The NY Times Book Review has been viwed with suspicion by comics types ever since they removed their Graphic Novel Bestsellers lists last year. When the lists were removed, to great outcry, NYTBR editor Pamela Paul promised “more coverage,” of graphic novels, but it never really came.
Agent Charlie Olsen caused a ruckus a few months ago with a petition, signed by 400 industry professionals, demanding the return of the graphic novel bestseller lists. The petition got a lot of atention, but the Times and Paul never responded publicly.
However, the NYTBR has just announced that in April they are launching a monthly column about comics/graphic novels to be written by Hillary Chute and Ed Park in alternating months.
We are thrilled to announce a new monthly column in the Book Review devoted to the world of graphic novels and comics. And rather than sign on just one critic to write about this dynamic and important format — in both adult and children’s books — we’re bringing on on two. Both Hillary Chute and Ed Park have the authority, critical and curatorial eye, and a true love of the material to write about everything from Black Panther to Raina Telgemeier to Chris Ware. They will be writing in alternating months.
“This column will allow us to treat comics and graphic novels for what they are, some of the most creative and richly rewarding books being published today,” said Gal Beckerman, an editor at the Book Review. “And these two critics, each coming from different directions but both fantastic writers with a deep knowledge about comics, will introduce us to new work and new authors as well as the latest from more established ones, and explore them with the seriousness they deserve.”
And indeed these writers are Serious (also both excellent, don’t mean to put them down in any way.)
Hillary Chute is the author of, most recently, “Why Comics? From Underground to Everywhere” (reviewed on the cover of the Book Review last fall). She has written about comics for publications including Bookforum, The New York Review Daily, Poetry and The Village Voice. Her other books are “Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics and Documentary Form,” “Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists,” and “Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics.” She is currently a professor of English, and art and design at Northeastern University. She has also taught at the University of Chicago and Harvard. She lives in Cambridge, Mass.
Ed Park is the author of the novel “Personal Days,” a founding editor of The Believer, and most recently was executive editor at Penguin Press. At the Poetry Foundation, he started the Poem as Comic Strip feature, and he’s written about the medium for the Los Angeles Times and The Village Voice, where he was literary editor. His writing has appeared in this paper, The New Yorker, Bookforum and elsewhere. A former judge of the graphic novel category for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, he recently wrote the foreword to the coming Chris Reynolds collection “The New World: Comics From Mauretania.” He lives in Manhattan.
I’m thrilled that Chute, whose Why Comics? I greatly admire, and Park, another tireless advocate for the medium, will be covering comics for the august New York Times Book Review. But also can’t help but smize a little at the need to hire Serious Academics who write about poetry to make sure that nothing lowbrow sneaks by. These shall be no barbarians at the gates of culture, but educated, sophisticated ambassadors from a foreign land.
Anyway, it’s all good. In a story about the move in Publishers Weekly, industry observers were on board:
Although the NYT never responded directly to the recent appeal to restore the graphic novel bestseller list, Olsen, reached at the Bologna Book Fair, said he was “delighted to hear that they’re actually increasing their coverage.” He said: “I would love to see them reinstate the bestseller list, but hiring two dedicated comics staff is a step in the right direction.”
Terry Nantier, publisher of NBM, and kids graphic novel publisher PaperCutz, said “I look forward to better coverage.”
Abrams ComicArts editorial director Charles Kochman said, “This is great news, not just for the continued acceptance of comics but also for the New York Times. I can’t think of two more qualified individuals who come at the medium with more diverse backgrounds. I hope that it is indeed a sign that the Times is expanding their coverage of comics.”
And so a new chapter is written!
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.