March 4, 2009
So, I am really psyched about the screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen that will be opening nationwide this Friday. When I first read his graphic novel I was blown away by the complexity of the story and how he tinkers with—if not completely re-imagines—the superhero genre.
I can’t think of a more appropriate time to look at other visionaries whose work re-casts our perceptions of comic book culture. And the show Comic Art Indigène, which opens March 6, does just that. Comic art has fallen under the criticism of being a primitive form of visual expression—but the Native American artists on display explore and riff on comic art as well as its capabilities as a fine art and storytelling medium. From Wonder Woman rendered in glass beads to a figure of Spiderman executed in the tradition of Native American ceramics, the show is a testament to the universality and adaptability of comics.
Here are a few recommendations from my comic book (er, graphic novel?) rack at home. As is the case with all lists, this is by no means comprehensive or definitive. What do you recommend? Tell us in the comments area below!
American Splendor Anthology by Harvey Pekar. Written by someone who worked as a file clerk and sometime music critic and illustrated by denizens of top-notch artists (such as Robert Crumb of Fritz the Cat notoriety), Splendor explores the heroism of living the average American life.
Beowulf by Gareth Hinds. So, you didn’t like this when they made you read it in high school? If that’s the case, you can either try reading the Seamus Heaney translation OR you can settle in for this marvelous piece of eye candy that offers a faithful adaptation of this classic medieval epic.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware. It’s a visual memoir told in a stream of consciousness style about several generations of sons and the alienated relationships they have with their fathers. Beautiful as it is devastating.
Maus by Art Spiegelman. The Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic memoir that relates one family’s experience of the Holocaust and the cross-generational aftereffects.
Watchmen by Alan Moore. It’s just one of the best graphic novels I’ve read for the reasons stated above.
Zippy the Pinhead by Bill Griffith. The title character—who bears a striking resemblance to Schlitzy, the micro-cephalic featured in Tod Browning’s perennially controversial film Freaks—is engulfed in a world of free association, both verbal and visual. It’s a little hard to get into at first, but it’s humor can be very rewarding.
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