Graphic Classics: Mark Twain
I love the fact that nobody spent any time in this interpreting The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Clemens (that’s his real name, as a tiny bit of my schoolin’ is clinging to my brain) had pearls of wisdom and quirky little short stories that have probably never been equaled, and that’s what everybody here focused on. The Mysterious Stranger, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, A Dog’s Tale, P.T. Barnum and the Cardiff Giant, and A Ghost Story are a few of the stories in this book. I’d only heard of two people in this one (Rick Geary and Mary Fleener), but it’s obviously a lot more fun than the Bram Stoker volume. It is worth your time to actually seek out some of his books, but this is perfect to introduce children to his work or just a great collection of his stories. It’s still only $9.95 and everything I’ve seen of this series so far shows me that it’s a blast. Website!
Yes, I’m finally getting around to reviewing a Big Book. It only took me about 3 years after I put the page up, but it turns out that there are a lot of mini comics coming out on a regular basis, and that’s what the page is all about, after all. This is just in case there’s anybody out there who still doesn’t know about this marvelous series. What they do is take a subject (scroll around for more of the titles) and examine it from every angle, using a variety of some of the best comics illustrators out there. Here’s a partial list, leaving aside the fact that the whole thing is put together by Gahan Wilson, and shame on you if you don’t know who he is: Bob Fingerman, Hunt Emerson, Renee French, Ivan Brunetti, Rick Geary, and Glenn Barr, along with about 40 others that you’ll probably recognize at least a little bit but be unaware where you recognize them from, if you’re anything like me. Anyway, obviously, this one is all about freaks throughout the ages. Yes, they deal with the politically correct way you’re supposed to say “freaks”. In here you have ancient legends about giants and other oddities, freaks of nature like Chang and Eng (the first Siamese twins, and the reason that they’ve all been called “Siamese” since) and the Elephant Man, P.T. Barnum and his business dealings, flea circuses, snake charmers and “geeks”, bearded women and tattooed men, faked freaks, and personal lives of freaks such as Zip, Baby Ruth, Lobster Boy, and the gentle giant of Alton, Illinois. Whew! There are pieces, here and there, where you wish for a bit more personal detail, but there’s not going to be a lot of personal detail with a lot of these stories because it’s ancient history in a lot of cases and their real stories were usually closely guarded, so as to avoid people finding out the truth. That’s the only minor complaint I have with this book, however. If you’re curious about anything above what’s in here, there’s an extensive bibliography in the back. I love the fact that it’s a different artist for every story, as it gives a lot of incredibly talented people a chance to give their interpretations of many, many odd people. I remember this as being one of my favorites of the bunch, and I’ll probably put up a few more reviews before three more years pass, but I have to point out again how wonderful these books are. Anybody, comics fan or not, can pick one of these up, read it for a few hours, and come away knowing somewhere between a lot and a little more than they started with. There were a few things I picked up this time that I hadn’t before, and I’ve read this thing probably three times. A fantastic, indispensable book, and cheap enough at $14.95 that it’s hard to resist. If you haven’t seen any of these before, and you don’t have a weak stomach, I’d say start with this one.