Why Comics: From Underground to Everywhere

Comic book histories are rife with the origin stories of famous superheroes, but rare is the history of underground comics--comix--a subject that has found more coverage in documentaries and independent film. Why Comics? is Hillary Chute's compelling and all-inclusive examination of underground comics artists and how their work has entered into the mainstream as serious literature and social commentary.

Chute (Graphic Women) arranges her discussion of these artists in 10 carefully researched and thematically arranged chapters. She shows how their visual and narrative techniques have affected mainstream comics and influenced discussions of politics, race, war, sexuality, feminism and illnesses both mental and physical. Chute devotes significant real estate to those comix voices who brought sophistication to the medium and broadened its readership: Robert Crumb (Zap), Art Spiegelman (Maus), Justin Green (Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary), Lynda Barry (One Hundred Demons), Chris Ware (Building Stories) and Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets).

While Chute applies considerable scholarship to her coverage of these artists, the discussion never devolves into pure academia. She invites readers to uncover these treasures and read them for artistic merit as well as cultural and genre-bending impacts--comic fan to comic fan. "It's the connection of intimate parts to one another--one mark to another mark, panels to other panels, words to images--that makes up the stuff of comics," writes Chute.

Why Comics? is a delightful tour de force that shares the depth of Chute's love for the medium and reveals why it continues to grow in literary and academic stature. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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