Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Cartoonist Mattias Adolfsson’s sketch blog is always amazing, but I was especially tickled by his doodles of literal interpretations of author’s names. In addition the two above, he also drew Oscar Wilde, Günter Grass, Richard Scarry, Norman Mailer and Shakespear (sic). Go, click!
[Update: I don’t know how I forgot to mention it earlier, but I’ve been reminded that Adlofsson’s sketchbook, Mattias Unfiltered: The Sketchbook Art of Mattias Adolfsson is available from Boom!. That’s very much worth checking out.]
Written by Upton Sinclair, illustrated by Peter Kuper
Classics Illustrated, $9.99
This is a difficult book to review. There is so much about it that is good, and so much that is bad, that it’s hard to render judgment on it. Some of the flaws may stem from the original (which, I admit, I have never read), but some are clearly the fault of the artist and the publisher. And yet, despite all this, it is a powerful book.
What makes it so powerful is Kuper’s muscular art, which is perfectly suited to the subject matter. His blocky yet expressive style is evocative of social realist art, and he reinforces that by using drawing techniques that suggest woodblock prints or lithographs rather than standard comics art: thick, simple lines, large blocks of light and shade, dropped-out areas, spatters, and fades.
Kuper’s adaptation of Sinclair’s novel also has a poster-like simplicity to it. The hero, Jurgis Rudkus, comes to Chicago from Lithuania with his family in search of a better life, but instead, the whole family winds up working in factories under terrible conditions (The Jungle is known primarily as an expose of the meat-packing industry, although Sinclair intended it to be about the larger issue of the exploitation of the working poor). Jurgis is injured, loses his job, and falls into a depression. His wife falls victim to a lecherous boss, and when Jurgis responds with his fists, he finds himself blacklisted and unable to find work. The family ultimately loses their home, Ona dies in childbirth, Jurgis turns to drink and winds up in jail, their son drowns in a flooded street—the disasters just keep coming. Jurgis goes through many transformations, but nothing—not the union, not the settlement worker, not even the con man he meets in jail—can save him, because the deck is stacked so solidly against him. Even the ending is unsatisfactory: Jurgis goes to a rally, and the speaker fills him with hope, but there is nothing to suggest that this time would be different from all the others. The suffering and the fall are very real, but the redemption feels as if it was slapped on.