As solid, thrilling and informative a guide to the life of the America’s most powerful authoritarian as one could ask for.

READ REVIEW

J. EDGAR HOOVER

A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY

The life and times of America’s top cop, by prolific author/artist Geary (The Bloody Benders, 2007, etc.).

His work for National Lampoon and Heavy Metal illustrates his long-standing taste for the pulpier side of things, but Geary also does solid work in historical comics, albeit ones with a gruesome true-crime slant. He brings the same clean artwork and swift but steady pacing to his graphic biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1895, Hoover came from a religious clan whose “family business” was the federal bureaucracy. Obsessively hardworking from an early age, with few friends but a careful eye toward staying politically neutral in order to advance his career, Hoover swiftly moved up the ladder from a lowly Department of Justice post procured for him by a cousin in 1917 to head the Bureau of Investigation by 1924. Geary expertly marks the exacting effort with which Hoover set out during the Depression years to transform the oft-ignored, nearly powerless bureau into a well-publicized and widely idealized national crime-fighting, gangster-busting force. Hoover was obsessed almost equally by fighting what he saw as the immoral poison of liberalism and by consolidating his power with that of the FBI—the two often seen as the same thing to Hoover and, thanks to his intense media lobbying, to the nation itself. In the postwar years, he became the embodiment of an American reactionary. Geary doesn’t stoop to rumor-mongering about Hoover’s sexuality—he points out that the cross-dressing story is most likely false—but he gives the director’s lengthy, marriage-like relationship with second-in-command Clyde Tolson the importance it deserves, particularly since Hoover publicly proclaimed such a rigid, outdated view of sexual morality.

As solid, thrilling and informative a guide to the life of the America’s most powerful authoritarian as one could ask for.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9503-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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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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