Iconic (Comicbook Artists’ Guild)

iconic-header.jpgA collaboration of over 30 artists and writers that aims to set its mark in schools with fresh takes on classic stories, letting the young student explore beyond the classroom.

 

 

112 pgs. B&W; 49.99

(W / A: various)

 

 

Something old, something new, something borrowed…well, there’s no blue in the Comicbook Artists’ Guild (CAG) offering of Iconic, but it’s got plenty of all the rest. This massive collaborative comic effort, which premiered at this year’s MoCCA (Musuem of Comic and Contemporary Art) Fest, dares to foray into the educational front-on purpose. Iconic is meant to be both a teaching and learning tool, purposely consolidating historical and literary figures and their stories into an easily digestible graphic novel presentation. CAG gives the reader ten stories to start out with, threading them together in a Princess Bride-esque fashion, with a kindly grandfather charming his grandchildren as he spins yarns from his book of tales. Over 30 writers and artists contributed to Iconic, and so every story looks and feels different.

Click for a larger image.Iconic sets forth the stories and myths of John Henry, Jason and the Argonauts, Prometheus, Robin Hood, Cuchulainn, and Mark Twain, among others, and purports to present them with a "twist." Iconic’s writers and artists have done an admirable job, to be sure, however if their goal was to use Iconic as a learning tool in and of itself, then their goal falls somewhat short. The way these stories have been presented would only make sense to a student who had already learned the "traditional" telling; Iconic’s version would then be a quirky repackaging, perhaps to see who had really been paying attention. Some of the stories are quite interesting, such as "How Setanta was Named" and "The Story of Gustav Whitehead." Here the writers and authors were able to bring the intention of Iconic to life; that is, giving the reader the "story behind the story," sort of prequels to well-known or commonly accepted histories. I find that these types of stories, more than a simple re-packaging, would greatly help encourage literacy and discovery among the engaged student.  In this light, it seems that Iconic’s best use would appear to be as a supplement rather than outright textbook.

CAG’s goal is to market Iconic to schools and libraries for a 9-14 year old crowd, and for that I applaud them and say that Iconic is a worthy effort. To get educators to recognize the ability of graphic novels to be a learning tool can be a taxing effort to say the least, but if Iconic succeeds it would give legitimacy to the efforts of other graphic novel creators, and open the doors for more controversial works to be explored in an academic setting rather than being outright rejected. The additional bonus, of course, is that kids could freely walk into their library and check out a comic book, truthfully saying that "It’s for school." | Elizabeth Schweitzer

Click here for an 18-page preview of Iconic.

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