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Comic Book Review: Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak

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I'll admit it. The majority of the "classics" of Western literature that I read in my school age years were probably the Classics Illustrated editions.

During and since that time, both comic books and comic strips have established their own version of a canon. By combining icons of that canon with the concept behind Classics Illustrated, R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics is both an homage to and a parody of comics as a means of making classic literature available to a broad audience.

Cast as a compilation of five comic book imprints, Sikoryak uses widely recognized symbols of both comics and literature to retell classic tales. Thus, in one of the strips in a comic book called "Classics on Parade," Dagwood and Blondie are Adam and Eve and Mister Dithers is God in a retelling of Genesis called "Blond Eve." In another comic book, "Masterful Funnies," Charlie Brown becomes "Good Ol' Gregor Brown" and the lead character of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. The comic book also summarizes Albert Camus' The Stranger with a promo showing the covers of a Superman series in "Action Camus" comics with Superman being The Stranger.

Masterpiece Comics more closely follows the Classics Illustrated series with longer versions of classic literature. Thus, "The House-Keeper," who bears a strong resemblance to the Crypt Keeper, recounts Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights in "The Crypt of Bronte." In "Dostoyevsky Comics," meanwhile, Batman is the central character of Crime and Punishment.

Not only is Sikoryak's rendition of the characters and strips excellent, the parodies cut across the breadth of the comics industry. In addition to "Inferno Joe" bubble gum comics (which you can redeem for such items as a three-foot rubber "tail of damnation" or a road map of hell), the advertisements will strike a chord with anyone who has spent time reading comic books. You can draw a picture of Homer to see if you qualify for a free literature course or sell a publication called LIT to your neighbors and friends every week, earning five cents for each of the $15 copies you sell.

Masterpiece Comics also contains a few pages of the reader questions seen in some comic books. While the questions and answers are at times tongue-in-cheek, Sikoryak uses them to not only pay tribute to the comic artists who created the characters he uses but to also give background or additional information on the literary tales in which they appear.

In an era in which comics or graphic novels are increasingly aimed at an adult audience, Masterpiece Comics strikes a unique balance. It is a near perfect parody of the comic genre itself while at the same time spreading classic literature. In so doing, Sikoryak has produced a modern comics tour de force.

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About Tim Gebhart

Tim Gebhart is a book addict living in Sioux Falls, S.D., where he practices law to provide shelter for his family, books and dogs.