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REVIEW: The Expanding Art of Comics

In his most recently translated book, Thierry Groensteen puts his groundbreaking theories into practice with a collection of ten essays. Unfortunately the results are mediocre and real missed opportunity for comics scholarship.

The Expanding Art of Comics: Ten Modern Masterpieces
Thierry Groensteen
Ann Miller, translator
University Press of Mississippi, 2017 (original French edition 2015)
publisher site | WorldCat
Thierry Groensteen is probably best known, at least in North America, for his groundbreaking theoretical works, The System of Comics and Comics and Narration, where he introduced ideas like page-as-network, panels and other elements interacting as an "arthrology", narrative "braiding", and much more. He's also one of sadly few theorists coherently challenging the stranglehold that McCloudian philosophy has on comics scholarship.
It's unfortunate, then, that he hasn't applied his theories effectively here.

Eight of the the ten "modern maste…
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REVIEW: Abstract Comics

This anthology presents a body of work unlike any other, and the resulting experience is both challenging and delightful, with major ramifications for the way libraries think about the art form as a whole.

Abstract Comics: The Anthology
Andrei Molotiu, editor
Fantagraphics Books, 2009
publisher site | WorldCat
Abstract comics, for editor and contributor Andrei Molotiu, are generally those that eschew representational imagery in favor of "pure" line, shape, color, (visual) texture, and so on. Recognizable objects and figures do appear at times, but they are generally assumed to be robbed of any meaning beyond their formal qualities -- in other words, we can see that That Thing might be a tree or a body, but their lines, shapes, colors, and textures are what's meant to be important. (If you're having trouble conjuring an idea of what all this looks like, or if you want to confirm your suspicions, check out examples the Abstract Comics blog.)  Molotiu favors multi-panel …

REVIEW: Draw Stronger

Kriota Willberg's Draw Stronger, a guide to injury prevention and first-aid for cartoonists and other visual artists, is a must-have for nearly every library collection and comics maker.

Draw Stronger: Self Care for Cartoonists & Visual Artists
Kriota Willberg
Uncivilized Books, 2018
publisher site | WorldCat
Gathered and refined from a series of self-published minicomics, Draw Stronger is Kriota Willberg's generous gift to comics-makers everywhere. Willberg, whose comics career is informed by decades of work as a massage therapist, dancer, choreographer, and educator, first saw the need to share this information during a residency at the Center for Cartoon Studies, as she reported on an episode of the Virtual Memories Show. "I would watch my students draw, and they would have a sketchbook in their lap, and then they would be hunched over their lap, and they'd be drawing inside a three-inch panel border, and the amount of flexion that was going on was just unbeliev…

REVIEW: Reading Bande Dessinée

Author Ann Miller's states her mission in the subtitle -- Critical Approaches to French-language Comic Strip -- but the book quickly demonstrates its utility beyond understanding this subset of comics.

Reading Bande Dessinée: Critical Approaches to French-language Comic Strip
Ann Miller
Intellect Books, 2007
publisher site | WorldCat
Reading Bande Dessinée begins with a brief history of comics in the French-speaking parts of the world (mostly that of France, Belgium, and Quebec), which provides a counterpoint to the more commonly-written histories that rarely escapes the United States. It seems that, while American comics played an important inspirational role for French-language cartoonists, the power fantasy mainstream was rarely adopted, and formal and topical exploration were much more readily accepted than in the States. Miller details changes in markets, state censorship, the effect Nazi occupation and the occupation and liberation of Algeria on practitioners of bande dessinée,…

REVIEW: Inventing Comics

An under-quoted passage in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics reads, "Our attempts to define comics are an on-going process which won't end anytime soon. [...] Here's to the great debate!" Cartoonist Dylan Horrocks has accepted that challenge.

"Inventing Comics: Scott McCloud's Definition of Comics"
Dylan Horrocks
published in The Comics Journal 234, June 2001
also available at the author's website or as this printer-friendly PDF version (use the "booklet" printing option for best results), released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0  (CC BY-NC 3.0)
First published in The Comics Journal in 2001, "Inventing Comics" begins by pointing out that Understanding Comics is not just a work of theory, but a work of polemic: "By saying, 'This is comics,' [McCloud] is really saying, 'This is what comics should be; it is what we should value most about them.' On the other hand he's also saying w…