Graphic Novel Review – Flood!: A Novel in Pictures by Eric Drooker, Allen Ginsberg (Introduction)

The rise and the fall of the city.

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 Stars
  • Paperback, 138 pages
  • Published October 1st, 1992 by Four Walls Eight Windows (first published 1992)
  • Original Title Flood!: A Novel in Pictures
  • ISBN0941423794 (ISBN 13: 9780941423793)
  • Edition Language – English

Awards

American Book Award (1994)

#612 on The 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die


About

From the publisher, “An American Book Award winner and an Editor’s Choice of the New York Times, Flood! is the powerful first graphic novel by Eric Drooker, frequent cover artist for the New Yorker. Flood! is a modern novel written in the ancient language of pictures, with an expressionist, film noir edge. This “definitive edition” of Flood! is a unique record of our country’s turbulent past – and corporate present – and a must-read for students of graphic storytelling. This third edition also features a new cover by Drooker and a complete re-design. Flood! A Novel in Pictures was followed by Drooker’s acclaimed book, Blood Song: A Silent Ballad.”


My Thoughts

First, let me say right off the bat that this is a pure graphic novel. It is graphic storytelling in its unadulterated form as there are little to no words. Drooker tells his tale almost entirely with panels. This style of work is a throwback to the depression era and the 1930’s woodcut and printmaking art of Lynd Ward and Otto Nuckel. When pairing Drooker and Ward’s work together you can immediately tell that Drooker was heavily influenced by this era of artwork and of silent movie filmmaking. 

Drooker is a politically impassioned artist and who, while being a long-standing fixture in the East Village art scene in New York, has been drawing art and comics for the New Yorker for years and worked with Allen Ginsberg on an animated version of Howl. Ginsberg did the introduction to “Flood!”. 

The overall story is told in two parts. The parts are small short stories all around a common theme, “The City”. In the story “The City” is not identified as New York City, but anyone familiar with common sights knows that this is where the story takes place. ‘The City” has a sense of place. It has an aura around it that the author evoked throughout the book.

We first meet our protagonist in his dreary life. He dreams of things he is not doing and instead watches TV. There are multiple panels of him traversing the city and wanting to become apart of it, but he has to stand aside. Drooker drew the city panels as more than just background fluff. They have a looming and almost omniscient presence on the pages. This goes back to the sense of place that Drooker is diligently trying to create. “The City” itself has a personality. We later see the protagonist lose his job and his purpose. He wanders aimlessly amongst the city rabble almost losing himself on the streets, something that he has always wanted. “The City”, once drawn grand in scope has been reduced to a microcosm of itself. We see our protagonist start living his life the way he always wanted to, he drinks and meets women and subsequently having sex. However, all of this leaves him feeling more alone than ever.

The next part of our story is called, Flood. This section makes me think of the old adage of a frog in a pot of boiling water. Our protagonist goes about his daily activities. The viewer has an almost voyeuristic view of his life all the while, the rain falls. The protagonist is trudging through knee-deep water, but is unable to bring himself to leave “The City.” It is almost as if he believes “The City” will save him. He sets to drawing at his drafting table. The images he draws are almost prophetic in nature detailing the rise of the water and the fall of “The City.” Water, in the beginning, is shown to have cleaning and cleansing powers but now it has become destructive. A great aside from all this is the protagonist’s cat. He is seen in many of the panels, almost wondering “what the hell is he doing?” This plays out in the end in a great way.  

This book was not a fun book to read, I say “read,” but maybe pour over is the correct word usage. However, this book makes the reader question and think in each panel and it is an evocative read and at the same time, it is beautiful. The images are gorgeously and painstakingly rendered and it is worth the trouble looking at the images Drooker has created. It is a book that takes itself really seriously, maybe too serious. Almost to the point of being a parody. If you have read this, let me know what you think.

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