Brain Pickings

The Comic Book Universe, Distilled in Infographics

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What a physical history of saying “Good Grief” has to do with superhero undergarments and the pizza toppings of the Ninja Turtles.

Ever since the invention of ISOTYPE in the 1930s, infographics have emerged as the new language of the information age, employing visual minimalism to distill everything from British and American politics to the jazz scene of the Roaring Twenties to major movements in philosophy to pop culture and historical events. And, now, infographics are tackling the wild and wonderful world of comics: Enter Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe (public library) by former Wired digital design director Tim Leong — a charming compendium of visual syntheses dissecting everything from the trifecta of superhero tropes (apparently, underwear worn on the outside is a make-or-break factor) to the genealogy of Scrooge McDuck’s kin (none of whom, coincidentally, wear underwear) to the Multiverse (or, at least, multi-Earth universe) that emerges from the entire line of DC comics to the daily schedule of the average manga artist.

But given my profound admiration for the work of Chris Ware, whom I often find myself considering the greatest cartoonist working today, my indisputable favorite is this “Chris Ware Sadness Scale,” ranging from “sad” to “soul-crushing depression”:

Complement Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe with Nathan Yau’s indispensable manual on how to tell stories with data and Taschen’s compendium of the world’s best information graphics.

Images courtesy of Chronicle Books

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