PRINT Summer 2014


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 would shock fathers of eight-year-old boys. If you made an ambitious, difficult comic for grownups, nobody would publish and distribute it, and nobody would find out about it if you did.

Then, around 1968, came the Underground: comix with an x, eager to break taboos and free to invent, exemplified

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