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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1

From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons

by Russ Kick

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Visit www.thegraphiccanon.wordpress.com and follow @TheGraphicCanon on Twitter for more information on the series.

The classic literary canon of Western civilization meets the comics artists, illustrators, and other artists who have remade reading in the last years of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first century in Russ Kick's magisterial, three-volume, full-color The Graphic Canon, volumes 1, 2, and 3.

The Graphic Canon, 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: Gilgamesh, The Iliad, The Odyssey (in watercolors by Gareth Hinds), The Aeneid, Beowulf, and The Arabian Nights, plus later epics like 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 Valerie 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 Symposium, Gulliver's Travels, Candide, A 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.

And much, much more.

Read an excerpt on Issuu here

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“The graphic publishing literary event of the year.”

“Does it seem that collecting thousands of years' worth of world literature in highly abridged form would be somewhat daft? Why, then, is Kick's gloriously ambitious attempt to collect sequential-art adaptations of those works into three massive volumes such a uniquely powerful piece of art? Because, while it can serve as a study of cultures and histories or as a pedagogical tool (as the source lists, further-reading section, and four indices attest), what this first volume does best is showcase the extraordinary potential of the artform itself. … Through the reprinted and newly-produced work of 59 (mainly American) adapters and 58 adapted titles, this is not only a survey of the world's diverse artistic past, but also a breathtaking glimpse of this young medium's incredible future.”

“Absolutely the most ambitious book I've picked up all year.”

“This meaty slab is laced with more wit, beauty, social commentary and shock than one might expect ... If artists, as British sculptor Anish Kapoor famously said, make mythologies, then this volume is genuinely a marriage of equals.”

“Looks like a must-buy for all academic libraries, many public libraries, and many high schools, and an exciting new benchmark for comics!”

“This is a masterpiece of literary choices as well as art and interpretation. It is a perfect graduation or summer-reading present, and the solid editing, including introductory notes for each piece, makes it a required purchase for any library.”

blog — September 23

Remembering Russ Kick (1969 - 2021)

It is with great sorrow that we share news of the death of revered independent investigative journalist, activist, literary anthologist, Seven Stories author, collaborator, and—critically—friend, Russ Kick. 

While writing articles and a column for The Village Voice, Kick was the founder and editor, independently, of The Memory Hole, Memory Hole 2 and Altgov2 which made US government documents available to the public through FOIA requests and other means. In 2003 he exposed an unredacted internal report on Justice Department hiring practices. In early 2004 he brought to light government-censored photographs of the coffins of the military war dead from the Iraq War. In both cases, his reports on his own site became the subject of front-page reporting in the nation’s leading national newspapers.

Kick produced two explosive series of books that were published by the Disinformation Company throughout the first decade of the 21st century. The 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know and You Are Being Lied To series of books became underground bestsellers, with titles like Everything You Know Is Wrong, Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong, etc., educating the Generation X kids who became adults in that decade about government lies and the history that wasn’t taught in schools.

At the end of that decade, Kick did an about-face, and began a new career as an anthologist bringing together comics art with our civilization’s legacy of classic literature, inviting hundreds of illustrators and artists to reimagine classic stories, poems and plays in new ways in a series of books known collectively as The Graphic Canon. The Graphic Canons were celebrated as a new kind of illustrated book, with Volume 3 hitting the New York Times Bestseller List for Graphic Books, and rights sold for foreign editions to publishers around the world. 

Towards the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st century, Kick returned with renewed intensity to his political activism. From 2018 to 2021, he served as one of the directors of Rise for Animals, where he expanded their Animal Research Laboratory Overview with documents concerning animal experimentation obtained through FOIA and public records requests.

Kick also continued expanding The Graphic Canon. The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature appeared in 2014, followed by The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Vol 1, in 2017. The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Vol 2, will be published by Seven Stories on December 7th, 2021.

From Molly Crabapple, comics artist and colleague of Russ Kick — 

I first found Russ Kick when I was thirteen, through his book Outposts.  For a friendless goth kid like me, Kick was the exact sort of guide I needed. Like a punk-rock Virgil, Russ's work led countless young people like me to the exact sort of places that America tried to hide—to the dangerous, thrilling, strange, ludicrous and beautiful realms where we imagined we could belong. I was an immediate devotee; his formative bad influence helped shape my own artistic path. With his Disinformation series, Russ challenged power. He peeled the censored bars off of redacted documents, and kicked down the doors of the pompous and mendacious, to reveal their skulduggery to the world. His work was transgressive, subversive, and irreverent of piety—all qualities in short supply today. Russ Kick showed the possibilities of life. Many years later, I was lucky enough to have Russ as an editor on The Graphic Canon. Never meet your idols, they say, particularly the ones of the gonzo variety, but in Russ's case, this would have been bad advice. He was unfailingly kind, supportive, generous and perceptive. I cannot fathom the loss of such a man, but the world is made more narrow by his absence. 

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RUSS KICK is the originator of the Graphic Canon series, for which he has commissioned new work from over three hundred artists, now going into its sixth volume. The New York Times selected The Graphic Canon Volume 1 as an Editor’s Choice, and School Library Journal has called the series “startlingly brilliant.” Kick’s nonfiction anthologies, including You Are Being Lied To and Everything You Know Is Wrong, informed a whole generation of Americans about the hard truths of American politics. He created a media frenzy for being the first to publish suppressed photographs of American flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq. The New York Times dubbed Kick “an information archaeologist,” Details magazine described him as “a Renaissance man,” and Utne Reader named him one of its “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World.” His popular website AltGov2.org is active again and getting national media coverage for archiving documents that the Trump Administration has been deleting.

Other books by Russ Kick