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3.0 out of 5 stars Before I die? Crikey - how long have I got?, 8 April 2014
Simon Barrett "Il penseroso" (london, england) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die: The Ultimate Guide to Comic Books, Graphic Novels and Manga (Hardcover)
Now reissued in a hardback that's cheaper than the paperback? Curious. So what's the difference between this and Ilex's 500 Essential Graphic Novels? Well, apart from the fact that this one's remit is wider (the subtitle's unclear, but strips are admitted as well as books) it is chronological, in twenty- and then in ten-year chunks. So, handy, but nowise definitive, despite those sixty-seven contributors covering twenty-seven countries. Five Tintins? Seven Goscinnys? What a waste (how many of the ur-Superman stories were included, I wonder? there's no character index unless the character's name is the title) whereas a Caran d'Ache, under one token title, gets a whole career encapsulated in half a page. And exactly how many English-language women are there? I've come across three* so far, but will there be more than ten? The commentary's often crass, to pad out the page ('If one wants to understand the United States, there is a large canon of literature on which to draw. Take, for example, Little Orphan Annie' - or how about 'Times were extremely difficult in Weimar Republic Germany between the world wars'?) When not relying on covers - sadly, half the time - the pictures are frequently delightful (see the sumptuously reproduced Buck Rodgers on page 69) but I'm not convinced of the wisdom of jumbling all countries together thusly, preferring The Essential Guide to World Comics (to which Paul Gravett awards five stars on, bless him, and which is just what it says on the tin) with individual country volumes where appropriate. And where oh where are my favourites? I wouldn't expect to find Ratman, still less Julia (the Italian scene, in vitality rivalling the French, is woefully under-represented), but Dilbert? Monty? And so very many American strips, but no room for Tiger Tim and Mrs Hippo's Bruin Boys (don't laugh - they were seminal) and the incomparable Dot and Carrie? If one omission cuts me to the quick, it's assuredly Wonder Warthog. Wha-? But perhaps the mission to meld the uniquely British and then pan-European phenomenon of children's comics with newspaper strips, comic books (as American as apple pie) and ostensibly adult sequential art (mature readers only? up to a point) was always going to be a quixotic one. And where's political art? Political cartoons - there's grown-up for you - are going sequential: Ted Rall, Tom Tomorrow, Ward Sutton, Ruben Bolling (Tom the Dancing Bug) - if you don't know this stuff you need Ted Rall's (twelve-years-old now) New Subversive Political Cartoonists - KAL (The Economist: a compilation covering 35 years' work may be obtained from that journal), Tom Humberstone (New Statesman), David Ziggy Greene (Private Eye).. but 'comics' (consider the name) were never other than a protean, fissiparous form. This selection - weighted, understandably, towards the present - is going to date rapidly. Buy now! The captions for the full-page illustrations are lame and redundant, the 'similar reads' boxes hardly any better. Blank space is cool

* Marie Duval (Ally Sloper), Nell Brinkley, Mary Tourtel
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