Demanding Respect

Demanding Respect: The Evolution of the American Comic Book

Paul Lopes
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 260
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  • Book Info
    Demanding Respect
    Book Description:

    How is it that comic books-the once reviled form of lowbrow popular culture-are now the rage for Hollywood blockbusters, the basis for bestselling video games, and the inspiration for literary graphic novels? InDemanding Respect,Paul Lopes immerses himself in the discourse and practices of this art and subculture to provide a social history of the American comic book over the last 75 years.

    Lopes analyzes the cultural production, reception, and consumption of American comic books throughout American history. He charts the rise of superheroes, the proliferation of serials, and the emergence of graphic novels.Demanding Respectexplores how comic books born in the 1930s were perceived as a "menace" in the 1950s, only to later become collectors' items and eventually "hip" fiction in the 1980s through today.

    Using a theoretical framework to examine the construction of comic book culture-the artists, publishers, readers and fans-Lopes explains how and why comic books have captured the public's imagination and gained a fanatic cult following.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-444-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: The Evolution of the American Comic Book
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    It is striking how over the last seven years comic book culture seems to have captured center stage in American popular entertainment. Hollywood seems addicted to this culture, churning out blockbuster film after blockbuster film based on a superhero or another comic book genre. The entertainment industry has also borrowed from comic book culture to create new prime-time television series. Children’s television is not immune either, particularly with the huge popularity of Japanese animation, but including American superheroes as well. And let’s not forget those nifty video games! Over the last few years, the San Diego Comic-Con, the largest comic...

  5. 1 The Early Industrial Age I: Pulp Logic and the Rise of the American Comic Book
    (pp. 1-28)

    The Industrial Age of the American comic book began with the popular success of this new art form in the late 1930s. The comic book, of course, did not appearsui generis. The new comic book field in the Industrial Age replicated the structures and logics found in the popular culture industries of its time. During this age, the comic book field had a singularindustriallogic that determined its structure and the practices that governed it. For those involved in producing this art form, it was simply a commercial entertainment product produced in an assembly-line fashion for a mass...

  6. 2 The Early Industrial Age II: The Crusade Against Comic Books and the End of the Comic Book Boom
    (pp. 29-60)

    Criticisms and fears about comic books appeared immediately following the popularity of this new medium. The rising voices against comic books came from parents, librarians, teachers, and others worried about the avid comic book reading of young children and adolescents. The rapid success of the superhero genre and the impressive rise in young readers quickly placed in the popular imagination an association of comic books with children. As Lovell Thompson wrote in theAtlantic Monthlyin 1941, “That’s what gets Kid-brother America to put up twelve million a year: twelve million in greasy small coins, warmed by dirty small palms;...

  7. 3 The Late Industrial Age: The Return of the Superhero and the First Comic Book Rebellion
    (pp. 61-90)

    The Late Industrial Age of the American comic book was a period of transformation and uncertainty in the comic book field. In the 1960s, many in the comic book industry would constantly point to television as a major culprit in their inability to return to the good old days of the postwar boom. But other forces in the comic book field were working against a revival of the comic book market. These forces ranged from mounting problems in distribution to new corporate strategies emphasizing licensing of properties over reinvigorating the comic book mass market. The social organization of the comic...

  8. 4 From the Late Industrial to the Heroic Age: Comic Book Fandom and the Mainstream Pulp Rebellion
    (pp. 91-120)

    In the Late Industrial Age, a comic book fandom emerged that over time significantly changed the comic book field. While not necessarily their original intention, which was simply to express their love for old comic books, ardent fans from the 1960s to early 1980s created a subculture of fanzines, conventions, sellers, distributors, and specialty shops that in the eyes of most observers saved the comic book industry from complete collapse. What emerged from this early fandom was a new direct market where shop owners could preorder comic books for their local specialty comic book shop. As mainstream publishers struggled with...

  9. 5 The Heroic Age II: Alternative Comics and a Rebellion from the Margins
    (pp. 121-150)

    For Pierre Bourdieu the most defining feature of heroic ages is how artists, critics, publishers, and audiences reject market-imposed rules of art; when they lay claim to principles of autonomy and their own criteria of judgment of what constitutes the best and brightest in the field.¹ While the last chapter showed how “mainstream” artists and independent publishers challenged the old rules of art of the Industrial Age, the rise of “alternative” comics best exemplifies this aspect of heroic ages in art. Artists, critics, publishers, and readers of alternative comics staked claim to a radical rejection of the dominant aesthetics, practices,...

  10. 6 The Heroic Age III: New Movements, Winning Respect, and the Rise of the Graphic Novel
    (pp. 151-178)

    The decade of the 1990s ended with the failed materialization of a mass market for graphic novels and some people questioning the vitality of the comic book direct market. And many still felt that official culture simply did not take comic books seriously. When all looked dark and foreboding, however, something unexpected happened to comic books in North America. Suddenly the fastest growing publishing market became Japanese comic books,manga, sweeping young female and male readers into a reading frenzy. Then a movement among librarians and teachers emerged, promoting graphic novel collections in libraries and comic books as wonderful educational...

  11. Conclusion: The Development of an Art Form
    (pp. 179-190)

    Will Eisner died on January 3, 2005. No comic book artist was as respected and beloved in the comic book field and comic book fandom than this pioneer of the art form. Eisner had witnessed the history of the modern American comic book from its first beginnings in the comic book shops of the 1930s to its rise as a new literary form in the late twentieth century. And he was there throughout this history as an active artist. Eisner created superhero comic books in the 1930s with characters like Doll Man and Wonder Man. And in 1978 he wrote...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 191-220)
  13. Index
    (pp. 221-232)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-233)