Author: Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Released: June 2014
Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present was published by Thames & Hudson in 2014. Written by Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner, both of whom are involved in comics as creators, educators, and scholars, the volume is one of the few works that attempts to outline a comprehensive history of the comics medium on a global scale, though it has a particular emphasis on the comics traditions from North America, Japan, and Western Europe. I first learned about Comics: A Global History when I came across an essay by Mazur on early shoujo manga, which excerpted and expanded sections from the book. My curiosity was piqued. Although I now have a particular interest in manga, I first started out and still enjoy reading American comics. My experience with comics from other regions of the world is somewhat limited, but those that I have read I have liked. I simply enjoy comics, regardless from where they originate. That being said, I’m not actually very familiar with much of their history, and so Comics: A Global History appealed to me immensely, especially considering that it is heavily illustrated as well.
Comics : Global History is divided into three parts (“1968-1978”, “1978-1990”, and “1990 Onward”) and nineteen chapters in addition to a preface, introduction, notes, bibliography, index of creatives, and index of comics. The preface puts the volume into context and notes its limitations, though the authors have tried to present as comprehensive a history as possible of comics from the three major comics cultures. They identify 1968 as the year in which “a number of creators in Japan, America, and Europe began to aggressively demonstrate that comics could be more than an ephemeral vehicle for children’s entertainment” and the year in which a rise in comics-as-expression was seen. It was for those reasons that 1968 was selected as the starting point for their modern history of comics. The introduction provides a brief overview of the state of comics worldwide in the postwar era and of the development of comics for an adult audience. Five chapters in Comics: A Global History are specifically devoted to American comics, five address manga (including an entire chapter on Osamu Tezuka), four present European comics, and four take a more general, border-crossing approach.
No matter how thorough it would be impossible for a single volume to address every single detail of something as complex and wide-reaching as the history of the comics art form, but from what I can tell, Mazur and Danner have done an excellent job covering the major trends, noteworthy movements, critical events and developments, influential creators, and important works in Comics: A Global History, paying attention to both mainstream and alternative comics and markets. The individual chapters can largely be read separately and follow a loose chronology rather than adhering to a strict timeline, allowing the authors to address related topics in a more thematic fashion and logical progression. There is some analysis, criticism, and review to be found in Comics: A Global History, but the volume focuses more on chronicling what was happening where, when, and by whom than it does on in-depth critique. What Comics: A Global History may lack in minute detail it makes up for in its wide breadth.
Comics: A Global History is an impressively informative and valuable text. My only real complaint is that it’s lacking a topical index. However, the chapters are presented and formatted in such a way that, combined with the two existing indices, makes the volume fairly easy to browse or search for a particular subject. I learned a tremendous amount by reading Comics: A Global History. While the volume doesn’t go into extreme detail, it does provide an excellent overview of the history of modern comics and presents enough information that readers could pursue anything that particularly captured their interest. At least I know that my reading list has certainly grown substantially as a result. Comics truly are a global art form. Though different geographical regions each have their own histories and traditions, over time they have also influenced one another. Comics: A Global History is a fantastic introduction to comics and how they have developed over the last several decades and how they continue to evolve internationally as a medium of expression.