Love & Death – On Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing

I’m always shocked to the point of anger whenever I read any list of the greatest comics ever written and find Alan Moore’s jaw droppingly beautiful 44 issue run on Saga of the Swamp Thing sitting anywhere but comfortably near the top. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Swamp Thing? Really? That cheesy green monster? Are you &*%$ing kidding me? The answer is no, and not only do those that haven’t read it have absolutely no idea what they’ve been missing out on, I’m truly envious of that experience of reading it for the first time which is just sitting out there on store shelves, waiting for anyone willing to give it a shot.

Taking the reigns with #20, an issue that to my knowledge has never been included in a collection (thus definitely making it worth the effort to seek out), Moore immediately ties up loose ends left by the previous creative team and sets himself up to write what is arguably one of the most influential single issues ever written. “The Anatomy Lesson” is a story that signals not only a completely unashamed and triumphant return to an EC horror comic style (albeit, with a far more sophisticated approach) but also features a truly shocking re-interpretation of the the character that is impossible to forget.

I can’t lie. It’s actually a little difficult to write about Swamp Thing as I can’t bring myself to give too much away. It’s an experience that is truly something to be cherished. This is the first mainstream title to toss aside the comics code. This is the book that gave birth to the Vertigo imprint (paving the way for titles like Sandman, Preacher, and Fables). This is the comic that introduced the world to John Constantine, and for those willing to give it a shot, you will be treated to an impossibly epic tale that will take you to haunted houses, introduce you to were-women and aquatic vampires, pull you deep into the Earth itself, drag you through Hell and back, and then shoot you through the stars and across an entire universe.

Yet, the simple truth is that for all of it’s monsters, death and demons, this is a book about love and loyalty, pure and simple.

Yes, comic books can give you nightmares. Yes, comic books can make you cry. Yes, comic books can achieve a certain type of profound beauty that is simply impossible for any other medium to duplicate. Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing achieves all of those things easily.

On the Implications of Stitches

stitchesSeveral months ago I met with a representative from the Norton group who strongly encouraged me to pick up a copy of Stitches: A Memoir by David Small.  I had kind of forgotten about the book until it arrived and I put it on the shelf. It is a remarkable book.  Written and illustrated by David Small, a childrens author and illustrator, it is an autobiographical graphic novel: a comic book.  The implications of such a title didn’t hit me.  Recently we have made a movement in our store to give better real estate and advertising to our Graphic Novel section, under the belief that the old stigma of the “comic book geek” has died, that more and more known literary figures are delving into the genre, that hollywood has begun to take an intensive and serious interest, and that it has truly hit the mainstream–but not just the mainstream, it has hit the intellectual.  Over the years, people who might have scoffed at someone reading a comic book have found their favorite authors immersed in the genre:  Michael Chabon, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Paul Auster. More and more people are discovering the depth that and brilliance that comic books can give to narrative tale.  There is no longer a reason to banish them to the basement, hide them under the bed, or fear the comic book guy.  People display them proudly on their home book shelves next to copies of Ulysses or A Remembrance of Things Past, as we display them proudly next to our literature section.  But this is still the bookshelf of the younger generation.  With the introduction of Stitches, as well as Logicomix (a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell, mathematics, and the intellectual demons), this genre is quickly bursting open to new groups of people: older intellectuals, librarians, teachers.  These books are making waves throughout the literary scene, shocking the New York Times, and exposing a skeptical group of people to the depth and intensity that a graphic novel can embody. Talking with a fella from Diamond Distribution last week, he told me “I don’t think Norton understands the importance of putting out a book like this”. What he further explained, is that  Stitches is starting to reach educators, radically changing their ideas about the potential of graphic novels to help children understand complex themes, as well as beginning readings.  The fact that it is published by Norton gives it instant literary credibility; and once readers see that a graphic novel is not the same as “the funny pages”, an entire new world opens up before them.  This book is beautifully illustrated, eloquently narrated, intense, dark, and playful.  It is groundbreaking.

So, without further ado… For this week’s books in motion we bring you 5 scenes from David Small’s new book: Stitches: A Memoir

Available Now at Logos
Stiches: A Memoir
By David Small