Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

India Meets US for a Graphic King

Magazine article Eye : The International Review of Graphic Design

India Meets US for a Graphic King

Article excerpt

India meets US for a graphic King I See the Promised Land By Arthur Flowers and Manu Chitrakar; design by Guglielmo Rossi Tara Books, £11.99

Reviewed by Roger Sabin

Here is an oddity. A graphic novel about the American civil rights activist Martin Luther King, written by African-American writer, griot and blues singer Arthur Flowers; illustrated by Manu Chitrakar, a scroll-painter from Bengal, using the idiom of Patua art; and published by Tara Books, a worker-owned independent publisher based in Chennai, India.

As graphic biographies go, it is unapologetically straightforward. There have been several versions of MLK's life in comics form, notably Ho Che Anderson's King: A Comics Biography (reviewed in Eye 56), which went for the grimy 'eyes on the prize' angle, including King's all-too-human frailties, his womanising and understandable fears about the threats to his life. But this account is a million miles from that, and all about King the god-on-earth, 'touched by the hard hand of destiny1, and 'filled with power' the night he gives his 'promised land speech'.

It is essentially a graphic eulogy for a man who 'heard the calling' and sacrificed his life in its pursuit.

Gandhi is here, of course. His effect on King's policy of non-violence is duly recognised: 'India, he walk round New Delhi in a Gandhi cap, following in the footsteps of his idol, his mentor in struggle' [sic]. That policy is contrasted with the 'eye for an eye violence' of Malcolm X and the Panthers, and it is suggested that King assumed that 'if it comes to armed battle the blacks will lose. …

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