The Observer reviews Sturm’s Golem

Comic albums and graphic novels

The Observer    |    Roger Sabin    |    June 16, 2002

Picasso and TS Eliot were fans of Krazy Kat and the dadaist feline is still more moving than many more modern creations. Roger Sabin looks at the latest comic albums and graphic novels

Recent comic albums have tended to fall into two camps. There's the 'arty', difficult kind, as typified by Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, winner of a Guardian book award; and then there's the mass-market variety - by the time you read this you'll probably be wishing Spider-Man would go spin somewhere else.

There are connoisseurs of both types, of course, but you get the strong impression that advocates of the former look down on the 'fanboy' followers of the latter (and they are generally boys, albeit grown-up ones). Which is a bit rich considering that comics in general are looked down upon by just about everybody else - John Sutherland was right to suggest in his Guardian column that the Ware victory was a fluke and that the editors of literary magazines 'hope there won't be too many books like this submitted for review'.
Finally, one for connoisseurs of sports comics - and there can't be many of those around. The Golem's Mighty Swing (Drawn and Quarterly, £9.99, pp100) by James Sturm is a graphic novella set in 1920s America about a Jewish baseball team. Sport is never just sport, of course, and as these 'bearded barnstormers' roam the country taking on local squads, the dramatic games - all cinematic cuts between pitches and swinging bats - become metaphors for the struggle against poverty and anti-Semitism. ('Hey Dino! It's one of those Jew ballplayers', says a kid from the Midwest. 'I want to see his horns.') Don't be put off by the subject matter: the book's a home run in anybody's language.

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