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Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft and Life Outside the Box

Review

Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft and Life Outside the Box

COMICS CONFIDENTIAL: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box is a series of interviews with 13 comic artists speaking on all manner of subjects from first jobs and artistic techniques to childhood obsessions. Award-winning author, reviewer and essayist Leonard S. Marcus conducts and compiles the interviews. He speaks with artists like Hope Larsen, Sarah Varon, Danica Novgorodoff and Gene Luen Yang, perhaps the biggest name of the bunch. COMICS CONFIDENTIAL isn't an anthology --- it's more like a documentary in which Marcus discovers what makes each artist tick as well as what brought them to their craft.
 
The informative nature of the work very much suits it for academia. It's more of a chronicling than a story. This is more of a resource than entertainment. The book would sit very well in a library, especially at an art school, or as required reading for a history of comics course. The anthropological approach to comics and comics creators is refreshing and continues to build on the trend of validating comics as a high art form.
 
"COMICS CONFIDENTIAL is a straightforward exploration of a selection of non-mainstream comic artists [that will] appeal to comics historians, academics and lovers of alternative and more introspective comics."
Marcus asks all of his subjects about their childhoods, how they got into comics, who or what their inspirations were and generally what their family life was like. This loose template helps to highlight and compare the differences and similarities in the origins and early lives of comic artists. It is wonderful to follow their early careers and note how unique everyone's journey into comics can be.
 
The nice thing about COMICS CONFIDENTIAL is that all of the artists Marcus interviews have been making images for a long time, but most of them aren't entirely well-known to the average comic book reader. Names like James Sturm, Geoffrey Hayes, Catia Chien, Mark and Siena Cherson Siegel, Harry Bliss and Matt Phelan have all been around for a while but, like everyone else in the book, they fall on the often neglected alternative spectrum of comics. 
 
The best thing about the book is that each interview is followed by a short comic from that particular artist. A lot of the works tend to be autobiographical and rather introspective. Dave Roman narrates what it was like growing up in Long Island and the wonders of visiting New York City. Gene Luen Yang also illustrates his expectations of big city life and how the reality of college shattered his comic book-fueled illusions. Kazu Kibuishi relives a day spent in a bustling metropolis. All of the artists contribute short two page stories ranging from a bear leaving the city for the country and a woman finding a feral boy in the park to a block party in a small neighborhood.
 
COMICS CONFIDENTIAL is a straightforward exploration of a selection of non-mainstream comic artists. It appeals to comics historians who are interested in documenting the medium. It will appeal to academics who enjoy a collection of artists works and statements and it also appeals to lovers of alternative and more introspective comics. Leonard Marcus's respect for the medium shows through in this book. COMICS CONFIDENTIAL is a love letter to the comics history.

Reviewed by Michael Lee Harris on September 27, 2016

Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft and Life Outside the Box
by Leonard S. Marcus