Jews And American Comics (New Press, $29.95), edited by Paul Buhle, makes the case that “Nowhere but Hollywood…was the Jewish role so influential in a major form of popular art.” From the daily strip to the comic book to the underground to the graphic novel—there’s a straight line: from Al Capp (Li’l Abner) to Robert Crumb to Art Spiegelman, not to mention Jules Feiffer and his 50-plus year career. Buhle is interested not only in the history of comics, but in the history of Jewish identification in America.
The creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus explores the comics form—and how it formed him. In Breakdowns (Pantheon, $27.50) Art Spiegelman traces his life, from a MAD-obsessed boy in Queens to an adult examining his parents’ memories of Auschwitz. An illustrated essay looks back at the ‘60s as the artist himself reaches 60.
In the most literary graphic novel of the year, a grown family comes together at the shore for a last family reunion before the aging parents’ divorce. The relationships between the characters in Dash Shaw’s Bottomless Belly Button (Fantagraphics, $29.99) oscillate between awkwardness and intimacy, as each member of the family pushes for autonomy and yearns for roots. Shaw’s deceptively simple illustrative shorthand draws a stark contrast to the emotional depth of the story.