Howl: A Graphic Novel – A Review
Allen Ginsberg wrote one of the seminal beat poems of the 20th century, Howl, in 1955. It is partially famous for the 1957 obscenity trial that followed its publication, because the poem referenced a number of sexual acts, both heterosexual and homosexual in a lewd fashion for the 1950s. The dramatization of this trail was made into a 2010 film starring James Franco as Ginsberg. In this film, a reading of Howl is set to a 3d animated segment created by Eric Drooker. This graphic novel features a 200+ page layout of the poem set to screenshots of the animated segment.
It’s hard to summarize a novel that is essentially a poem set with images. Needless to say, the original concept with the live reading and the animation is a better combination of elements. This combination of the printed word and screenshots doesn’t deliver on the same level, mostly because not every frame of the animation can be shown, and the text is spread across far too many pages. I think that taking in the whole poem at once is a much better way to experience the poem. Here’s a reading of Ginsberg reading the poem. The disparity between the focus on the written word and the images too much, and the novel as a total concept is broken. I think of this image from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics when I think of the big mistake this book makes. In lieu of making more observations about this book, I’ll simple implore people to look back at the original material that inspired the creation of this rather cheaply put together fusion of mediums.