Must Read: The Graphic Canon, Volumes 1-3

If you’d like to add a little class to your comic collection, look no further: The Graphic Canon has what you need. A gorgeous, three-volume collection from Seven Stories Press and Russ Kick (with the final volume being released this coming April), The Graphic Canon is basically all of the greatest literature in the history of the world, as seen through the eyes of the greatest comic artists in the world. If you think that sounds pretty epically amazing, you would not be wrong.

“Beowulf,” art by Gareth Hinds

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons covers literary history from the beginning of time (!) to the late 1700s. While that seems like an almost unbelievable amount of time to cover, The Graphic Canon manages to jump from Greek epic, to religious document, to Shakespearean drama with no trouble. Some of my personal favourites from this volume include Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales with art by Seymour ChwastGareth Hinds’ art for Beowulf, Aristophanes’ often-censored Lysistrata by Valerie Schrag, and Hunt Emerson’s adaptations of both Dante Alighieri’s Inferno and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Dante Alighieri’s “The Inferno,” art by Hunt Emerson
Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales,” art by Seymour Chwast
Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” art by Valerie Schrag

As a Victorianist, it should come as no surprise that my favourite volume of The Graphic Canon is Vol. 2: From Kubla Khan to the Brontë Sisters to The Picture of Dorian Gray. Starting out early in the 1800s with the “bad boys of Romanticism”– Shelly, Byron, and Keats– Volume 2 also includes notable works of scientists and philosophers like Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche, American writers Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson, and an entire section devoted solely to representations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. I can’t get enough of the salutes to the Brontës, with Emily’s Wuthering Heights drawn by Tim Fish and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre drawn by Elizabeth Watasin, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey done up with contemporary Victorian illustrations by John Coulthart, but I especially adore the Pride and Prejudice representation by Huxley King with Terrence Boyce. It’s incredible.

Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” art by Huxley King with Terrence Boyce
Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” art by John Coulthart
Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre,” art by Elizabeth Watasin
Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights,” art by Tim Fish

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 3: From Heart of Darkness to Hemingway to Infinite Jest will be available April 16th, and includes works from the end of the 20th century to the start of the 21st. I’m particularly excited for the artistic versions of Sherlock Holmes, H. G Wells, Sylvia Plath, and Lolita– I mean, how is that even going to work?

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So run over to your local and pick up a copy of The Graphic Canon. Your Avengers vs. X-Men collection won’t show off your worldly tastes in quite the same way these literary volumes will.

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