Reference: Graphic Novels in Depth | March 1, 2013

Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Manga. Salem Pr. (Critical Survey of Graphic Novels). 2012. 382p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781587659553. $195. REF

Here series editors Bart H. Beaty (English, Univ. of Calgary; Frederic Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture ) and Stephen Weiner (director, Maynard Public Library, MA; Using Graphic Novels in the Classroom ) focus on the Japanese graphic novel form known as manga. In a brief introduction, the editors succinctly describe how such titles are published and sold in Japan, and how this differs from the way it’s consumed in Western countries (especially the United States). The majority of the book, rather than being either a dictionary of terms or a collection of reviews, is an encyclopedia of influential manga works, arranged alphabetically by title. Each entry contains a publication history, a short biography of the title’s creator(s), a detailed plot capsule, and a list of the story’s characters. Additionally, the entry’s writer describes the artist’s style (both of drawing and visual storytelling), analyzes the story’s themes, and examines the title’s influence on other manga, as well as giving a bibliography and selection of recommended reading. Where applicable, the entry lists other publication formats and related TV shows or movies. The book also contains several appendixes, including a time line and lists of the manga from the body of the book (which are arranged by title) listed by writer, artist, and publisher. VERDICT This work analyzes manga’s most important titles to give English-speaking, Western readers a fuller image of what manga is, both through its history and in the present. Although necessarily scholarly, it is easy to read, free of academic language and convoluted sentences, and is useful to researchers in high school and beyond. Recommended.

Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: History, Theme, & Technique. Salem Pr. (Critical Survey of Graphic Novels). 2012. 484p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781587659577. $195. REF

Dividing their work into three sections—“History,” “Theme,” and “Technique”—Beaty and Weiner have gathered original essays (written mostly by academics) on different topics in each area. Rather than creating a comprehensive chronology of comic books and graphic novels—which has been covered frequently elsewhere (and in a time line at the end of this volume)—most of the essays are on specific topics, (e.g., Latino characters, comics as propaganda, educational comics, feminism), their origins, and development. The essays in “Theme” also provide histories of their topics, but are distinguished from those in “History” by addressing theoretical concepts, such as how different genres have influenced each other, or what separates frequently similar genres like superheroes and science fiction. Under “Technique,” the editors have grouped essays on printing processes, the creative process, and on the visual storytelling methods unique to comics and graphic novels. The book’s appendixes contain information on the comics field’s major awards, an extensive list of online resources, and a glossary of general art and literature terms, as well as many esoteric terms—like “Kirby dots”—found even in mainstream comics criticism. VERDICT The essays are informative and insightful, but the academic tone and specialized subjects will limit their usefulness for high school students and younger, while graduate students and above may find the essays aren’t extensive enough. However, because the articles are signed, and well-sourced, and the appendixes are a well of raw information, undergraduates will find the book a good starting point for research. Recommended.

Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Independents and Underground Classics. Salem Pr. (Critical Survey of Graphic Novels). 2012. 400p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781587659515. $131.67. REF

Beaty and Weiner define independent and underground comics as those that are either self-published or, when put out by a third-party publisher, neither belong to a larger superhero universe nor are bound by content restrictions. Even narrowing this field by including only comics that are generally accepted as classics or influential, the editors have corralled 206 diverse titles into three volumes, each addressed with an individual entry. Each entry contains the book’s publication history, a plot synopsis, character descriptions, an analysis of the artist’s drawing and storytelling styles, an assessment of the story’s themes, and its reception and effects on other works. When appropriate, the entry contains information on any film adaptations. All entries have individual bibliographies, and lists of suggested reading; most include a short biography of the writer or artist. As this is an encyclopedia rather than a review book, the entries are objectively written, and there are no ratings or rankings. Lists in the appendixes organize all titles individually by writer, artist, and publisher. Other appendixes include a time line and year-by-year information on the winners of the Eisner, Harvey, and other major industry awards. ­ VERDICT This work is limited in audience by its specialized subject, high price, and large footprint. However, for those engaged in serious research on independent comics or comic-book history, this will be an invaluable resource.—­Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Henrietta Verma About Henrietta Verma

Henrietta Verma is Senior Editorial Communications Specialist at NISO, the National Information Standards Organization, Baltimore, and was formerly the reviews editor at Library Journal.