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Trotsky: A Graphic Biography

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Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that lasted through the twentieth century, and in Trotsky: A Graphic Biography, the renowned comic artist Rick Geary uses his distinct style to depict the stark reality of the man and his times. Trotsky's Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that lasted through the twentieth century, and in Trotsky: A Graphic Biography, the renowned comic artist Rick Geary uses his distinct style to depict the stark reality of the man and his times. Trotsky's life becomes a guide to the creation of the Soviet Union, the horrors of World War I, and the establishment of international communism as he, Lenin, and their fellow Bolsheviks rise from persecution and a life underground to the height of political power. Ranging from his boyhood in the Ukraine to his fallout with Stalin and his moonlight romance with Frida Kahlo, Trotsky is a stunning look at one of the twentieth century's most important thinkers and the far-reaching political trends that he launched.


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Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that lasted through the twentieth century, and in Trotsky: A Graphic Biography, the renowned comic artist Rick Geary uses his distinct style to depict the stark reality of the man and his times. Trotsky's Trotsky was a hero to some, a ruthless demon to others. To Stalin, he was such a threat that he warranted murder by pickax. This polarizing figure set up a world conflict that lasted through the twentieth century, and in Trotsky: A Graphic Biography, the renowned comic artist Rick Geary uses his distinct style to depict the stark reality of the man and his times. Trotsky's life becomes a guide to the creation of the Soviet Union, the horrors of World War I, and the establishment of international communism as he, Lenin, and their fellow Bolsheviks rise from persecution and a life underground to the height of political power. Ranging from his boyhood in the Ukraine to his fallout with Stalin and his moonlight romance with Frida Kahlo, Trotsky is a stunning look at one of the twentieth century's most important thinkers and the far-reaching political trends that he launched.

30 review for Trotsky: A Graphic Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    What an interesting look at Leon Trotsky this is! I'll admit I didn't remember much about Trotsky from world history class, so I thought this was a fascinating graphic biography. This was the second Rick Geary book I've read lately (the other being his graphic bio on J. Edgar Hoover) and I enjoyed them so much I requested several other Geary works from the library. Highly recommended. Favorite Quote [on his experience of living in a commune of radical youth] "We read without method, we argued What an interesting look at Leon Trotsky this is! I'll admit I didn't remember much about Trotsky from world history class, so I thought this was a fascinating graphic biography. This was the second Rick Geary book I've read lately (the other being his graphic bio on J. Edgar Hoover) and I enjoyed them so much I requested several other Geary works from the library. Highly recommended. Favorite Quote [on his experience of living in a commune of radical youth] "We read without method, we argued without restraint, we peered into the future passionately, and were happy in our own way."

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Not quite as good as his history of famous murders series, but Geary's a great historian using the comics format. He could've gone into greater depth, and politically he leaves much to the imagination, but he really covers all the bases and presents a solid, thoughtful and rounded portrait of Leon Trotsky. Well drawn, well researched and smartly done.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Excellent introduction to this important thinker...Rick Geary is at the top of his form.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Mansfield

