SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Love and Rockets
American Splendor
Scott McCloud
Understanding Comics
University of Texas event
Texas Book Festival
Writers League of Texas Agents Conference
The Sandman
The Cartoon History of the Universe
You Are There
Tom Strong the Deluxe Edition Book One
Pekar Project
Recent Books of Interest

You Are There by Jacques Tardi and Jean Claude-Forest (Fantagraphics))
You Are There Originally serialized beginning in 1978 for the French magazine À SUIVRE, the groundbreaking You Are There (Ici même) showcased the singular talents of Barbarella creator Claude-Forest and legendary artist Tardi. Presented for the first time in English, this nonsensical farce recounts the struggles of Arthur There and his attempts to reclaim his ancestral lands of Mornemont of which he only owns the walls that subdivide the area. Tardi's intricate, cartoony, and beautiful art perfectly expresses Forest's ideas and words. The humorous You Are There masterfully satirizes French society and politics unlike any comic before or since.

Tom Strong the Deluxe Edition Book One Written by Alan Moore Art by Chris Sprouse (DC/Wildstorm))
Tom Strong the Deluxe Edition Book One Mining the adventure stories of his youth, Doc Savage pulps, and the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alan Moore recounts the exciting exploits of the scientific action hero, Tom Strong. Born in 1900 to shipwreck survivors, Tom Strong joins the mysterious Ozu after his parents death. Very intelligent, extraordinarily strong, and nearly immortal, Strong moves to America and sets himself up as the hero of Millennium City. He encounters a strange array of villainy such as the Modular Man, Ingrid Weiss and her Swastika Girls, and the diabolical Paul Saveen. The inclusion of an intelligent talking gorilla, a steam-powered robot, Tom Strong of an alternate Earth, and the rest of Tom Strong's family, further established Tom Strong as Alan Moore's most enjoyable comic. This handsome volume reprints the first 12 exciting issues along with many of co-creator Sprouse's design sketches.

Pekar Project Written by Harvey Pekar Art by various (Smith))
Pekar Project For over 30 years, the curmudgeonly Harvey Pekar has recounted the surprisingly enjoyable mundane aspects of his life. A self-professed technophobe, his decision to begin publishing his further tales online, surprised and please Pekar's devoted and hardcore fan base. The Pekar Project, produces original Harvey Pekar-scripted tales, each illustrated a different artist. So far, eight stories of mostly exemplary quality have appeared. Subjects vary from Da Vinci to IQ to sushi and all told with Pekar's customary cynicism and wit. The initial tale, a phone conversation between Pekar and his good friend Robert Crumb, remains the best of this excellent collection of stories.

What the Hell Happened? Part I

"What is it again that you do?" asked my fiancée's aunt.

"I write comics, ma'am."

She looked puzzled. "You mean like Archie and Veronica?"

"No. I write comics for adults."

The aunt flashed me a disgusted look and quickly changed the subject.

Love and Rockets
Understanding Comics
The Sandman: The Doll's House
The Cartoon History of the Universe
Roughly twenty years ago, those types of conversations were all too common. Clearly, if I wasn't writing for children then I produced pornographic stories thus making me a person of questionable character and morality. Jettisoning any argument about the types of people who create erotic comics, the belief that there was only one type of comic book for adults bothered me. Hadn't these people heard of Maus, Watchmen, Love and Rockets, American Splendor, and countless others that were being produced by the early 90s for more mature tastes?

Thankfully, this perception has changed. Recently, I have spoken about comics at an official University of Texas event, the Texas Book Festival, and Writers League of Texas Agents Conference. All three events enjoyed enthusiastic and larger-than-expected audiences. During that same period, The New York Times added a graphic novel listing to their prestigious bestseller rankings. That same newspaper and most other book outlets, both print and online, now routinely review comics. Major traditionally prose-only publishers currently produce lines of graphic novels. Most libraries and bookstores feature extensive graphic novel selections.

What caused this attitude shift? For starters Scott McCloud and his marvelous Understanding Comics. Although McCloud created the award-winning series Zot!, his fame remained primarily within the comic book field. Until he introduced the idea that propelled him into the mainstream limelight. In Understanding Comics, McCloud deconstructed the often misunderstood and esoteric universe of graphic storytelling. He explored the medium's long history and its context within contemporary art and literature. Using a non-confrontational and non-threatening manner, McCloud related the entire 216 page book using only sequential art. The genius of relying on comics to explain comics successfully engendered a greater acceptance of the maligned media and created a generation of fans.

From the moment of it's 1993 publication, Understanding Comics created a buzz1 with McCloud's contemporaries and comic book fans, but little interest outside that narrow slice of pop culture aficionados. All of McCloud's talent and insight might be for naught if not for Gary "Doonesbury" Trudeau's February 13, 1994 The New York Times book review "Comics, Stripped," which declared "Mr. McCloud's study ends up winning the very respectability that has always been denied his subject." When The New York Times offers proclamations like that, the literary establishment tends to notice. The word was out and most major newspapers covered the phenomenal book.

To be fair, several comics established bookstores and even literary inroads before 1994. DC scored a financial success in 1991 with The Sandman: The Doll's House, the first collection of Neil Gaiman's popular series. Maus, Art Spiegleman's Pulitzer Prize-winning anthropomorphic account of his father's experiences in Auschwitz, was long a bookstore staple and a critical darling. The first volume (1991) of Larry Gonick's The Cartoon History of the Universe proved very successful. But these were the exceptions and most stores struggled with graphic novel sales. Only a small segment of the booksellers read or even respected them.

Then manga exploded into the American consciousness.

To be continued in thirty days...

1 Understanding Comics (along with other factors) influenced the decision to start Mojo Press in late 1993. Publisher Ben Ostrander and I believed there was a burgeoning graphic novel market in the mainstream bookstores. We were off by about a decade.

Copyright © 2009 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century. He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide