Cover Image: Comics and Stuff

Comics and Stuff

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most of their history, comics were widely understood as disposable—you read them and discarded them, and the pulp paper they were printed on decomposed over time. Today, comic books have been rebranded as graphic novels—clothbound high-gloss volumes that can be purchased in bookstores, checked out of libraries, and displayed proudly on bookshelves. They are reviewed by serious critics and studied in university classrooms. A medium once considered trash has been transformed into a respectable, if not elite, genre.

While the American comics of the past were about hyperbolic battles between good and evil, most of today’s graphic novels focus on everyday personal experiences. Contemporary culture is awash with stuff. They give vivid expression to a culture preoccupied with the processes of circulation and appraisal, accumulation and possession. By design, comics encourage the reader to scan the landscape, to pay attention to the physical objects that fill our lives and constitute our familiar surroundings. Because comics take place in a completely fabricated world, everything is there intentionally. Comics are stuff; comics tell stories about stuff; and they display stuff.

When we use the phrase “and stuff” in everyday speech, we often mean something vague, something like “etcetera.” In this book, stuff refers not only to physical objects, but also to the emotions, sentimental attachments, and nostalgic longings that we express—or hold at bay—through our relationships with stuff.
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I have to agree with some other reviewers: Comics and Stuff has an interesting core, but things I ultimately disagree with intellectually, presented in a very dense fashion. Part of me wonders if the crux of the issue is that so many comics scholars work purely within the fields of media/film studies, or literature, and the like, and very few actually engage with art history itself, which is arguably the fundamental field at play. If you wanted to study the fundamental origins comic books, you would end up studying art history - you study engravings, etchings, woodblock prints, medieval manuscripts aligning text and art, and visual narratives. Yet for some unfathomable reason, people who consider themselves comics scholars typically don't really seem versed in art historical scholarship, and aren't art historians. Comics and Stuff should be right in my niche as someone whose art history degree emphasized decorative arts and material culture in art history, and as someone who did some museum accessions research on early Japanese manga development thanks to some print donations. 

But while I think Jenkins sort of knows how to talk about 'stuff" he's misinterpreted Spiegelman's quote that mass mediums must become art in order to survive. I don't think art is an elevation that guarantees survival, rather, art is what happens when a mass medium can survive. If it didn't survive, we have an awfully hard time talking about it. But perhaps that's quibbling - even so, a few art historical basic theories would provide the nuance that Jenkins talks about art and mass mediums in circles to try and articulate. Art historians don't shy away from the political cartoons of Daumier, but apparently academics won't touch comics unless they became "graphic novels"? I don't get it. Why not discuss comics as ornament of paper? At least Stilfragen would make sense. Why is "pulp" not art? 

Why are comics pulp, and graphic novels art and why does this lengthy discussion obfuscate the discussion of comics as material culture. I've read the theories of trash/rubbish mentioned (again, material culture and art history in grad school!) but...the relationship between stuff-trash-art-comics (or...graphic novels?) is not immediately fluid or explicable and honestly, this is a dense dense text. It wouldn't be my first pick to recommend for a discussion on the materiality of comics.
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Review: Comics and Stuff by Henry Jenkins

I received a review copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I wrote the first part of this review in one go while reading the introduction. Right now, I have finished both the intro and the first chapter and am currently on chapter 2. I won’t change much about my first impression in regards to the introduction because it is an accurate representation about my reading experience. However, if there is new information that changes something, I put it in square brackets […] to indicate that I came back to it later to correct a statement.
The end of the review contains my insights up until Chapter 2.


Whenever I get an ARC, I always try to give the book a fair shot. I mean, if I wasn’t interested in the topic then I wouldn’t have asked for a copy in the first place. My feedback does not come from a malicious place but honest critical engagement with the book.
I say this because this book was – and I’m sorry to say this – immensely difficult to get into. The first time around, I only got to 3% and by that point I almost DNFed this book several times. Several times! It took me months to get back to it and I had to restart from the beginning because I had forgotten everything except for a few snippets and because I wanted to write the review while reading, so that I can properly explore my criticism point by point. My goal right now is to just finish the introduction and then decide if I want to continue or not.
I’m anxious about posting this review because I feel like there is a lot of untapped potential but too much is amiss to recommend it without hesitation.

