Graphic May Be The Way To Go

Deborah Kogon                                              

ENGL 610

Blog:  Nat Turner

March 31, 2010

            This is the first graphic novel I have read and I have to admit, I grouped this genre with comic books, or at least “No Fear Shakespeare.” Therefore, I approached this assignment with reluctance about the topic and immense curiosity about the format. Kyle Baker delivers the message in a powerful visual representation I could not have imagined.

            I had attempted to read the Confessions of Nat Turner for a Southern History course while I was at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, but passed it up because the violence in the text was so graphic. In addition to the gruesome content, it was incomprehensible to me that a slave would have had access to the education, vocabulary, and tone Thomas R, Gray attributes to Turner. I did not care for William Styron’s 1966 Pulitzer Prize winning The Confessions of Nat Turner, as it seemed racially biased.

            I do not know why this approach worked for me except that I am extremely visual and the story, while horrifying and almost unbelievable, seemed to become hard-wired directly to my brain. There was no time to turn away; I just kept turning the page. 

           The most striking aspect of Baker’s Nat Turner is the way the novel set the piece in context. The brutal capture was more stunningly laid out in the visual format than any eloquently, terrifying syntax could. The reader empathizes with the African woman who desperately protects her child, then thinks death must be better than what life was to become. When I saw that noose thrown over the side of the cliff to catch her foot as she was falling, I was genuinely horrified and surprised. Baker does the same thing with the baby thrown to the sharks, with amputations, and with the final skinning of Turner’s body. I could not have read those passages, but seeing them was even worse. I will not be able to forget them.