Thursday, November 15, 2012

It’s a Book Review: Steven Seagle’s Intriguing Novel

It’s a Bird begins with the scene of a young Stephen Seagle and his brother at the hospital as a feeling of uncertainty overwhelms them. Once they start complaining, their father consoles them by giving them a superman comic. On one of the hospital information cards Steven notices the words “Diagnosis: Huntington’s” with an unusually scribbled “S” resembling the one on Superman. Many years later Steven becomes a graphic novel writer and lives with his girlfriend Lisa when he is offered every comic book writer’s dream: to write an issue of Superman. This, however, brings back his past experiences and leads to inner turmoil within his mind. Seagle’s work takes us through his development as a writer and human being as he copes with his family issues with Huntington’s disease. Throughout his work, he analyzes superman’s character and his own as he struggles to write his comic book issue. Steven T. Seagle retells his personal experiences as a budding comic book writer in his graphic novel through a combination of interlacing ideas, symbolism, and vivid imagery.
    Seagle’s novel involves the interlacing of three major components. The first of these involves flashbacks to a childhood scene at a hospital. When Seagle was a boy, he and his brother had learned that his grandmother had come down with Huntington’s disease. While they were waiting in the hospital, boredom overcame them and a quarrel broke out. Their father intervened and gave them a Superman comic to read. Seagle noticed that the “S” on Superman’s chest was eerily similar to the one at the end of Huntington’s. Thus began Seagle’s stigmas pertaining to Superman and Huntington’s. Throughout this story he often flashes back to elucidate the events of that day as he remembers them and use them as means to explain the condition of his present life. As Seagle’s view of superman is altered by the event in these flashbacks, as an adult he chooses to break down superman’s character traits and identity to explain the way he sees them as they become relevant to his life story. On top of this, Seagle uses philosophical anecdotes often referring to the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche to further analyze Superman and understand what to do with his life. The interlacing of these three elements is done with much expertise as ideas begin to blend together towards the end of the story and clearly tie back to Seagle’s life and future plans, ultimately taking him on an intellectual journey.
Seagle also utilizes symbolism to elucidate his points. Superman’s “S” is one of the important symbols and is the cause of confusion in Seagle’s life. When he sees it, it reminds him of Huntington’s disease and the pain it has inflicted on his family. In Seagle’s mind Superman symbolizes an alien aggressor who is invulnerable to diseases and will never know the pains of being human. Gradually he comes to understand Superman by breaking down the identity of superman into symbols of invulnerability, power, justice, freedom, and strength by comparing his iconic image to other historical icons from Hitler to Alexander the Great. Superman, usually seen as a symbol of the ultimate good, is often given an antagonistic role in It’s a Bird. This in depth analysis of Superman is a plus in that it allows us to see how Seagle’s views develop throughout the story and portray Superman in a unique new light.

Seagle uses vivid imagery throughout his novel to help us see Huntington’s disease and Superman the way he does. Huntington’s disease was depicted in several ways. The first and foremost was its devastating effects on families. This can be observed in the first pages when the Seagle family is going through a stressful time in the hospital. Everything from the expressions on the family’s faces to the dark grays and yellows in the background convey uncertainty and decay. To add to the gloom and dread, there is a panel on page 3 showing a doctor pushing a covered body as a young Seagle watches. In the hospital everyone is facing some challenge: the boys are fighting boredom; the mother tries to be strong in the face of their adversity, and the father keeps everyone calm. As we progress towards the end of the book, readers see the devastation of the disease on a human body through Seagle’s horrific use of gray, contorted bodily motions, and facial expressions. Meanwhile, the artwork of Superman throughout the majority of the book utilizes dark colors in contrast to the usual bright primary colors normally used to depict Superman. These images of Superman are often used to portray the comic book superhero as the alien antagonist in Seagle’s life. Gradually the art style begins changing to brighter colors as Seagle begins to understand Superman better. The overall artwork and imagery do a good job of conveying his feelings at the moment and make the reader understand the world through Seagle’s eyes.  
Overall, this has been a delight for each of us to read. Through the delicate balance of interlaced ideas, symbolism, and vivid imagery, It’s a Bird is a short book that requires the reader to read and reread as he spends time thinking about the events that transpire in the novel.  There is a lot packed into each and every panel and many ideas that come together to tell Seagle’s story; however, as a result the book can become fairly complicated and may require several minutes of reading and reflection. The short anecdotes talking about others may distract the reader and seem like tangents from the main story, but are examples of Steven’s feelings and actions throughout the novel. To bring the reader back on track throughout the book, symbols are used as foils for greater things and are often thought provoking, such as the S representing Huntington’s. Lastly, the imagery in every panel carries emotion through color and drawing technique and allows the reader to see the darkness Huntington’s can bring to one’s family.  By using these three elements in the novel, Seagle provide the reader insight into his life and provides a thorough analysis of it.

This book is not for those who wish to skim, but it is for those who wish to seek deep personal reflection about their past and how it will influence their future. The main storyline of a budding comic book author, while not a common lifestyle many people can relate to, will intrigue those unfamiliar with the profession to see how one can determine the fine line between work and personal issues.

-      This book was an intriguing read. Contains many thought provoking panels that makes one reflect on the world and themselves in general.
-      Lots of drama occurs throughout the novel concerning the author’s personal life, and how his work affects him.
-      Well written with well interlaced ideas throughout
-      Descriptive images and symbols add to the depth of the novel’s story
-      The book has the appearance of 124 page book, but should one read it, he/she will take the time it takes to read a 300-400 page book because of the time it takes for one reader to analyze certain parts of the text.
-      Interruptions in the story’s main story line such as flash backs can be occasionally distracting and confusing
-      Did not like the ending in terms of resolution
-      Seagle’s character is unique and not easily relatable for most people

On a scale from 1 to 10, the book is an 8.5/10.

Written by Brian Chien, Vivek Koganti, Rohan Verma

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