The introduction begins with a bold statement. Jenkins quotes Spiegelman, the creator of Maus, who explains that any mass medium needs to become art in order to survive. Jenkins then says that comics became “graphic novels” and this shift from “pulp” to “novel” made it possible for academics to study the topic because no academic would ever look at comics critically and scientifically.
That is bold and for me very weird idea that borders on wrong. I mean, maybe there was little interest in academically discussing comics in the 1930s or 40s but Jenkins never clearly states when academics started engaging with comics. But ultimately, his claim is that “few would have taken traditional comic books into such spaces” and I’m confused and skeptical. Especially so because this is the foundation of Jenkins’ book, i.e. explain the shift from mass media to art and the emerging of academic study. So, I will let it slide for now. 
<i>[Despite how much time Jenkins spends on talking about the shift from “comic” to “graphic novel” and the pointless semantic discussion, this book is in fact NOT about any of these topics. The actual point of this book comes further down.]</i>
The aim of the book is to study how comics reflect on the everyday life and how it tells stories about “stuff” and how comics themselves are “stuff” and in which ways we can look at them in terms of material culture, anthropology, sociology, economics and other fields. In other words: how to comics represent society and how does society deal with the materiality of comics.

<i>[I will go further into this at the end.]</i>

So, right from the get go we have a first contradiction. At the beginning Jenkins argues that there were comics and then graphic novels came and one is mass media without artistic purpose and the other is art. But he then quotes Spiegelman again and how his father gave him some adult comics filled with sex and violence. They were deemed by some to be throw-away products unsuitable for youngsters and because of these two aspects, not art. And then Jenkins says that Spiegelman and others argue that these “trash” comics were actually art that “experimented with new visual strategies, that introduced morally complex situations, novelistic characters, and socially resonant themes, and that had recognizable auteurs.”

As an art historian I naturally studied art in all its forms and what I’ve realized during all these years is that there is no clear cut between mass media and art or a pinpoint where mass media becomes art. In fact, mass media is, like always, a wild mix of artistic expression, experimentation and “pulp” material. Any new art form received similar criticism filled with disdain: photography, film, heck, even Japanese woodblock prints – all these were lambasted by some people for being non-art. Cheap derivatives with no artistry, skill or message.
And as someone who has studied the history of photography, film and woodblock prints I can tell you one thing: this is ridiculously wrong. Some people always be complaining about new technology and its lack of “artistic soul” when the width of expression was incredible. People created “cheap” mass produced things but also beautifully designed works of art.
I am confused about what Jenkins is trying to say here because first he says there is a clear cut between comics and graphic novels, as one being mass media with no artistic value and the other being art. And then in another sub-chapter he quotes Spiegelman who argues the exact opposite and suddenly things aren’t so clear anymore? I am thoroughly confused about his argument because I have no idea what Jenkins actually thinks and is trying to convey as he contradicts himself and both statements have no elaboration that connects them in any way. It’s like he wrote two different text blocks at different points in time and then shuffled the paragraphs around until he had an introduction.

This lack of connecting tissue between paragraphs and segments becomes even more apparent with the next example.

The above-mentioned contradiction remains unnoticed and Jenkins immediately continues by talking about the theory of rubbish by Thompson and Williams, who distinguish between different kinds of rubbish, amongst them the transient and durable one. Some rubbish can be thrown away without a second thought, like wrapping paper, and other garbage can become art and collectibles. This segment is short and does not connect to the previous discussions by Spiegelman. It’s narratively disjointed and thus difficult to follow because I don’t know why Jenkins suddenly jumps into theories and literature discussion as there is no connective tissue between the two, no preamble explaining how one paragraph is leads to the next. The logical conclusion from one point to the other is missing. 

The next paragraph further discusses Thompson’s idea of transient rubbish. Thompson argues that rubbish is based on economic status: one person has the means to create durable objects and forces others to utilize non-durable object that lose value or deteriorate, forcing them to buy new things. It’s basic capitalism. Think of Pratchett’s boot example: a rich man can buy one pair of expensive boots that last for decades and a poor man can only buy one pair of cheap boots that deteriorate quickly, thus forcing him to buy a new pair every few months/years; therefore: the poor man makes less and spends more while the rich man makes more money and loses less, making him even richer.
What does this have to do with comics?
A lot, only Jenkins doesn’t really connect this in a convincing way and goes straight to comics being printed on cheap paper and how people collected them. It’s like, the theoretical pieces that support his argument are THERE, they’re just not convincingly connected via writing. Each paragraph is self-contained and reads like a stand-alone block of text with little to no linguistic connective tissue from one paragraph to the other. 

