Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Guest Review - The Classics - Kings in Disguise

   Here with another Guest Review is our man Dave Wright - this time he takes us back to the days when there were Kings in Disguise:         

   In the late '80s I started getting tired of the usual superhero comics although I still bought my share. However, I started looking for something different.  

   Kings in Disguise was a six-issue limited series by James Vance  and was certainly unique. The art looked different and the story was based on real life.  

   Set around the beginning of the Great Depression, the story centers around a young boy named Freddie in Marian, California. Vance sets the mood for the period as we see Freddie and his friends at the 10 cent theater enjoying a James Cagney film.  

   We then get to see what his home life is like. His father suffers from alcoholism, which creates a certain amount of turmoil in the family. He does the best he can for his two sons, but due to there being no work around town, their father leaves not wanting to burden his sons. 

   Freddie's brother, Albert, is left with the responsibility to keep the concerns of the home going and protecting Freddie. Albert does the best he can in providing for Freddie as things around town grow worse. Eventually Albert gets in some trouble, which causes Freddie to flee instead of having to go to an orphanage.

   Without much of an idea of what to do or where to go, Freddie is on the road. His journey takes him down to the railroad tracks where he sees some hobos preparing a meal. They confront him, and one of them called the Joker tries to befriend Freddie, but we find out quickly it's only for an ulterior motive. There's a skirmish, and Freddie and another hobo, Sam, catch a fast rail out of town.  

   This begins Freddie's journey to adulthood, his learning of the hobo life, and how to survive.  

   For me, this series had a lot going for it. I enjoyed the artwork by Dan Burr, but it was the touching story that had me buying the full series.  

   In a lot of ways it reminded me of novels like Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. When someone would ask me what I might recommend in comics, along with Art Spiegelman's Maus, and a few others, I'd mention Kings in Disguise.  

   I later learned it won a Eisner and Harvey Award, and not only that, but Vance has written a sequel graphic novel, On The Ropes. There's a preview of On The Ropes at Amazon, if you want to check into that.  

   I'll certainly want to pick up a copy.

Grade:  A+ 



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