The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons
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The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons (The Graphic Canon #1)

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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  345 ratings  ·  58 reviews
THE GRAPHIC CANON (Seven Stories Press) is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind trilogy that brings classic literatures of the world together with legendary graphic artists and illustrators. There are more than 130 illustrators represented and 190 literary works over three volumes—many newly commissioned, some hard to find—reinterpreted here for readers and collectors of all ages.

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Paperback, 512 pages
Published May 22nd 2012 by Seven Stories Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Alex
Jul 08, 2012 Alex rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Okay, I've been reading The Graphic Canon, looking for a reason for it to exist. It contains abridgements or excerpts of tons of terrific stories, from Gilgamesh to Les Liaisons Dangereuses, in comic book format. But who cares about abridgements or excerpts? To whom are they useful?

I started, as promised, by comparing Valerie Shrag's adaptation of Aristophanes' best-known and dirtiest play Lysistrata (411 BC) to Douglass Parker's translation. I was...actually sortof into it. It's charming and ef...more
Christopher
As in every compilation book with multiple contributors, it's hard to rate the book as a whole. There are some stories in here I'd give five stars, some I'd give one star. But the real question when discussing this book is, "Does this need to exist?" And the answer: "Kinda sorta." Most of the really great adaptations in here are excerpts from larger works, such as Gareth Hinds' adaptation of The Odyssey or Kevin Dixon's of The Epic of Gilgamesh, so in that sense The Graphic Canon is redundant. B...more
Heather
I was thrilled to have won this from Goodreads and waited impatiently for it to arrive. It was worth the wait. I haven't been reading graphic novels for very long but it took a very short amount of time to realize that the limited space afforded to the author and artist oftentimes makes for a more powerful story. It is distilled down to its essentials and is all the stronger for it.

A lot of these stories I was already familiar with and it was like seeing an old friend, there are changes but unde...more
Chris
Blerg. Despite all the accolades Russ Kick and the collected artists/adapters have apparently garnered, this isn't really that good of a collection. It is quite evident from the beginning most of the people involved have no real affinity for the subject matter, certainly not in any way remotely resembling respect. The biographies of the artists celebrate the fact most of them delight in creating underground and subversive material - which is certainly fine for them. Admittedly, a number of the "...more
Michael
Der Herausgeber Russ Kick legt den ersten von drei Bänden einer Anthologie vor, die die großen Werke der Literatur als Graphic Novel adoptiert. Es wurde mehrfach kritisiert und muß dem Käufer / Leser natürlich klar sein, dass er größtenteils nur (sehr) kleine Häppchen der Originaltexte serviert bekommen kann, denn der vorliegende Band hat "nur" 502 Seiten, was nicht einmal ansatzweise für die komplette Bearbeitung zum Beispiel der "Faerie Queene" reichen würde. Wer das Buch kauft, um sich in ver...more
Elizabeth A
This is such a fun book dip in and out of, and while I had heard of, if not read, most of these classics, there were some that were completely new to me. The thing to know before reading, is that this is a sampling of these classic stories - abridged, or a chapter of two of each. The graphics are simply wonderful, and while I did not love each and every one, there are many that are fantastic. I've added the next in the series to my TBR pile.
Phil Overeem
WOW! I cannot wait for Volume 2 (October) and Volume 3 (March 2013). A marvelous array of lit and graphic styles, and just the thing to motivate you to read the whole canon before you die. It is graphic in more ways than one, but it still would be a great stimulant for young minds striving to become citizens of the world.
Anders
So this was pretty cool. Given to me by a friend for xmas because I like graphic novels and such, I was particularly looking forward to the ancient Greek adapted sections.

The editor of the collection, Russ Kick, put little introductions to each work that not only gave you some background on the work that was being adapted, which was often insightful if brief, but also some background info on the adapter of the work (He also has sections in the back, which are also brief, and expand on such thing...more
Shivering William
Simply the most consistently top-notch anthology I've ever read. Out of fifty stories, I only thought one was sub-par. If I could only hand someone one comic to read, this would be it.
Ryandake
ay! don't even ask why. just go read it.
Joe Rouse
I was fortunate enough to meet Russ Kick, the editor/curator of this amazing work, while he was in town for Books on the Banks. He mentioned (as he does deftly in the Introduction) that we are living in the "Golden Age" of graphic novels, and this behemoth is true testament to that. The popularity of graphic novels in both popular and academic cultures is not to be underestimated. Kick's appreciation of this is forward-thinking and prophetic, at the very least.

The Graphic Canon, volumes 1 and 2,...more
Jonathan Funk
What an amazing idea! Take a sampling of the greatest works of literature throughout history and adapt them into graphic novel form.

This makes many of the classics far more accessible to a general audience. There are many classics that I've thought about reading in the past, but how to choose what to read? These adaptations are often not complete transcriptions of the works in question, but only specific portions of each story, meant to offer a taste of what to expect in the greater works. I fou...more
Margo R
I was expecting to really love this book. Comics! Literary anthologies! All the things I love best in the world! But instead I was thoroughly underwhelmed.

Some good stuff: I loved most of the stories I'd never heard before, like there were (as with any anthology) occasional gems, where the artist and the material worked very well together. Rebecca Dart's brilliant version of "Paradise Lost", for example, sent shivers down my spine.

There were also a few stories that I had never heard of, like th...more
Sarah
I found The Graphic Canon very interesting on a few levels. First, each story is illustrated in a very different style, sometimes suitable for the story and sometimes it is given a whole new meaning by its graphic telling. All of the artists are talented in their own ways, and some give a literal summary of the story, while others share their impressions of it.

