Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Fall Literary Guide Introduction

By Claiborne Smith and Margaret Moser

SEPTEMBER 21, 1998:  Influenced in equal parts by Classics Illustrated, the Sixties' underground comix, and Saturday morning TV in a world that demands visuals, the graphic novel has evolved in the Nineties from the lushly drawn fantasy to full-blown history. Along the way, it has picked up a bit of notoriety: According to an August 31 article in Publisher's Weekly, a Michigan printer refused to print Phoebe Glockner's graphic novel A Child's Life and Other Stories. A Child's Life, with an introduction by Robert Crumb, is about sexual child abuse; the printer objected to printing material that featured nudity and that, as they say, was that. The book's publisher, North Atlantic/Frog Ltd. found a different printer, however, and already Borders has agreed to sell the book and Barnes & Noble is expected to follow suit.

Most graphic novels, like the ones under review in our literary supplement, do not encounter such obstacles on the road to publication, but that doesn't mean they don't engender intense emotional responses. At the beginning of the Nineties, graphic novels such as The Sandman stay within the realm of fantasy, redefining its borders with subtly erotic images. At the end of the decade (and century), dreams make way for reality and sub-reality, and graphic novels have emerged from the confines of comic stores and game shops into major book markets.

Last fall, TheAustin Chronicle ventured into the world of science fiction for its Fall Literary Section. This year, the graphic novels are as compelling a subject, for as many reasons as there are styles of drawing. Herewith, the Chronicle's "Letters at 3AM" columnist Michael Ventura responds to Austin artist-author Jack Jackson's new graphic novel Lost Cause, while Jesse Sublett provides insight into the life of that book's subject, notorious gunslinger John Wesley Hardin. Harvey Pekar reveals why he likes Stan Mack's The Story of the Jews, and Marc Savlov reviews the latest Too Much Coffee Man and Jay French's Steel Rain. -- Margaret Moser and Claiborne Smith

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