Saturday, March 30, 2013

Russ Kick’s staggering "The Graphic Canon"

World Literature inspires two generations of artists    

     The Graphic Canon, Volume 1 (yes, there are three volumes so far) is an adventurous journey through the Great Books from a variety of world cultures as drawn by major
contemporary illustrators.
Russ Kick
Russ Kick, whom Utne Reader named one of “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World”, edited the entire project.   He couldn’t have been more amenable at his booth during Books by the Banks.  Unfortunately, he (and pretty much every other author) was overshadowed by John and Sherry Petersik and their Young House Love book with its enormous line of admirers.  

     From 1947 until the early 1970s, there was a series called Classics Illustrated, which were comic book versions (sometimes abridged) of various works of fiction in the western canon.  I think my Mom may have read a couple of these, rather than the original works, and aced some high school tests.  I think this, but I don’t know this.  Kick was astonished by how much great, recent graphic art was out there so he decided to pull some of this together with commissioned works.  There are big names and new stars including Will Eisner, Robert Crumb, Yien Yip, Benjamin Frisch, Gareth Hinds, Alice Duke, Tori McKenna, and many others.  There are 55 pieces in this volume (190 in the three volumes combined).

The Book of Revelation
     The adaptors and artists do not slavishly illustrate everything that happens in each work.  Instead, here are two approaches, among many imaginative, beautiful, and intellectually engaging versions, that are extremely memorable.  Rick Geary takes on The Book of Revelation and, by being visually realized, it makes complete sense in terms of its system of symbols and the overall narrative.  I remember friends in college saying that St. John must have been on something when writing this book, but it’s very persuasive when seen.  Molly Crabapple crystallizes the sexual politics and the theatricality of the upper crust, decadent world of Choderlos de Laclos’ Dangerous Liaisons in just three images – yes, three.   

Dangerous Liaisons

     It’s not too early to save October 12 for Books by the Banks at the Duke Convention Center this year.  There were many wonderful authors willing to share their expertise and sign their books this past October.  The Kids section was pretty exhaustive so it’s a nice, cheap choice for a family day in downtown Cincinnati.

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