Stephen Burt

  • Spread from Richard McGuire’s Here (Pantheon, 2014).

    Richard McGuire’s Here

    Here, by Richard McGuire. New York: Pantheon, 2014. 304 pages.

    ALL COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS turn space into time, but no other graphic novel does it like Here: Its 150-odd two-page spreads depict the same place, from the same perspective, at moments that vary across hours and centuries. During the 1900s and early 2000s, when most of the graphic novel takes place, the site is a parlor, or a living room: We gather the scattered evidence and watch (it’s like collating out-of-order snapshots) as families come in, grow up, move out. Millions of years back, the place was a swamp; six hundred years

  • Page detail from Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s 3" (Jonathan Cape/Random House, 2011).


    HERE IS ONE STORY about how North American comics—or, if you prefer, cartoons or sequential art, or, later, graphic novels, the multiple monikers themselves being part of the tale—reached the stations they occupy today. In the beginning, comics creators were hamstrung by early-twentieth-century systems of publishing and distribution that confined strips to newspapers, longer-form comics to drugstore racks, and everything to intrusive corporate owners who insisted on work for hire, preferably involving capes and bad guys, and nothing (except for a few years in the early 1950s) that

  • Detail from Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Pantheon Books, 2012).

    Chris Ware’s Building Stories

    Building Stories, by Chris Ware. New York: Pantheon, 2012. 260 pages.

    CHRIS WARE’S COMICS in the 1990s and 2000s—especially his massive graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000)—made him one of the most widely praised creators we have. Ware’s work was and is compelling in its meticulous self-consciousness about comics form, with complicated diagrams and schemes whose elegance belies the melancholy of the people who have to inhabit them. Yet Jimmy Corrigan had a certain coldness, even a predictability: Its people were smaller, sadder, flatter than the cityscapes and