Today on the site, comics writer and historian Paul Buhle reviews a new nonfiction comic, Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War, created by artist Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and historian Ari Kelman. Here’s a bit of his review:
The artist suggests that the actual war-time engravings, in popular magazines like Harper’s or Frank Leslie’s, were themselves proto-comics of the violent, pre-Code type. Readers of all kinds picked up the magazines or even newspapers with front page images, and saw scenes of a detailed, realistic kind never presented of war before. These were obviously fascinating, in the grimmest sense. But hard, surely for many readers. to look at for very long at a time. Battle Lines literally, as far as comic art can be literal, recreates the work of the battlefield photographer tramping through a field, with his assistant, and capturing the visage of a corpse.
This is not a wholly new way to tell a story, either. There has been so much experimentation in styles of nonfiction comics narrative within the work of Peter Kuper, for instance, that the visualized path of a mosquito or the repetition of frames (to suggest a certain monotony of life in a military prison) will be familiar as other ways to do what only a comic can do. But the art of being playful in the most dire historic circumstances demonstrates, page after page, how a large event in US history can be depicted and understood, a prospect more vivid for today’s youthful readers. Battle Lines literally offers “new perspectives,” both because the scholarship is up to date and because the perspectives themselves as so fresh.
—Crowdfunding. On Monday, Archie comics announced that it was launching a Kickstarter to fund three new series, and I was really hoping that Dan the Bootseller would weigh in yesterday. He didn’t, but many others on the internet did take exception to the publisher’s choice to rely on crowdfunding. Archie CEO Jon Goldwater defends the decision at CBR.
—Reviews & Commentary. Last week, Jill Lepore at The New Yorker looked at a single issue of a Marvel comic book tying in to a larger crossover “event” and even after recruiting the help of two ten-year-old boys, found herself baffled by the story and bemused by its portrayal of female characters. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of the comic in question, is upset by a few minor factual errors in Lepore’s piece, as well as her failure to understand that the comic can’t be sexist because the characters on the cover face the reader head-on and don’t contort themselves into “brokeback” postures, artistic choices that are “pretty symbolic” to people who are immersed in online comics fandom. Wilson was building on an earlier fan critique of Lepore written by Leia Calderon. Abhay Khosla wrote about it (1, 2).
—Interviews. Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing has another in a series of recent strong interviews with Daniel Clowes.
Heidi MacDonald reports that Karen Green will be taking over the programming at CAB this year. Also at that link are instructions on how to apply for a table at the show.
—Video. Saturday Night Live is Saturday Night Live. I post the following skit for primarily sociological/historical purposes (I’m like a doctor):
[UPDATED TO ADD: The above sketch is remarkably similar another that aired on a recent episode of the Canadian series This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which is reportedly considering taking legal action.]