Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels – At a time when graphic novels have expanded beyond their fan cults to become mainstream bestsellers and sources for Hollywood entertainment, Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels serves as an exhaustive exploration of the genre’s history, its landmark creators and creations, and its profound influence on American life and culture.
Encyclopedia of Comic Books and Graphic Novels focuses on English-language comics—plus a small selection of influential Japanese and European works available in English—with special emphasis on the new graphic novel format that emerged in the 1970s.
Entries cover influential comic artists and writers such as Will Eisner, Alan Moore, and Grant Morrison, major genres and themes, and specific characters, comic book imprints, and landmark titles, including the pulp noir 100 Bullets, the post-apocalyptic Y: The Last Man, the revisionist superhero drama, Identity Crisis, and more. Key franchises such as Supermanand Batman are the center of a constellation of related entries that include graphic novels and other imprints featuring the same characters or material.
Book Review by Theseus
A Superb Resource
This handsome set of books is one that I return to again and again.
There is much to love about fan comic culture and there is much to love about enthused, hype-laden, personality-driven fan-boy internet comic culture. But. There remains a place for these book: a scholarly, accurate, well-designed, and authoritative assemblage of information. The writing here is accessible while the editorial scope and the organization of the content is sophisticated.
The thrust here is largely successful or artistically-lauded comics in English with an emphasis on American creators and companies. Happily this is not just a super-hero book. There are entries not just for E.C. Comics and Will Eisner and Youth Culture in Comics but also for Funny Animal Comics, Burne Horgarth, Jungle Comics, Planetary, RAW, Concrete, and Seth.
What these books do well, they do very well. There’s about a two page entry for Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos and the entry provides basic background on the series, a summary of the characters, the mention of a couple of major events in the run, a placing of this book within its post-war/civil rights era context, references to guest star appearances by Reed Richards and Captain America, a discussion of how elements of the book continued into Nick Fury, and the distinctions between the book and the similar war title at DC (Sgt. Rock.) There’s even room for this observation: “…the Howlers were anything but realistic professional commandos.
They fought with their fists rather than with weapons and often exposed themselves unnecessarily to enemy fire or possible harm. While the concepts of honor or redemption were clearly used in the comic book story lines, the action was far different than the cold reality of combat were people die, suddenly and violently.” That’s a LOT of turf covered in a two page entry.
Or consider this bit from the entry on Chester Brown’s I Never Liked You: “Brown’s small, fragile drawings are the only bulbs of light in the dark environment of the black plates. Such a page layout stresses the fact that the author offers only carefully selected pieces of his youth, but almost every scene plunges the reader into teenage angst.” Clearly, these books attempt to balance historical importance with aesthetic achievements!
Another reviewer mentioned being disappointed with the black and white illustrations and, yea, that’s a fair criticism — they’re basic b&w reproductions. The meat of this book rests in the text not in the images.
Anyway, two volumes, glossy pictorial hardback boards without dustjackets, 761 pp total, 4.5 pounds.
“Arranged alphabetically, 340 signed entries were contributed by 78 scholars whose fields include political science, computer science, cultural anthropology, English, comparative literature, and library science, among other disciplines―a broad range reflecting the broad range of potential readers. The entries offer thorough information on individual comic book and graphic novel titles and characters, individual writers and artists, publishers, themes and genres (such as the Cold War, crime, fantasy, education, folklore, history, horror, mutants, Nazis, romance, satire, science fiction, westerns, youth culture, among others), and miscellaneous topics such as the comics code, comics scholarship, awards, and merchandising. Most entries include a bibliography, and a general resources bibliography is also included.” – Reference & Research Book News
“Recommended for most public and academic libraries.” – Library Journal
“This readable reference will be of interest to public and academic libraries and possibly some school collections.” – Booklist
“More than 80 contributors helped craft entries on creators, series, characters, genres, and themes, while a large editorial board of comics scholars made sure all the important elements were included.” – Kirkus Reviews