Toronto Star: Signs of the times mark the newest graphic novels

“LeBrock of Scotland says farewell; Batman's updated; Trump — really! — as a comic book trope; and Lynda Barry on race.” / Toronto Star / Mike Donachie / November 10, 2017

The Unquotable Trump

By R. Sikoryak Drawn & Quarterly, 48 pages, $21.95

“Such a nasty woman!” declares Donald Trump, President of the United States, as Wonder Woman throws him over a wall. In the foreground, he drops the cellphone that, presumably, he was using to tweet.

The line was real, as we all know, and the scene recreates the cover of Wonder Woman #2, first published in 1942. Welcome to the clever work of Sikoryak.

The Unquotable Trump, which depicts the president on its cover in a redrawn image of The Incredible Hulk, is sheer guilty pleasure. Shock at Trump’s real quotes is mixed with amusement at how they are aptly used in recreated comic book covers from down the decades.

With appropriate speech bubbles using his own words, Trump is depicted as Magneto, Uncle Scrooge, and more, in styles from Watchmen to The Walking Dead.

And all covers, original artists and quotations are carefully attributed in footnotes. This isn’t fake news.

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The Good Times Are Killing Me

By Lynda BarryDrawn and Quarterly, $24.95, 184 pages

Absorbing and deceptively simple, Lynda Barry’s 1988 illustrated novella is back in a new edition, and it feels like the right time. Difficult conversations about racial divides are still happening, so this story of a young girl’s friendship with a black neighbour is affecting and relevant.

Narrator Edna Arkins begins by describing the racial makeup of her neighbourhood and how it’s been changing. But, as a kid in a white household, she displays, matter-of-factly, the attitudes of her parents and she echoes the way they talk.

With sparse punctuation and breathless, run-on sentences, the story is presented with a naïve voice in a powerful way. The illustrations are stark and appropriate. It’s quite a package.

This is a coming-of-age piece, too, with stories of summer friendship, trauma in the family and Edna’s desperate need to be popular. It’s about music and community and, above all, race.

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