Secondly, the selections are truly taken from World Literature, not merely from the limited scope of the Western Canon. Because of this,...more
Miroku Nemeth
I will just say that there are things unearthed in this volume that are gems and rare metals, and others, pure fool's gold.

Some of the art was excellent, some simply repulsive and truly an insult to the literature. I found the overview of literature throughout the ages itself and the breadth of selections within the anthology very enjoyable.

I also found this beautiful:

How prone we are to sin; how sweet were made
The pleasures our resistless hearts invade.
Of all my crimes, the breach of all thy l...more
Stephen
I'd already encountered the art by artists I admire in this thing (Crumb, Geary). The rest, wow, please consider taking an art class BECAUSE YOU SUCK!

You see, this is supposed to be a visual interpretation of great works of literature. When we get this literature reduced, tweaked, condensed, (and I gotta say it) dumbed down, and then saddled onto a non-ready-for-prime-time cartoonist, it makes me angry.

Most times if you see an indy project like this you either tell your comic shop to order it...more
Catherine
I finally got around to finishing my review of this work! Summary: A very mixed bag of pieces in a variety of styles, often in colour, which make it fun to flip through; however, some are poor interpretations, and sometimes Kick's commissions fall flat. For twenty bucks, though, hard to go wrong if you have the space.

In short: unsure about the commission aspect, no manga, heavy on Western and British literature, some comics poorly executed. But some gorgeous pieces by comic masters and newcomers...more
Bri
I have my issues with what seems like everything being turned into graphic novels these days. That being said, I can see the merits of using the medium as a teaching tool for those who might otherwise be reluctant to explore the classics. I can see this book being used to encourage students to engage with the classics.

I'm not a fan of some of the adaptations within the book (and there are some works I would've included in place of others...), but on the whole I enjoyed the collection. If the lib...more
Justina
Great compilation. I just wish the excerpts were a bit longer.
Stella
Wish some of the excerpts were a bit longer.
Wendy
Ambivalent. As another reviewer mentioned, this is definitely more "graphic" than "canon." I appreciated some exposure to tales of which I'd been unaware and several really talented artists - but with such tiny out-of-context snippets of so many epic works, the whole thing just felt like a teaser or an index to a much larger repository (and there's little question in my mind that the full works - as graphic adaptations or not - would be a great deal more enjoyable and rewarding). Fine for what i...more
Janice
Turning an epic story into a graphic novel of 20 pages, at the most, is just frustrating. It's like looking at a picture of a piece of German Chocolate Cake and then telling the artist it was the best you'd ever tasted. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but not when it comes to historical literature. I know our world is fast paced, but sometimes one just needs to hunker down and read...not just look at the pictures. The "tasting" is in the well-crafted words and the emotion in the s...more
Elizabeth
borrowed from library, 1 Feb. 2014
Matt
Pretty great. Looking forward to reading the second one. My favorite pieces were the ones that actually told full stories rather than snippets and scenes from stories: the Coyote story and the 1001 Nights stories were my favorite parts then. Also, the guy who compiled this anthology seemed pretty focused on the bawdy, raunchy stuff in the stories. Not that it's a problem, but it definitely seemed pretty frequent.
Aaron
May 20, 2013 Aaron rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: graphic artists, art lovers, literature fans
Having read Volume 2 first, this seemed to be a no-brainer. However, I think I enjoyed the literature more in Volume 2, but the art in Volume 1 seems to be more my speed. Again, these sorts of graphic novels are, in my opinion, a bit more subjective in whether or not they are enjoyed. This volume pulls from a much older, and less well known, canon. Still, it's an interesting collection and will provide something for everyone.
Craig
I have mixed thoughts on this one. I enjoyed many of the story style adaptations, especially the comic format. Many of the rest lost my interest very quickly and I ended up skipping many of those.
I think I came in with high expectations of interesting adaptations in graphic / comic format and so was disappointed. Some were quite good. With my skimming, the book was easily completed in a few hours.
Liz DeCoster
As with all compilations, there are strengths and weaknesses. With the really broad range of artists it can be hard to get into a "flow" of reading, but it also means there's something for everyone. This first book felt a little heavy from repetition - a lot of Greco-Roman epic poetry, a lot of Shakespeare - but I appreciated that each author/illustrator brought something to their interpretation.
Cassie
This is really cool and I want it.

I haven't had time to read through the whole thing, but I've flipped through and looked at all the pictures. I just think it's a brilliant concept and a great companion to my literary tastes.

It's something that would be lovely to have sitting on my shelf so I could occasionally pick it up and read a story or two.
Shana Dennis
More than any other compendium of literature, this book covers every genre from around the world and every type of writing. This is a refreshing change, since most books that claim to offer the best literature has to offer cover only Western writings, and then only things that are not "naughty". I can't wait to read the next two volumes!
Neal
I am probably giving this book a little leeway for gamely tackling such an ambitious project - an overview of centuries of literature in graphic novel format. It suffers from the unevenness that plagues pretty much every anthology ever, but most of the adaptation bring something interesting, inventive, or informative to the table.
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Graphic Novel Rea...: Russ Kick - FREE event at Baltimore library 1 8 May 19, 2012 12:15PM  
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Editor of the website The Memory Hole which publishes and archives hidden US government documents, including scientific studies and reports, civil rights-related reports, intelligence and covert action reports.

He is also editor-at-large for The Disinformation Company, where he has published several books including The Book of Lists and 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know.
More about Russ Kick...
Everything You Know is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies You are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes, and Cultural Myths Everything You Know About God is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know Disinformation Book of Lists: Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-Fire Format

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