It's a Bird... - Steven Seagle & Teddy Kristiansen

I first heard about this book on NPR's Fresh Air, which had an interview with Steven Seagle. It's a Bird... is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel: Steven is offered a job to write Superman comics, and refuses for a time, because he feels like he just doesn't "get" it. As he jots down notes to himself, we get to read several short Superman-based stories, riffing on things like secret identities, Kryptonite, power, the color of his costume, and courage. Intertwined with this is his struggle with his family's own secret: Huntington's Disease. His grandmother died of it and there's a lot of unresolved family business surrounding it.

The book is really more about Steven and his personal journey than about Superman, and it's very well done. The illustrations by Kristiansen are well-suited to the story: it's a scratchy, sketchy, painted look with a somewhat bleak palette. But each Superman story is done in its own style—he claims "twenty-one distinctly different styles" in the back of the book—and it's a great way to illustrate the disjointed snippets of thought Steven has from day to day.

I don't know if the book is for everyone. If you're at all curious about graphic novels intended for adults instead of kids, or if you've got your own problems with the idea of Superman, or if you'd like to see an insightful and sensitive portrayal of Huntington's Disease, this book is certainly worth your time. Although the rest of Seagle and Kristiansen's work together isn't as much non-fiction, I've added it to my list to check out in the future.

Fed to jonathan's brain | July 16, 2004