Great Graphic Non-Fiction Biographies

Continuing the theme of Graphic Non-Fiction, I offer for your consideration 5 books with 4 subjects.

Let’s start with Franz Kafka (b. 1883)! Fun times. A great read is R. Crumb’s Kafka, text by David Zane Mairowitz – 1993 Publisher’s Group West, Berkeley CA. On the back cover, R. Crumb is touted as “…the worlds greatest underground comic artist,” because he is and  certainly is one of the foundations of the Graphic Book genre. The book is a biography with some of Kafka’s stories interspersed with commentary on how the stories related to his life. I am a big Crumb fan, so I am biased, but in spite of that, this is a book worth reading if you are not that familiar with much of Kafka.

One of Kafka’s most well known books is Metamorphosis (yeah, the one about the boy cockroach). Peter Kuper, another superior Graphic Book artist has put Metamorphosis in  graphic book format, The Metamorphosis-2003 Crown Publishers, New York. You will never see a more pitiable Gregor than this one.

Moving forward a little in time the wonderful Graphic Artist Rick Geary produced what he calls “A Graphic Biography” of none other than Leon Trotsky (yeah, one of the founders of the Russian Revolution (1917), died with an ax in his brain in Mexico). Great story well illustrated by Mr. Geary. Trotsky – 2009 Hill and Wang, New York

Jumping ahead to the 5os, we have The Beat’s, a Graphic History- edited by Paul Buhle -2009 Hill and Wang, New York, with text by various authors like Harvey Pekar ( more on Harvey below ) and art by artists like Peter Kuper (sound familiar?). A nice overview of the Beat writers and poets scene.

And last but certainly not least Best of American Spendor by Harvey Pekar– 2005 Ballantine Books New York. The back cover states “The story begins in 1976 when Harvey began publishing his autobiographical, slice-of-downtrodden-life comic book series American Spendor, illustrated by a who’s who of underground comic artists, including R. Crumb…  Harvey… has been compared to Theodore Dreiser, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Lenny Bruce…” This “best of” volume also includes the great comic artists Joe Sacco and Spain in addition to R. Crumb. Great series and don’t forget the great movie American Splendor with Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis which also stars Harvey himself (d. 2010).

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About Don Segal

See Commentary, Photos, Drawings and Poetry on my blog at donsegal.wordpress.com.
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