How many ways is there to say how fantastic something is? However many ways there are, they all apply to Trevor Von Eeden's two volume graphic novel biography of Jack Johnson, called The Original Johnson. This was the second great graphic novel that came out last week (the other being Psychiatric Tales that I've got a blog entry below this one) that I read Sunday on the plane back from the Dallas ComicsPRO comic book store retailer meeting this past weekend.
Jack Johnson was the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the whole world and as Trevor Von Eeden shows in The Original Johnson, he wasn't just powerful in the ring. Being that Jack Johnson was a black man living in the late 1800s and early 1900, he lived in a time that was very racist and many didn't like that a black man was the champion of "their" sport.
People sometimes shy away from biographies because they think they're just boring retellings of history, well there seems to have been nothing boring about Jack Johnson's life, rather he seemed like a force of nature, thus The Original Johnson is VERY exciting. Trevor Von Eeden's art is also very raw and primal and is the perfect style for the power that was Jack Johnson.
Mike Gold, in his equally excellent afterward to Trevor Von Eeden's The Original Johnson has this to say about where we are as a nation almost a hundred years later:
"But we really have made some progress. Lynching is way down, and there's a growing and viable black middle class. We even allow black doctors to have white patients, and in some neighborhoods blacks and whites can swim in the same bodies of water. Who knows, maybe in another century we'll even let Americans of African descent join the Tea Bag movement."
The Original Johnson isn't preachy at all in its depiction of racism, instead it shows how farcical and embarrassing racism is and how little people who hold those views are. Did I mention that The Original Johnson is excellent and fantastic!?