LEARN: Are Comic Books Dead?

Comics Impresario and Author of Art in Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures 1940-1980 Dan Nadel Explores the Answer

Kona by Sam Glanzman

Bettina Korek: Are comics relevant to the 21st century?

Dan Nadel: Absolutely. This is the best period of time for comics. It’s a renaissance akin to, as critic Ben Schwartz has noted, the 1970s in American film. The new work being published (think of Powr Mastrs by CF; Bodyworld by Dash Shaw; Prison Pit by Johnny Ryan) is vital, compelling, and inventive. Comics history is being explored like never before by ambitious editors and historians. In an increasingly visual world, comics’ robust combination of seeing and reading can compete with other media on every level. So, yes, if anything, comics is more relevant than ever.

Korek: Why read a comic book when you can watch reruns of the Simpsons?

Nadel: I highly suggest reading a comic while watching the Simpsons. It’s like having dulce de leche ice cream: the best of both worlds.

Comic Book Covers by Pat Boyette

Korek: What does Art In Time mean?

Nadel: Art in Time is the sequel to my previous book about comics history, Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969. The first book was about artists whose work had fallen out of the historical narrative primarily because their work didn’t fit into easy categories or genres. Art in Time is about artists who worked within the adventure genre (broadly defined) — they were in the mainstream, but for a variety of reasons remained anonymous — unknown to all but the most hardcore fans.

Korek: In 1953 Wally Wood drew a prescient comic called My World. Why is he not a household name? What would he draw in 2010?

Nadel: Wally Wood’s work is practically household stuff but, yes, his name is not. He designed the costume for the Marvel hero Daredevil; he was responsible for some of the best artwork in Mad Magazine in the 1950s; and he re-invented the look of science fiction in print. He’s not a household name, though, because comics history is only just being discovered by the wide public. He deserves to be enshrined along other pop visual geniuses of the 20th century. These days I’d like to think Wood would be drawing a sprawling fantasy epic that would rival the work of Peter Jackson for its inventiveness and daring. He was a great one.

A previous edit of this interview was published on ForYourArt April 7, 2010.

by Bettina Korek

Also see Virtual Walkthrough of “Escape to Shit Mountain.”