Five Questions with Russ Kick, editor of The Graphic Canon

The Graphic Canon Vol. 1 is the first in a three-book series featuring comic adaptations of classic literature. The sprawling anthology includes work from legends like Will Eisner and R. Crumb to more recent favorites like Molly Crabapple and many others.

Editor Russ Kick managed to find time during his current tour in support of the book to answer a few questions via email.

Comicsgirl: For those unfamiliar with The Graphic Canon, what do you want to say to introduce them to the concept?

Russ Kick: I asked 150 comics artists and illustrators to adapt the great works of literature from all ages. I asked them to stay true to the source material, but artistically they were given free reign — any style, any approach, any medium.

CG: I’m always interested in projects that may attract non-comics readers. Was that one of your intentions with this project?

RK: Definitely. I see The Graphic Canon operating on many levels and in many directions. I think it will draw non-comics readers to comics and non-literature readers to literature. From a purely artistic standpoint, I hope the sheer creativity and power of the adaptations and illustrations will go a little way toward propelling the art form in new directions. On the literary side, it contains some unusual choices, so it may spark some debate there regarding what belongs in the canon of great lit. But beyond all those agendas, I wanted it to be a powerful, self-contained experience.

CG: I love the diversity of both the works of literature adapted and the styles of art. How much of that was a goal and how much of that just happened?

RK: Diversity was definitely a goal from the beginning, and I did what I could to make it happen, but the exact ways that it happened came down to chance and synchronicity. I purposely approached amazing artists whose approaches and styles are all over the map (and sometimes off the map). Once in a while they had a work of literature in mind already, but most of the time I offered specific suggestions or a large “wish list.”

CG: What was the most surprising part of working on The Graphic Canon?

RK: Every time an artist emailed me final art, it was like Christmas. Pretty much each time I opened a newly arrived adaptation, I was amazed all over again at the level of energy they all brought to the project.

CG: After The Graphic Canon, do you have any other comic-related projects in mind?

RK: Yes! There will be further volumes of The Graphic Canon, and I’m also wanting to compile multi-artist anthologies of newly conceived mystical and religious art of various kinds. I’m also trying to figure out how to create unthemed collections that exist to show the astounding amount of sequential/illustrative talent out there.

Russ Kick will be signing copies of The Graphic Canon Vol. 1 at Big Planet Comics‘ Bethesda location (4849 Cordell Ave.) from 1 to 3 p.m. on June 2.

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