-M.C. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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