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J. EDGAR HOOVER by Rick Geary Kirkus Star


A Graphic Biography

by Rick Geary & illustrated by Rick Geary

Pub Date: Jan. 15th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8090-9503-2
Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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second-in-command Clyde Tolson the importance it deserves, particularly since Hoover publicly proclaimed such a rigid, outdated view of sexual morality.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.