Double Paige Narrative Looks at Baseball, Racism

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

Double Paige Narrative Looks at Baseball, Racism


Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

This chronic feature lets me review what's recently passed my bloodshot pupils. So pull up a chair, break out the sarcasm filter and welcome to:

Mr. Zad's comic critique

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, graphic novel (Hyperion/Center for Cartoon Studies, $16.99).

Younger teens looking for the definitive biography of one of baseball's greatest pitchers will not find it within this hard-bound book.

Instead, they will appreciate illustrated flashes of what made Satchel Paige a one-of-a-kind star of the Negro National League and, for a short time, the Major Leagues.

More important, they will be enticed into learning about the deadly state of race relations in the United States during the first half of the 20th century.

Told through words and events of the fictional Emmet Wilson, a potential star for the Negro league who returns to life as a sharecropper after being injured, the story of Paige's triumphs on the mound equal Wilson's subsequent struggles to survive in the South.

Two types of narratives weave throughout the work and are delivered with exceptional acuity:

* First, the minute detail surrounding the game, especially the psychological duel between hitter and batter along with Paige's ability to stoke his stardom on the field.

* Second, a glimpse into the smothering of hope and opportunity of the black American, especially when seen in the experience of Wilson's son and the sharecropper's daily life.

Author James Sturm pulls no punches for younger readers as he exposes the ugliness of discrimination, the horror of lynching and even abhorrent use of the n-word in a time when men blatantly were not created equal.

Artist Rich Tommaso offers a sepia-toned entrance into the world, and his sparse illustrations are just enough to keep the reader caught up in the on- and off-the-field drama.

A welcome panel discussion in the back of the book concludes the excellent history lesson. It sheds light on some of the research of the project by adding plenty of biographical text on Paige and topics tackled in the sequential art.

Daredevil: Battlin' Jack Murdock, Nos. 1 to 4 (Marvel Comics, $3.99 each).

A four-issue miniseries attempts to shed light on Daredevil's biggest influence, his father, but only manages to confirm the myth rather than provide new insight to the reader.

The breezy narrative finds Jack Murdock a single father after his girlfriend delivered a child to him and got to a nunnery rather than accept responsibility for her actions.

The one-time boxer and active mob enforcer now must support a blind son, both financially and morally, while surviving in Hell's Kitchen.

When offered the chance to resurrect his career by his boss, the Fixer, this tragic Rocky ends up in a title fight.

Of course it is fixed, with Murdock told to take a fall. …

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