J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography
Hill & Wang, 2008 (2008)
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Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton
he famous and domineering J. Edgar Hoover gets a makeover of sorts in this graphic biography from Hill and Wang. From his early years growing up in the nation's capital to his death in May 1972, Hoover lived his life with a determination and dedication that embodied the American work ethic, even though at times, his methods set challenging legal and ethic precedents; some of which we are still contending with today. His quick rise through the bureau of investigation to the position of director by age 29 in 1924, allowed for him to mold and reshape the department for almost a half a century, outlasting many others in public service. He used his influence and power to turn the FBI into the behemoth that it is today. At times, he served as a cultural icon for crime-busting, anti-communist sentiment - and in later years - obsessive compulsiveness and conspiracy.
or a biography on such a controversial historical figure, Geary does a balanced job, ultimately sticking to the facts of Hoover's narrative, yet paying some attention to the speculation about his more questionable practices. In general, Geary is impeccable at creating a documentary-like atmosphere so that readers feel they are listening to some omnipresent narrator revealing the world objectively and level-handedly. Yet, his drawings in this book prove a bit more suggestive and powerful than in many of his previous works. The repeated drawing of Hoover's round pudgy face proves to be anything but simple. Sometimes, Geary augments the smallest elements to reveal Hoover as malicious, devious, and even haunting. Hoover is also imbued with beady eyes that seems like they could penetrate into one's soul.
esides Hoover, Geary keeps an interesting mix of panels that don't ever become dull or repetitive. While dialogue is not something that is particularly relevant to the book, Geary does his best to include it where possible. Despite the dependence on exposition, Geary keeps his text boxes small and concise, never inundating the reader with too much verbiage. One wonders about the source material that Geary used to illustrate some of the scenes since many feel particularly picturesque. It is likely that Geary used photos and even video clips to frame some of the scenes, which seem so photogenic. But since the book doesn't include much for extras, readers won't know what material he relied upon.
or those looking for a good introduction to the man who created the FBI, this graphic biography will certainly do the trick. Those still interested after can consult the
section that's included. Thus far, Hill and Wang has done a good job with their graphic biographies and readers can look forward to future editions.
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