    Rick Geary is probably my favourite graphic artist. I just love his style of detailed b/w drawings and the use of lines to fill in space. I'd read anything he illustrated but fortunately I have an interest in Communist Russia and the evils of communism in general. First off, this is not a children's book by any means, not because of anything that may offend but because it is highly detailed in history, politics and warfare. I knew nothing about Trotsky going into this book as my interests lie in Rick Geary is probably my favourite graphic artist. I just love his style of detailed b/w drawings and the use of lines to fill in space. I'd read anything he illustrated but fortunately I have an interest in Communist Russia and the evils of communism in general. First off, this is not a children's book by any means, not because of anything that may offend but because it is highly detailed in history, politics and warfare. I knew nothing about Trotsky going into this book as my interests lie in the sociological affects of communism on the everyday people rather than the politics of the leaders, so I found it highly enlightening. The leaders were just as ruthless and turned against each other as violently as they did on the people. Geary does in my opinion come off a bit too neutral; the reader will view the politics from their own worldview (left or right). Guess which is mine? LOL Anyway I found it highly enlightening and informative but decidedly heavy on politics and would only recommend to those who know something of Marxism, Leninism and Socialist Communism. The art is divine! There is a companion book to this one that I will read next on J. Edgar Hoover whom I have read quite a bit about already.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    I like Rick Geary's style and his presentation of historical figures and events in graphic form, always verging on caricature, always at least mildly, darkly humorous, and yet compassionate or at the very least appreciative of the unique intellectual and emotional lives of his subjects. Some people think he goes a little easy on Trotsky. I think he does a fair job of making it clear Trotsky is capable of super-heroic self-absorption and inflexibility and, in times of war, violence. We also get I like Rick Geary's style and his presentation of historical figures and events in graphic form, always verging on caricature, always at least mildly, darkly humorous, and yet compassionate or at the very least appreciative of the unique intellectual and emotional lives of his subjects. Some people think he goes a little easy on Trotsky. I think he does a fair job of making it clear Trotsky is capable of super-heroic self-absorption and inflexibility and, in times of war, violence. We also get to see some of his worthwhile actions and ideas and his fantastic determination to set dynamics of social equality in motion, and I think this is important too. This book doesn't go into tremendous academic detail, but it does, more than other books I've read, organize and contextualize in memorable ways a confusing time in history and some of its larger than life figures in addition to bringing Trotsky's life a little closer into view.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Artguy

    Now I know. I had always gotten my Russian Revolution leaders mixed up. No more. After reading this book, it is all fixed firmly in my mind. Trotsky was not exactly a sympathetic leader, but compared to Lenin and Stalin, and even the Tsar, he was more progressive and fair. The art of the book is solid, and the depth of information goes beyond purely cursory. It does get bogged down in tracing his every relocation, of which there are a couple dozen, time think would have been better spent in more Now I know. I had always gotten my Russian Revolution leaders mixed up. No more. After reading this book, it is all fixed firmly in my mind. Trotsky was not exactly a sympathetic leader, but compared to Lenin and Stalin, and even the Tsar, he was more progressive and fair. The art of the book is solid, and the depth of information goes beyond purely cursory. It does get bogged down in tracing his every relocation, of which there are a couple dozen, time think would have been better spent in more analysis of his writings. From it I also learned that, in what seems to be straight out of fiction, he had an affair with Frida Kahlo. I guess most already know this from her movie, but this is the first I have ever heard of it. Like hearing Picasso had a fling with Margaret Thatcher.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashlea

    I love historically driven graphic novels! It is an amazing way to orient the reader to history as many of them involve maps and geographic context. As I read this I could tell the author spent a great deal of time and dedication to the graphics and historical account which was truly appreciated. I was absolutely captivated as it had me reading it twice. I wanted to commit everything in this book to memory!

  8. 5 out of 5

    wildct2003

    Amazed by the effort and amount of travel done by this person. Felt exhausted after reading it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachelfm

    Intricate art and nice contextualization of complex concepts (e.g. the Bolsheviks vs. the Mensheviks.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    CRM

    I enjoyed this graphic biography but just wished there was even more information. Fascinating! I guess I have to read a full book biography of Trotsky.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    This is a good brief overview of Trotsky's life and career. In other treatments it is all too easy to get lost in a morass of Russian names, intricate details of battles, and arcane Soviet politics. But here we get the high-level picture, and Trotsky's contribution to the Russian revolution comes through load and clear, as well as his post-Lenin decline as Stalin consolidated power. Geary uses a number of Verso books as his source material, so we get a fairly friendly perspective. Overall, This is a good brief overview of Trotsky's life and career. In other treatments it is all too easy to get lost in a morass of Russian names, intricate details of battles, and arcane Soviet politics. But here we get the high-level picture, and Trotsky's contribution to the Russian revolution comes through load and clear, as well as his post-Lenin decline as Stalin consolidated power. Geary uses a number of Verso books as his source material, so we get a fairly friendly perspective. Overall, Trotsky comes across as a reluctant revolutionary; one who would have greatly preferred to remain a theorist, well in the background, but who stepped up to take a leadership role because it was the right and necessary thing. He certainly never expected to be a battle commander, but that's just what happened during the civil war and allied invasion of Russia after the revolution. He also comes across as inflexible and a bit dogmatic, thereby losing the friendship of Diego Rivera. Sad for him, really, since it's possible he would have avoided execution by ice ax had he been able to remain in Rivera's house.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Adkins

