I just recently finished reading A Comics Studies Reader, edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worchester. I’m reviewing this book for the journal, Studies in American Humor, and I actually should have finished this book long before now. Part of the problem for me was that this work wasn’t overly inviting, and as a result, I took my time reading it…much longer than I should have. (I know. I committed to reading this book so I should of just soldiered on, regardless of any enjoyment factor. But had I done that, I may have written a much more critical book review than I am writing.) In no way do I want to suggest this book is entirely problematic. There are some essays in this reader that are outstanding and are useful for scholars, as well as common readers, of comics. The pieces that stand out to me include those written by Amy Kiste Nybert (on Gaines and EC Comics), Peter Coogan (on defining the superhero genre), M. Thomas Inge (on Schulz and F. Scott Fitzgerald), Thierry Groensteen (on defining comics), Pascal Lefevre (on space in comics), Martin Barker (on Jackie and romance comics), Thomas Andrae (on Carl Barks’s comics), Gene Kannenbert, Jr. (on Chris Ware), and the close reading by John Benson, David Kasakove, and Art Spiegelman of Krigstein’s “Master Race.” These I see as necessary and informative contributions to the reader. And there are a couple of others as well. But as for the rest, they either left me cold or made me scratch my head, wondering why the editors included them. This was one of the problems I had with the book as I was reading it: I kept wondering why Heer and Worchester included the essays they chose to include. I understand that comics studies is still a relative new area of sustained academic inquiry, but surely by the time they were pulling together the collection there were many, many comics-related essays and book chapters to choose from. Why the choices they made? Of course, a problem with this criticism is that much of it could be a matter of personal taste and critical perspective. I’m sure that if I were editing this reader I would include other essays that I felt were important. And if someone else entirely were editing the reader, they would choose some essays completely different from those that Heer and Worchester chose and from what I might choose. In other words, every person’s reader would be different. And this is perfectly understandable. But this leads to another question: why create a reader of this sort, one that purports to cover an entire medium? If every person’s own reader is different, then what is the point of creating a reader in the first place? Couldn’t individuals do the research–it’s not difficult for scholars with good libraries at their fingertips–and just find the important or most significant (to them) essays and books and chapters on their own? Of course, scholars would need to know where to look, especially those new to comics studies. So in this way, a reader is useful. It introduces some insightful writing to folks who might not know about it otherwise, especially those who are unfamiliar with the medium. This gets to the question of audience. Who is the intended audience for this book? Is it for the new and relatively uninitiated, or is to for the more seasoned scholar? My hunch is that it’s the former, although the latter could just as well get something out of the reader. And I’ve read on different forums that some feel this would be a great work to use in the classroom. My question here is, what kind of classroom? I couldn’t see using this book in the kind of comics classes I’ve taught, both undergraduate and graduate. At least, I couldn’t really justify having the students purchase this book, since I really won’t be using enough of the selections to make it worth the students’ expenditure. There are some essays in this reader that I would definitely assign to my students, no question, but many/most of the others would just fall by the wayside. And for that reason, I wouldn’t want to assign this entire text to my students. Some of the pieces would work very well in my classes…but then couldn’t I just photocopy from the book and put that on reserve for my students to read? Couldn’t I just find these pieces on my own, from the original sources, and assign those segments to the class? A Comics Studies Reader, while useful in a variety of ways, nonetheless leads me to a number of nagging questions regarding audience, utility, and feasibility.