“They Called Us Enemy” by George Takei, with Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker. Top Shelf, July 2019. 208 pp. Paperback, $19.99. Middle to high school.
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How do you decide whether to stand for your principles or protect your family? It’s not a decision any parent should be forced to make, but actor and activist George Takei lived the consequences of his parents’ honesty. Fortunately for Takei—and for his massive fanbase, many of whom have followed him from the first “Star Trek” to his more recent roles in shows from “Furturama” and “Archer” to “Kim Possible”—he not only survived, but eventually thrived.
Now 82, this isn’t the first time that Takei has told the story of his family’s time in US internment camps for Japanese Americans. His memoir “To the Stars” also inspired the musical, “Allegiance.” The graphic memoir “They Called Us Enemy” is the most recent version of this thankfully brief chapter in his life, published by Top Shelf, best known for US congressman John Lewis’s graphic memoir trilogy “March.” Co-writers Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott helped Takei translate the narrative to comics form, and the art of Harmony Becker—subtle and manga-inflected (see, for example, the backgrounds and the giant tears on the page below)—transforms the story into a work of art.
When Takei and his family were first imprisoned in May 1942, they didn’t have any choices to make at all: US soldiers came to the door with bayonets to kick them out of their house. They had ten minutes to pack.
Continue reading ““They Called Us Enemy,” by George Takei”
This post was originally published in the “Elkhart Truth” in August 2014. I thought it was a good time to resurrect it, because “Yesterday” is about to disappear from theaters. It’s a beautiful and brilliant film whether or not you know the Beatles’s music well, and it’s definitely worth catching on the big screen before it disappears.
“The Fifth Beatle,” written by Vivek Tiwary and illustrated by Andrew C. Robinson and Kyle Baker is not a book about The Beatles themselves—plenty of those have been published, and plenty more are surely on the way. Neither is this book about the person usually referred to as the fifth Beatle: Pete Best, the drummer who preceded Ringo Starr.
The book’s title instead comes from a 1999 quote by Paul McCartney: “If anyone was the Fifth Beatle, it was Brian.” Brian Epstein was the manager—and some would argue the “designer”—of the Beatles, the man who transformed a witty and talented but ragged band into the polished, worldwide zeitgeist we remember them as today. Continue reading ““Hey, You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”: The Fifth Beatle”
“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris. Fantagraphics, February 2017. 386 pp. Paper, $39.99. Adult.
Chicago comics artist Emil Ferris deems “monster” an “honorable title. It represents struggle and wisdom bought at a high, painful price. . . . I make a distinction between good monsters―those that can’t help being different―and rotten monsters,” she told “The Comics Journal” in 2017, when her multiple award-winning masterpiece “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” was initially released. How do you define a “rotten monster”? “[T]hose people whose behavior is designed around objectives of control and subjugation.”
This gorgeous and complicated book teems with monsters, both good and rotten. Among the good monsters are the protagonist Karen, an elementary school student who portrays herself as a werewolf detective, with surprisingly luxurious eyelashes,
Franklin, her gay black friend,
and Deeze, her wise but troubled older brother, who teaches her how to see and appreciate art, how to draw, and especially, how to “draw [her] way through” difficult events and emotions—like the overt racism of 1960s Chicago:
Continue reading “Redeeming Monsters: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters,” by Emil Ferris”