My Bookshelf: “The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery”

My Bookshelf

The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Volumes One and Two
Edited by Russ Kick

Created and curated by activist, journalist, writer, editor, muckraker and comics buff Russ Kick, this ambitious anthology series by Seven Stories Press which kicked off in 2017 with The Graphic Canon of Crime and Mystery, Volume One: From Sherlock Holmes to A Clockwork Orange to Jo Nesbø, promising comic book adaptations of classic crime fiction in full-color–and it more than delivered.

Followed in 2021 by The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery Volume Two: From Salome to Edgar Allan Poe to Silence of the Lambs, the two volumes presented a mind-boggling variety of crime literature from an truly impressive line-up of authors, ranging from pure pulp to classic literature and stretching to include songs, poems, plays and even Bibical tales, adapting some of the world’s most famous (and sometimes infamous) writers, including Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, G.K. Chesterton, Robert Louis StevensonDashiell Hammett, Charles Perrault, James M. Cain, Jo Nesbo, Mario Puzo, Franz Kafka, Patricia Highsmith, Anthony Burgess, Thomas Harris, Robert Bloch, Truman Capote, Agatha Christie, James Ellroy, William Shakespeare, Derek Raymond, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sophocles, Iceberg Slim and more.

Sure, some were brief synopses, barely more than teasers, giving just a taste, but the sheer variety of artistic techniques and styles was consistently top notch. Kick had assembled and in many cases commissioned over fifty original adaptations from a truly stellar crew of artists. The overall quality is stunning–these are alternately vivid, subtle, reverent, irreverent, in-your-face and all over the place, a constantly changing phantasmagoria of styles, attitudes, and artistic techniques (Scratchboard! Photocollage!) in various media that just grab you by the eyeballs. Surreal, impressionistic, matter-of-fact pen and ink–the approaches are as varied as crime itself.

And they didn’t skimp on the detective stuff either. Among the gumshoes who show up are Sherlock Holmes, Tommy and Tuppence,  Hercule Poirot, and my personal favourite, Teddy Goldenberg’s dense, murky Apocolypse Now take on Dashiell Hammett’s “The Road Home,” often considered the first hard-boiled detective story. Only thing I sorta regret is that the brief excerpt from Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes doesn’t include an appearance by Bill Hodges.

The two volumes were a spin-off from Kick’s even more ambitious three-volume series, The Graphic Canon: The World’s Great Literature as Comics and Visuals, which also featured some of the world’s greatest and most famous–but arguably non-crime-based–literature rendered in graphic-novel form.


Russ Kick, the originator of the Graphic Canon series, was an activist, journalist, writer, editor, muckraker, comics buff and, according to the New York Times, “an information archaeologist.” He spent much of his life digging up what others hoped would stay buried, writing for the Village Voice and eventually going on to found The Memory Hole web site, which archived sensitive and difficult to find official documents. You may know him as the guy who dug up those infamous photos the Bush government tries to suppress in early 2004 of the coffins of the military war dead from the Iraq War, but he also known for his often controversial series of anthologies which he edited, including Everything You Know Is Wrong (2002), The 50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know (2003), You Are Being Lied To, The Disinformation Book of Lists (2004) and Everything You Know About Sex Is Wrong (2005). All that muckraking must have taken its toll, though, because in the early 2010s, he began another ambitious if slightly less (well…) controversial project, which sought to pair comics art with classic literature, inviting hundreds of illustrators and artists to reimagine classic stories, poems and plays in a series of books known collectively as The Graphic Canon, which ran from 2012 t0 2013, and eventually spawned three volumes, followed by The Graphic Canon of Children’s Literature (2014),  The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Volume One (2017) and The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, Volume Two, which was published posthumously, following his death in September 2021. He was 52.


  • “Easily the most ambitious and successfully realized literary project in recent memory.”
    — NPR
  • “A treasure trove for literary comics fans.”
    — WIRED
  • “Featuring adaptations of famous crime classics, most of which were created specifically for this volume, this work displays a range of absolutely stunning talent. From a relatively straight­forward depiction of the murder scene in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment to a wildly experimental take on Stanley ­Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, [Russ Kick] presents a fantastic survey of the literature concerned with criminal activity, as well as a primer on everything possible in the graphic format … As an introduction to the crime genre, this edition is second to none.”
    — Library Journal
  • “Almost anything can be seen as a crime story, and almost anything can be adapted into a graphic novel. Few, however, have attempted such an ambitious and quirky melding of these two truths as editor and artist Russ Kick with his new anthology, The Graphic Canon of Crime and Mystery. This cleverly arranged series of graphic adaptations of classic mystery tales brings together a wide range of artists matched with a diverse list of stories, many of which are only loosely categorizable as crime fiction (that’s part of the fun of it). With everything from biblical judgements to decadent poetry to 19th century classics, Kick and his army of artists have crafted a formidable and fascinating collection.”
    — Molly Odintz (Lit Hub)


  • The Graphic Canon of Crime and Mystery, Volume One (2017) Buy this book | Kindle/ComiXology it!
    Includes A Clockwork Orange, Sherlock Holmes, Auguste Dupin, Hercule Poirot, ,the Arabian Nights, the Bible, The Canterbury Tales, Dubliners, Patricia Highsmith, Franz Kafka, Truman Capote, Stephen King, and Jo Nesbo.
  • The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery Volume Two (2021) Buy the graphic novel | Kindle/ComiXology it!
    Twenty-six more tantalizing tales, including Dashiell Hammet, Robert Bloch, Agatha Christie, Geoffrey Chaucer, James Ellroy, William Shakespeare, Mario Puzo, Chekov, and more Kafka (as a choose-your-own-adventure).
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply