Comics Versus Art (book review) Bart Beaty

191116: this is an excellent source to understand mostly american and some french graphics. it offers technical, analytic, historical, definitions and descriptions, and the ways in which various critics, authors, fans, have elided some work or suggested perhaps too broad conceptions, of telling stories through words and pictures...


unfortunately there is no exploration of japanese, indian, south american, or other traditions, as the author admits his ignorance and focusses on style and history of 'western' comics, and of this 'graphic novels' and 'comics' but little of the daily 'strips' familiar from north american newspapers. there is some discussion, some argument, about how comics have been denigrated as art, some argument, some suggested psychology and reverse distrust with the apparently 'scam' academic valourization of movements of modern art, such as abstract expressionist, and how true art is exiled for thought art. the author does not neglect applying nietzsche's idea of 'ressentiment' of unappreciated comic artists versus mainstream artists...


there is the case of 'pop art', lichtenstein in particular, and the way 'artists' have sourced what was thought anonymous graphics as material for their work. there is some argument about usual denigration of 'female' consumerist/popular art, and how masculinist art ideologically surpasses, comments ironically, on such work, refusing any inherent quality of the art. this conscious ideological re-positioning is by its champions seen as an attempt to overcome embedded prejudices that evaluate comics as essentially low status art, the sort educators railed against, the sort 'serious' critics, journals, museums, as gatekeepers of the 'artworld', refused to see as art. comics had the problem of being popular, amongst other sins...


there is a later somewhat depressing chapter about collection, investment, auctioning, of works such as the action comics which debuted superman, which of course does not show the value as art but the value of value as investment. there are recounted several museum exhibits, the valiant, possibly mistaken but certainly 'culture capital' attempts to define some sort of 'canon', some sort of series of 'genius', which ignores the field and implies these artists are great 'despite' the medium, that they are closer to 'naive' or 'folk art', that art critics would rather connect their work to hieronymous bosch (garden of earthly delights) than say richard felton ocault (the yellow kid), and how academics find it easier to praise 'literary' and 'confessional' qualities than how words and pictures go together in this unique format... there is how art spiegelman declares he must not be a comics artist anymore because someone gave him a pulitzer...


there is the seriousness introduced in the famous work 'master race', which took comics to an entirely new level, or the existential slapstick of 'krazy kat', there is extensive critical discussion of the quite common misogyny of this field, though it is probably not much worse than the 'artworld' in general, there is the interesting belated then conscious 'marketing' of such figures as jack kirby and stan lee and the entire disregarding of the 'superhero comic', there is the fame and art and art-personas of named comic artists like robert crumb and currently chris ware, the rise of the 'art comic' in some venues ending up looking and being often very similar, in an inversion of the 'house style' such as DC, Marvel, Disney. in all, this is an engaging, involving, educating book on at least some art and artists of comics and the 'mainstream'...


final note: this is popular culture. this is not a place to contemptuously 'slum', for much as bestsellers in fiction, there must be something here, something to learn, something that appeals not simply but partly in nostalgia, in the medium of words and pictures together. i only want now to read something like this about the japanese, the french, the south american traditions. this is the best/only one i have read about india: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6462788-india-s-immortal-comic-books

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