from graphic novel guest blogger Francisca Goldsmith (with our second starred review of the week!):
Russ Kick is not your typical comics geek, college prof, or earnest publisher who wants to show the uninitiated that sequential art is “real reading.” Instead, he does have some tendencies toward all three character types, but is an iconoclast out to put forward a project that is something close to the polar opposite of iconoclastic values: a pertinent, engrossing, and wholly genuine version of the literary canon on which we humans depend for a reality check with collective memory.
Planned to be complete in three volumes, The Graphic Canon is startlingly brilliant: the limits of titles collected are not Western; the art styles collected are neither monotone nor interpretatively repetitive; the packaging of long works into a few pages has not been undertaken either by those deaf to linguistic music nor those eager to turn the simple into the simplistic. With dozens of artists represented here, it is no surprise to see such comics luminaries as R. Crumb, Will Eisner and Peter Kuper. But the range of contributors is also international, the works presented include a number that have appeared in other places (a tale from Fulcrum Press’ Trickster, an excerpt from Seymour Chwast’s graphic adaptation of the Divine Comedy) and others by scholars and cartoonists many will not have been lucky enough to find before now: Valerie Schrag (sister of Ariel), Edie Fake (truly iconoclast with a respectful take on St. Teresa of Avila’s visions), and Cortney Skinner’s illustration on advice from Benjamin Franklin are among these.
This truly is what a canon boasts as being: a sum of essentials, here visual and interpretive as well as historically blessed. And unlike most schoolroom anthologies, this one will deprive readers of sleep, rather than encourage it.
Adult/High School–This admirable and inclusive project’s first volume offers a plethora of literary milestones as envisioned by such luminary cartoonists as Will Eisner, Seymour Chwast, R. Crumb, Roberta Gregory, Rick Geary, Peter Kuper, and even the younger Schrag sister, Valerie. In an attempt to be culturally inclusive, this “canon” goes beyond the Western (Iliad and Odyssey, Le morte d’Arthur, Shakespearean Sonnets, etc., which are all well represented) to Native America (both North and South), Japan, China, and Tibet, to such religious writers as Hildegard of Bingen and the Book of Esther, and those in classical philosophy such as Plato and Lucretius. Each piece, however translated and/or abridged in text, includes specific source notes. Art styles vary from black-and-white cartoons by masters of the style to beautifully full-colored engravinglike pages. This is a masterpiece of literary choices as well as art and interpretation. It is a perfect graduation or summer-reading present, and the solid editing, including introductory notes for each piece, makes it a required purchase for any library.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA