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Modern Trends

Beginning with the pop art movement of the early 1960s, comics have been appropriated in the works of Roy Lichtenstein, Kenny Scharf, Art Spiegelman, and others. At about the same time, underground comics, aimed primarily at an adult audience, began to be published. Their controversial humor is directed at such diverse topics as sex, violence, politics, art, and music. Erotic comic strips found a place in some alternative publications; Robert Crumb's lewd, finely drawn strips, which have included the adventures of Fritz the Cat, his most famous character, attracted a limited but enthusiastic readership.

Meanwhile, the superhero genre, which first flourished in the mid-20th cent. in such characters as Superman, Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman, was revived in later strips with, for instance, the surreal chiaroscuro of Steve Ditko's Spiderman and, further afield, in the multimedia antics of such characters as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Power Rangers. In addition, the 1960s and subsequent decades saw the international popularity of comic strip clubs and associations, whose members collect vintage strips, write critical studies about them, and publish the results of their research in specialized journals.

Book-length fiction in comic strip form has acquired a sizable adult readership in Japan, in the "novelas" of many Spanish-speaking countries, and in the wide variety of "graphic novels" now popular in the United States. In the United States, the genre is considered by many to have begun with Will Eisner's A Contract with God (1978) and continued in the 1980s with autobiographical strips written by Harvey Pekar and drawn by R. Crumb and others. The form flourished in the work of Frank Miller, known especially for the pioneering superhero variation The Dark Knight Returns (1986), and the English writer Alan Moore, particularly in his V for Vendetta (1982–86) and Watchman (1987). The graphic novel achieved considerable notice in the early 1990s with the publication of Spiegelman's Maus, a strip about the Holocaust that originally appeared in the American Jewish press, where it generated controversy for its treatment of such a serious subject in comic strip form; Spiegelman won a Pulitzer Prize (1992) for the Maus books. Among the other practitioners of the graphic novel form who have achieved notable success in the United States during the early 2000s are Chris Ware, Marjane Satrapi, Daniel Clowes, and Joe Sacco.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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