Great Graphic Novels: The Collected Sam and Max: Surfin' the Highway, by Steve Purcell

Last month I asked my friends to write about books they loved (you can read all the essays here). This month, I invited them to write about their favorite graphic novels, and they selected some excellent titles. I hope you enjoy them! (Read all the Great Graphic Novel essays here.) -- Mark

The Collected Sam and Max: Surfin' the Highway by Steve Purcell

The Collected Sam and Max is a touching Holocaust narrative in which Purcell depicts the Jews as Sam the dog, and the Germans as a rabbit-esque creature named Max. Just kidding. It’s about a vigilante animal duo who excel at violence and friendship.

This pair of anthropomorphic “freelance police” have been running amok in our culture for twenty-five years now, hijacking a slew of different media formats for the enjoyment of mankind. Many fans were first introduced to the twosome by way of LucasArts’ 1993 point-and-click PC game, Sam and Max Hit the Road, which is widely considered one of the greatest things to come out of the golden age of interactive adventure. Four years later they earned an even bigger following by starring in their own Saturday morning cartoon. But anyone wishing to experience the essence of Sam and Max must look to their comic book roots because their early appearances are pure Purcell -- Steve that is, and thanks to the magic of independent publishing he had total creative freedom.

Readers of this edition will find that the events are a bit less cohesive than say, the Watchmen series. Read the rest

Enthralling Books: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

This is one in a series of essays about enthralling books. I asked my friends and colleagues to recommend a book that took over their life. I told them the book didn't have to be a literary masterpiece. The only thing that mattered was that the book captivated them and carried them into the world within its pages, making them ignore the world around them. I asked: "Did you shirk responsibilities so you could read it? Did you call in sick? Did you read it until dawn? That's the book I want you to tell us about!" See all the essays in the Enthralling Book series here. -- Mark

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

A smiling Amazon box arrived on the porch just in time for me to pack my new paperback copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay in my carry-on bag. As my ride to the 2008 San Diego Comic Con approached cruising altitude I opened the book that my wife recommend, and settled into a rare streak of four uninterrupted hours.

The tale begins at a comic book convention where Sam Clay speaks to fans in a panel discussion much like the ones I would soon be standing in line for. Sam is co-creator of the Escapist, a character whose popularity rivals Superman in Chabon’s alternate reality. The other half of the creative team is Sam’s cousin, Josef “Joe” Kavalier. The duo met in 1939 when they were teenagers, just days after Joe had escaped Nazi-occupied Prague and moved into Sam and his mother’s Brooklyn apartment. Read the rest

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