June 25, 2013
Check out this introduction by editor Russ Kick, who goes on to comment on fifteen works included in the volume, from Heart of Darkness to The Awakening to Animal Farm.
My hands were quivering as I recently opened the package containing my advance copy of The Graphic Canon, Volume 3. The project was complete. Over the course of three huge volumes, more than 120 illustrators and comics artists had given their visual take on 181 classic works of literature, from ancient days to the end of the twentieth century.
The Graphic Canon was conceived as an art project and as a celebration of literature. It turned into a lot more, including a visual primer on world literature, an encyclopedia of ways to combine words and images, a showcase for the power of illustration and sequential art, and a source of controversy (the word “canon” has gotten under some people’s skin, and the sex and nudity in a few of the pieces have shocked people who apparently didn’t realize that the great works deal with that aspect of the human condition too).
A few of the pieces (“The Metamorphosis” by Kafka, Gravity’s Rainbow by Pynchon) represent the best of what has already been published along these lines. The vast majority of the book, however, is newly commissioned material. Every piece in all three volumes is preceded by a little introduction in which I present some background on the literary work and its author, introduce the artist doing the adapting, and relate entertaining tidbits from literary history.
All three volumes were created simultaneously, as a single project. They were published as a 1,600-page trilogy only because of practical concerns. Luckily, they divided nicely by time period. Volume 1 starts with ancient literature – Babylonia, Greece, Rome, the Israelites – and moves through the Middle Ages, Shakespeare’s day, and to the Enlightenment in the late 1700s. Volume 2 covers the 1800s, from the turn of the century to the decadent end. Volume 3 – just now being released – moves us from the opening of the twentieth century to 1996.