Category Archives: Seven Stories Press

Review: ‘The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Volume One’

“The Graphic Canon of Crime and Mystery, Vol. 1: From Sherlock Holmes to A Clockwork Orange to Jo Nesbø”

Jerome Charyn, one of our great writers, known for his Isaac Sidel mystery series among many other works, has said that “all novels are crime novels.” It is an intriguing idea. You may as well take it a step further and say that all narrative, even the Bible, shares something with the genre. It is in that spirit that Russ Kick brings us the latest in his series of great works of fiction adapted into the comics medium. “The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery Volume 1” is published by Seven Stories Press.

This is a take on the crime & mystery genre that proves quite refreshing and a true eye-opener. Russ Kick, in the role of curator/editor, has taken an offbeat path in order to emphasize just how diverse and unpredictable his subject can be. Kick goes so far as to not include any adaptation of two of the most prominent names of all: Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Perhaps he’s saving them for another volume. As a cartoonist myself, I would find those two irresistible for adaptation. But I also appreciate that Kick is playing with a delicate balance of mixing the familiar with surprising elements. Take the cover image. What on earth is going on there? A woman has been left tied up to a bed as a man creeps upstairs. Kick manages to keep just the right unsettling vibe running throughout this impressive anthology.

Good crime fiction keeps you on your toes. You are not supposed to be on solid ground. You are supposed to expect the unexpected. To set the mood, as well as provide the necessary framework, Kick has done away with chronology and has organized each adaptation within chapter categories: The Act; Criminals; Whodunit; Judgment; and Punishment. Take the judgment theme, for example. Within that one you have a story from the Bible, “Jesus and the Adulteress,” a story from Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” and Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” Neither of these would seem to be an obvious fit. There are certainly no gumshoe detectives here. But there is undeniable intrigue, and each story revolves around a crime. It is in Hawthorne’s case that we have that persistent double layer of gloom that resonates with a contemporary reader.

Excerpt from “The Scarlet Letter”

One of my earliest reviews of comics was the work of Sophia Wiedeman. I am quite taken with her eerie and understated comics. It is very nice to see her adaptation here of “The Scarlett Letter.” Hawthorne, like Washington Irving and Robert Louis Stevenson, is a true master of early American psychological thrillers. Wiedeman’s adaptation evokes the chilling air surrounded by poker face Puritans hungry for self-righteous violence.

Excerpt from “Headhunters”

But you really cannot deny yourself altogether the grit, glamour, and style that is so inextricably linked to the crime & mystery genre. The one piece that really satisfies that “To Catch a Thief” vibe is an adaptation of “Headhunters” by Jo Nesbø. If the name is not familiar, then maybe you have not tuned into the crime fiction trend coming out of Scandinavia and known as “Scandicrime.” Who knew. I have tended to see Scandinavians as rather mellow sensible sorts. But, no, push come to shove, and ditch the lutefisk in favor of brass knuckles. For this piece, Jackie Roche adapts a tale of a man leading a double life: corporate headhunter by day; master cat burglar by night. Roche has a perfectly light touch that gives this story an added touch of class.

Excerpt from “In Cold Blood”

For something decidedly chilling, there is the adaptation by Emi Gennis of the Truman Capote masterpiece, “In Cold Blood.” Gennis is another cartoonist I have followed and always find interesting. For her piece, she lets much of the plot speak for itself with minimal dialogue. Her stark and space style gives it all a nice edge.

Excerpt from “The Postman Always Rings Twice”

Sarah Benkin does something similar with her adaptation of the James M. Cain all-time classic “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” Benkin’s approach brings home the old adage of how the best laid plans of mice and men can fail miserably.

Excerpt from “Strangers on a Train”

And one more: it’s fun to see a piece by Megan Kelso that turns up the heat on her usually reserved and understated style with her adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s “Strangers on a Train.” It’s as if a lot of things that often go unsaid in a Kelso story are forced up a bit to the surface. That said, Kelso conceals where she needs to and leaves the reader wondering in the spirit of any good mystery.

“The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Vol. 1” is a 352-page trade paperback, available as of November 21, 2017, and published by Seven Stories Press.

