The renewal of spirit through this striking collaboration reflects the way the Apollo has renewed itself through the decades.

READ REVIEW

SHOWTIME AT THE APOLLO

THE EPIC TALE OF HARLEM’S LEGENDARY THEATER

This graphic treatment adds a new dimension to a music book that was already hailed as a classic.

Most graphic adaptations aim to reach new generations of readers with a work that is flashier but less substantial than the original. This collaboration between Fox (In the Groove: The People Behind the Music, 1986, etc.) and illustrator Smith represents a new experience for readers, one with an immediacy and vitality that text alone might never approach. Fox’s original was published to wide acclaim in 1983; that book illuminated the significance of the Apollo to musicians and to the Harlem community, detailing how it got to be where it was and celebrating the legacy that lives on. The current project gives Fox the opportunity to update the original and to show how, in the subsequent 35 years, the venue has expanded its offerings, hosting the likes of Chris Rock and Bruce Springsteen and a memorial service for James Brown. The narrative brings readers behind the scenes to the real show backstage and to the hotel rooms where the young reporter conducted his interviews. It also highlights the visual performing styles of some of the most galvanic artists in the history of popular music. Performers who were then unknown and were launched as winners of the Apollo’s Amateur Night competition include Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Luther Vandross, and Michael Jackson. Fox and Smith effectively present the progression of entertainment styles from swing and tap dance through bebop, gospel and blues, rhythm & blues, soul, and rock. They provide an entertaining, lively narrative with profiles that match the spirit, drawings that seem as musical as the music described within the text.

The renewal of spirit through this striking collaboration reflects the way the Apollo has renewed itself through the decades.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3138-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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