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‘Anatomy of Comics’ (review)

Written by Damien MacDonald
Published by Flammarion


Before I discuss what the, Anatomy of Comics, book is I want to make sure to clarify what it absolutely is not.

This is by no means an exhaustive encyclopedia of the history of comics as a whole.

What this book does, however, is provide a wide-ranging snapshot of a number of key and important comic works throughout time.

We get a sampling of the Victorian era, to the Platinum age with the famous Yellow Kid, superheroes emerging in the Golden age (through the present), comic strips in newspapers, and weird and wonderful independent creations.

I also appreciated a chapter dedicated to underground and more, “Alternative,” comics as they undoubtedly have contributed a ton to the art-form but some retrospectives on comics discuss, “Comix,”– with the emphasis on that salacious X– a lot less as they were extremely raunchy and offensive for the time (and even more politically incorrect nowadays even if the smut is less shocking). Underground comix get their due though, so props to, Anatomy of Comics, for that.

The actual design of the book is lovely, the text sitting alongside examples of various fantastic comic works wonderfully. One would hope a book about the beauty of the comic arts would present itself in an eye-catching manner, and Anatomy of Comics, is a fun to simply glance at and flip through as it is to more attentively sit and read.

Anatomy of Comics, also delves into the form itself of comics, examining the complex symbolism found in works by creators such as Chris Ware and other highly experimental works in its final chapter. In other words, we get a nice smattering of books from the 1800s up to the cutting-edge testing of the form of comics today.

As I said at the start of this review, there is no way to thoroughly examine so much content from literal centuries in anything less than a massive multi-volume series, but by providing little snapshots of seminal works from the past to present, Anatomy of Comics, does provide a fantastic overview of a great deal of works.

It’s a superb book for those curious about the history of comics that maybe want to learn a little of everything and then might be motivated to seek-out books that dig more heavily into a specific era/genre/etc.

Plus, as I said, it looks darn pretty too.

5 out of 5 stars.


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