There are many things you can do with a graphic novel other than entertain. By using this rich and accessible medium you can expose people to ideas and literature that they might not otherwise encounter. From Agatha Christie novels to Shakespeare plays, many great stories have reached a new audience through adaptation.
You will probably have heard of Malcolm X but might not be so clear on what he did. This then is a short recap of his political career in America’s civil rights movement. From the opening panel of scheming white officials working against the “goddamn niggers” you know that this will be told from one point of view. But other than this initial instance of rhetoric the rest of the work is a calm and reasoned recanting of one man’s philosophy and struggle.
At the end there is a chronology of his life and a lengthy list of the sources used to compile this work. The are several pages of photographs in the centre (like all good autobiographies have) including Muhammad Ali, President Kennedy and other people of the period. Unfortunately the forward, not written by the author, pretty much summarises his entire life in one page pre-empting and deflating most of the book in a gross error of judgement.
The art is plain black and white. It really reminded me of those Christian pamphlets you used to get in the 80’s that tried to convince you that you were going to hell for pretty much everything you did. It does have a home produced feel but is no way unprofessional. In what is a bold move the artistic decision was made not to colour in the faces of the black characters. This means you can convey greater detail and realism and portray much finer expressions. It works really well and the artist achieves some very realistic likenesses of the real people involved. The lettering has many different styles from traditional, to typewriter, to script. This is a nice thought but because it is hand lettered the script can be hard to read at times.
In these days where boy bands, footballers and other useless celebrities have their own graphic novels it is great to see people who made history getting the same treatment. Now you have no excuse not to spend twenty minutes broadening your knowledge.
Tomorrow: Seven Miles a Second – David Wojnarowicz & James Romerger