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The Odyssey

The Odyssey

by Seymour Chwast

Seymour Chwast, an icon of the graphic design world, has delighted audiences with his adaptations of The Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales. Now he turns to Homer's Odyssey, one of the best-known stories in history. The tale is one that begs for visual interpretation, filled with mythic characters we all know well: the Cyclops,


Seymour Chwast, an icon of the graphic design world, has delighted audiences with his adaptations of The Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales. Now he turns to Homer's Odyssey, one of the best-known stories in history. The tale is one that begs for visual interpretation, filled with mythic characters we all know well: the Cyclops, the Lotus-Eaters, the cannibal Laestrygonians, the Sirens, the monster Scylla (beside the whirlpool Charybdis), Poseidon, Athena, and Zeus.... Featuring a bold black, white, and blue interior design throughout, imbued with his own sly humor, The Odyssey brings us a dazzling new vision of one of the epic journeys.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The latest in an unofficial series of graphic novels based on the classics (The Canterbury Tales; The Divine Comedy), veteran illustrator and graphic designer Chwast interprets the Greek epic in straightforward but whimsical line drawings that invest the familiar tale with droll energy. Plot and language are simplified, but this is a funny and engaging take on the story of Odysseus’s return from the siege at Troy. Our hero is cast as a Buck Rogers–like space traveler, bouncing from planet to planet (instead of island to island) in Deco-inspired rocket ships. Dynamic page layouts (no two spreads are alike) and helpful chapter headings and text labels help keep the story moving with the energy of a Saturday matinee serial directed by Michel Gondry. Chwast’s charming line drawings are deceptively simple. Scenery evokes the aerodynamic lines of the ‘20s and ’30s, while character designs emerge from the classical ideal of beauty. With its rich cast of characters and wealth of dramatic incident, it’s a wonder that The Odyssey hasn’t seen more visual interpretations; Chwast’s is enjoyable, if lightweight. Illustrations are printed in two colors; reviewed from a black-and-white galley. (Sept.)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Odysseus, kitted out in Buck Rogers-esque garb, finally leaves Calypso's island to make the long voyage home to reunite with his wife and son, and to prevent his spouse's many suitors from despoiling his estate. Drawn with deliberate primitivism, the artwork has the flat simplicity and awkward panel transitions redolent of comics drawn during fifth-grade social studies, lacking only a blue-lined-paper background for the images. The visuals are a mishmash of imagery, and while the suitors, Odysseus, and Telemachus remain primarily influenced by 1930s pulp sci-fi design, cars, bathing suits, Arthurian wizards, and Hellenic helmets also make appearances. This works quite well, giving the various islands and kingdoms diverse aspects, and providing an accessibly fanciful context. The adaptation loses almost all of the original phraseology, but keeps the sprawling list of characters tertiary to the main action, as well as many of the plot mechanics soothed over by other retellings. The compressed sequence of events and the lack of cultural background makes Odysseus come off rather badly as the hero of his eponymous epic, and a brief epilogue only helps minimally in providing perspective on his literary endurance. This is a complicated, sprawling work with much more complexity of character and event than might be inferred from the faux simplicity of the composition, and it maintains some of the ambiguity, scope, and bawdy content of the original poem. It is difficult to pinpoint an audience best suited for this idiosyncratic effort.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH
Kirkus Reviews
The renowned illustrator and graphic designer continues his series of classic adaptations, with diminishing returns. When Chwast, a very influential stylist in visual communication, published his adaptation of Dante's Divine Comedy (2010), he set the bar very high, with an irreverent triumph of the imagination that was somehow both true to the spirit of the source material and totally original. The next year's similar transformation of The Canterbury Tales was less revelatory, and this third in the series fails to fulfill the epic's promise. It is playful but slight, like a cross between Flash Gordon (complete with space ships and rocket burners) and fractured fairy tales. He concentrates on two set pieces: The hero's romantic island idyll with Calypso (in her beach chair and bikini) and the repeated efforts by his wife and son to fend off suitors--who multiply alarmingly, like cockroaches. Penelope and Telemachus hope that Odysseus has been long delayed in his return but fear he is dead. Eventually, he does return, in disguise, with help from the gods (and goddesses), and virtue triumphs. Otherwise, the narrative is both skimpy and fast-paced, barely pausing to take a breath for such dramatic staples as the Sirens and Scylla and Charybdis. The artistry (especially the larger scale panels that dominate a page) continues to dazzle, but most of the moral of the story is left to the framing. "The Odyssey is more about what happens after battles end," explains Homer in the Prologue. "In those days, only men fought in wars. But this story shows how they affected everyone--women too. My story tells you a lot about human nature." And then, at the end of the tale, his listener realizes, "Getting into trouble and out of it again is really everyone's story, isn't it?" And so the universality of the age-old epic asserts itself. A quick, breezy read through a cornerstone of literary tradition.

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Seymour Chwast is a graduate of the Cooper Union, where he studied illustration and graphic design. He is a founding partner of the celebrated Push Pin Studios, whose distinct style has had a worldwide influence on contemporary visual communications. In 1985 the name was changed to the Pushpin Group; Chwast is the studio's director. Chwast has illustrated more than thirty books for children and has created two previous graphic adaptations of classic works: Dante's Divine Comedy and The Canterbury Tales. He lives in New York City. Visit Dante's Divine Comedy HC www.pushpininc.com.

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