Saturday, April 16, 2016

It's a Bird..., by Steven Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen

DC Comics published a graphic novel back in 2004 called It's a Bird..., written by Steven Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen. I recently had an opportunity to borrow and read through it.
With a name like It's a Bird..., published by DC, the first thing you think of is Superman. And the story does have Superman, but not as a character. Some Superman comics make an appearance, and Superman as an idea is a major theme, but the real story is the protagonist Steve and his struggles. The art isn't the "bright and colorful" format that many Superman stories use, but rather a more abstract and down-to-earth graphic style.

Steve is a comic book writer who has just been given the opportunity to write the current Superman book, a chance that everyone around him expects that he'll be excited to have. But it's just the opposite, as Steve associates Superman with childhood memories of his grandmother's death, due in part to the Superman comic he was given as a distraction while waiting in the hospital. That death was due to Huntington's Disease, as Steve learned later in life, and he's done his best to avoid anything associated with that disease, or even thinking about it. But the Superman job, combined with another instance of the genetically-linked disease in his family near the same time, forces Steve to confront his own fear of contracting it. He goes through something of a breakdown, but eventually comes out the other side of that dark time, and decides to move ahead with his life without letting fear of disease control him.

That's a very high-level summary that leaves out a lot of details, but it'll do for discussion purposes. I really enjoyed the journey that It's a Bird... takes with Steve, ranging from a comfortable position in life, through major disruptions, to a new acceptance of his situation. Come to think of it, maybe "enjoy" isn't the right word, since some parts of the story are pretty tough to read. Steve doesn't exactly make many friends with the way he acts throughout, and some people close to him (particularly his girlfriend and his editor) have to forgive some really bad behavior. Maybe "appreciate" is better, since that covers the uncomfortable but well-written parts of the story as well as the happier areas.

It's a Bird... may be more than a decade old now, but I think it's just as relevant today. Everyone can relate to dealing with a difficult truth that you don't want to accept, even if not everyone is faced with something as directly life-threatening as Huntington's Disease. Well worth the read, whether you have any interest in comic-book Superman or not.

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