I first started blogging about anthropology and comic books back in 2012 in an occasional series titled Illustrated Man. It lasted for about nine posts before petering out as other projects demanded my attention, especially going back to grad school to pick up a Masters after completing my doctorate. While I stopped blogging about them I never stopped reading comics.
Now a professional librarian, my engagement with comics is changing again as I begin serving on a graphic novel book prize committee for my state professional association. It’s time to shake off the rust and get to writing again! So welcome to The Return of Illustrated Man. For our first installment I’ll be taking up a subject neglected in the original run, superheroes, with a review of The Vision: Little Worse than a Man/ Little Better than a Beast (2016).
Marvel fans know Vision as one of the oldest characters of the Avengers, his Silver Age origins dating back to 1968. Despite his longevity Vision is not a heavy hitter among the superstar Marvel heroes and is typically only seen in the context of the Avengers group. I mean, he’s no Wolverine or Spider-Man. Casual fans may recognize him as a supporting character from the recent blockbusters Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Captain America: Civil War (2016). Perhaps because of his status as a relatively minor character in the Marvel canon, Vision was ripe for a reimagining and his latest iteration, a twelve issue run from 2016 now collected in two trade paperbacks, is stellar.
Savage Minds welcomes guest blogger Vidula G. Khanduri. A STEM major at Wellesley College, Vidula enjoys dabbling in the crossroads of politics, science, technology, and society. She’s an avid reader of graphic novels and mystery books, is a skilled makeup artist, and loves to sing classical music.
Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story.
By Peter Bagge
72 pp + notes. Drawn and Quarterly. 2017.
Review by Vidula G. Khanduri.
Author, anthropologist, and feminist Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) stood out among her peers during the Harlem Renaissance. She bent norms: denouncing communism, wearing unique clothing, and embracing social imperfections. Her books narrate black American life, “warts and all,” unlike the works of Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois and other black literary figures, who accounted for white perceptions of the black community. Hurston’s impact on literature was long forgotten until Alice Walker revived her works in the 1970s. Her grave was left unmarked and untended for years. Since then, Hurston’s novels, especially Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), have found spots in college syllabi all over the country. Named after an unsuccessful black literary magazine Hurston and her colleagues created in criticism of Harlem politics, Peter Bagge’s Fire!! The Zora Neale Hurston Story narrates her life from start to finish in a graphic form as colorful as Hurston herself.
Bagge’s cover art turns the iconic Hurston – sitting, holding a cigarette between her fingers – on its head. The front cover is a composite picturing Hurston at a turpentine camp where she conducted fieldwork, donning the new Stetson hat, car, and shotgun she was notorious for spending her whole anthropological research grant on. Bagge consistently illustrates Hurston wearing bright yellow – homage to her commanding and bold personality. Episodes of dispute, frustration, excitement, and frenzy stand out as silhouettes in black and white panels.
[The following is an invited post by Ritu Gairola Khanduri. Ritu is a cultural anthropologist and historian of India. She is Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Texas, Arlington. In addition to her research on media, she is currently completing a book on Gandhi and material culture. Research for Caricaturing Culture in India has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Fulbright Foundation, the Institute for Historical Research-Mellon Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s prestigious Carley Hunt Postdoctoral fellowship.]
These past months have seen carnage of unimaginable magnitude. But none has attracted the outpouring triggered by the Charlie Hebdo killings. What have cartoons got to do with this?
For many, but not most of the world, the experience of freedom is now salient in speech and expression. In this struggle for freedom and rights, and its maintenance, cartoons have become the severest testing ground. We reprimand cartoons. We summon cartoons. We make demands on cartoons.
This generative force of cartoons is at the heart of my book Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and the History in the Modern World. It is a story of how cartoonists became central to newspapers and politics in India. It is also a history of why cartoons provide a new context for offence and the refusal to laugh.