The Graphic Canon is an ambitious project that began earlier this year with the first of a projected trilogy of tomes. It has garnered positive attention from a number of prominent sources, including The New York Times, and this the second volume ranges roughly from the Romantic to Victorian literary eras. Not all of the entries are sequential art, and some are stand alone illustrations or text pieces with a few illustrations. Most of them have not been published before. This volume focuses more on British literature than the prior one, which was more international, but it still contains a number of winning entries from exciting creators, including established figures as well as up-and-comers.
Among my favorites are:
- Underground comix fixture Hunt Emerson's adapted excerpt from Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
- Alice Duke's vibrant version of Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"
- Anthony Ventura's strong take on Shelley's "Ozymandias"
- Shawn Cheng's cartoony version of the Brothers Grimm's "How Six Made Good in the World"
- Neil Cohn's earthy adaptation of Keat's "La Belle Dame Sans Merci"
- The reproduction of William Blake's epic "Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion"
- Tim Fish's fine, melodramatic take on Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights
- Alternative and mini-comic maven John Porcellino's expert, spare excerpt from Thoreau's Walden
- Dave Morice's fantastic, superheroic version of Whitman's Leaves of Grass
- Michael Keller and Nicolle Rager Fuller portraying Chapter 4 of Darwin's On The Origin of the Species
- Seth Tobocman's powerful, impressionistic version of Frederick Douglass's "The Message from Mount Misery"
- Corinne Mucha's depiction of a "Letter to George Sand" by Gustave Flaubert
- Dame Darcy's frightening, claustrophobic, and beautiful take on Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
- The gallery of various Lewis Carroll-inspired art works
- Eran Cantrell's dark, forceful version of "Jabberwocky"
- Megan Kelso's crisp, expressive look at Eliot's Middlemarch
- Ellen Lindner's gorgeous take on Tolstoy's Anna Karenina
- In an excerpt from the Introducing series, Laurence Gane and Piero's impressive and referential delineation of Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra
- Danusia Schejbal and Andrzej Klimowski's appropriately moody depiction of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Reviews I have read about volume two might not be as positive as they were about volume one, but they are still strongly in its favor. Emphasizing the worth of this book, Publishers Weekly wrote, "Apart from containing insightful introductions and wonderful artwork, these selections have a not-to-be-underestimated pedagogical value that educators will no doubt find invaluable in bringing classic works of literature to a 21st-century audience immersed in visual culture." Glenn Dallas offered a more tempered opinion, calling this collection "pretty hit-or-miss, depending on the source material and the artist," adding, "but it’s still an impressive sampling of historical and literary touchstones." Buzz Poole concluded that most of what is in this volume "exceeds expectations for how it absorbs familiar texts and shapes new lives into them, reminding readers how words read in a book can color so much of life that exists far beyond the page."
The Graphic Canon, Volume 2 is published by Seven Stories Press. A YouTube preview is available from the editor. Also, a number of preview images are available here from Brain Pickings.
Thank you, Gabe, for the review copy!