November 8th, 2011


Johnny Cash: I See A Darkness

I've been reading a lot lately, but not talking huge about it, though I can't explain why. Guess I didn't feel much the urge.


One of the things I picked up in the States a few months back was a graphic novel by Reinhard Kleist, an biography about Johnny Cash, called I See A Darkness. Black and white, it narrates Cash's early childhood and early career, up to his performance in Folsom Prison, using the device of inmate, Glen Sherley, to push it along. Cash made Sherley famous for a moment when he performed his song, 'Greystone Chapel', during the concert at Folsom, though the latter end of the man was quite tragic, and unfortunately might have been a more interesting tale than that of Cash.

I was originally attracted to the graphic novel because Kleist is German and the book had picked up a bunch of German awards, and I was curious to see how such an American Icon would be portrayed, and the answer was pretty straight down the line. The beats of Cash's story are narrated pretty simply, from his early, poor childhood, to the days in the army, the neglect of his first wife, his meeting of June Carter and drug addiction, and there's nothing wrong with any of it, though it at times feels a bit light, and it's not until Kleist portrays Cash at the end of his life, recording his final album and surrounded by his memories that I felt any real connection to the character. But still, I dug it as a whole, and the art and narrative always have a competent, workman like feel to it, and the graphic novel never loses its pace, or drops off. If there's a vibe that suggests that the work as a whole could be better, could skip another level and be something that I could enthuse about without doubt, then I think that reflects more of the potential I saw in it, the promise of Kleist's work, that may well be present in graphic novels he has done on Lovecraft or other figures.

Worth a look if you're a bit of a fan of those old American icons like me, and even if you're not.