The original three-volume anthology The Graphic Canon presented the world’s classic literature–from ancient times to the late twentieth century–as eye-popping comics, illustrations, and other visual forms. In this follow-up volume, young people’s literature through the ages is given new life by the best comics artists and illustrators. Fairy tales, fables, fantastical adventures, young adult novels, swashbuckling yarns, your favorite stories from childhood and your teenage years…they’re all here, in all their original complexity and strangeness, before they were censored or sanitized.
This was so much fun to read!
As with the other volumes of the graphic canon, Russ Kick’s thoughtful commentary on each piece provided me with tons of insight into all the works of children’s literature that are considered classics. What I found interesting was that the blurry line between adult and children’s lit always existed; many of these classics started as adult stories. Children’s novels have always been complex with complicated themes and immoral characters; cautionary and informative tales.
The second thing I found interesting was that censorship has been happening since the days of the Grimm brothers, with tales being edited and toned down to suit younger audiences. Over time, gorier parts get removed and long stories abridged. While I do not believe in sheltering children, there are some things that young children don’t need to know about – but it’s a hard line to draw. I take no issue with giving simpler versions of novels to children – so long as it is not sanitized to the point where the message is lost. Life involves pain and loss and sacrifice and it’s important that children experience this.
Which bring me to my next point – Disney. Kick’s disdain for Disney is something I completely agree with. Not only did Disney completely sanitize all the fairy tales for children, they also created versions of the characters that remain engraved in the collective consciousness, preventing us from imagining these stories in a different way. Literature is meant to be interpreted in different ways – not not reduced to a single image.
Thankfully, the graphic adaptations that fill this volume each showcase the respective work of literature in a new light – a way that makes sense, but hasn’t been done before. Though I didn’t like every artist’s style, I was able to appreciate their re-imaginings of the classics and each pushed me to look at these classic novels in a whole new way.
In a lot of ways, this volume was a lot more fun then the other ones because, a) it’s kids lit after all, and b) it was wonderful to return to some childhood favourites. I also knew way more of the stories than in the other three volumes which made following along a lot more satisfying.
Recommended to lovers of graphic novels, children’s lit, or those who are interested in getting some interesting commentary and new angles on classics.