Moby Dick – Comic Book Love 2

I recently bought a used copy of the Classics Illustrated Moby Dick drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz, and I was not disappointed.  This is the same Bill Sienkiewicz of Elektra and Daredevil fame, the same Sienkiewicz I thought was the greatest comic book artist of all time when I was a teen.

Sienkiewicz brings his unique brand of surrealism and expressionism to the great American novel about dark obsession and madness.  Sienkiewicz’s art captures Ahab’s madness perfectly.  As Ahab’s obsession grows, Sienkiewicz uses a recurring image of a scratchy black and white demonic face that appears in its own box.  This, of course, captures the book’s theme perfectly. Sienkiewicz’s feverish depictions of the crew show how Ahab’s madness spreads to even the most reluctant sailors, and his depictions of the monsterish white whale draw the reader into the fear and mystery that have twisted Ahab’s mind.

If you’ve never read the orignial Moby Dick, Herman Melville intertwined chapters of action and theme-driven plot with scientific chapters on whales and the industry of whaling.  It is a long and strange, but rewarding read. This graphic novel focuses on the action-driven plot and theme to capture the essence of the original story.  All of the famous images and scenes from the original are here: the opening scenes with Ishmael and the tattooed savage, Queequeg; the appearance of Ahab on deck; the making of the coffin and Ahab’s special harpoon; the tri-works, etc.

You can find all of these samples and much more on Sienkiewicz’s site:   http://www.billsienkiewiczart.com/

Knucklehead featuring Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka’s semi-graphic novel memoir about growing up with five brothers reminded me of reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when I was a kid. There’s lots of action and adventure to grab a young boy’s attention- wrestling, peeing on electric heaters, breaking stuff and then blaming it on someone else, telling jokes, making mortars out of M80 firecrackers, etc. It’s just good boisterous fun. I grew up around farms, and so we always dared each other to pee on electric fences, which is its own special kind of fun.

It’s not fully a graphic novel/memoir. He includes pictures of the family and various pieces of old-comic-style art to correspond with the text, but the memoir is largely text-based. The chapters are very short and each one focuses on a specific situation or memory. As the title states, these are “mostly true events.” I question the group puking incident in the station wagon, but I imagine this is the story the way the boys told it to their friends. The book is good fun and a quick nostalgic read, for me anyway. Good times, good times.

Another good read from ijustfinished.com

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The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli by Ginnetta Correli

I was pleasantly surprised by this self-published novel by Ginnetta Correli.  The back cover states that it is an “experimental novel written as a hybrid of a bizarre television script.”  I’m not sure that it succeeds as a bizarre television script, but it does come across as an engaging postmodern novel about a young girl who finds herself surrounded by madness and indifference.

Beatie Scareli’s mother is schizophrenic.  She thinks she’s Lucille Ball and Beatie’s father is Ricky Ricardo.  What seems slightly amusing at first quickly becomes a very twisted reality for Beatie.  Her mother is in and out of the asylum.  Her father is unsympathetic.  Beatie is forced to go back and forth between her mother and father once her parents divorce.  She pretends that nothing is wrong at school.  She has imaginary friends, one of which happpens to be the reader.  And Beatie handles it all the way I imagine most young people who know no other reality would handle it- nonchalantly looking for help, desperately trying to keep her childhood, and ultimately trying to escape from the situation.

Ginnetta Correli captures Beatie’s voice in short, minimalist sentences.  Beatie’s character and voice draw the reader into this novel.  The vignettes capture Beatie’s childlike perspective perfectly and frame the scenes of madness that make up her life.  The combination of these elements make this novel hard to put down.  I wanted to know what craziness could possibly happen to this girl next and how she was going to survive it all.

I only have a few complaints about the book.  Correli thanks an friend and “editor” in the end notes, but I think the book could use a professional editor to help emphasize elements of theme and character development, while at the same time eliminate some unnecessary repetitiveness.  For example, in one section of the book, Beatie mentions going to the bathroom repeatedly over several pages and several scenes.  The character even mentions that she goes to the bathroom a lot.  It doesn’t move the action or give any insight into her character besides the fact that she is presumably human and uses the bathroom.  An editor would help focus the book and accentuate the elements that make it a good read to being with.

I think this book has something to say about the human condition, which is what defines good literature.  Some scenes contain things some may find offensive, but Correli’s writing and Beatie’s character give those disturbing scenes validity and poignancy.