In November 2018, centrist comedian Bill Maher sparked a furor among comics fans after penning a short piece claiming, “I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.” Even if sarcastic, the tone of the piece and its title, “Adulting,” showcased Maher’s frustration with the idea of taking comic books—a children’s medium—seriously. He lamented that “some dumb people got to be professors” by writing theses about comics, a cultural shift that took place “some twenty years or so ago” when “adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff.” Unsurprisingly, this outrage piece ignored both the substance of scholarship produced on comics and the historical shifts occurring in comics creation that, ironically, made them anything but a children’s medium in the eyes of most public commentators. In fact, every few months since the mid-1980s, a new opinion piece has claimed that comics are finally for grown-ups. They reference a growing awareness of “serious” graphic novels among literati, academics, and book reviewers and suggest like Maher that before the advent of (largely autobiographical) graphic novels, comics—whether the newspaper funnies, romance or superhero comic books,...

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