Comic Collecting Scholarship Annotated Bibliography

15 Apr

So, after a couple months of waiting, the winners of the Book Collecting Scholarship were announced today at a reception.  I didn’t win, but I got some free cookies, a free bag, a free mug, and my name on things.  Of course, my name was misspelled, but oh well.  Anyway, I figure I’ll let you guys in on the annotated bibliography I made.  These are in order by how I feel the most pertain to the field of studying Sequential Art.  They are not a list of my favorites.  If this was a list of my favorites, then Dark Knight Returns would be nowhere near this list.

Anyway, keep in mind that I wrote this a month or two ago and many of these have changed or should be reordered, etc, because I get new books nearly every week.  I hope you enjoy:


McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. New York: Kitchen Sink Press, 1994.

This graphic novel by McCloud has been the impetus for much of comic scholarship.  Not only does he go into the history of sequential storytelling and show describe the techniques, he displays the techniques through the medium.  A pivotal book in any collection of comic scholarship.


Duncan, Randy and Matthew J. Smith. The Power of Comics: History, Form & Culture. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2009.

Duncan and Smith structure their recent book as a lesson guide for teaching a class on Graphic Storytelling.  The book is informative, helpful, and a packed guide to discovering the inherent qualities sequential art provides.


Wright, Bradford. Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Wright is one of the top Comic Historians in the field and his 2001 one book reprinted with another chapter in 2003 proves that he knows the complex and rich history surrounding the birth of comics to present day.  This book acts as an outline of history.


Hajdu, David. Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

The main emphasis in the new book by Hajdu focuses on HOW comics and the crisis around comics in the 50s shaped American culture.  This book is very important in understanding how a media form of sequential art can have such a large impact on the public sphere.


Pustz, Matthew. Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1999.

There is a lot of mystery and stereotypes involved in the Fanboy realm of comic books where fans will memorize their favorite letterers.  Pustz focuses on these unique qualities while also demonstrating how Comics affect both the culture of its fans and the surrounding culture.


Heer, Jeet and Kent Worcester, eds. A Comic Studies Reader. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009.

This collection contains critical and mostly recent essays on the field of sequential art.  These essays range on the effects of the medium on the public to the specifics of certain artistic techniques in different books.  The book is very useful to show that journals can be created for the specific study of Comics and/or sequential art.


Jones, Gerard. Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book. New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Another book delves into the history and origin of comic books.  Jones, however, uncovers some other interesting tidbits like how comic books were related to organized crime, and comments how comic books helped shape American culture.


Versaci, Rocco. This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics as Literature. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc, 2007.

Versaci explores the techniques of comics and sequential art storytelling while also coming to the conclusion that the medium remains in a special field of its own in terms of art equal to all other forms.



Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. New York: Pantheon Books, 1992.

No other biographical work deeply resonates with as many people as Spiegelman expressing his father’s past in the concentration camps of WWII and living as a Jew.  Spiegelman does not just tell a story, but he heavily uses metaphors like his characters being mice to further the power that resides in the medium.


Peeters, Frederik. Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008.

A personal favorite, Peeters delicately reveals the autobiographical history of him falling in love with someone who is HIV Positive.  The graphic novel explores the human condition of disease while showing that love can exist in any form.  Blue Pills takes the comic medium and explores the use of contrast and brushes with each page worthy of being in a museum.


Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.

Perhaps one of the most famous graphic novels, Persepolis also is an autobiographical investigation at childhood, government, and responsibility.  The graphic novel provides an insight into Iran and politics while giving a great story about a rebellious girl.


Waid, Mark, writer. Kingdom Come. Illustrated by Alex Ross. New York: DC Comics, 1997.

Iconic may be the best way to describe Waid and Ross’s Kingdom Come.  The graphic novel delves straight into the heart of how religion could possibly exist or function in a world of superheroes.  The work distinguishes itself with painted artwork by Ross showing that Comics are more than just “funny books.”


McCloud, Scott. Reinventing Comics. New York: HarperCollins Books, 2000.

McCloud’s follow up to his groundbreaking Understanding Comics, the work mostly discusses the new possibilities that new technology provides in creating comics.  McCloud suggests revolutionary new ideas where comics can become more than just drawings on a piece of paper: such as, his infinite canvas idea for a computer monitor.


Miller, Frank, writer. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Illustrated by Klaus Janson. Colored by Lynn Varley. New York: DC Comics, 1986.

The graphic novel that basically revolutionized storytelling in the 80s on the same level as Watchmen is presented by Miller as the idea of “what if Batman retired for a long time, and then came back after being disgusted about how things were going with the government.” Miller freshly presents Superman as a fascist and government tool, while Batman fights dirty and snarls.


Zulli, Michael. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Soul’s Winter. Massachusetts: Mirage Publishing Inc, 2007.

Honor.  The mysticism and re-imagining of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Michael Zulli put them back in the Samurai-era of Japan where the characters are abominations fighting against the community.  The work explores what humanity actually means while displaying honor among enemies.


Seagle, Steven T., writer. It’s a Bird…. Illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen. New York: DC Comics, 2004.

A graphic novel that uncovers and challenges the need for superheroes, especially the big one of Superman, while simultaneously delivering an emotional powerhouse in the context of family and chronic illness.


Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. New York: Picador, 2000.

The fictional novel by Chabon covers some real life stories while showing the pressures of working in the comic business back in the day.  Chabon truly does a lot of his research to provide a fairly accurate portrayal.


