Pictures and Words

New Comic Art and Narrative Illustration
edited by Roanne Bell and Mark Sinclair
ISBN: 0300111460

Looking for the ISBN number on this book, it struck me how oddly some books come together: this is put out by Yale University Press, printed in China, and the majority of artists in it are European.

The editors don’t talk much about how they arrived at their selections. They don’t have much to say at all, opting instead for very brief introductory material and short, blurb-like commentary with each selection. The effect is similar to reading the wall-text at a museum exhibit.

If you are a fan of independently produced/published graphic novels, you’ll find much to like in this collection (Jason, Jordan Crane, Joe Sacco). That there are no superheroes makes sense; this book isn’t about genre in that way. I don’t mean to knock them for who they did include — I love Tom Gauld’s work, as well as Simone Lia’s and they are the front and back covers — but it is easy to wonder at who was chosen and who was not. Unless you have no exposure to contemporary comic art, you’ll probaby find yourself compiling a list of folks who could be included in a book on this topic, but for whatever reason, weren’t included here. I know I did: Actus Tragicus, Craig Thompson, Shaun Tan, and Lynda Barry, just to get started.

I don’t think the editors’ ambition was to present an exhaustive collection, however. This is more a sampling of contempory work, with barely enough framework holding things together — leaving plenty of room for exploration. It’s a large book, and the art is reproduced in color and black and white at high quality — definitely worth leaving out on the coffee table, if you are the sort that would leave an illustration of a giant robot out. Recommended.

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