In his latest work, cartoonist Peter Bagge (a Reason contributing editor) continues his venture into serious historical biography. The artist followed up his book-length comic about Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger (Woman Rebel) with Fire!! (Drawn & Quarterly). His topic: the Harlem renaissance novelist, playwright, and cultural anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston.
What Bagge seems to love most about Hurston, and gets across ably, is the fierce and ever-blossoming independence that led her, among other things, to celebrate the inherent values of black culture, from American southern life to Haitian voodoo, over white liberal uplifters' attempts to change them.
Fire!! perhaps tries to cover too many incidents over the course of 72 pages, though the copious historical text notes fill in many blanks. Hurston is remembered by many libertarians for being one of the few writers from her milieu to oppose statism and socialism. But Bagge doesn't bog her story down in politics.
Instead, he delivers a tale that's charmingly human (yet also tinged with sadness) about how a strong-willed contrarian's life of freewheeling adventure can lead simultaneously to glory and to deep loneliness.