An earnest if colorless picture of both a career and a character.

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ANDRE THE GIANT

CLOSER TO HEAVEN

A graphic biography of a gentle (outside the ring, anyway) giant who helped take professional wrestling from a grubby, localized sport to today’s glittering international spectacle.

The book opens with the abstract reflection that life is a struggle more between optimism and pessimism than good and evil, as the French-born fighter, whose real name was André René Roussimoff (1946-1993), lumbers from country to country, venue to venue, bout to bout, promoter to promoter until the early death brought on by his acromegaly. He’s awash in a sea of beer, but his other outsized appetites are only hinted at. Pro-wrestling fans may enjoy these inside views of the profession’s expansion and of renowned battles with Hulk Hogan and other fellow performers, but aside from playing Sasquatch in the Six Million Dollar Man and a single page about his memorable appearance as Fezzik in The Princess Bride, his film career goes unmentioned. Screenwriter, educator, and graphic novel creator Easton (Shadowlaw, 2012, etc.), who was a nominee for the 2014 Eisner Award, explores his subject’s inner life with bloviations (“In a world with no limits, temptation ceases to exist”) and defines his nonpublic one largely through his heavy drinking (he holds an unofficial record for most beers consumed in one sitting: more than 100), his body’s physical deterioration, and two poignant letters from his estranged daughter, Robin. The first-person narrative conveys a distinct sense of the champion wrestler’s melancholic temperament, and Medri’s brown-washed panel art captures his humongous bulk. Still, this is ultimately just a shorter alternative to Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (2014), with most of the controversies and apocryphal incidents removed.

An earnest if colorless picture of both a career and a character.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63140-400-9

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Roar Comics/Lion Forge

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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