Busiek, Kurt, writer. Marvels. Illustrated by Alex Ross. New York: Marvel Comics, 1994.

Marvels shows what a somewhat ordinary human (a photographer) feels during some of the massive events of the early Marvel comics.  The lead character often questions the use of superheroes when the public either admires them or hates them and switches between the two so frequently.  He questions what his purpose in the world is if there are people inherently better than him while he capitalizes on the success of his photographs of superheroes.


McCloud, Scott. Zot!: The Complete Black and White Collection. New Yorker: Harper, 2008.

A love note to a bygone era of comics that is filled with nostalgia, but still creates new meanings and techniques for the medium.


Meltzer, Brad, writer. Identity Crisis. Illustrated by Rags Morales. Inked by Michael Bair. Colored by Alex Sinclair. New York: DC Comics, 2005.

Identity Crisis was the hot storyline of 2004 for DC Comics which shows the mistrust between the superhero community.  The work also uncovers the single driving factor in most superheroes that makes them take up a suit and go out in public to try to help.  The storyline would continue to influence other stories for DC for years to come and still resonates within many titles.


Knowles, Christopher. Our Gods Wear Spandex: The Secret History of Comic Book Heroes. San Francisco: Weiser Books, 2007.

The book is an outline of how occultism and other beliefs have been influencing comics and their creators for years.


Carré, Lilli. Tales of Woodsman Pete with Full Particulars. Marietta, Georgia: Top Shelf Productions, 2006.

Delicately beautiful is the best way to describe this work.  The small graphic novel switches focus between Woodsman Pete and Paul Bunyan.  Her sweeping illustrations convey sinking loneliness juxtaposed next to simple pleasures.


Starlin, Jim, writer. Batman: A Death in the Family. Illustrated by Jim Aparo. Inked by Mike DeCarlo. Colored by Adrienne Roy. New York: DC Comics, 1988.

This book is not as important for the content, but for the events surrounding it.  The storyline involves the death of the second Robin, Jason Todd.  However, readers were given a choice to either kill him or save him by calling a hotline, and they ultimately killed him off.  The comic shows implications on how narratives and private feelings cross into the social sphere.


Eastman, Kevin and Laird, Peter, writers and illustrators. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Vol. 1 Issue 1. Massachusetts: Mirage Publishing, 1984.

A phenomenal sensation that has spawned a multi-million dollar property, the TMNT began as turtles with ninja capabilities who needed to avenge their sensei with a small amount of cash and 3,000 copies.  The issue is a prime example of independent publishing within the medium.


Gillen, Kieron, writer. Phonogram: The Singles Club. Illustrated by Jamie McKelvie. Canada: Image Comics, Inc., 2010.

Music and comics blend in this revolutionary collection of seven stories all taking place in the same core setting with the same core characters with each story focusing on a different perspective of the same events.  The comic works to promote that comics aren’t all about superheroes and to showcase the amount of detail that can be put into a single page.


Rogers, James. The Dictionary of Clichés. New York: Ballantine Books, 1985.

Incredibly helpful to figure out the off references sometimes in books, Rogers goes into the history of each and every cliché he can find and describes what they mean.


Laird, Peter, writer. TMNT: Vol. 4 Issue 30. Illustrated by Jim Lawson. Massachusetts: Mirage Publishing, 2009.

A personal favorite because my second letter for the comic (also had one printed in issue 29) is printed, and an illustration of Leonardo by Jim Lawson graces the back cover.


DeMatteis, J.M., writer. The Life and Times of Savior 28. Illustrated by Mike Cavallaro. New York: IDW Publishing, 2009.

Probably the best storyline of 2009, DeMatteis deconstructs the superhero myth as Savior 28 goes through a change in beliefs to advocate for peace instead of violence leading him to become an outcast because he is not beating people up, anymore.  This comic shows why superheroes are still important in comics, but describes that some may just have to change.


Lawson, Jim. Illustration of Ninja Turtle Leonardo in a Jungle. 2009.

I recently did an interview with Jim Lawson, illustrator for the past 20+ years of the Ninja Turtles comics, on my blog.  Afterwards, I commissioned him to do this piece for me, and it continues to inspire me that comics are worth something.


Dooney, Michael. Illustration of Ninja Turtle Leonardo and New York. 2009.

I commissioned this illustration shortly after the Lawson piece from Michael Dooney.  The artwork graces my room to also keep me going in my studies.


1. The Language of Comics: Word and Image edited by Robin Varnum and Christina T. Gibbons

Collects essays on comics and things related to the medium of sequential art: covering a ride range of topics from the Yellow Kid to the Road Runner.

2. Arguing Comics: Literary Masters on a Popular Medium edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester

Includes essays from throughout the century all the way back from the twenties with the purpose of displaying that sequential arts studies did not just begin after Maus.

3. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk

Another person’s view on how and what sequential art means with a criticism of artists, genres, etc.  The book gives a little bit of everything.

4. The System of Comics by Thierry Groensteen

A book devoted to the intricacies of sequential art which provides examples from all over the world.  A more modern version of “Understanding Comics.”

5. The Walking Dead Compendium Volume 1 by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

Collects the first forty eight issues of the compelling Image comic book series which explores what human nature may become in times of distress.  Not just a typical “zombie” book, it often echoes of absurdism and is prompted forward by the emotional side of the characters rather than useless killing with tally marks.


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