I know nothing about Johnny Cash except a few of his songs so when I saw this graphic novel at the library I thought I would pick it up. I learned a great deal about Johnny or J.R. as he was known as a young child and it wasn’t dry reading. When I finished reading this graphic novel, I had to wonder what kind of life Johnny could have lived, had he not lead such a dangerous lifestyle? I guess we see this a lot with famous individuals who decide to take the path with drugs and alcohol but reading this novel, it was as if Johnny lost temporary control of his life. Johnny was caught up in the moment, he was living his dream, he was high on life and he didn’t want to come down until one day it finally caught up to him and then it hit him, right in the face.
Told in hues of black and white, this was Johnny, he was the Man in Black. The graphic novel begins when he was young child working in the cotton fields with his family, his family in their new house part of Roosevelt’s New Deal Plan. The whole family was singing gospel, spiritual and hillbilly songs in the fields. J.R. wanted nothing more to be singer on the radio while his favorite brother, Jack wanted to be a preacher, like their grandfather. The frames tell the story of the family, the love, the hardships and the loss that they suffered. J.R. dreams big and nothing in this small town is big enough for him so he moves on and joins the service. Marriage, kids, a job, his life is moving fast and he wants it all and he wants it fast. He seizes every opportunity coming his way, putting together a band, pushing everyone to go…go…go. Then comes the drugs and the alcohol, there’s no slowing him down now. His wife and kids are cast by the wayside but the money is coming in and Johnny’s name is getting big and I think Johnny is getting too big for his britches. The drugs and alcohol, they can’t keep up with Johnny. I knew somewhere among these pages, something was going to crash. It’s amazing how far and how brutal people become. They push and they push, the illustrations showing the destruction but his determination to succeed and to keep moving forward flow through the words on the pages. He’s hit a wall, he sees it, Jonny is all black now. I highly recommend this graphic novel, even if you are not a Johnny Cash fan, I thought the graphics were great and the story behind this man was powerful.