The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1 by Russ Kick
From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons

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Most fascinating are the adaptations of works that less obviously lend themselves to comic or visual treatment.
-NY Times

Synopsis

THE GRAPHIC CANON (Seven Stories Press) is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind trilogy that brings classic literatures of the world together with legendary graphic artists and illustrators. There are more than 130 illustrators represented and 190 literary works over three volumes—many newly commissioned, some hard to find—reinterpreted here for readers and collectors of all ages.

Volume 1 takes us on a visual tour from the earliest literature through the end of the 1700s. Along the way, we're treated to eye-popping renditions of the human race's greatest epics: GilgameshThe IliadThe Odyssey (in watercolors by Gareth Hinds), The AeneidBeowulf, and The Arabian Nights, plus later epics The Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales (both by legendary illustrator and graphic designer Seymour Chwast), Paradise Lost, and Le Morte D'Arthur. Two of ancient Greece's greatest plays are adapted—the tragedy Medea by Euripides and Tania Schrag’s uninhibited rendering of the very bawdy comedy Lysistrata by Aristophanes (the text of which is still censored in many textbooks). Also included is Robert Crumb’s rarely-seen adaptation of James Boswell’s London Journal, filled with philosophical debate and lowbrow debauchery.

Religious literature is well-covered and well-illustrated, with the Books of Daniel and Esther from the Old Testament, Rick Geary’s awe-inspiring new rendition of the Book of Revelation from the New Testament, the Tao te Ching, Rumi’s Sufi poetry, Hinduism’s Mahabharata, and the Mayan holy book Popol Vuh, illustrated by Roberta Gregory. The Eastern canon gets its due, with The Tale of Genji (the world’s first novel, done in full-page illustrations reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley), three poems from China’s golden age of literature lovingly drawn by pioneering underground comics artist Sharon Rudahl, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a Japanese Noh play, and other works from Asia.

Two of Shakespeare’s greatest plays (King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and two of his sonnets are here, as are Plato’s SymposiumGulliver’s TravelsCandideA Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Renaissance poetry of love and desire, and Don Quixote visualized by the legendary Will Eisner.

Some unexpected twists in this volume include a Native American folktale, an Incan play, Sappho’s poetic fragments, bawdy essays by Benjamin Franklin, the love letters of Abelard and Heloise, and the decadent French classic Dangerous Liaisons, as illustrated by Molly
Crabapple.

 
Edited by Russ Kick, The Graphic Canon is an extraordinary collection that will continue with Volume 2: "Kubla Khan" to the Bronte Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray in Summer 2012, and Volume 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest in Fall 2012. A boxed set of all three volumes will also be published in Fall 2012.
 

About Russ Kick

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RUSS KICK's bestselling anthologies, including You Are Being Lied To and Everything You Know Is Wrong, have sold over half a million copies. The New York Times has dubbed Kick "an information archaeologist," Details magazine described Kick as "a Renaissance man," and Utne Reader named him one of its "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World." Russ Kick lives and works in Nashville, Tennessee, and Tucson, Arizona.
 
Published May 22, 2012 by Seven Stories Press. 512 pages
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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NY Times

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Reviewed by Annie Weatherwax on Nov 30 2012

Most fascinating are the adaptations of works that less obviously lend themselves to comic or visual treatment.

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