Saturday, September 17, 2011


By Chris Wilson

Comic biographies are tricky business, plagued with art complexity. When we read fictional stories, we create iconography based upon how the characters are described or drawn. Not so in a biography of a famous person because the reader is already familiar with what the person looks like.

Realistic art requires every single image of the person be spot-on accurate and recognizable. There is no room for wonky faces or goofy facial elements and no tolerance for strange positions or awkward faces or hands. They must look like themselves in each panel. Realism must be realistic. The other choice is iconic or cartoony art, whereas the image is not a replication of the person but merely an iconic representation. This approach allows for more artistic license.

Bluewater Productions has produced several nonfiction comics, all of which have used realism with differening success. The MARTHA STEWART comic surprised me because the internal art here is not realistic –– a gamble on the part of Bluewater, I would think. How will readers respond to cartoonish art in a serious, nonfiction comic?

I loved it.

As Scott McCloud puts it in UNDERSTANDING COMICS (pg. 30) “by stripping down an image to its essential ‘meaning,’ an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.”

I found the iconic representation allowed me to place my own mental images of Stewart onto the comic character without taking me out of the story. With realism, I find I constantly compare the image of the comic book character to the real life character. If the art is outstanding, then I stay in the story. If not, I leave the comic to analyze how the image does not look proper.

In short, I was able to see Stewart as a character as opposed to a realistic drawing. For this reason, the iconic art worked exceptionally well. The story, too, was very interesting. Themes of her problematic relationships with others and her drive to succeed were fascinating.

Chris’ Rating: Ages 12 and older

Stewart has a lot of warts, especially when it comes to relationships. The comic hits those points strongly.

Click here for the lesson plan in pdf.

Author: CW Cooke
Pencils: Kent Hurlburt
Colors: Kent Hurlburt
Lettering: Warren Montgomery
Publisher: Bluewater Comics
Genre: Biography

Format: Comic
Color: Full color

Highly Recommended

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