From his illustrations for Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth to his comic strip in The Village Voice, Jules Feiffer has been artfully speaking out for a long time, but I did not realize he penned his latest – Cousin Joseph – at the age of eighty-seven. This graphic novel subliminally notes issues of anti-seminitsm and corrupt policemen – you may even laugh now and then at the satire – well, maybe smirk – at how close Feiffer gets to the truth.
With a Humphrey Bogart swagger, the key character, Detective Sam Hannigan, follows the noir film formula, and the story has the action and violence of noir style pulp fiction. Is cousin Joseph his anti-conscience?
“The year is 1931. Det. Sam Hannigan is a proud American and a member of fictional Bay City’s finest. When he and his partner aren’t fighting crime or getting their “Red Squad” to suppress the local trade unions, he’s off to do the bidding of the mysterious Cousin Joseph, an unidentified bigwig who wants to rid Hollywood of what he considers anti-American propaganda films. Soon, Sam finds himself in over his head and on both sides of the law as he tries to keep track of the various forces at work against him. ” Publishers Weekly
Sam has an epiphany – too late to save him – when he sees Uncle Joseph for who he really is, but it’s scary to think Uncle Joseph is still out there today, drawing in those who are not on guard.
Recently, a friend brought an old Classics Comics to a book discussion of “The Woman in White,” and many of us were nostalgic about the genre. Comic books have morphed into graphic novels, with Feiffer’s illustrations and dialogue adding social and political commentary – a field he knows well.