The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 146 | The Red Diary/The RE[a]D Diary Flipbook review

Leaving Proof 146 | The Red Diary/The RE[a]D Diary Flipbook review
Published on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 by
Image Comics’ The Red Diary/RE[a]D Diary Flipbook is a bold experiment in graphic storytelling. Read the full review to find out if its execution lives up to its ambition.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • A unique and creative graphic storytelling exercise.
  • Affecting core story.
  • Post-Impressionist styled, painted art.

Cons:

  • None of note.

Publication Details

  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Publication Date: August 2012
  • The Red Diary written and painted by: Teddy Kristiansen
  • Translation assistance for The Red Diary by: Steven T. Seagle
  • The RE[a]D Diary written by: Steven T. Seagle
  • The RE[a]D Diary painted by: Teddy Kristiansen
  • Format: 144 page full-color hardcover. Collects The Red Diary, originally published in France as Le Carnet Rouge by Soleil in 2007 and The RE[a]D Diary, an original story by Steven T. Seagle based on the art and orthography of Le Carnet Rouge.
  • List Price: $29.99 (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
  • Availability: On sale now

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Suggested Background Reading

Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen’s prior collaboration, the 2004 autobiographical graphic novel It’s a Bird published by DC Comics under its Vertigo Comics imprint, garnered great reviews and earned Teddy Kristiansen the 2005 Eisner Award for Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art).

Full Review

Image Comics’ The Red Diary/RE[a]D Diary Flipbook is a truly unique exercise in graphic storytelling. The first half of the book is a straightforward English translation of Teddy Kristiansen’s 2007 graphic novel Le Carnet Rouge (“The Red Diary”). The second, “flipped” half of the book features The RE[a]D Diary, a story written by Steven T. Seagle around the sequential art of Le Carnet Rouge in a way somewhat reminiscent of the Marvel Method, with the important distinction that Seagle knows nothing of Le Carnet Rouge‘s actual plot since Seagle doesn’t speak, much less read, French or Danish, the original languages of Le Carnet Rouge‘s publication. But what makes the book a singular storytelling experience is Seagle’s application of what he calls his “transliteration” technique, replacing the words in Kristiansen’s original Danish dialogue with the closest-looking or closest-sounding English words without regard for the Danish word’s actual meaning, correcting for grammar and introducing punctuation as necessary along the way to improve readability. Describing his process in the mid-flipbook afterword:

I mirrored the original book’s names, approximate balloon lengths, word counts, placements, silences, and narrative stances to the degree my forensic skills allowed. When I recognized a word or a date, or I could decipher a proper name, I tried to use it and keep it in the same location.

The story at the core of the volume, The Red Diary, is an affecting tale of the writer William Ackroyd who, in the course of researching the life and death of the painter-turned-World War I soldier Philip Marnham for a book, comes to grips with his grief over the death of his wife. It’s a wonderfully subdued piece of graphic storytelling that is complemented well by the metafiction of The RE[a]D Diary: An intriguing “re-mix” of Kristiansen’s graphic novel with the orthography, character names, dates, cadences, and other structural elements from the original story’s text re-purposed for a new plot, illuminating the book’s Post-Impressionism inspired sequential art in new ways and providing quite the literal commentary on the themes of re-invention and artistic renewal.

A story page from “The Red Diary” (L) and its “re-mixed” version (R)

It is no coincidence that many of the motifs in Seagle’s “re-mix” intersect with and echo those in the original. Many of the scenes and layouts employed by Kristiansen in the art inevitably dictate a most reasonable course of narrative for Seagle. Still, this isn’t to suggest that the resulting metafiction is in any way predictable or redundant. The RE[a]D Diary is a good standalone story on its own with its only real fault—a minor one to be sure—being a central mystery of identity whose solution is telegraphed way too early into the proceedings. Its “re-mixed” nature, like the best examples of re-mixes in popular music, will only be evident to those who have knowledge of the unique process of adaptation behind the work.

Seeing Seagle’s creative gymnastics in print will perhaps be the primary motivation for North American fans of the comic book medium to seek this volume out, but the translation of Kristiansen’s original graphic novel is almost worth the price of entry by itself. Recommended.

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