Issue: The Grasshopper and the Ant (Hardcover)
Release Date: June 9, 2010
Writer & Artist: Harvey Kurtzman
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Groovy, baby, just groovy. The Grasshopper and the Ant by Harvey Kurtzman has me feeling absolutely groovy with a big cheesy grin on my face. There’s a lot of history behind this comic whose cover and title have the feel of a children’s book, and if you’re like me and didn’t have a clue who this Kurtzman character was, well, we lucked out.
Sure, the blurb on the back of the book gives a little background, but the two-page introduction (that likely has more words than the whole book) by Denis Kitchen tells a much more complete story. Understanding is everything. If I’d read the book without reading the introduction I don’t think I would have enjoyed it even half as much. Knowing who the author/artist was and where they were coming from gives the story a beautiful depth it might otherwise be missing.
Everyone knows the fable of “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” where the grasshopper is lazy while the ant works hard all summer long preparing for the coming winter. When winter comes, the grasshopper learns a valuable lesson, if not a little late, that when things are good you should plan for the future when things just might not be so kind.
Kurtzman’s version doesn’t quite stick to the script, going at it from a beatnik angle. The grasshopper seeks to understand the meaning of life, talks non-stop, and thinks the ant is missing out. The ant has his nose to the grindstone, every now and then pointing out to the grasshopper just how much time he is wasting.
When autumn comes, the roles are reversed. The ant’s hard work has given him unexpected power that comes with wealth while the grasshopper realizes he’s spent his whole life talking and not doing. The end is the best part though, and I couldn’t possibly spoil that for you, now, could I?
The art is absolutely enthralling. The monochromatic coloring shifts with the season, which I think really helps drill in the passage of time. I loved the grasshopper with his drums and the ant with his little burlap sack and work hat. When the roles reversed, the ant was too funny (and cute!) with his beret and glasses. They both popped off the backgrounds, though I recommend going back and really looking at the backgrounds once you’ve read through to the end because they are both beautiful and interesting. I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to read all the wording on the bits of trash littering the insect world.
Though a children’s book it may not be, I think Kurtzman’s The Grasshopper and the Ant is a classic nonetheless, and it’s definitely cool, baby.
Rating: 4.5 / 5