Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Comics and sequential art have been taken increasingly seriously by the American cultural establishment in recent decades. The appearance of landmark works by Daniel Clowes (Ghost World), Will Eisner (A Contract with God), Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis), and Art Spiegelman (Maus) has done much to open readers' eyes to possibilities of comics as a medium that doesn't have to be defined by subject matter any more than painting or poetry. Concurrent with this increase in respect, many nonfiction books have emerged analyzing comics, discussing their techniques and development, and profiling their creators. Todd Hignite's In the Studio falls into the last category, featuring profiles of nine prominent comics creators.
This book is a joy to read, from its glossy, well-printed pages to the kaleidoscope of artwork created by the featured artists and that inspired them. Every page you turn displays something new and interesting that you've never seen or thought about before, or more importantly, that you've never run into in the light the artists place them. Each profile is composed of material gleaned from interviews, mini-essays by the artists on their goals and influences, and examples of artwork they consider important or plain cool. Whether you want to read each word or browse here and there, you will find something to interest you about comics in this book. Hignite has done a fine job interviewing and presenting masters of the medium in their own words, and the images he presents bring those words to life.
Two questions readers may have on seeing this book are why no mainstream comics artists are featured, and why none of the artists profiled in In the Studio are female. The first is a matter of scope, as Hignite states in the introduction that he is interested in "avant-garde cartoonists," which by definition excludes those who work on the more typical subject matter of the genre. The second is more troubling, but it's difficult to fault Hignite for making the choices he did. Female comics artists have attained less prominence historically than male comics artists, despite significant numbers of female characters in comics, such as those of Jaime Hernandez, featured here. Though women work in the comics industry in many roles, they have on the whole not yet gained the kind of recognition enjoyed by their male peers.