It's a Bird

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Gorgeously painted by European artist, Teddy Kristiansen, It's A Bird... is a Superman story that doesn't feature Superman at all. Rather, this unique graphic novel explores what the icon of Superman means to the world. Told from the perspective of an author who has written tales about Superman, this book explores the overwhelming effect that the Man of Steel has had on society. A compelling narrative told in a variety of experimental styles, It's A Bird weaves two interlocking stories: one that ultimately ...
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Overview

Gorgeously painted by European artist, Teddy Kristiansen, It's A Bird... is a Superman story that doesn't feature Superman at all. Rather, this unique graphic novel explores what the icon of Superman means to the world. Told from the perspective of an author who has written tales about Superman, this book explores the overwhelming effect that the Man of Steel has had on society. A compelling narrative told in a variety of experimental styles, It's A Bird weaves two interlocking stories: one that ultimately explores our own mortality and another that dissects the symbolic and cultural elements which make up Supeman's mythic importance.
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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
What the adventures of muscle-bound, crime-fighting superheroes are to mainstream comics, the existential crises of kvetchy, self-loathing comics writers are to graphic novels. In this semi-autobiographical book, the two genres collide when Steve, a comics writer—and stand-in for the author—is asked to take over “Superman,” a job most of his colleagues would kill for. Steve is haunted by his family’s history of Huntington’s disease, a genetic curse that makes Superman’s celebrated invulnerability seem distastefully phony. Alternately hostile and depressive, Steve produces a series of strikingly original meditations on Superman’s powers, his origins, and his relationship to humanity. Kristiansen’s muted watercolor washes, the furthest possible remove from the Man of Tomorrow’s primary colors, echo the prevailing tone of anguished doubt.
David Colton
Seagle's writing has the vérité of American Splendor's Harvey Pekar; Kristiansen's art is spare and limber; the book's payoff is satisfying and wise … It's a Bird brings us closer yet to the battles between good, evil and acceptance that must be fought before any of us can truly fly.
USA Today
Dan Nadel
With It's a Bird, Seagle and Kristiansen have only outlined a penetrating analysis of superheroes and the writing life.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The first rule of metafiction: stories about how the author can't think of what to write about are a bad idea. So a story about a comics writer named Steve who's been assigned to write Superman comics but can't come up with a way to write them seems unpromising. (Seagle wrote the Superman comic for several years.) But Seagle and artist Kristiansen (with whom he collaborated on a couple of excellent House of Secrets books) come through. This isn't a Superman story, exactly; it's an experimental, refracted, semifictional memoir, with Superman-or, rather, the variety of ideas that Superman represents-as its central symbol. Kristiansen's inventive ink-and-watercolor artwork, a bit reminiscent of the Expressionist painter Egon Schiele, gives a crisp, arty look to the sections about Steve's progressively more messed-up personal life and family secret. (The latter has to do with Huntington's disease, the discussion of which here approaches Very Special Episode territory.) Both writer and artist shine on the sections that explore Steve's thoughts about what Superman means: Nietzschean ubermensch, synthesizer of primary colors' symbolism, embodiment of benevolent violence, alien who's accepted where others aren't, etc. Kristiansen devises a distinct visual technique for each, often inspired by other 20th-century painters. It's a sweet, clever meditation on what makes the concept of Superman so powerful, and the troubled relationship between powerful concepts and creative narrative. (Apr. 14) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In the past 60-plus years, DC has found many ways to explore the myth and meaning of Superman, the most iconic character in comics, but none has been quite like this. In this semi-autobiographical tale, comics writer Steve has been offered Superman as his latest assignment. Trouble is, Steve doesn't like Superman--he can't relate to a character he sees as fundamentally inhuman. Then Steve gets another assignment, this time from his mother: to find his father, who has disappeared. Steve's family has a secret: Huntington's Disease, an inherited, incurable, fatal disorder that destroys the nervous system. Steve's dad could have it, Steve could develop it, and Steve worries that if he and his girlfriend have kids, the kids could die from it. While Steve searches for his father, he tries to find an approach to Superman, riffing on various aspects of Superman's mythos--the costume, kryptonite, Smallville, Nietzsche's "ubermensch"--and Kristiansen, in a remarkable display of versatility, illustrates each of these short meditations in a different and wholly appropriate painted style while also sensitively portraying Steve's deftly and movingly told family story. Strongly recommended for readers mid-teen and up, even if--and perhaps especially if--they're not Superman fans. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401201098
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Pages: 134
  • Product dimensions: 6.92 (w) x 10.46 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Seagle
Steven T. Seagle is an American writer who works in the comic book, television, film, live theater, video game, and animation, industries. He is best known for his nationally acclaimed graphic novel memoir It's a Bird (Vertigo,),and as part of his Man of Action Studios (with Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey and Joe Kelly) which created the animated Cartoon Network series Ben 10 responsible for both Cartoon Network's highest-rated single program and highest rated series premiere.
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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Steven Seagle

Barnes & Noble.com: It's a Bird… is a graphic novel from DC Comics about a comic book writer named Steve who's offered the job of writing "Superman" while dealing with complicated personal problems. How closely do you and the fictional Steve overlap?

Steven Seagle: We share a name and a profession and some life events -- but it ends there! Kind of. I'm describing It's a bird... as "semiautobiographical." There's a lot of my life in it, but more "truth" than "fact" when you get right down to it. In order to link the story of a comic book writer coming to terms with some difficult life events to the entire iconic history of Superman, it was necessary to fictionalize story elements. But they are from the heart and they do speak to issues my family and other families have dealt with. The details have all been changed for story purposes, but I think it's an honest book on all other counts.

B&N.com: How long did it take to write It's a Bird...?

