The Graphic Canon, Vol. 2
From "Kubla Khan" to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray
By Russ Kick
(Seven Stories Press, Paperback, 9781609803780, 512pp.)
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
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The Graphic Canon, Volume 2 gives us a visual cornucopia based on the wealth of literature from the 1800s. Several artists—including Maxon Crumb and Gris Grimly—present their versions of Edgar Allan Poe’s visions. The great American novel Huckleberry Finn is adapted uncensored for the first time, as Twain wrote it. The bad boys of Romanticism—Shelley, Keats, and Byron—are visualized here, and so are the Brontë sisters. We see both of Coleridge’s most famous poems: “Kubla Khan” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (the latter by British comics legend Hunt Emerson). Philosophy and science are ably represented by ink versions of Nietzsche’sThus Spake Zarathustra and Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.
Frankenstein, Moby-Dick, Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment (a hallucinatory take on the pivotal murder scene), Thoreau’s Walden (in spare line art by John Porcellino of King-Cat Comics fame), “The Drunken Boat” by Rimbaud, Leaves of Grass by Whitman, and two of Emily Dickinson’s greatest poems are all present and accounted for. John Coulthart has created ten magnificent full-page collages that tell the story of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. And Pride and Prejudice has never looked this splendiferous!
This volume is a special treat for Lewis Carroll fans. Dame Darcy puts her unmistakable stamp on—what else?—the Alice books in a new 16-page tour-de-force, while a dozen other artists present their versions of the most famous characters and moments from Wonderland. There’s also a gorgeous silhouetted telling of “Jabberwocky,” and Mahendra’s Singh’s surrealistic take on “The Hunting of the Snark.”
Curveballs in this volume include fairy tales illustrated by the untameable S. Clay Wilson, a fiery speech from freed slave Frederick Douglass (rendered in stark black and white by Seth Tobocman), a letter on reincarnation from Flaubert, the Victorian erotic classic Venus in Furs, the drug classic The Hasheesh Eater, and silk-screened illustrations for the ghastly children’s classic Der Struwwelpeter. Among many other canonical works.
Founder of the website The Memory Hole, which archived sensitive and difficult to find official documents, RUSS KICK has devoted much of his life to digging up what others hope to keep buried. His bestselling anthologies, including You Are Being Lied To and Everything You Know Is Wrong, have sold over half a million copies. The New York Times has dubbed Kick "an information archaeologist," Details magazine described Kick as “a Renaissance man,” and Utne Reader named him one of its “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” Russ Kick lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee, and Tucson, Arizona.
"As with the previous volume, this collection has a wide array of applications for cultural scholars and historians (art and otherwise), but proves most powerful in its tear-inducing panoply of graphic talents and styles working in the comics medium."
—Jesse Karp, Booklist
"By turns playful and beautiful, this visual treatment is more than entertainment; it offers a new perspective for understanding these enduring works [of the nineteenth century]."
"The tome is the best thing in literary comics since Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant and a fine complement to the best graphic nonfiction of the past few years."
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings
"Russ Kick, the man who's curating this tripartite series, must be some saint of artist-wrangling abilities, some theme-embodying savant . . . Dame Darcy's 16 pages of excerpts from Alice in Wonderland in this book might be worth the price of ownership all by itself."
"The majority of the work featured in Volume 2 of The Graphic Canon exceeds expectations for how it absorbs familiar texts and shapes new lives into them, reminding readers how words read in a book can color so much of life that exists far beyond the page."
“This prodigious and astounding collection of literary adaptations is staggering in its ambition, but even more so in its execution and realization.”
—The Miami Herald
“One of the most ambitious [projects] in the history of the graphic medium.”
“The Graphic Canon continues to be an enrapturing experience. It has already sparked a sensation, and anyone who’s read the first two volumes most likely can’t wait for the third, currently set to come out this March. If all this effort renews interest in the classics, then more power to it. Still, The Graphic Canon, Volume 2 has plenty to offer those without lit degrees: a vibrant, feverish dance through some of the best parts of our artistic history … with an open invitation to join.”
“If you’d like to add a little class to your comic collection, look no further: The Graphic Canon has what you need. A gorgeous, three-volume collection from Seven Stories Press and Russ Kick (with the final volume being released this coming April), The Graphic Canon is basically all of the greatest literature in the history of the world, as seen through the eyes of the greatest comic artists in the world. If you think that sounds pretty epically amazing, you would not be wrong.”