Let’s Get Graphical

David Cronenberg’s new film A History of Violence is based on a 1997 graphical novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke. Two bad guys roll into a quiet Indiana town intending to indulge in murder and robbery and mayhem, but they’re disposed of by a mild-mannered family man whose only weapon is a glass coffee canister. He’s a hero, but this is only the beginning of the story. As his fame spreads, other strangers roll into town, and it turns out the mild-mannered hero has his own “history of violence”. That’s where the story gets twisted, and it stays that way.

David Cronenberg is a great choice to direct this compelling tale. He’s the filmmaker who turned William S. Burroughs’ life story into a panaroma of intimate and creepy visual experiences with Naked Lunch, but my favorite Cronenberg film will always be his remake of The Fly featuring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis in performances so good they had to run off and get married immediately after making it (though their marriage apparently lacked that Cronenberg magic, and didn’t last).

I haven’t seen A History of Violence yet, but I have read the excellent book that inspired it. I know some people are sick of the graphic novel fad, but I like them, and I hope this film will inspire more cinematic treatments of the genre’s classics. Who wants to take on Persepolis? How about Ralph Bakshi trying Maus?

On a much gentler front, Nicholson Baker and Margaret Brentano’s The World On Sunday is a gorgeous volume of archived newspaper artwork. It’s amusing to learn that Baker’s wife (who we have read much about in books like Room Temperature) is his co-author here, and one has to wonder if her literary last name (which once designated a great bookstore in midtown Manhattan, before it closed down) helped inspire the bibliophilic Baker to marry her.

The World On Sunday is not a major or definite Baker book, because words are his forte. But it is an overwhelmingly pleasing visual experience, and nobody but Baker would have worked this hard to bring it to you. When is somebody going to give Nicholson Baker a MacArthur genius grant, or a Nobel prize? The guy deserves it.

9 Responses

  1. My favorite Cronenberg film
    My favorite Cronenberg film is

    Dead Ringers.

    And speaking of graphic novels, Sin City, the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s noire comicbook, starts out great but gets boring about two thirds into the movie.

  2. fad?saying graphic novels are

    saying graphic novels are a fad is like saying a hula hoop is not art.

    graphic novels can be translated well to film for their necessary visual depiction of action and the movement that takes the reader’s eye from frame to frame.

    but the most important point i can make is that they aren’t a fad. you do them a disservice saying so. not that i think you want to disserve them.

  3. Well … I think whether they
    Well … I think whether they are considered a fad or not is more of a subjective issue, however I think the point was more that even though graphic novels can be great literature and art pieces, it’s definitely become trendy in many circles to adapt them, talk about them, publish them and write them regardless of their inherent (or actual) quality and/or value. While much of this buzz is likely well-deserved, I think it’s also resulted in a lot of folks and companies insincerely jumping on the bandwagon, just to show how “cool” they are. Not that any of us would do that, of course.

  4. *ahem*…you probably noticed
    *ahem*…you probably noticed how cool I am by my comment on Sin City…oh, I’m hip, baby!

  5. Well, Mindbum, I love graphic
    Well, Mindbum, I love graphic novels. But I do know other people consider them a fad. It’s those damn other people, always causing trouble.

  6. 27+ Year Old FadIn 1978, Will
    27+ Year Old Fad

    In 1978, Will Eisner launched the graphic novel with A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories
    which wasn’t the first graphic novel but became the standard bearer for being the first of its genre.

    I used to read old copies of the comic Classics Illustrated which ran from 1941 to 1962, with sales totaling 200 million. Adaptations included Don Quixote, Frankenstein, Hamlet, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jane Eyre, Lord Jim, Macbeth, Moby Dick, Oliver Twist, The Red Badge of Courage, Silas Marner and A Tale of Two Cities.

    My first novel Cerebral Cyanide would work better as a graphic novel but for the meantime I’ve tabled the notion unless an interested artist reads this.

  7. There is a great book about
    There is a great book about Kafka, illustrated by R. Crumb. It includes Kafka’s story, Metamorphosis, plus biographical info on Kafka, all illustrated. It might contain other stories, too, I don’t remember. Have you seen that book? To me, Crumb’s artwork perfectly compliments the subject matter.

  8. I read the Crumb illustrated
    I read the Crumb illustrated book on Kafka in one long sitting.

    I believe Icon Books is the publisher and they’ve been doing these since the early 80s. The last title I picked up listed hundreds of copies about literature, philosophy, etc. My favorites were on Wittegenstein and another about postmodernism.
    They’ve also been translated into Chinese.

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