Tag Archives: Graphic novels—United States

Look What’s in the Warner Library!

Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. There’s a big browsing section of what new books the library bought.

(2015-05-27 001)Authors: Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, Paul Buhle

Title: A People’s History of American Empire: a Graphic Adaptation

Publication Information: New York, N.Y.: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co., c2008; 1st ed.

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7779-7; 0-8050-7779-0; 978-0-8050-8744-4; 0-8050-8744-3

Library of Congress Classification: E183.7

Dewey Decimal Classification: 973

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
United States–Foreign relations–Comic books, strips, etc.
United States–Territorial expansion–Comic books, strips, etc.
Imperialism–History–Comic books, strips, etc.
United States–Social conditions–Comic books, strips, etc.
Social movements–United States–History–Comic books, strips, etc.
Zinn, Howard, 1922- –Comic books, strips, etc.
Historians–United States–Biography–Comic books, strips, etc.

This graphic novel is based on Howard Zinn’s book, The People’s History of the United States. As Paul Buhle states in the preface, “It is intended to present key insights in Howard Zinn’s marvelous volume in light of another art form …”

This isn’t the history you learned in grade school.

The graphic novel hits key points in U.S. history, led by Howard Zinn, who is portrayed as a speaker at an anti-Iraq War rally. Zinn starts at the end of the nineteenth century, with the massacre at Wounded Knee, then goes on to discuss the Spanish-American War, and the conquest of the Philippines. The socio-economic conditions in the country at the turn of the century and how the so-called “robber barons” exploited the masses. This led to the creation of labor unions–and how the U.S. government did everything in its power to assist the capitalists against the unions.

All activities of the U.S. government are for capitalism–the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned of in his farewell speech. Nothing here was of any great surprise to me. There were some “Ahhhhh” moments, such as the revelation that Woodrow Wilson, in an attempt to ensure that the Entente Powers could continue to buy American-made munitions even when bank credits could not cover the cost, allowed the Federal Reserve Banks to accept “bankers’ acceptances” from them. This, according to Zinn, amounted to an act of war (p. 84). Then there was the suggestion by Zinn that the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to quickly end the war before the Soviet Union could invade Japan. Thus, the Japanese surrendered to the U.S.

Then there’s the depressing antics of the Central Intelligence Agency in Latin America: El Salvadore, Nicaragua, etc. that merely created misery for the people in those countries. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans differ on their foreign policy, which is done to create new markets. The Iran-Iraq War? We supplied both sides with armaments. Making money is the name of the game. Iran-Contra is covered, and the only man who went to jail (for four days) from it was sentenced for stealing a street sign (p. 230).

Perhaps the most bizarre chapter in the whole book is seven, “The Cool War.” In the 1950s, there was a concerted attempt to enforce conformity to prove that the “American way of life” was far superior to communism. However, war was declared on those who wore the “zoot suit,” a fashion statement that was seen as subversive during the war and after. There were attempts to keep apart Mexican Americans, African Americans, and White Americans as they listened to R&B and danced to it. Comic books came under fire as “subversive,” which led to self-censorship under the Comics Code Authority. “Loyalty oaths” were forced on workers in government and the private sector. It was in this atmosphere that Eugene McCarthy’s communist witch hunt thrived.

A very thought-provoking book. Zinn ends on a positive note. Things CAN be changed, as the end of the Vietnam War, segregation, and Solidarity’s eventual overthrow of the communist system in Poland, demonstrate. People can change the system for the better.

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Scott Lobdell, Teen Titans: Volume 3: Death of the Family

(2014-03-23 006)Title: Teen Titans: Volume 3, Death of the Family

Author: Scott Lobdell, Fabian Nicieza, Brett Booth, writers; Greg Capullo, Brett Booth, Greg Capullo, Jonathan Glapion, Tyler Kirkham, Batt, Norm Rapmund, Jon Sibal, Timothy Green II, Wayne Faucher, Eddy Barrows, Eber Ferreira, artists

Series: New 52

Publication Information: New York, NY: DC Comics, 2013

ISBN: 978-14-0124321-0

Library of Congress Classification: PN6728.T34

Dewey Decimal Classification: 741.5/973

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Teen Titans (Fictitious characters)—Comic books, strips, etc.
Joker (Fictitious character)—Comic books, strips, etc.
Superheroes—Comic books, strips, etc.
Teenagers—Comic books, strips, etc.
Science fiction comic books, strips, etc.
Graphic novels—United States

“Death of the Family will go down as one of the best Joker stories in history”–Craveonline

This quote is from the cover. Is it one of the best Joker stories? More on that in a minute.

 The Death of the Family is part of DC’s “New 52” which has recreated the DC Universe yet again. I followed the first re-imaging, The Crisis on Infinite Earths. This means that all the stories that have come before on all the DC characters no longer exist; the slate is wiped clean. It’s a new universe where the characters are re-introduced, and everything starts over again but with different twists.

One of my favorite Batman stories of all time is The Killing Joke, which was one of the first graphic novels. In it, the Joker destroys the crimefighting career of Barbara Gordon who, as Batgirl, fought alongside Batman. Her back is broken, thereby changing her entire life. That was a very disturbing story. The Death in the Family may be even more upsetting.

The Joker, more horribly scarred than he was in his last incarnation, kidnaps Batgirl, Red Robin and Red Hood–Barbara Gordon, Tim Drake and Jason Todd. In the last universe, Jason Todd was the new Robin after Dick Grayson left to become Nightwing. In yet another disturbing story, the Joker kills Todd after it was left up to the readers to decide his fate. This is when Drake joined Batman as his sidekick. In this current incarnation, Todd never died and had a falling out with Batman; Drake became Red Robin and took his place.

I became a fan of the Teen Titans when they were introduced as the New Teen Titans, drawn originally by George Pérez. Drake also is the leader of the Teen Titans even though they really don’t know his true identity although he knows theirs. We get Drake’s origin story that parallels Grayson’s. However, it’s hard to swallow Drake’s reasons for wanting to join Batman. I found it absurd.

The story quickly turns into a Batman story as the Titans fail to find their leader or Batgirl. The Joker has set this up to bring Batman to him, which works. The argument between Batman and the Joker is quite intense, as is what the Joker shows Batman he did to his young protégées.

Is this one of the best Joker stories ever? Definitely. It’s quite disturbing.