City Of Glass – Smart Comics

(edited)

 

City Of Glass, adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzuchelli, based on the novel by Paul Auster, edited or something (I’m not really sure and his introduction is vague) by Art Spiegelman.

 

This isn’t my first visit with the comic adaptation of Paul Auster’s City Of Glass, but it is my first time writing extensively (hopefully) about it.  My first encounter was almost 5 years ago (that can’t be right, is it?), in a lit class I just so happened to randomly sign up for because it was the only class in the amount of time I had blocked off for classes that seemed remotely interesting and seemed to fit with my, at the time, basic degree plan. (The class itself proved to be very influential on my life and, well, EVERYTHING, moving forward, that might end up the subject of a future entry, and I’m sure I’ve already extensively covered throughout the life of this blog. You can search through my various levels of emotional stability, if you wish, or I don’t know, go look at the archives.. wait.. did I enable that feature?)

Right. Something about a book?

City of Glass was in all my years of reading comics (many) my first actual introduction to a so called ‘literary’ comic. And it’s not like I had never read ‘adult’ comics, by this point in my life I was well beyond reading the Leagues of Extraordinary Gentlemens, the Watchmens, the V for Vendettas, the Marvels, the Kingdom Comes. I had extensive libraries of Moore, Ellis, Busiek, Waid, Miller, McCloud, Morrison, Bendis, Eisner, the ‘smart’ writers.  And by this point I’d also encountered ADULT comics, due to my working at a store, where one of my primary jobs was ‘grading’ comics, the owner had purchased someplace or another for sale on the website, and… there are things that cannot be unseen.  The 1980’s were a golden age for not just regular independent comics but also frightening (and crudely drawn) porn comics. –shudder–

I didn’t know City of Glass. I considered myself a comic expert. (groan) But that mostly comes from the way my brain is set up to catalog and store information, and there’s something about the nature of comics (because they’re all numbered and have years?) where I can easily keep track of numbers, creators, titles, etc.. I looked the book over. I don’t know who Paul Auster is. I don’t know who Paul Karasik is.  I do know who Art Spiegelman is. He, along with Will Eisner are held up as the smart comic guys. But I was really familiar with David Mazzuchelli.

Mazzuchelli, artist of what I consider to one of the best comic runs ever, his perfect Daredevil: Born Again series with Frank Miller, and what I consider to be the best comic ever, Batman: Year One, also with Frank Miller. (the subject of me being right or wrong on this matter is not open to discussion. period.) Mazzuchelli has an art style that’s simple and clean and complex and emotional, so I was in. His style for the book was very different than Batman or Daredevil, still simple, still complex, but.. looser?

I dove into the book.  At that point in my life, I really wasn’t.. I was burned out with comics. I had recently left my above mentioned job, and a number of other life events… and I really.. It was too heady, and I just plodded through it, and moved on.

 

Jump forward to the present day, and I am presented with another opportunity for an examination of this book.  This time with an older perspective, and with a heavy dose of real life in my recent past.  I still find it a little heady. It’s a meticulously laid out and plotted book.  It’s beautifully illustrated.  Mazzuchelli adheres to Dave Gibbons strict Watchmen nine-panel grid layout (0r Keith Giffen’s Legion.. or Bruce Timm’s Mad Love..), and in doing so, contains a narrative that is anything but structured and rigid.  The layout breaks when the story demands, but for the most part maintains the grid structure.  This comes to good effect later in the story where the grid becomes a nine glass pane window. There’s various effects used throughout, and interesting uses of word balloons and thought balloons, as well as narrative caption boxes.

As the story gets to the end, then the grid starts to change, panels blur, pages melt away  or flutter away as sheets of paper before the whole thing comes crashing down and burns away.. The epilogue of the book changes to a more, illustrated novel style of text and art.

I’m still not sure, if I 100%, get the book, with it’s mirroring plots and characters interacting with various versions of themselves as well as the actual author of the book.   I have grown to a more…appreciation of the book, I’d say.

 

 

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As part of my revisionist history on this blog, and as detailed here, I did a re-review of this book as well as well as American Born Chinese and Persepolis, from a perspective lens of Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey ‘monomyth’ or at least my understanding of it, which is entirely based upon Community creator Dan Harmon’s breakdown. Exploring this lens, we learn our hero Daniel Quinn as he enters his journey of discovering the truth behind Peter Stillman and Paul Auster, except at the end of his journey, the point Daniel returns to, the price he pays for his ultimate knowledge is madness.

The thread I wanted to connect between the three was the loss of innocence, and where I could easily find the parallels in ABC and Persepolis, I struggled with finding a comparable thread in Glass, until I realized the loss of innocence comes from the literal loss of innocence in the form of Daniel’s son, who’s death happens before the start of the book and essentially launches the story forward from that point.

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