Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

The Library of Graphic Novelists: Joe Sacco
posted January 27, 2006

Creators: Monica Marshall
Publishing Information: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc., 112 pages, $31.95, 2005
Ordering Numbers: 1404202846 (ISBN)

imageI usually don't review comics works this way, but this handsome, compact little book about cartoonist Joe Sacco costs $31.95! A couple more bucks and we'd be talking the same price range of those books they sell you when you make it into "The 1000 Smartest Midwesterners" or something like that. Like I said, it's a good-looking book in its way, and I'm happy to have a cool picture of Joe Sacco staring at me from out of the cover of a biography, but that pricing is just weird. Is there some sort of library pricing that's like the old videotape-for-rental cost?

Anyway, Joe Sacco is a pretty straight-forward, quickie-seeming biography of the cartoonist, sympathetic to his approach and methods. I would assume this is the basic formula followed by every book in this series -- Colleen Doran, Will Eisner, Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman and Bryan Talbot are the others -- although I'd be highly amused if the other volumes castigated their subjects for not approaching their comics like a journalist. Monica Marshall's work is breezy and serviceable, but it's not very deep, particularly in terms of digging into Sacco's work, and it's not very comics-savvy. For instance, she has Gary Groth and Kim Thompson creating Fantagraphics while in Los Angeles. L.A. is were Joe worked for the company on staff but for Fantagraphics the stop in Southern California followed nearly 10 years in Maryland and Connecticut. The overall impact is nothing you wouldn't feel after reading a long magazine article or by picking up one of his great Comics Journal interviews; I can't imagine a general readership, or even the vast majority of the comics readership out there, being very interested, but I suppose it serves as a nice synthesis of sources and a decent first-stop if you were doing research on its subject.