Synopses & Reviews
and American Splendor
, graphic novels have emerged as a vital forum for memoirs and semi-autobiographical tales.
It's a Bird..., written by Steven T. Seagle (Vertical; Sandman: Mystery Theater) with painted art by European artist Teddy Kristiansen (House of Secrets), is a personal story that details one writer's attempt to find his missing father, come to terms with his family's legacy of Huntington's disease, reconcile with his girlfriend, and stave off writer's block. If that sounds like a job for Superman, well, that's the problem.
The semi-autobiographical Steve Seagle of It's a Bird... should be celebrating. He's been offered a plum assignment: the opportunity to write the ongoing Superman comic book. But when his father disappears, Steve is confronted by his family's history of Huntington's and the possibility that he and his father might have the disease. He is desperate to track down his father and needs to explain to his girlfriend why he might be reluctant to have children. The last thing that he has time for is to put together a proposal for Superman, but his editor keeps calling and needs an answer: can he, will he, write Superman?
"The first rule of metafiction: stories about how the author can't think of what to write about are a bad idea. So a story about a comics writer named Steve who's been assigned to write Superman comics but can't come up with a way to write them seems unpromising. (Seagle wrote the Superman comic for several years.) But Seagle and artist Kristiansen (with whom he collaborated on a couple of excellent House of Secrets books) come through. This isn't a Superman story, exactly; it's an experimental, refracted, semifictional memoir, with Superman or, rather, the variety of ideas that Superman represents as its central symbol. Kristiansen's inventive ink-and-watercolor artwork, a bit reminiscent of the Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, gives a crisp, arty look to the sections about Steve's progressively more messed-up personal life and family secret. (The latter has to do with Huntington's disease, the discussion of which here approaches Very Special Episode territory.) Both writer and artist shine on the sections that explore Steve's thoughts about what Superman means: Nietzschean bermensch, synthesizer of primary colors' symbolism, embodiment of benevolent violence, alien who's accepted where others aren't, etc. Kristiansen devises a distinct visual technique for each, often inspired by other 20th-century painters. It's a sweet, clever meditation on what makes the concept of Superman so powerful, and the troubled relationship between powerful concepts and creative narrative. (Apr. 14)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Seagle's writing has the vérité of American Splendor's Harvey Pekar; Kristiansen's art is spare and limber; the book's payoff is satisfying and wise." David Colton, USA Today
"It's a Bird... does something unique with the graphic novel....[I]t's well worth the time of any reader." San Francisco Chronicle
"Kristiansen's expert illustration in a variety of styles adds a polish that smooths over the awkward passages in Seagle's sometimes overearnest script." Gordon Flagg, Booklist
"Teddy Kristiansen's painted art remains stunning throughout..." The Onion
"It's dynamically intelligent and emotionally painted. I read it in the morning and in the afternoon I read it again." Victor LaValle, author of The Ecstatic and slapboxing with jesus
"Spellbinding and timely." Grant Morrison, author of The Invisibles and JLA
Gorgeously painted by European artist Teddy Kristiansen, It's a Bird... is a Superman story that doesn't feature Superman at all. Rather, this unique graphic novel explores what the icon of Superman means to the world. Told from the perspective of an author who has written tales about Superman, this book examines the overwhelming effect that the Man of Steel has had on society. A compelling narrative told in a variety of experimental styles,
It's a Bird... weaves two interlocking stories: one that ultimately scrutinizes our own mortality and another that dissects the symbolic and cultural elements which make up Superman's mythic importance. SUGGESTED FOR MATURE READERS.