SS: I thought of the entire book, start to finish, while -- pardon my bluntness, but this is semiautobiography -- taking a pee at the artist's house in Denmark. Teddy had asked me what we would do next, and I said, "I don't know." I got up to use the facilities and literally, by the time I was done moments later, I had the entire book. I came out and told Teddy pretty much the whole story, as it turned out.

When I sat down to plot it out and write the proposal for DC Comics, it took about ten minutes. The actual script, though, was tough going, both technically (there's a main story and 20 different short stories in 20 different styles) and personally, and took almost a year. Similarly, it took Teddy almost three years to paint it. I do think the time spent really shows in the work, though.

B&N.com: You've written "Superman" yourself -- is it difficult to come up with new ideas for the character, considering his longevity?

SS: It's nearly impossible. There is so much demand for change in the (superhero) icons, and yet, so much of an edict against change editorially to protect the franchise. In the regular "Superman" books I found it very difficult to accomplish stories of genuine merit. It's a Bird..., though, let me really do everything I wanted to with the man and myth that is Superman, and I'm very grateful to DC Comics for taking an enormous risk and giving me the chance to tell this story this way. I can honestly say this is unlike any other superhero story ever told...if it even is a superhero story in the end.

B&N.com: It seems like graphic novels are being considered "serious" literature more and more. Why has it taken so long for this to happen, given their cultural acceptance in other parts of the world?

SS: To be honest, there aren't that many "serious" American graphic novels produced in any given year. There was a time when we seemed to be making a giant leap into that territory, but lack of content or fear of commercial success caused an equally stunning retreat from the serious graphic novel in the U.S. There are a few each year, to be sure, like Joe Sacco's, but not in comparison to the amount of so-called "graphic novels" that are really just collections of serialized stories.

I can't speak for the quality of our book, but I can say that it was conceived as a serious story to be told in a single volume, and that's a different beast than a compilation. I think that kind of intention needs to be behind more American comics for American comics to really build a base as serious literature.

B&N.com: Is the character of Superman still relevant in today's crazy world?

SS: Superman has been around since 1938. I found a truckload of new things to say about him in this book. I think that speaks for itself.

B&N.com: How did you get hooked up with Danish artist Teddy Kristiansen? How difficult is it to collaborate with an artist who lives in Denmark?

SS: Teddy and I met years ago at a comic convention in San Diego and had an instant rapport. He is the nicest guy alive, and a staggering talent. We worked together on a horror comic called House of Secrets and a painted follow-up called House of Secrets: Facade. Both books were very experimental and really established the style of It's a Bird... in a lot of ways.

In the age of electronic correspondence, working with someone in another country is no different than working with someone in America. A lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, and a lot of JPEGs.

B&N.com: Which comic book writers have been the greatest inspirations to you?

SS: Frank Miller. I don't write anything like him, and I can't point to anything I've borrowed from him stylistically, but his best work just makes me feel like I ought to do more in my work. Or less. I'm not sure which. I really study his structures a lot.

I've always loved Steranko's visual guts. And It's a Bird... owes a definite tip of the hat to Grant Morrison and Dave McKean for doing the Batman hardcover Arkham Asylum. Our book is in no way like their book, but I remember picking that book up in the store, shrink-wrapped, not knowing what it was, but having a feeling that it would change the way Batman was perceived forever.

B&N.com: What's your next graphic novel project?

SS: I'm working on several, but the next one out will be Mechanism with Kelley Jones. It's a very gothic murder mystery with a lot of cool and creepy technology. I've also got an urban political thriller that I'm writing and illustrating myself called Persona. And of course, Teddy and I will be back with our next book to follow up It's a Bird..., but we've just started on that!

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2005

    This is what comic books really mean

    In a time when most mainstream entertainment is 'visually stunning but ultimately pointless', a work of art like 'It's A Bird...' is a real treasure. As a comic book reader, I have found that most comic books today are marketing towards a young audience hungry for the all of the glorified violence, helicopter explosions, and impossible car chases that exhaust an otherwise promising franchise. Many people these days believe that comics are childish, that they're 'for nerds', or that they aren't 'real books.' After all, why should they think otherwise? Long ago, comic books meant something to people. They provided a genuine hero when people were in need of one. But not anymore. Now they provide vigilantes who would sooner kill and man than escort him to the local police station to await a fair trial. And all of this to please a bloodthirsty audience, blind to how beautiful and uplifting comic books can be. But Steven T. Seagle's 'It's A Bird...' is a refreshing step back from such nonsense. The story takes place in a world where comic book 'heroes' are ignored and those who admire them are thought foolish. A realistic world, indeed. Where is a superhero when you are sick, or when there is a death in your family, or when you feel depressed, angry, suicidal, alone? The main character faces all of these questions and starts an invigorating journey of reconciliation and discovery. This novel will seriously make you think twice about whether superheroes really exist. It is a reflection of our modern world, and, oddly enough, one that is compassionate and inspiring. It is a unique and original work of art, great whether you read comic books or not. Definitely one of the greatest comics I have ever read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2004

    Gorgeous and Gratifying

    I am not an avid comic reader, but this book was recommended to me by a friend and it really will make me look twice at 'comic books' in the future. If this is what they are nowadays, I've been missing out. This is a very touching personal story blended with thought-provoking side vignettes about Superman in a way that I have not thought of before - how this gigantic fictional character relates to those of us in the REAL world. Brilliant premise, and it holds up for the whole length of the book. I recommend this book for anyone else who enjoyed the comics-meets-life world of Kavalier and Clay, the wit of Charlie Kaufman scripts, the elegance of 'The Hours' - or for any Superman fan who can handle some deconstruction (and rebuilding) of the ultimate American hero.

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