Some Books for Cartoonist's Day
    by John Cech

It's Cartoonist's Day tomorrow, and if there's a young Charles Schultz or Lynda Barry in your household, you might want to surprise them, for a birthday or as a sign of your solidarity, with two new books about cartoons -- books that you'll also find fascinating, especially if you've got a box or two of comics tucked away somewhere.

From Girls to Grrrlz, A History of Female Comics from Teens to Zines, by Trina Robbins, traces the emergence of comic books that were intended for female readers, beginning with the Archie comics that began to appear late in 1941. With its magic relationship triangle of Archie, Betty, and Veronica the comics were an immediate hit, filling a void that the super heroes never reached. By the 1950s, other girls and other series had joined the rush to popularity. Some of them were super women, like Hedy de Vine, or pioneering feminists who outsmarted the chauvinistic boys at every turn, like Little Lulu. But the majority were archetypal girls next door, with names like Melody and Taffy. The high school dramas led to romance comics, which often carried ads that only a girl's mother would be interested in. All this began to change in the sixties and seventies when Josie and the Pussycats started their band, and the women's movement threw open the door for the bold, edgy, ironic comics that are with us today. This may well be a walk down memory lane for older readers, but it will be an eye-opening journey for the young comicbook enthusiast.

Scott McCloud's Reinventing Comics, How Imagination and Technology are Revolutionizing an Art From may sound a bit, well.... academic or boring, but it's anything but that. McCloud's thoughtful and provocative look at the comic book genre and its future is presented as a large comic book, with all the visual elements of the comic cleverly and strategically used to make his point -- that comics have and will need to change if they are to speak to the increasingly diverse populations that are most likely to read them, and if they are to respond to the new technologies that are even now changing the linear sequence of boxes that comics have traditionally used to tell a story. Talk about coloring outside the lines. If McCloud is right, even the boxes will be gone in a generation or two.

Copyright 2001 by John Cech

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:24:04 EDT

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