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Filed under Comics, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Literature, mystery, Seven Stories Press, writers, writing

Review: TRUMP by Ted Rall

Ted Rall Donald Trump

TRUMP is an informative guide on Donald Trump presented in a comics format by Ted Rall, published by Seven Stories Press. It is not a satire, nor is it a bombastic attack on Mr. Trump. In fact, if you were only to read a brief passage here or there, you might even warm up a bit to the human being that is Donald J. Trump. Yes, of course, this is a human being we’re talking about. To his credit, Trump has provided quite a reality check to what has usually been a rather rote and bloodless presidential campaign process. Well, the powers that be would much prefer it to work that way. But there’s always room for some sort of change. The last hopeful sign of it was the rise of Barack Obama. This time around, some would have you believe that the winds of change are for Trump. With Ted Rall’s compact and concise guide, you might pick up on a number of facts that have gotten lost in the whirlwind.

When one sings a high note, it is essential to leave room for the climb up. And so it is with Rall’s rendition of events. Rall has had a glorious career in comics leaning hard left or involving highly-charged pieces railing against the status quo. But, through it all, I believe Ted Rall has always had something interesting to say. I’ve had the pleasure to review two of his recent books, also with Seven Stories Press: a bio of Edward Snowden; and a bio on Bernie Sanders. SNOWDEN paved the way for some of Rall’s best work. The format of crisp chapters that hit the main points to each topic leads to greater clarity and seems to foster a well-balanced approach.

Trump, a pacifist? Not so much.

Trump, a pacifist? Not so much.

Of course, Rall wouldn’t be Rall without some provocation. In the case of TRUMP, Rall is playing fair where he can. Sure, Trump has proven to be a good guy in regards to his own family. Yes, Trump has made the establishment cringe in much needed ways. Who else but Trump would dare to so pointedly criticize the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Well, no Republican dared to cross the Bush dynasty in the way Trump did. Like it or not, that rebuke of the war in Iraq was nothing less than brilliant. However, Rall, while giving Trump some credit, is also building a case that a Trump administration would be fascist. In fact, Rall brings up a comparison to Hitler a number of times.

What makes Rall’s argument work is that he thoughtfully and logically presents the facts. Ironically, as it were, Rall does agree with Trump that America, overall, has been in decline these last forty years or so. But Trump is only exploiting a vulnerability. He heavily relies on his charisma and empty slogans. He blames races of people for America’s problems. And, while he was against the war in Iraq, he shows no qualms about “bombing the hell out of ISIS.” Rall refers back to, Robert Paxton, a history professor he studied under at Columbia. Paxton wrote the definitive, “The Anatomy of Fascism.” Of Trump, Paxton says, “He’s very spontaneous. He has a genius for sensing the mood of a crowd and I think to some degree Hitler and Mussolini had those qualities also. I do not think he’s learned this from a book.”

When the U.S. government could have saved Main Street, it sided instead with Wall Street.

When the U.S. government could have saved Main Street, it sided instead with Wall Street.

Or is it possible that much, if not all, of what Trump has said and promised on the campaign trail is a bunch of blustery hooey? Rall’s book came out in time to tap into the recurring theme about Trump supporters: They are willing to overlook his offensive statements and take it with a grain of salt. The overriding goal for them is change. Let Trump be Trump and let him give an upturned middle finger to the political elite. It’s a fairly sophisticated stance coming from what most of the media is willing to dismiss as a steaming pile of racist buffoons.

Trump has been Professor Harold Hill to America’s vulnerable River City. Like that masterful Pied Piper, Trump has ingratiated himself with a larger-than-life persona only to come up woefully short on any of his outrageous promises. Trump has inspired Ted Rall to write this book about him and make a case for him being a fascist! But, alas, Trump may prove to be the most empty suit of them all.

TRUMP is a 192-page trade paperback in full color. For more details, visit Seven Stories Press right here.

