While we don’t tend to focus on super-heroes too heavily at Broken Frontier every so often a related news story comes up that has a relevance to the wider perception of the medium as an art form. Today comes news that the Penguin Classics range is to publish comics for the first time as part of its line-up. While it’s a level of recognition for the form that is always welcome what might be more divisive to the neutral observer is that the material concerned is three editions of Marvel Comics stories, perhaps further re-enforcing the perspective of the uninitiated that comics=super-heroes. Whatever your take on this development (and arguably the prestige of the Penguin Classics line was severely diminished the second they agreed to publish Morrissey’s Autobiography under the imprint) it’s still an undoubtedly intriguing one. More details in the press release below.
Penguin Classics to collaborate with Marvel to publish special editions of Black Panther, Captain America, and The Amazing Spider-Man
Penguin Classics is pleased to collaborate with Marvel Comics to publish a new series, the Penguin Classics Marvel Collection, marking the first time that comics have been published by Penguin Classics. This Collection of carefully curated comic book anthologies presents the original stories and seminal tales of key Marvel characters, and serves as a testament to Marvel’s transformative impact on graphic fiction and icons and stories across popular culture.
The first three books in the series, Black Panther, Captain America, and The Amazing Spider-Man will be published on June 14, 2022.
Each title will be published in black spine paperback as well as a collectible hardcover edition with beautiful gold foil stamping, gold top stain edges and endpapers featuring artwork from the comics. They each include a foreword by a contemporary young adult author and a detailed scholarly introduction, speaking to the enduring significance of Marvel’s iconic creations.
The Amazing Spider-Man includes a foreword by Jason Reynolds, the award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author of many books including Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Look Both Ways and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You. Reynolds is the 2020-2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Black Panther includes a foreword by Nnedi Okorafor, the multiple award-winning author of Who Fears Death and the Binti novella trilogy. She has written Black Panther and Wakanda Forever for Marvel Comics.
Captain America includes a foreword by Gene Luen Yang, the fifth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and the author of Shang Chi for Marvel Comics and American Born Chinese.
Ben Saunders is the series editor and author of the scholarly introductions for Captain America and The Amazing Spider-Man; he is a Professor of English at the University of Oregon, where he founded the world’s first undergraduate minor in Comics Studies. He has also served as curator for several museum exhibitions of comic book art. Qiana J. Whitted is author of the scholarly introduction for Black Panther; she is Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina, and an Eisner Award-winning comics scholar.
The Penguin Classics Marvel Collection will continue with the release of additional titles to be announced at a later date.
For decades, Marvel has published groundbreaking visual narratives that sustain attention on multiple levels: as explorations of the relationship between power and responsibility; as metaphors for the experience of difference and otherness; as meditations on the pain of adolescence and the fluid nature of identity; as examinations of the meaning, and limits, of patriotism; as ironic juxtapositions of the cosmic and the quotidian; as resources for the understanding of political and social history; and as high watermarks in the artistic tradition of American cartooning. For the first time, these classic stories of some of the most iconic super heroes in the history of American comics are Penguin Classics.
Ben Saunders, editor of the series, says, “The comics produced at Marvel in the 1960s can be compared to the most enduring popular music of that same tumultuous decade. Working at tremendous speed in what was widely regarded as a low-status commercial medium, the creators at Marvel initiated and participated in an aesthetic revolution. These comics have now influenced writers and artists across all forms of media — from contemporary novelists to hip hop musicians to Hollywood filmmakers. It is not hyperbole but simply a fact: these classic Marvel Comics are foundational documents of our culture.”
Elda Rotor, Vice President and Publisher of Penguin Classics, says, “When we talk about what makes a classic, we consider the work’s ability to connect with an audience across time, in both universal and individual ways. Marvel’s sustained and rich engagement with generations of readers, one that also provides a critical social lens, a deeply personal reflection of the human condition, and a shared reading experience of such storytelling and artistic innovation, is a super power. For instance, you can just say, ‘Spider-Man,’ and it opens up a whole world of stories and understanding. To me, that makes a Marvel classic a Penguin Classic. To have this opportunity to place the work of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and many other historic Marvel creators on shelves alongside the world’s classics marks a very special chapter in Penguin’s publishing history.”
Sven Larsen, Vice President of Licensed Publishing at Marvel Entertainment, says, “From The Odyssey to The Time Machine, the Penguin Classics list not only recognizes the most important works in storytelling but also places them in their important historical and cultural context. Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain America have become the bedrock of countless stories across media, and it’s a testament to the genius of Marvel’s writers and artists that these characters resonate so strongly today. It’s a remarkable honor to have these important chapters in Marvel history join this esteemed series from Penguin Random House. I can’t wait for new readers to discover these stories for the first time, and I’m excited for existing fans to be able to read the new introductions, essays and other material that will provide an even deeper appreciation of these seminal works of graphic fiction.”