Black Blizzard coverSince by the 1950s mainstream comics had become wholesome, stylistically formulaic and targeted at kids, some saw the need for a renaming of the medium. To mark that his manga was for mature readers, Tatsumi Yoshihiro dubbed his gritty film-noir stories gekiga (dramatic pictures) in 1957. Similarly, in 1960s America, underground comix came to be spelled with “X” to mark it “adult.” To legitimize his more serious narratives, Will Eisner popularized the common usage of the term “graphic novel” with his anthology about his “ghetto” upbringing, A Contract with God and other Tenement Storiesin 1978.
MetaMaus coverThe underground/alternative comix scene opened up vast new potentialities for the medium.  Robert Crumb first thrived in the San Francisco hippie and psychedelic rock culture, letting loose his own personal demons and neuroses in an explosion of color and form. Starting in 1980, RAW magazine, put out by Art Spiegelman and his French wife Francoise Mouly, elevated “graphix” as art while also globalizing it, inserting the work of European and Japanese artists. In 1992, Spiegelman’s Maus, a Holocaust memoir first published in RAW, was the first comix to win a Pulitzer. More recently, Lynda Barry has demonstrated the astounding, multi-layered capacity of the form with her zany and visually poetic subterranean explorations of creativity she dubbed "autobiofictionalography."