Comics as Literature?

For most of us (well, some of us) comics were our first introduction to narrative art (well, at least my first). So when the late 1960s rolled around and I was given a healthy diet of underground comics–notably R. Crumb, Kim Deitch, Yossarian, Spain Rodriguez and others–I was happy as could be.        

Undergrounds took what had become a tamed medium and released it from the prison of puritanical hypocrisy. My reawakening came when the East Village Other published Gothic Blimp Works (below, bottom), a precursor to the underground comic book. But even after such a feast of anti-establishment fodder I became hungry for more “intellectual” fare. Enter Art Spiegelman. He’d been around, but he had not reached his stride until the publication of Arcade: The Comics Revue (below, top). It was about the time that the bridge between hippie and post-hippie comics was built when I became art director of the New York Times Op-Ed page. I asked Spieg to produce the page’s first two-part comic (sans words), and also ran some Crumb images that came from Arcade. I also helped organize Print‘s first comics issue with Spiegelman as guest editor (cover, top).

This week Print has been running an online interview with Spiegelman on the occasion of the new publication of his first autobiographical book, Breakdowns. (If you have more time, check out my review at Design Observer.) The interview is well worth reading.

Want to weigh in on the Spiegelman interview? Leave a comment here!

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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