The Comic Queen

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Birth of a Nation OGN

This book was already out when I first heard about it. I was stunned that it had slipped by without trumpets or confetti or some fanfare to announce its arrival. It should be getting a lot more press, especially in this election year. Co-written by Boondocks scribe, Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin of House Party fame and drawn by Kyle Baker, the book spoofs the results of the 2000 election and what happens when East St. Louis secedes from the country.

The story itself is smart and funny. It starts with East St. Louis mayor Fred Fredericks having a terrible day. His girlfriend leaves and the trash doesn’t get picked up because of a garbage strike. Finally, he goes to vote in the presidential election, but is denied when his name is found on a list of felons barred from voting. Thousands of residents’ names are also on the list. Meanwhile, a suspiciously Bush-like president wins the election. When the Supreme Courts doesn’t side with Fredericks, he takes his town and tells the US government to shove it. What follows is a hilarious account of the construction of Blackland. They make a flag, mint new currency, and write an anthem. It becomes a nightmare for the President and his staff of Cheney, Rice, and Powell look-alikes. The first half of the book is especially funny and it is feels like it should be in the Onion.

The book reads less like a graphic novel or comic book and more like a storyboard to me. This could be because McGruder and Hudlin originally wrote it as a screenplay. Instead of panels with word balloons, the text was typed below each panel. This took some getting used to and I would have preferred larger panels with word balloons and traditional lettering. Baker’s illustrations look great and the facial expressions on some characters perfectly capture their emotions. I’m not very familiar with Baker’s work, so I’m interested in picking up some of his older stuff to see how this book differs from his regular projects.

Overall, the writing is strong and while the ending falls a bit flat, it is definitely worth picking up. Ask your local comic shop to order a few copies. Selling for $25, the high quality hard cover, deserves space on your shelf. It is exciting to see McGruder branch out beyond the Boondocks and I’m hoping we see more like this from him in the future.

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