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Illustrated Classics of African-American Literature

Students: If you plan to cheat on your book reports, take a look at Graphic Classics. As Art Spiegelman put it, “Comics are a gateway drug to literacy”; for the visually oriented, this series will open doors to literature. It’s also a stunning contrast to those dreadful 1950s Classics Illustrated comic books, with their dry, tedious plotting and bland, pedestrian art.

Ah, progress. Rather than unabridged novels, each Graphic Classic is an anthology of stories and poems, usually from 6 to 20 pages. Each tale has its own visual flair, enlivened by a diverse array of book illustrators, painters, and comics artists (regular contributors include J.B. Bonivert, Roger Langridge, and Rick Geary). And they’re often so imaginative, evocative, and compelling in their execution that they leave readers with no choice but to crave more.

The latest is “African-American Classics,” from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, by Langston Hughes, W.E.B. DuBois, and 16 others. Lance Tooks, the book’s co-editor, and Kyle Baker of DC Comics fame are among the featured artists. And here are some sample pages.

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PRINT (founded 1940) is where creative people gather to inspire and build design dialogue. Perpetually curious about everything design, we report on, curate and celebrate visual culture, the makers of that culture and the expression of graphic design in all its forms and mediums.  


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