Complaining about the Zinn-Buhle-Konopacki People’s History of American Empire put me in mind of a side issue. I refer to Rius’s works and the Beginners series as comic books. But they aren’t, because in my view a comic book must center around a narrative or argument conducted by a series of pictures. Words will be involved too, in most cases, but the chain of pictures really makes up the comic’s spine. Rius and the Beginners series do something else. The text, skimpy as it is, carries the reader from point to point; the pictures, big as they are, provide a counterpoint to the text. What do you call a book like that? A comic, if you’re blogging and in a hurry, but the term doesn’t really fit.

Realize that there are exceptions to this rule. Steve Gerber or Neil Gaiman or a bunch of other guys may take a break from image-to-image sequencing and bung in a number of pages where text carries the day and pictures are there as dressing. You might then argue that a given issue of Howard the Duck or Miracleman is a comic book from pages x to xx, something else for a while, and then back to being a comic again. But life is tedious enough.

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