PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Constitution Illustrated
R. Sikoryak

Drawn & Quarterly

July 2020

Other

How many artists have created their own genres? Robert Sikoryak may stand among few, especially for genres within the comics form.

He has an eloquently simple concept: combine a set of words with incongruous drawings in the styles of famous comics. For his first 2009 graphic novel, Masterpiece Comics, Sikoryak retold classic works of literature, such as The Scarlet Letter, Doctor Faustus, and Crime and Punishment, featuring Little Lulu as Hawthorne's Pearl, Garfield as Marlowe's Mephistopheles, and Batman as Dostoyevsky's homicidal protagonist.

In 2017, Terms and Conditions earned Sikoryak greater attention for an even stranger premise: the complete, unabridged iTunes user agreement with Steve Jobs drawn in 94 pages of constantly changing styles. For The Unquotable Trump, released later the same year, he applied his formula to political satire, inserting Donald Trump cartoon images and verbatim quotes into comic book covers, with an appropriate emphasis on supervillains.

Now Sikoryak delves even deeper into American politics by adapting the most central US text. Constitution Illustrated provides the complete, unaltered Articles and Amendments in 114 cartoon vignettes. The book is both Sikoryak's widest range of comics homages yet and, more oddly, his most practical. Where the iTunes contract was a comically absurd choice because so few people have ever bothered to read it, the Constitution is, of course, a keystone of US law and culture. Sikoryak even evokes a pocket-sized edition, that ubiquitous prop used by politicians and pundits in need of something to clench and wave above their heads.

I just used my copy to check whether the 19th Amendment established the right of women to both vote and hold office or just to vote. The page features a spot-on imitation of H. G. Peter, the first but uncredited Wonder Woman artist. That pairing is a good illustration of Sikoryak's logic and humor. Though unlike the adaptions in The Unquotable Trump, the page isn't an exact recreation (like John Romita's 1975 The Hulk on the Rampage cover), but a formally freer combination of style and subject. (The 19th Amendment, by the way, is just for the right to vote.)

(courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly)

If you're a comics aficionado, Constitution Illustrated is also the ultimate pop quiz. I didn't keep score as I flipped through the first time, but I chuckled when I recognized the logic behind each discordant pairing, especially the superhero motif. For Article I, Section I describing the division of Congress into the Senate and the House, Sikoryak draws two muscular and oppositely colored patriots sprinting in a mirrored pose cribbed from the 1976 cover of The Greatest Race of All Time! Superman vs. the Flash. The two DC heroes are allies on the same team, but they still compete against each other all too often. That antagonism increases when the House's Super Friends face a row of Senate supervillains in an illustration of the House's sole power to create tax-raising bills and the Senate's power to amend them.

Instead of Spider-Man's antagonists Prowler and J. Jonah Jameson watching Peter Parker fall from a window, Sikoryak draws a presiding Chief Justice and a Senator watching the President in the same pose—an apt illustration for the protocols for trying an impeachment. President Parker bears no resemblance to either Donald Trump or Bill CIinton, but Sikoryak kindly adds tingling spider senses emanata as a helpful clue (something artist Romita did not include on the original 1969 cover).

A 1943-based colonial Captain America blocks a spray of musket bullets—metaphorically blocking the states' ability to wage war, a power exclusive to the federal government. Sikoryak leaps to 1992 for Article II, Section 2's description of the President's role as Commander in Chief. I admit I didn't recognize Jim Lee's Wild C.A.T.s cover, just the decade-defining style which I took for Rob Liefeld. Happily, Sikoryak provides a cheat sheet in the appendixes, listing the source for each of adaption.

The list of comics artists that get a respectful nod in Sikoryak's Constitution Illustrated is dizzyingly eclectic. It includes Alison Bechdel, Garry Trudeau, Roz Chast, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Charles Schultz, Frank Miller, Scott McCloud, Adrian Tomine, and many more. This book could be used in courses in comics and cartoon history, as it features some of the earliest creators, like Richard Outcault (The Yellow Kid) and Windsor McCay (Little Nemo), and some of the most recent, like Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes) and Bianca Xunise (Six Chix).

Black artists George Herriman, Jackie Ormes, Matt Baker, Barbara Brandon-Croft, and Aaron McGruder are represented, as well as the presentation of Black characters by non-Black artists. The Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez tribute is the most diverse, implying a hope that the Electoral College, which it describes should reflect the same level of diversity. Less subtlety, Sikoryak draws a chain-breaking Luke Cage to illustrate the slavery-ending 13th Amendment. His 25th Amendment depicts a Black vice-president assuming the presidency—just as the Black character John Stewart assumed the role of Green Lantern in DC comics.

My favorite, though it's disturbing, is Mandrake the Magician turning his African servant Lothar partially invisible beneath the census directive to count only "three fifths of all other persons", meaning, of course, slaves. The image unites the racism of the Article with the racism of the 1930s characters. It also highlights how any contemporary analysis of the Constitution must address its deep flaws too. Sikoryak's satirical pairings breathe new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

(courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly)

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.