Graphic Novel Review – Gonzo
Written by Will Bingley and illustrated by Anthony Hope-Smith, Gonzo is a graphic novel recapping some of the events of journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s life. Thompson’s long time editor Alan Rinzer provides a sobering foreword, which sets the tone for the bland, bare bones journey that follows. The plot centers on some of Thompson’s biggest accomplishments, his books on the Hell’s Angels and the 1972 election, and one large public failure; his 1970 electoral run for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado.
Why It Sucks:
The book pulls a number of quotes from Thompson in order to emulate his writing style, and much of the book’s text is his own narration. This at least adds some color to what is ultimately an illustrated Wikipedia article. The only vaguely creative sections come near the end of the novel in a sequence depicting the downfall of Richard Nixon, and the work that gets Thompson the most attention from pop culture, the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Rolling Stone articles, gets three pages of attention. The author wouldn’t have had much to work with, given that the piece is likely entirely fictional and Thompson was guarded about the whole trip. The illustrator does depict the only event that we have audio evidence of, but the impact of the articles are overlooked entirely.
In several ways the Alan Rinzer foreword serves as the best read in this book. Rinzer shares a few anecdotes and gives some personal opinions on the popular image of Hunter S. Thompson and the effect that he’s had on a multitude of young hacks. What ended up tilting this novel from Moderate status to Combustible status is just how drab it is compared to the source material and Thompson’s prose work, both non-fiction and fiction. All of them are insightful and have a unique voice specific to the culture of their time, and this is simply a drab retelling fit into a medium that generally isn’t able to get into the same amount of detail as prose can. I was excited when I saw this book at my local library, but my sheer disappointment at its mediocrity is making by hypothetical comic book pyre bigger.