December 24, 2009


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Trotsky: A Graphic Biography by Rick Geary (Hill & Wang, 2009, 112 pages)
What irascible writer wouldn’t love to be a modern Trotsky, co-fomenter of the Russian Revolution with his unwanted sidekick Lenin? Surely, were Capitalist society to become suddenly repaired, its peoples’ common wealth freed from the increasingly tenuous corporate stranglehold that’s made basic comfort near-impossible for most (did you know that the Goldman Sachs guys were packing guns nowadays, so in fear of the Angry Mob ™ are they?), your Matt Taibbis, Bill Kristols and Arianna Huffingtons would (elegantly) crow ‘til the cows came home about how their snarky syllables helped propel the solution.

There’d be reality shows and stuff about it.

Rick Geary, who sort of draws like a punk Wil Eisner and has oddly enough won an Eisner Award, has in the past indulged fascinations with Victorian murder and J. Edgar Hoover. A dart was apparently thrown at a world encyclopedia at some point, and so he’s turned his black and white pen and ink toward the subject of this guy, Trotsky.

Like any great inciter of insight of the past, Trotsky had no reality shows and was indeed an old-school oddball with a super-weird quirk (he fainted a lot). He wrote a lot, got exiled a lot, and led soldiers a lot. There was a revolution (we’re spared the cartoon carnage). His life ended badly.

The above sort of dryness is how Geary treats his subject. Short statements colored by black-and-white illustrations — like a monochrome Classics Illustrated, but as a total bummer. Nothing new to be learned, I’m guessing (my major was not in Famous Russian Rabble-Rousers), but it would work, I’d wager, as a sort of CliffsNotes that could get you into trouble with your professor a little bit. Old-timer punks — the ones who remember the salad days of the underground press (ex. Factsheet Five, the Loompanics catalog, zines that printed collections of kooky flyers from inner-city telephone poles, things like this) — may get a nostalgic sense of what-the-hell-am-I-doing-reading-this-anyway, which is always welcome, sort of. BEric W. Saeger