An abstract comic? What the hell is that? And more importantly, what’s the point of a comic if it doesn’t tell a story?
These are the questions a book like Abstract Comics raises right off the bat. Thankfully, it also answers them. The anthology, edited by Andrei Molotiu, covers the time period of 1967-2009 and is in all respects a Serious (capital S) volume. The cover is hefty, the pages are thick, the introduction is lengthy and–inhale deeply– there are footnotes.
In his intro, Molotiu offers the definition of abstract comics are “sequential art consisting exclusively of abstract imagery”. So far so good. The definition expands from here on to include “comics that contain some representational elements, as long as those elements do not cohere into a narrative.” Also good. R. Crumb is mentioned, as is de Kooning and Lichtenstein; abstract comics are compared to abstract film, and from there on out, it’s best to just flip through the book for examples of what Molotiu is talking about.
And there are some fine examples to discover. Damien Jay, Bill Boichel, Warren Craighead III and a host of other contributors are represented in a volume dedicated to a niche that most of us haven’t even conceived of. Worth a look, for sure, and maybe more.