A paragraph in itself is not necessarily wrong, it’s just not connected to the rest. It’s not a fluid text but Lego blocks put together haphazardly and somehow, I have to read this deconstructed monstrosity as one unit. He tries to build the Death Star and ends up with some Avant-garde-style jumble with pieces strewn all over the floor.
I may agree with some (!) of his statements and understand WHY he’s quoting someone, but Jenkins doesn’t say HOW they connect. It’s not my job as a reader to guess what he’s trying to say, it’s his job as an academic and writer to write in a clear way so that I can follow his arguments and logic. I may disagree or not but I at least know where’s he’s coming from. This text, however, is so confused on a technical writing level that I don’t even know what point he’s trying to make.

What is even more frustrating is that the following paragraph starts again without connective tissue but in the middle of it, Jenkins finally brings Spiegelman and Thompson together but in a lackluster manner. It’s like the segments have been shuffled around randomly and now I’m trying to piece together the puzzle of how to correctly read this text sequentially.
Anyways, Jenkins makes some other bold claims he doesn’t properly explain but I will ignore them because I’m four pages into the Word document and only at 2% of the text.

Now comes one of the worst sentences I have read. One that made me want to stop reading instantly.

“In recent years, a growing number of artists who are female, queer, and people of color, have found their way into comics, embracing this new freedom to expand whom comics speak to and for.”

Excuse me?
I almost suffered an aneurysm reading this. First of all, don’t use the word “female”. We aren’t baboons or penguins, we’re people, it’s called women (or womxn). And second of all, all these people he says “just found their way into comics” have been here for decades. LITERAL DECADES! Since the inception of comics! We have been readers, creators, and distributors of comics since always.
The difference – and I can’t stress this enough! – is that NOW all these marginalized people finally get more mainstream attention. That’s it! That’s literally it! Men (White, cis-het to be precise) have been gatekeepting the medium (like any other) since its inception despite the fact that we – womxn, queer, and BIPOC plus some other identities he doesn’t mention – have been making and consuming comics since always.
But it is only recently that these marginalized groups get a sliver of the opportunities and economic support that White men have gotten.
It’s not that we weren’t here, it’s that we have been marginalized, silenced, and erased from history!

Oh, but it gets better. Jenkins contradicts himself yet again.

“Many of these artists still struggle to be recognized and embraced by critical establishment [finally something I can agree with] that has grown up around this medium, though writers like Rebecca Wanzo (2020) and Hillary Chute (2010) have demonstrated that these new artists can trace a legacy of comics that had been marginalized and forgotten over time.”

Just in case you missed it: <b> have demonstrated that these new artists can trace a legacy of comics that had been marginalized and forgotten over time</b>

Are. You. Kidding. Me.
This has GOT to be a joke.
Jenkins first falsely claims that we marginalized people basically JUST discovered comics a few tiny years ago but then he says that others have proven that we have always been here, just purposefully “forgotten” aka erased.
Slowly gaining mainstream attention after decades of gatekeeping and purposeful erasure is not the same as “getting into” the medium just recently.

I have to do here something and that is compare Jenkins to Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, who wrote The Dark Fantastic and who is a Black woman (you will see why I mention). I also got Thomas’ book as an ARC and while minor mistakes can be attributed to the fact that it wasn’t 100% ready to publish – much like Jenkins’ ARC I’m reading – the quality of the book was by that point already eclipsing this one.
Not only was Thomas a skilled writer that engaged you from the first sentence, perfectly combining academic research with the personal impact of what she’s studying (she does write from her personal perspective as a Black girl/woman within fantasy fandoms), she led the reader through her logic point by point, making sure that you knew what she was talking about, why she was talking about it, and how it connected to the larger topic, her argument, and her thesis. I was never, not once!, confused about what Thomas was doing, writing, or arguing. Flawlessly executed from start to finish and I could see and feel the amount of work that went into making sure that I understood her. Her book was an absolute joy to read!