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Filed under Barack Obama, Comics, Donald Trump, Great Recession, Hillary Clinton, Political Cartoons, politics, Seven Stories Press

Review: BERNIE by Ted Rall

Bernie Sanders Ted Rall 2016

“Bernie,” the new graphic biography by Ted Rall, published by Seven Stories Press, is a brilliant portrait of the celebrated iconoclast. Following up on his graphic biography of Edward Snowden, Ted Rall has found a kindred spirit in Bernie Sanders. Something broke in the American political system at the end of the Sixties and we have been grappling with that ever since: the demise of liberal activism and the ascent of corporate influence. We see that debate raging in this year’s presidential campaign. Hillary Clinton represents the centrist Democrat; Bernie Sanders represents a way back to progressive values. Rall not only makes a case for Sanders but, in the process, shows us how far afield the American political system has gone and why it is vital to regain balance.

Bernie Sanders Rall 2016

Ted Rall and Bernie Sanders both do not mince words and get to the point: the American middle class is being shrunken out of existence. The American political system is out of whack. Billionaires rule. The common man is left out in the cold. So, where do we go from here? Whatever your political affiliation, it is hard to make a case for the established way of doing things. Rall begins by looking back at how we got where we are. Rall points to the death of American mainstream liberalism with the stunning and utter defeat of Democrat George McGovern to Republican Richard Nixon in 1972. From that point forward, Democrats made a decided turn to the center right. Not only did Democrats abandon pursuit of social programs and saving the environment, they found themselves scrambling to hold onto past accomplishments. In the meantime, the right-wing of the Republican party became toxic.

Bernie Seven Stories Press

In the spirit of America’s robust liberal history, there emerges a voice that finds many ears, Bernie Sanders. Rall makes the case that with the Great Recession, Bernie Sanders and his vision, is more relevant than ever. Rall’s simple drawing style is quite effective in keeping to a steady pace. As always, he cuts to the chase and provides numerous examples to make his point. Rall speaks eloquently to anything an Occupy Wall Street protestor might want to share with the public.

In the end, as divisive and distracting as politics is, there are some humbling facts to consider. Does anyone really want to see their government in the hip pocket of big business and needlessly avoiding investing in its citizens and infrastructure?

Sanders Teddy Roosevelt

Rall makes a strong case for a Bernie Sanders candidacy and what it means. Even if establishment Democrats are resistant, Sanders is paving the way for a return to progressive values. Sanders isn’t planning to change the Democratic Party but his involvement now, in 2016, is the start of a new wave of involvement. Whatever the outcome, the rise of Bernie Sanders is significant.

“Bernie” is a 205-page paperback available now. For more details, visit our friends at Seven Stories Press right here.

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Filed under Bernie Sanders, Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Hillary Clinton, politics, Seven Stories Press

Review: SNOWDEN by Ted Rall

Snowden-Seven-Stories-Press

How important is the truth to you? In the new graphic biography, SNOWDEN, published by Seven Stories Press, Ted Rall presents to us not only the story of a whistleblower but an American intelligence system gone haywire. In Orwellian fashion, your laptop, home computer, smartphone, or television screen are being used as monitoring devices. As Rall states, “The National Security Agency’s goal is to gather every fact, every communication, about everybody on Earth.” And despite the best efforts of Edward Snowden to expose the abuse of power, the NSA continues to pretty much do as it pleases. Unlike the media’s personality-driven story, this story is only partly about a whistleblower.

Edward-Snowden-Ted-Rall

Ted Rall is known for his provocative political cartoons. For this book, he aims for clarity and a step-by-step approach. He does not draw horns and a tail on each of the bad guys. He tones it down for the sake of better conveying the facts. It’s a delicate balancing act as he goes about describing the enormity of the abuse, impressing upon the reader the large number of people who knew about it but remained quiet, and attempting to paint a portrait of the ideal personality to blow the whistle.

NSA-Surveillance

Given the number of key facts that need to be presented in an organized, and accessible fashion, Rall does a supreme job of giving the reader a primer on how their privacy is being violated and why a young man named Edward Snowden deserves to be given a chance to make his case.

Edward-Snowden-James-Clapper

The pace of the narrative is just right. It amounts to a panel per page. You feel a serious urgency tempered by a steady hand. It seems like each page has boiled down what it has to say to a very compelling level. Many pages can easily act as memes. One excellent example focuses on the duplicitous testimony before Congress by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. He makes the ridiculous distinction that it’s alright to store an innocent person’s data as long as it’s not read.

