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 2 gives us a visual cornucopia based on the wealth of literature from the 1800s. Several artists—including Maxon Crumb and Gris Grimly—present their versions of Edgar Allan Poe's visions. We see a stunning take on the greatest American novel, Moby-Dick. Meanwhile, that other greatest American novel, Huckleberry Finn, is adapted uncensored for the first time, as Twain wrote it. The bad boys of Romanticism—Shelley, Keats, and Byron—are visualized here, and so are the Brontë sisters. We see both of Coleridge's most famous poems: "Kubla Khan" and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (the latter by British comics legend Hunt Emerson). Philosophy and science are ably represented by ink versions of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra and Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
Frankenstein, Les Misérables, Great Expectations, Middlemarch, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment (a hallucinatory take on the pivotal murder scene), Thoreau's Walden (in spare line art by John Porcellino of King-Cat Comics fame), "The Drunken Boat" by Rimbaud, Leaves of Grass by Whitman, and two of Emily Dickinson's greatest poems are all present and accounted for. John Coulthart has created ten magnificent full-page collages that tell the story of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. And Pride and Prejudice has never looked this splendiferous!
This volume is a special treat for Lewis Carroll fans. Dame Darcy puts her unmistakable stamp on—what else?—the Alice books in a new sixteen-page tour-de-force, while a dozen other artists present their versions of the most famous characters and moments from Wonderland. There's also a gorgeous silhouetted telling of "Jabberwocky," and Mahendra Singh's surrealistic take on The Hunting of the Snark.
Curveballs in this volume include fairy tales illustrated by the untameable S. Clay Wilson, a fiery speech from freed slave Frederick Douglass (rendered in stark black and white by Seth Tobocman), a letter on reincarnation from Flaubert, the Victorian erotic classic Venus in Furs, the drug classic The Hasheesh Eater, and silk-screened illustrations for the ghastly children's classic Der Struwwelpeter, among many other canonical works.
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.