In contrast, I can barely follow Jenkins’ arguments. The paragraphs are disjointed and not connected, either linguistically or argumentatively and logically. He wrote text blocks and hit shuffle. He consistently contradicts himself, sometimes from one sentence to the next, and introduced ideas and concepts without explaining how they connect to his previous statements. I cannot for the life of me follow what he’s trying to communicate. It’s a guessing game and I’m not here to guess, I’m here to be convinced by Jenkins’ arguments.
And I can’t forgive how he throws in claims willy-nilly without bothering to prove them with arguments or sources. Some of his claims might be correct but I can’t know since there is no argument and conclusion to follow. Other claims are just downright factually wrong, like the one where we women folks and gays and POC just discovered comics, like yesterday. His writing is sloppy and his arguments are flawed or non-existent. And this is the introduction, this should be the part where he grabs my attention, has me nodding in agreement or at least interested and where he convinces me to continue reading.
I have wanted to stop reading this book several times now. An introduction should instead leave you with hunger for more.

And to come back to comparing Thomas and Jenkins: there is a clear difference between the two and I can see how one person has to be above perfection to be taken seriously, while the other can produce mediocre content and get scholarly attention and accolades. I won’t add any further comments about this, I think I got my point across.

Jenkins goes on talk about the difference between comics and graphic novel and again I feel dislike of the term “graphic novel” and I completely skip this segment because it is not relevant to the book. It reminds me a bit of the same pointless discussion people have whether we should say shonen-ai, yaoi or BL. There’s no real value to be had in this discussion because you could argue this point from a thousand angles and perspectives and all be equally invalid and valid at the same time. It’s a game of semantics and, I repeat myself, has nothing to do with Jenkins’ actual topic he wants to discuss in this book.

Jenkins makes an interesting observation: when we look at bestselling comics, then 91 out of 100 comics are about superheroes with a small section of top-media franchise (Star Wars, etc.), while the bestselling list for graphic novels is more diverse in terms of genres AND creators, with women dominating the list.
Jenkins doesn’t offer an explanation. I, however, would like to give an observation. Jenkins says that superhero comics dominated the comic market but don’t actually sell as well as other comics/graphic novels. Wouldn’t this actually speak for the fact that superhero comics are being kept alive artificially and thanks to the large gatekeeping community that is still 99.9% a sausage fest? All the marginalized communities Jenkins mentioned seldom get a foot in the door for superhero comics. Yet, many creators of these marginalized groups create superhero comics, however oftentimes online and in self-pub format. What does this say?
There is a market – people producing and people consuming – for superhero comics, it’s just that the “traditional” publishing world with its gatekeeping community has been shutting down new streams because they want to protect their precious comics like Gollum his ring.
You see, it’s THEIR comics! THEIRS not ours! Misogyny and racism are killing the industry, is what Jenkins is saying without realizing. The huge parallel market that marginalized creators use plus the bombastic success of “graphic novels” by the same creators show that we would rule the comics industry and even rejuvenate superhero comics…they just won’t let us.

Of course, Jenkins doesn’t even remotely talk about this. He instead goes on to talk about the semantic difference between “comic” and “graphic novel” and their differentiating attributes. 
Jenkins then jumps to talking about his case studies. So, we went from a half-assed attempt at defining two categories with no real purpose to the actual theme or thesis of the book to then talk about the “case studies” within the book. But I want to say one thing: he talks about women comic artists in the 1970s and how they shaped the comic world and therefore negates his previous statement yet again. And then he mentions how underground/counterculture comics were important for the LGBQT+ community 40+ years ago…
I’m so lost, friends.

He finally acknowledges comics in Japan (manga) and Europe and how completely different the markets are but his focus is, as he finally states, the US. I still don’t buy some of his identifying characteristics, especially in regards to the readership. It hasn’t been exclusively male in a very long time and the strong impact of maleness has been kept alive artificially, be it by excluding women (and others) or simply ignoring their existence. I mean, we still have manbabies crying that girls and women aren’t gamers, that it’s all fake and for attention as if there wasn’t a whole generation that grew up with video games since early childhood. I’m done counterarguing this, it’s time for him to prove his argument, not for me to debunk him.

And finally, we have arrived at the whole point of the book: he doesn’t want to trace the history of comics or argue for the artistic value of comics but discuss how “stuff” – meaning objects – are used withing comics to tell stories and how comics themselves are “stuff”.
In essence, Jenkins wants to look at how objects in comics relate to the mood of a scene and the personality of a character, as well as how comics as objects are collectibles and what stories they tell about collectors and the society they exist in.
In itself, it’s an interesting topic but after finishing the introduction and the first chapter, I don’t know what Jenkins’ thesis is, what new insight he brings. He says that he focuses on comics that have had little academic attention but doesn’t provide proof for this.