Ted-Rall-Snowden-2015

Ted Rall has never drawn a convincing portrait of anyone. His depictions don’t really resemble Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or George W. Bush as much as look like a bunch of generic meat puppets. That helps create enough of a distance when dealing with these political fixtures. Maybe this story was a little different as it sees a former boy scout and defender of country turn into the most wanted man on the planet. Rall seems to have been moved by that fact.

Ted-Rall-Snowden

We mostly see Snowden depicted pretty much like any other Rall character but, at times, there is a less rushed, more careful, depiction. And, without a doubt, there is a certain specificity, and even warmth, for his cover art portrait of Edward Snowden. I think that was essential and will help draw readers into a most compelling read.

SNOWDEN is a 224-page trade paperback, published by Seven Stories Press, and available now. You can find it at Amazon right here.

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Filed under Comics, Edward Snowden, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Seven Stories Press, Ted Rall

Interview: STEPHANIE McMILLAN and Activism in Comics

Stephanie-McMillan-comics

Stephanie McMillan is an important voice. She is doing her part to make this a better world through her activism and her comics. And, fortunately for us, those two passions turn into some very compelling work. Her latest collection of comics, “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide,” is published by Seven Stories Press. This book is a 160-page trade paperback priced at $12.71 and is set for release on October 8, 2013. Be sure to visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here and visit Stephanie McMillan here.

The following is an extensive email interview that I hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by. What really motivates our actions? What sort of world do we accept and what sort of world could we aspire to? These are some of the ideas up for discussion in this interview.

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Filed under Activism, Comics, Occupy movement, One Struggle, Political Cartoons, politics, Protest, Seven Stories Press, Stephanie McMillan

Review: ‘The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide’

Minimum-Security-Chronicles-Stephanie-McMillan

“The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” is full of whimsy and wisdom as it follows its characters on a journey to save the planet. It’s all up to a group of friends to figure out if they can smash the capitalist system or just give up and go shopping. What makes Stephanie McMillan’s comic strip such a page-turner is her ability to find the right mix of humor and intelligent discourse.

Stephanie McMillan’s sense of urgency and comedy is irresistible. She has placed a whole new generation with the burden of saving the planet but they’re pretty clueless. There’s Kranti and Bananabelle, who just barely know the struggles from the past. Kranti, an African-American, is quick to join a protest rally and yell, “By any means necessary!” And Bananabelle, intuitively, recognizes that won’t go over well with the “mainstream liberals.”

Then there’s Kranti’s brother, Nikko, and his lover, Javier. They are both at the mercy of the current economic tide. Nikko manages to just get by with his design work. Javier, has let things slip in pursuit of his art and relies on Nikko’s meager income. All four of these unlikely heroes will be stretched to their limits as they try to do the right thing.

Stephanine-McMillan-Minimum-Security

Guidance and advice comes from Victoria, a theorist guinea pig; and Bunnista, a trigger-happy rabbit. Each of them, in their own way, have some wisdom to share but they are still working on the ultimate answers. Victoria is uncompromising in her ideals. Bunnista is too eager to blow things up.

As the story unfolds, we find ourselves exploring the available options to make this a better world: everything from community gardening to murder is on the table. What is really compelling about this comic strip is just how far it is willing to go. If Kranti and Bananabelle didn’t appreciate what was meant when someone said, “By any means necessary,” they certainly do by the end of this tale.

Seven-Stories-Press-Stephanie-McMillan-2013

Seven-Stories-Press-Stephanie-McMillan

One of McMillan’s goals with this particular story is to raise awareness of how corporations are raping the environment, specifically with bio-engineering. She is seeking answers. And the one thing she keeps returning to is the unequivocal need to rid ourselves of global capitalism. But, at every turn, she shows us how futile that effort appears to be. The great contradiction is that we have no choice but to fight the system, a fight that may appear to be too big to win. All life on the planet hangs in the balance. The only sure thing is that we must persist, live to fight another day. It’s a cliffhanger to the story of life that we must all live with.

