A New York Times Notable Book
Filled with beautiful full-color art, dynamic storytelling, and insightful analysis, Hillary Chute reveals what makes one of the most critically acclaimed and popular art forms so unique and appealing, and how it got that way.
“In her wonderful book, Hillary Chute suggests that we’re in a blooming, expanding era of the art… Chute’s often lovely, sensitive discussions of individual expression in independent comics seem so right and true.”—New York Times Book Review
Over the past century, fans have elevated comics from the back pages of newspapers into one of our most celebrated forms of culture, from Fun Home, the Tony Award–winning musical based on Alison Bechdel’s groundbreaking graphic memoir, to the dozens of superhero films that are annual blockbusters worldwide. What is the essence of comics’ appeal? What does this art form do that others can’t?
Whether you’ve read every comic you can get your hands on or you’re just starting your journey, Why Comics? has something for you. Author Hillary Chute chronicles comics culture, explaining underground comics (also known as “comix”) and graphic novels, analyzing their evolution, and offering fascinating portraits of the creative men and women behind them. Chute reveals why these works—a blend of concise words and striking visuals—are an extraordinarily powerful form of expression that stimulates us intellectually and emotionally.
Focusing on ten major themes—disaster, superheroes, sex, the suburbs, cities, punk, illness and disability, girls, war, and queerness—Chute explains how comics get their messages across more effectively than any other form. “Why Disaster?” explores how comics are uniquely suited to convey the scale and disorientation of calamity, from Art Spiegelman’s representation of the Holocaust and 9/11 to Keiji Nakazawa’s focus on Hiroshima. “Why the Suburbs?” examines how the work of Chris Ware and Charles Burns illustrates the quiet joys and struggles of suburban existence; and “Why Punk?” delves into how comics inspire and reflect the punk movement’s DIY aesthetics—giving birth to a democratic medium increasingly embraced by some of today’s most significant artists.
Featuring full-color reproductions of more than one hundred essential pages and panels, including some famous but never-before-reprinted images from comics legends, Why Comics? is an indispensable guide that offers a deep understanding of this influential art form and its masters.