Review: Graphic Novel--Between the Devil and Miles Davis by Lance Tooks
- The following review will appear in the Kwanzaa 2006 edition of
Sisters Nineties magazine
Not Yer Granddaddy's Funny book
BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND MILES DAVIS
By Lance Tooks
75 Pages, NBM Publishing, $15.75
"A pair of ghost giants/Keep me up nights with endless
protests/Writing and Moaning in my ears as if there's a solitary
thing that I can do to set them to rest.
"If I were brave I'd step off in to the air right now.
"Then there'd be three restless souls loose."
From Between the Devil and Miles Davis
Say, "comic books" and most folks think 32 page pamphlets featuring
the four color adventures of tight-and-cape-wearing white guys
flying around and beating each other up. Since the 1960's that has
been the dominant vision sold and promoted by the comic book
industry (not withstanding Giant Annuals or Black Panther, Luke
Cage, Storm, Blade and the Milestone Crew, which some might argue
are but Black versions of the same pre adolescent male power fantasy.
However since the 1970's graphic novelslonger some times book
length publications--have presented comics as serious art-- like
Lance Tooks' Between the Devil and Miles Davis.
Lance Tooks is a longtime comic book professional. He has
been assistant editor at Marvel comics, his comics have appeared in
Zuzu, Shade and Girltalk. http://www.lancetooks.com/
Between the Devil and Miles Davis is the fourth volume of
his series Lucifer's Garden of Verses that, according to his
publisher, NBM Publishing http://www.nbmpub.com/
feature "the fictional character Lucifer". The heroine of Between
the Devil and Miles Davis is Amo Tanzer, a chain smoking "hard-
bitten and cynical" bi sexual bi racial New York journalist who
is "procrastinating at her next assignment, writing on Miles
Davis". After some Manhattan style journalist's adventures she
winds up in a mysterious bar called the Smokery.
The rest of the book is a sometimes surreal conversation,
presented in short separately titled sections, between her and
Narcissa, the bar owner a black female character featured in Tooks'
graphic novel Narcissa, about the life and art of Miles Davis their
own lives, attitudes, hopes and frustrations.
Fans of Eric Jerome Dickey, Spike Lee, Jules Feiffer, the
late Richard "Grass" Green, Los Bros Hernandez' and Harvey Pekar
should like this book. The art ranges from the cartoony to the
realistic and detailed. The writing is wry, culturally racially and
politically conscious and so literate that you have to read it as
closely as you do a novel.
This would be a perfect comic for The Village Voice.
I most enjoyed "Acquanetta v Jack Johnson". In that section
Narcissa tells Amo the story of how her mother, an actress "in the
years Before Spike" fought a losing battle to get more blacks into
the film industry (was the little fascist director "who shot a film
a year in the city yet refused to hire blacks for any positions in
his productions" Woody Allen?)
With this work as well as others Tooks no doubt seeks to
make the comic form palatable to a broader audience and broaden the
tastes of the comic audience. I applaud his efforts, those of NBM
Publishing and others in the comic industry who strive to make
comics worthy of consideration as serious art.
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