And just how do you end capitalism? Well, that is an ongoing discussion. This current comics collection makes that clear. The subject is too vital and complex to address in just one book. For instance, McMillan has a guide to the people’s struggle, “Capitalism Must Die,” that will soon come out. For now, “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” provides an educational and entertaining look at what happens when people must confront the system.

Visit Stephanie McMillan at her website here.

“The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” is published by Seven Stories Press. This book is a 160-page trade paperback priced at $12.71 and is set for release on October 8, 2013. Be sure to visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here.

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Filed under Comics, Editorial Cartoons, Environment, Occupy movement, Political Cartoons, politics, Protest, Seven Stories Press, Stephanie McMillan

Review: ‘The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement’

The-Beginning-of-the-American-Fall-Stephanie-McMillan

“The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement” does a remarkable job of giving you a sense of the Occupy movement by placing it into proper context. Yes, there is a healthy and vigorous unrest across the globe but what to do about it? At some point, the spirit of protest from the 1960s began to seem like a relic. There was the yuppie backlash of the 1980s. And there was a strident cynicism from Generation X that found Baby Boomers, on the whole, to be self-indulgent navel gazers of the highest order, especially when it came to their politics and activism. They are a tough crowd, those Gen Xers but that harsh critical outlook led to a whole new Do-It-Yourself movement. And from that, arose another generation with strong opinions, Generation Y, or the the Millennials. With social media and gadgetry at their command, this new generation finds itself all the more connected while also all the more self-absorbed.

This bring us back to the recent past and the present. Are people most likely to steer their own lives within relative safety and comfort or do they take notice of the social unrest they see on the news from time to time? That is the question that the author of this book had to pose to herself while still in high school in the early 1980s. Stephanie McMillan picked up a book that would change her life. It was “Fate of the Earth,” by Jonathan Schell which lays out the prospect of nuclear war and how nations are willing to put the planet at risk for the sake of warmongering. This galvanized McMillan into a life of activism. Shortly after that book, she read the newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker. This planted the seed in her mind that the solution to social ills would ultimately come through revolution. Thirty years later, and with plenty of experience in what is possible through protest, McMillan was to finally see in her lifetime a people’s movement on a grand scale.

McMillan sets the stage for us by highlighting some of the key characteristics of 2011, the year that the Occupy movement took hold:

Occupy-Wall-Street-Year-2011

Occupy-movement-2011

2011 is so recent that it may as well be today and at least the next few years ahead. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? Corporate greed goes unchecked, will continue to go unchecked, and people and the planet suffer for it. When McMillan goes into details about the rise of the Occupy movement, there is a palpable sense of urgency. We are drawn into her concern that the movement she had favored, “Stop the Machine,” was soon to be overshadowed by the rowdy new kid on the block, Occupy. It’s clear these are two very different approaches. Stop is highly organized and has a leadership structure. Occupy is founded on anarchism and relies upon collective decision-making. Will they be able to work together? Or will they work against each other? In a wonderful series of exchanges, McMillan draws for us how a people’s movement finds its way. Her illustrations are funny, irreverent, and quite honest. While she’s a participant in this story, she doesn’t shy away from depicting the inconsistencies, bickering, and mistakes that occur along the way.

Stephanie-McMillan-Occupy-One-Struggle

Occupy-Wall-Street-movement

Beginning-American-Fall-McMillan

McMillan’s main concern is on the eventual work ahead. Throughout this book, we are treated to a treasure trove of insights, facts, and ideas on some of the best options when attempting to do the most good with the energy of mounting social unrest. McMillan boils it down to an unquestionable need to rid ourselves of global capitalism. It is capitalism that is the problem. But just how do you rid yourself of capitalism? Aren’t we all, at heart, hapless consumers? As Pogo, the celebrated comic strip character once said, “We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.”

It is as if a goal is being proposed that is unattainable. Are we seeking to change the world or just a part of it? The answers are not all there but at least we’re asking questions. The very act of questioning is part of the answer! We are not mindless drones. It’s a fundamental impulse to resist oppression. This book proves to be an essential guide in this great new age of change.

“The Beginning of the American Fall” is published by Seven Stories Press. It is a 141-page trade, priced at $12.71 US. Visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, Occupy movement, Protest, Seven Stories Press, Stephanie McMillan