Saturday, November 14, 2009

Masterpiece Comics

R. (for Robert) Sikoryak has been creating comics and illustrations professionally for 2 decades, and his ability to assume a variety of styles has led him into a career illustrating high profile publications such as The New Yorker and Nickelodeon Magazine. His works in Masterpiece Comics take elements of popular culture combined in novel ways with classic works of literature. The blend of low and high brow elements bring a different sense of understanding and interest to the comics, as well as an element of humor.

Masterpiece Comics collects various works that have appeared in Drawn & Quarterly and Raw over the years. The unlikely combinations that appear in this volume include Dante's Inferno done in a series of 10 Bazooka Joe gum wrapper cartoons, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment re-imagined in the style of the Bob Kane-era Batman comic, and Kafka's The Metamorphosis recast with the Peanuts gang (starring "Good ol' Gregor Brown").

As an educator, I see a lot of connections that could be made between the adaptations here and discussions of the literature included. There is great potential in speaking about the choices Sikoryak made in choosing the genres and comics he did for these adaptations as well as how well the tenor of the original work fits into this different context. And if nothing else, these adapted versions can get some reluctant readers to be at least familiar with the classic stories they portray.

These comics do not parody the original works of literature so much as they do the cartoon sources drawn upon, as pointed out in this thoughtful review by Douglas Wolk. Sikoryak's ability to tell long narratives in very shorthand ways and communicate these tales to broader audiences is praised in these reviews by Tim Gebhart and Martin Levin. There is a range of reviews of this book also available at Goodreads.

For those seeking more of his work or further adaptations he has created, R. Sikoryak's official homepage is here. Some preview pages of Masterpiece Comics are also available there.

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