Brian Cremins, English, has co-edited a new book with Brannon Costello from Louisiana State University called The Other 1980s: Reframing Comics’ Crucial Decade. Featuring 20 essays by scholars from North America and Europe, this collection focuses on overlooked and obscure comics and graphic novels from the 1980s. These important comics have been overshadowed by more popular and canonical titles from the era like Watchmen, Maus, and The Dark Knight Returns.
“One of our goals with the collection was to bring together a diverse group of scholars to write about a diverse group of artists and titles, including comics by women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ creators,” said Cremins. “The book features essays on Wendy Pini’s Elfquest, Katherine Collins’s Neil the Horse, P. Craig Russell’s opera comics, Barbara Slate’s Angel Love, and Trina Robbins’s California Girls. There are also essays on pioneer African American independent publisher and cartoonist Reggie Byers, who was one of the first American artists to popularize the Japanese manga style of art in the U.S. Other articles focus on comics about the AIDS crisis, representations of Indigenous characters, and the connections between the Wimmen’s Comix collective and the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s.”
The collection also features an article by Harper’s Meg King, English, on depictions of the Vietnam War in comics like The ‘Nam, Real War Stories, and G.I. Joe.
Said Cremins, “Brannon and I started on this project in the fall of 2017, and we received the peer review for the book last March, just a couple of weeks before the pandemic lockdowns began. We were lucky to have awesome writers like Meg onboard so that we were able to keep the project on schedule.”
The illustration on the book’s cover was drawn by award-winning, Evanston-based cartoonist Keiler Roberts, and the cover itself was designed by Michelle Neustrom, who also typeset the book’s interior. In tribute to the work of cartoonists like Katherine Collins, Trina Robbins, Barb Rausch, and Bill Woggon, Roberts also crafted line illustrations of paper dolls for each of the five sections of the collection. “I think this might be the first book from a scholarly press that has paper dolls you can cut out, color, and dress up,” Cremins says.