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Graphic Novels History & Criticism

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    Putin's Russia: The Rise of a Dictator by Darryl Cunningham

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Graphic Novels History and Criticism is a subgenre of graphic literature which has books that give an overview of the history and cultural impact of graphic novels and comic books on the social fabric including analysis and criticism of the artistic and graphic narrative .

Since graphic novels rose to prominence some 50 odd years ago, it has become one of the fastest growing literary/artistic genres globally. The evolution of comic books into graphic novels and the consequent development of this art form into several diverse subgenres like anime comics, superhero comics, memoirs, nonfiction graphic novels amongst others has made it an immensely popular literary genre worldwide.

Comic books and graphic novels were once considered a form of lowbrow popular culture. Today however they are a global phenomenon and have Hollywood blockbusters adapted from them and have some of the best selling video games made after them. Literary scholars have immersed themselves in this creative discourse, the practices of this art and its subculture to provide a social history of the genre in the past few decades. Several writers have used a theoretical framework to examine the construction of comic book culture and its cult following—analysing a wide range of texts, subtexts, artistic representation, and narrative strategies from both theoretical and historical perspectives. 

As a result, us comic book nerds now have books on the history and criticism of graphic novels that examine the theories and histories of the graphic narrative as one of the most versatile forms of storytelling in contemporary literature. Here are a select few books that have managed to give us analytical and theoretical insights into this very intriguing genre.

Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics is one such seminal examination of comic art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Highly reviewed by industry luminaries like Neil Gaiman and Art Spiegelman; Understanding Comics is an international bestseller classic on storytelling and visual communication. A book, we think you should definitely read if you are an avid reader and follower of the graphic novels and comic books genre.

The Comics of Charles Schulz : The Good Grief of Modern Life by Jared Gardner is another theoretical examination and collection of essays on the work of the creator of the immensely popular Peanuts comic strip. Despite Schulz's celebrity, few scholarly books on his work and career have been published. This collection serves as a foundation for future study not only of Charles Schulz (1922-2000) but, more broadly, of the understudied medium of newspaper comics. Schulz's Peanuts ran for a half century, during which time he drew the strip and its characters to express keen observations on postwar American life and culture. As Peanuts' popularity grew, Schulz had opportunities to shape the iconography, style, and philosophy of modern life in ways he never could have imagined when he began the strip in 1950. Edited by leading scholars Jared Gardner and Ian Gordon, this volume ranges over a spectrum of Schulz's accomplishments and influence, touching on everything from cartoon aesthetics to the marketing of global fast food. Philosophy, ethics, and cultural history all come into play. As the broad interdisciplinary range of this volume makes clear, Peanuts offers countless possibilities for study and analysis. From many perspectives-including childhood studies, ethnic studies, health and exercise studies, as well as sociology. The Comics of Charles Schulz offers the most comprehensive and diverse study of the most influential cartoonist during the second half of the twentieth century. 

Gender and the Superhero Narrative by Michael Goodrum

The contributions assembled in this book question the applicability of the gender narrative within the subgenre that is superhero comics. The explosive popularity of San Diego's Comic-Con, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One, and Netflix's Jessica Jones and Luke Cage all signal the tidal change in superhero narratives and mainstreaming of what were once considered niche interests. Yet just as these areas have become more openly inclusive to an audience beyond heterosexual white men, there has also been an intense backlash, most famously in 2015's Gamergate controversy, when the tension between feminist bloggers, misogynistic gamers, and internet journalists came forth. 

The place for gender in superhero narratives now represents a sort of battleground, with important changes in the industry at stake. These seismic shifts-both in the creation of superhero media and in their critical and reader reception-need reassessment not only of the role of women in comics, but also of how society conceives masculinity. Gender and the Superhero Narrative launches ten essays that explore the point where social justice meets the Justice League. Ranging from comics such as Ms. Marvel, Batwoman: Elegy, and Bitch Planet to video games, Netflix, and cosplay, this volume builds a platform for important voices in comics research, engaging with controversy and community to provide deeper insight and thus inspire change.

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