chapter  14
American Splendor (2003)
ByESTHER LESLIE
Pages 19

Comics, mass-reproduced, serial in form and based upon a character, are about 120 years old. A few black-and-white panels illustrating a modest gag developed by the turn of the century into full-colour Sunday supplements, four to eight pages long, syndicated nationwide. Part of the polyglot urban proletarian culture which absorbed and refracted the energies of the dynamic capitalism that spawned it, these comics fizz with possibility. Some of the most famous, such as The Yellow Kid, The Katzenjammer Kids and Little Nemo in Slumberland, however absurd or fantastical their storylines, are urban-industrial in setting, or more specifically in New York City or a similar skyscrapered place. It is not just a location. The city, the buildings, streets, docks, rivers and alleyways become active participants in the storylines, wielding a monstrous power to crush, oppress, damage. Or, humans running amok, in turn, damage them.