The massive impact that comics have had on our culture becomes more and more clear every day, from the critically acclaimed musical Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s groundbreaking comic, to the dozens of superhero films hitting cinemas every year. What is it that makes comics so special? What can this unique art form do that others can’t?

In Why Comics?, comics scholar Hillary Chute reveals the history of comics, underground comics (or comix), and graphic novels, through deep thematic analysis, and fascinating portraits of the fearless men and women behind them. As Scott McCloud revealed the methods behind comics and the way they worked in his classic Understanding Comics, Chute will reveal the themes that comics handle best, and how the form is uniquely equipped to explore them.

Topics include:


Chute has created an indispensable guide to comics for those new to the genre, or those who want to understand more about what lies behind their favorite works.


“In her wonderful book, Hillary L. Chute suggests that we’re in a blooming, expanding era of the art… Chute’s often lovely, sensitive discussions of individual expression in independent comics seem so right and true.”
—The New York Times Book Review

“Chute clearly has a deep understanding of, experience with, and affinity for comics culture. Best of all, though she analyzes with an academic’s rigor and supports her themes with extensive research, she doesn’t write like a professor… For anyone who wants a crash course in contemporary comics, or wants to teach one, this is your book.”
— Kirkus Reviews, starred review


“When it comes to comics, Hillary Chute asks all the right questions.”
— Scott McCloud, Author of Understanding Comics and The Sculptor


Why Comics? is a riveting compendium of history, humor, politics, punk, sex, violence, and the occasional superhero. Hillary Chute has given us the stories behind some of the most subversive literature of our time. You want to read this book.”
— Lauren Redniss, MacArthur Fellow and Author of Radioactive and Thunder & Lightning


“Hillary Chute is the scholar comics has been waiting for—passionate, eloquent, encyclopedically knowledgeable, and profoundly in sync with the medium.”
— Lev Grossman, New York Times bestselling author of The Magicians


Why Comics? is as entertaining as it is revelatory, and Hillary Chute is one of the most engaging thinkers afoot in criticism today. Ideas tumble from these pages.”
— Michael Tisserand, author of Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White

“Hillary Chute, who may be to comics studies what Art Spiegelman is to comics, brings her academic rigor to an examination of this oft-underappreciated art form. Her supple, nuanced understanding of how to read comics—not only why—begins with an emphasis on the difference between simply reading comics and knowing how to read comics, and continues with a deep dive into genres and themes.”
— Karen Green, Curator for Comics and Cartoons, Columbia University

“Chute elevates comics to literature when dissecting panels, text, and drawing techniques in the more than 100 reprints within the book.”
— Library Journal (starred review)


JANUARY 5, 2018: MLA Convention New York, NY / Signing

JANUARY 25, 2018: The Society of Illustrators 128 E. 63rd Street 6:30pm New York, NY / In conversation with New Yorker staff writer Sarah Larson / Buy tickets here

FEBRUARY 9, 2018: Harvard Book Store Cambridge, MA / Friday Forum series

MARCH 24, 2018: Octavia Books  New Orleans, LA

APRIL 24, 2018: Librairie D+Q Store  Montreal / In conversation with Aline Kominsky-Crumb

MAY 4, 2018: Green Apple Books San Francisco, CA / In conversation with Aline Kominsky-Crumb

JUNE 10, 2018: Harold Washington Library Center Chicago, IL / 1:30pm

JULY 19, 2018: San Diego Comic-Con Free signing in the HarperCollins Booth #1029 San Diego, CA / 2pm


Photo of Hillary Chute by Kris Snibbe

Photo credit: Kris Snibbe

Hillary Chute is an expert on comics and graphic narratives, professor of English and Art + Design at Northeastern University, and the author of Graphic Women: Life Narrative and Contemporary ComicsOutside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists; and Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form. She is also the associate editor of Art Spiegelman’s MetaMaus. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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