King – a Comic Biography: The Special Edition

By Ho Che Anderson (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-310-1

There are books to read, books you should read – and some perhaps, that you shouldn’t – and there are important books. The relatively new field of graphic novels has many of the first but precious few important books yet.

It’s hard enough to get noticed within the industry (simply excelling at your craft is not enough) but when we do generate something wonderful, valid, powerful, true to our medium yet simultaneously breaking beyond into the wide world and making a mark, the reviews from that appreciative greater market come thick and fast – so I’m not going to spend acres of text praising this superb, controversial and unique examination of the man that lived beside – not “behind” or “within” the myth of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over the course of ten years (1993-2002) young Canadian cartoonist Ho Che Anderson struggled to produce three comics books that offered another perspective of a man who was as much sinner as saint, but whose determination, passion, energy and sheer luck drove a cleansing wedge into a rotting, repressive, stifled society and succeeded in opening enough doors for America’s racial underclass, so that forty years later a black American can govern the World’s greatest superpower.

Not that four decades is so brief an interlude: but than again, how many European or white Commonwealth countries can boast that their highest echelons of power have made even that much progress?

In both stark black and white and mesmerising colour, Anderson uses all the strengths and tools of sequential narrative to reveal, relate, question and challenge the oft-recounted facts of the Georgia Pastor’s life in this magnificent volume, released to celebrate Barack Obama’s – and the American people’s – landmark achievement. Gathered within are those hard-crafted three issues, extra and deleted scenes, the thematically linked one-shot Black Dogs and many other extras in one compelling tome, with a fascinating overview from Anderson; sketches and reminisces, a treatise on his working practises and a gallery of related art.

This is a true historical examination and a perfect example of comics at its most effective – biography not hagiography – and as important a landmark achievement for our art-form as Maus, Safe Area Goražde or American Splendor, Watchmen, Pride of Baghdad or Persepolis. Whenever and wherever we have to defend our Art from decriers and peddlers of prejudice, King will be one of the paltry few examples that cannot be contradicted or ignored. It’s a book no thinking fan can afford to miss.
King: The Special Edition © 2010 Fantagraphics Books. All content © 2010 Ho Che Anderson. All rights reserved.