Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book review: European Comics in English Translation: A Descriptive Sourcebook.

I've submitted this to the International Journal of Comic Art for the Spring 2009 issue, but I think I've got a different audience here. If not, read it twice; it's short, it won't hurt too much.

Randall W. Scott. European Comics in English Translation: A Descriptive Sourcebook. McFarland & Company , 2002. 401 pages. $75.00. ISBN-10: 0786412054; ISBN-13: 978-0786412051.

Although the comic art form is almost four hundred years old – dating reasonably to the popularity of British satirical prints in 1729 – there has been very few scholarly bibliographical works available to the average researcher. American studies have been particularly slow to follow in the footsteps of the British who began cataloguing their prints as early as 1870. American comics bibliography took approximately a century to start after the first comic art ‘golden age,’ that of editorial cartoonists, but it is growing strongly now. Randy Scott is one of the key figures in the field, having worked to build Michigan State University’s Comic Art Collection for two decades.

In this book, Scott has provided an annotated bibliography for European albums that are available in a variety of stand-alone forms in English. The bibliography is arranged by creator and all of the books listed in it are available at the MSU library. Since he does not include serials, stories from Heavy Metal magazine, which has frequently published translated material in both single and multi-issues, is not included. Given the amount of material that has appeared in Heavy Metal and nowhere else, this is an unfortunate decision, although possibly the only practical one. In spite of this, Scott lists 543 albums, along with publication information, and more impressively, plot summaries for the albums. The plot summaries mean that the book’s index can be used to find items of particular interest, such as the randomly selected “cross dressing” which is linked to six citations. As with any work of this type, some points are arguable. The genre ‘funny animal’ probably would have been a helpful index term to link to books like Benoit Sokal’s Inspector Canardo. Although his stories belong to the genre of crime fiction and are not funny at all, Canardo is a duck.

Scott also included citations for reviews when he knew of them; an example can be seen in the listing for Mattotti’s Murmer which includes listings for two reviews from The Comics Journal. Most helpful of all may be his “Author/Translator Notes & Index” which gives brief biographical information as well as references to albums cited in the book, and source material that the biographical information was found in. An example of this is:

Madsen, Frank. Danish artist, writer, and translator, born in 1962. Annotated here are Kurt Dunder in Tirol (album 299), which he wrote, drew, and translated, and Sussi Bech’s Nofret: Kiya (album 27), which he translated. Source: DANISH (i.e. Danish Comics Today, Copenhagen, 1997), p. 104-105.

This type of additional biographical information can be very useful especially since Scott’s book covers the whole continent and is not segregated by country. The sole reason this reviewer would have for not recommending the book to anyone interested in learning about comics beyond America is the cost. The list price is far beyond what a paperback volume of this length should cost.

1 comment:

dberona said...

This is a definite MUST HAVE for me and my library.