Sunday, January 15, 2012

J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography

J. Edgar Hoover was one of the largest public figures in the United States during the 20th century. The founding director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hoover was responsible for growing the FBI from a small, largely ineffective group to a monolithic organization with advanced crime-fighting methods, one of the strongest governmental agencies there is. This graphic biography traces his life from childhood, through his days fighting gangsters and organized crime, busting communist activities, and engaging in wire-tapping and other questionable surveillance techniques on notable public figures, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The portrait Geary paints here of Hoover is an intricate one, full of nuance and ambiguity. This was a fascinating read about a complex and controversial man.

This graphic biography was written and drawn by Rick Geary, a prolific, well regarded, and veteran comics artist who has produced numerous graphic novels, including a series about Victorian era murders. He received the 1980 Inkpot Award from the San Diego Comic Convention and the 1994 Book and Magazine Illustration Award from the National Cartoonists Society. Although he lacks the level of fame some other graphic novelists enjoy, he is considered a master by his peers. Geary provides a level of historical and artistic accuracy that sets him apart from the pack.

Reviews of this work, which is a counterpart in many ways to Geary's Trotsky biography, have been largely positive. Kirkus Reviews called it "as solid, thrilling and informative a guide to the life of the America’s most powerful authoritarian as one could ask for." John Seven wrote that with this book "Geary has been given another opportunity to shine doing what he does best," namely exposing the abuses perpetrated by overly powerful authorities. Andrew Wheeler was impressed by the art and how well the story was meshed with facts, stating that he "can’t think of any other cartoonist who could have done as good a job with this material."

A truncated preview is available here from the book's publisher Hill & Wang.

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