Sunday, October 6, 2013

The ComicsReview UK

Once upon a time in the English-speaking world, nobody clever, educated or grown up liked comics. Now we’re an accredited really and truly art form and spectacular books like this can be appreciated…

The Graphic Canon is an astounding literary and art project, instigated by legendary crusading editor, publisher, anthologist and modern Renaissance Man Russ Kick, which endeavours to interpret the world’s great books through the eyes of masters of crusading sequential narrative in an eye-opening synthesis of modes and styles.
The project is divided into three periods roughly equating with the birth of literature and the rise of the modern novel (From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons covered literature from ancient times to the end of the 1700s, whilst Kubla Khan to the Brontë Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray concentrated on the 19th century), and this third volume concentrates on the astonishing variety and changes which hallmarked the socially revolutionary 20th century in stories and poetry.
Rather than simply converting the stories the artists involved have been given the freedom to respond to texts in their own way, producing graphics – narrative or otherwise, sequential or not – to accompany, augment or even offset the words before them and the result is simply staggering…
Make no mistake: this is not a simple bowdlerising “prose to strip” exercise like generations of Classics Illustrated comics, and you won’t pass any tests on the basis of what you see here. Moreover these images will make you want to re-read the texts you know and hunger for the ones you haven’t got around to yet.
They certainly did for me…
Each piece is preceded by an informative commentary page by Kick, and the wonderment begins with ten illustrations by Matt Kish synthesising the dark delerium of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, after which a seminal and scandalously revolutionary tale of sexual oppression and gender politics is revived in Rebecca Migdal’s moodily monotone comics adaptation of The Awakening by Kate Chopin, whilst

Tara Seibel visually précis’ portions of Sigmund Freud’ discredited masterpiece The Interpretation of Dreams.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is visually summarised by Tara Seibel 

Existentialist selection of pages adapted by Robert Crumb from Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea and originally published in Hup #3, 1989, is followed by Lisa Brown’sThree Panel Review of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, whilst Liesbeth De Stercke’s wordless adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath takes all the time it needs to drive home its still-telling point.
Jorge Luis Borge wrote hundreds of short stories and vignettes called “Ficciones”. His prodigious output and incredible books largely consist of stringing these story-lets together.
The Three Stories (‘Library of Babel’‘The Garden of Forking Paths’ and ‘The Circular Ruins’) featured here are realised as a trio of stunning pencil illustrations by Kathryn Siveyer, after which Juan Carlos Kreimer & Julian Aron contribute a crucial scene from their Argentinean adaptation (translated here by Dan Simon) of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, whilst photographic designer Laura Plansker dimir Nabokov is such a cruelly misunderstood tale.   

Seibel then provides a graphic biography of literary pioneers William S. Burroughs, Diane di Prima, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in Four Beats art
whilst Kerouac’s On the Road is sampled by artist Yeji Yun, and Emelie Östegren pictorialises a free-floating chunk of Burroughs’ Naked Lunch.
PMurphy offers a silent strip summarizing One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, Ellen Lindner illustrates ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath, 

This sort of book is just what the art form comics needs to grow beyond our largely self-imposed ghetto, and anything done this well with so much heart and joy simply has to be rewarded.

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