My problem with the introduction is that Jenkins takes about 13% of the book to establish 1) the topic of his book and 2) grab my interest. The last third of the introduction reads vastly different to the other two-thirds –  more cohesive, interesting and relevant to the topic at hand.
If it was for the introduction alone, I would’ve stopped reading at the 3% mark and never touched this book again. Jenkins picks up dozens of threads, potential topics that could be discussed, but ultimately aren’t even relevant. In fact, it takes Jenkins almost until the end of the introduction to state clearly what he is going to talk about.

I’m glad I persisted despite the convoluted and confusing introduction because beginning with the first chapter, things get drastically better. He talks about concrete examples, like Asterios Polyp by Mazzucchelli. After giving a historical overview on how objects (he calls it stuff) are presented in art. A great example would be still life and its significance as exercises for artists but also as visual microcosms of societal values, economic connections and philosophical ideas. For example, a Dutch still life showing fruits and flowers is not just pretty to look at but combines flora and fauna from all over the world and different seasons, showcasing the “fruits” of colonialism and Dutch mercantile and colonial connections. A still life can also speak for the ideals an owner has, like a memento mori still life, or the status a person has by presenting precious, expensive, and “exotic” objects, like intricate ivory boxes, ethnographical objects, or flowers from the jungle.
Jenkins uses these notions to study how mise-en-scènes in comics reveal the inner lives of characters, the psychology of a situation, and the societal values.
In Asterios Polyp, for example, the main protagonist Asterios, who is a professor for architecture, lives in an apartment that could be described as cold and impersonal: lots of empty spaces filled with straight-lined furniture; no curves, ornaments or living things occupy the space. The apartment becomes a tableau to represent different stages of his life: when he’s a bachelor; when he marries Hana and she moves in; their live together; the apartment after the divorce. The living room goes from empty to a co-shared space to a complete garbage pile towards the end. Each mise-en-scène reflects the current situation and psychology of Asterios.

This is where Jenkins finally starts to shine and his writing becomes more interesting, engaging, and readable. I still think that there are a few limits in his conclusions and would’ve wished he went further with his analysis but it was a vast improvement to the introduction.

In the next chapters he talks about other topics regarding comics and “stuff”, including comics where the act of collecting is the theme and the characters are collectors, sometimes with autobiographical components; real life examples of comic collectors and how comics are also “stuff” with personal and societal value; how gendered collecting really is and how pervasive gatekeeping within the collecting community is, which he analyzes by looking at a famous woman who collects comics.

All in all, the idea of the book is interesting, the execution a bit too volatile in terms of quality. The introduction was hopefully majorly rewritten and edited because as it stands in this ARC, it’s practically unreadable. He raises so many topics and ideas that he’s basically writing the intro to twenty vastly different books. However, I powered through and was rewarded with some interesting observations and ideas that sometimes weren’t radical enough for me. I sincerely hope that the final product was edited to be clear, tight, and understandable because it would be very sad if this book got ignored due to the unappealing introduction.
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An interesting look at the way comics/graph novels utilize "stuff" to add to the telling of a story. I like the way the book is broken down to analyze specific books. This is an insightful way to look at the changing medium of graphic novels and how they are both art and innovative ways to tell a story. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject matter or even those that want to see what all the fuss is about when people and academics discuss the graphic novel industry. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the DARC of this work in exchange for my honest review.
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(This review is from an advanced reader copy.)

I'm going to throw this right out here at the start. This book is a dense dense read. It took me quite awhile to read it digitally over weeks. Comics and Stuff is so packed with information and new ways to think about comic books that my brain became exhausted and I had to take breaks in order to retrain my synapses to accept these new ways of thoughts. For these reasons I cannot recommend this book more for those of us who love to study the medium that is comic books. This book needs to sit right next to Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art as a must have resource to truly understand all that comic books can be.

In Comics and Stuff Henry Jenkins looks at not only comics as "stuff" but at the use of stuff within the panels of comic books. To love comics is to place value on a thing that many people find as disposable. Even trash. Those who create comics create worlds which may be familiar or strange, but still created. Everything within these worlds is placed there by the conscious decision stroke of a pen or pencil. If the Bible is on a shelf in the background of a comic, it's there for a reason. If a character is drinking Coca-Cola and not Pepsi, it is for a reason. Character development, emotion, cultural meaning, or something else. It is there on purpose. Sure, comic readers and collectors always end up with books that aren't their usual interests. The majority of one's possessions and the ones which are displayed the most prominently tell us a lot about a person. In reality or in fiction. This is why we look at someone's book shelves the first time we enter their home. This is why a pencil and ink bookshelf reveals just as much.

Last year I went through an identity crisis as a blogger. The site had outgrown it's original name and needed something else to sum up all that it could be. For awhile I leaned towards "Masked Ephemera". Which unfortunately is a word many aren't familiar with and don't understand. If I had this book last year I may have continued with that name.

The concept of the ephemeral emphasizes disposability and perishability, the arbitrary nature of what survives. John Johnson... defines the ephemeral as "everything that would normally go into the waste paper basket after use", while Mary Desjardins talks about "throwaways not thrown away".

Right there is my entire reason for writing. The things that give me great joy: comic books, pro wrestling, and heavy metal overlap quite a lot especially in terms of respect. They are seen as things for children, or those with the mind of a child. Much like some people swear by a self help guru who found a way to verbalize what they have been feeling for years, Jenkins has given my feelings validity. Even better, I discover I'm not alone in this feeling. Innovative comic creators started as curators. No one was giving early comic books or strips any merit and thus it was difficult to conduct any research or education. While comics have gained some ground in recent years and the internet has helped immensely, this time is not that far gone nor are comics completely escaped from that disdain. As a personal example, when I was assigned to write a biography of someone I admire in a sophomore high school English class, I chose Jack Kirby who had died earlier that year (1994). The co-creator of some of the most legendary comic book characters was no where to be found in my school library. Or the local library. Or their resources at the time. I borrowed from my local comic book shops and the patrons within in order to write a good paper which I could properly cite. This was only 25 years ago. Head to your local thrift shop and find paperback collections of everything from Peanuts to Wizard of Id that were deemed as quick disposable reads. But at least they had a spine. Single issue comic books and comic strips from the newspapers had no chance.

Much like the auteurist critics who shaped film studies in the 1960's, Spiegelman and his contemporaries are rescuing works from undeserved neglect.

Those of us who see ourselves as "rescuers" are more plentiful now than before. We also have a problem of staying in our little communities. Sometimes thanks to social media or the local comic shop it seems like our work is done now that everyone knows and respects these forgotten creations. We forget that that is only within the community. Your neighbor or your co-worker most likely still has no clue who or what you're talking about. Or worse, they don't care.

As much as our "stuff" can act as a short hand of who we are, the counter arguement is the items are controlling us. The movies we go to, the stores we shop at, these choices and more result in only meeting and interacting with those of similar mind. The possibility of experiencing something brand new is limited. We become possessed by our possessions.

Jenkins entire book is to ask questions that I now realize are the same ones I've been searching for answers my entire adult life. This book is the other half I needed for my life's answer of "42".

What does it mean to live in a world where in theory we could reclaim every toy and every comic our parents ever threw in the trash? ... What changes as we develop expert discourse around objects that previous generations held in cultural contempt?

Or, in my experience, if you think the things that define me are worthless then do you also think I am worthless?

A sense of worth plays a large part in the comics (and graphic novels too, I'm using the term "comics" as a catch all and others can have this debate) Jenkins unpacks over the course of this book. Emil Ferris' My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Joyce Farmer's Special Exits, Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant, Derf Backderf's Trashed, and finally, Jeremy Love's Bayou. And so much more. I cannot express how much I want to get my hands on My Favorite Thing is Monsters. And as soon as someone local has it in stock and I'm allowed to go out and get it, I will add this to my stuff.

In a section about Clyde Fans by Seth, Jenkins says:

Prior to that moment, collecting gave Simon's life purpose... the sum total of what the collector knows about his collection, and thus the justification for all of the work involved.

By giving these items value, we give ourselves value. If I start looking at (looking around the room) cat food packages. Cataloging, looking at changes in packaging, marketing, etc I not only give value to these items but as author of their history I also give value to myself. By attaching myself to an item in people's lives which will always have at least some no matter how small amount of people interested in this item I am also now of interest to these same people. Maybe there are some who find me disposable. Toss me in the ground and forget. But now thanks to this attachment I have also become immortal. We want stuff to matter so that we can also matter.

I cannot express how much this book has already meant to me. Comics and Stuff really needs to be added to college courses and the shelf of anyone breaking down what comics mean. At a time when people have an infinite amount of storage units and an equal amount of TV shows about clutter it's becoming important to explore what this means and says about the person. I know why I'm a collector, and have probably revealed some of those reasons here. Thanks to Henry Jenkins I also know I'm far from alone and feel like I understand myself better at the end of this book than I did before. I hope Jenkins as a comic loving kindred spirit understands that he matters and his work at least to me has transcended being just "stuff".

My only complaint is of my own fault. A digital copy of this book was provided for review by NetGalley and I really need to own a physical copy. When the world returns to "normal" this will be one of my first purchases.
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Comics and Stuff by Henry Jenkins is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in mid-March.

No, it’s written like a journal article. Nooooo, that I did not expect. It halts the intent of research and the pace of one’s reading significantly. Dang, I had wanted so much more out of this!
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“A cartoon is not an image taken from life. A cartoon is taken from memory. We are trying to distill the memory of an experience, not the experience itself.”

"In short, comics are stuff; comics tell stories about stuff; and they display stuff."

An academic exploration of the meaning of 'stuff' (objects, both real and imaginary, both useful and useless) in comics and graphic novels, that has changed how I view said stuff in comics.

Henry Jenkins, scholar and professor at the University of South California, starts the book by trying to pin down what exactly is the definition of stuff - first in general, and then specifically in art and comic art. The following chapters dive deep into a set of comics of graphic novels, specifically chosen because they haven't been discussed as much in earlier literature.

The works Jenkins has chosen are Richard F. Outcault's Hogan's Alley (best know for the Yellow Kid), Mimi Pond's Over Easy, David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's Daytripper, Bryan Talbot's Heart Of The Empire and Alice In Sunderland, several of Seth's books, Carol Tyler's Fab4 Mania and You'll Never Know trilogy (aka Soldier's Heart), several works by Kim Deitch, Emil Ferris' My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, Joyce Farmer's Special Exits, Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant, Derf Backderf's Trashed, and finally, Jeremy Love's Bayou.

Through analysing these works, Jenkins moves through various ways to see objects and what they could mean within the story of the work - from collections and collectors (Seth and Kim Deitch) to 'accumulators' like Bryan Talbot (who see worth in individual objects, while with collectors the whole is more than the parts), from imaginary collectors (Emil Ferris) to those who are trying to patch together personal history from objects (Carol Tyler), from those who are flooded and drowning in useless objects (Joyce Farmer and Roz Chast) to those dealing with inherently racist items (Jeremy Love).

Jenkins focuses mainly on comic art, but makes comparisons with painterly still life, collage art and curiosity cabinets. He also references many other works on the nature of things, including hoarding. I am not an academic myself, so take that into account, but if I have on real criticism of this book, it is that although it is interesting to see Jenkins throw as wide a net as possible, at times I did feel overwhelmed by yet another definition of stuff, another wave of definitions, drifting further and further away from comics and graphic novels, finding myself asking out loud "wait, why are we talking about this, again?".

The book is very well illustrated with reproductions from every work being discussed. It is a highly insightful work, not the easiest read perhaps, but I found it a real joy to read, widening my view on comic art in general. It has also saddled me with a huge list of comics and graphic novels I now can't wait to read.

"What do we do when we run out of shelf space , when all the closets are full, when we can’t afford any more storage units? Sooner or later, our stuff will engulf us."
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Henry Jenkins's books are always amazing and this was no exception. As someone interested in media theory and transmedia, I found it intriguing and very helpful to my research. It was beautifully written and flowed very well. I would highly recommend this book to comic fans, media fans and literature lovers.
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Henry Jenkins examines comics and graphic novels with an eye that is critical, detailed, and wise. A masterful look at text, culture, and representation. I’d love to add a hard copy to my shelf.
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I was amazed by the amount of research the author put into this book to trace the evolution of the comic or graphic novels that we see and enjoy today.  I learned a great deal myself. I would recommend this to any serious graphic novel fan that is interested in how they are created and what goes into putting a story to pictures. Note that the text is very word heavy, not as many images as one may expect for a graphic novel.
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