    "Trotsky" is a graphic biography of Communist Revolutionary Leon Trotsky. This book was neither more or less than what I expected it be. When compared to a history textbook about the communist uprising this was quite interesting. However when compared to any other non-historical graphic novel it was quite dry. I've definitely learned a few things from this read that have stuck particularly well since the facts are all accompanied by the 'political cartoon style' illustrations. Although my "Trotsky" is a graphic biography of Communist Revolutionary Leon Trotsky. This book was neither more or less than what I expected it be. When compared to a history textbook about the communist uprising this was quite interesting. However when compared to any other non-historical graphic novel it was quite dry. I've definitely learned a few things from this read that have stuck particularly well since the facts are all accompanied by the 'political cartoon style' illustrations. Although my attention drifted from the pages several times while reading this book was overall interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Russian history or Trotsky himself. However if history is not your thing then do not waste the 20 minutes it takes to read this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Trotsky is another great comics biography from Rick Geary, following his recent treatment of J. Edgar Hoover in the same vein. At just over 100 pages, it's quite amazing how well Geary is able to communicate the essential points of Trotsky's complicated life, and the repeated images of Trotsky and his wife Natalia being exiled from one home and driven to another fully capture the sadness of a life of permanent exile. There's surely quite a bit more to Trotsky's story that can fit in these pages, Trotsky is another great comics biography from Rick Geary, following his recent treatment of J. Edgar Hoover in the same vein. At just over 100 pages, it's quite amazing how well Geary is able to communicate the essential points of Trotsky's complicated life, and the repeated images of Trotsky and his wife Natalia being exiled from one home and driven to another fully capture the sadness of a life of permanent exile. There's surely quite a bit more to Trotsky's story that can fit in these pages, but Geary does a remarkable job of giving us the essence of the man without attempting to construct a comprehensive biography.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This graphic novel is a great way to learn about Trotsky. I learnt more about Trotsky's life, Lenin and Stalin, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks than I ever did in school when I studied it indepth! And I learnt that naughty old Trotsky had an affair with Frida Kahlo while he and his wife were living with Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico after being expelled by Stalin from Russia in 1936. The impression I came away with of Trotsky after finishing this book was that of a thoughtful, principled This graphic novel is a great way to learn about Trotsky. I learnt more about Trotsky's life, Lenin and Stalin, the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks than I ever did in school when I studied it indepth! And I learnt that naughty old Trotsky had an affair with Frida Kahlo while he and his wife were living with Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico after being expelled by Stalin from Russia in 1936. The impression I came away with of Trotsky after finishing this book was that of a thoughtful, principled and brilliant theorist and writer, who has been much maligned by the capitalist version of history.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    Illustrated with elegant line drawings, the story of Leon Trotsky builds with the dramatic tension of the best novels. Despite its format as a graphic novel, Geary’s work does not dumb down this complex story. Rather, the text and illustrations combine to unravel a few of the labyrinthine threads of Russia’s history in an engaging narrative of the life of one of the most important and divisive political figures of the twentieth century. For readers 12 and up.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Terrible. This is a story that could have been as easily told without a visual format - every single goddamn panel is just a rehashing of the words given above. Using the pictures to do the exact same thing as the words is just duplicitous and demonstrates a poor understanding of what graphic novels are supposed to _do_ and how they're supposed to do it. I think I counted two pieces of dialogue in the entire thing. If you want a read on the same topic try Petrograd, instead. Much improved.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Leon Trotsky's name is well known, but I knew little about him. This book gave his story in enough detail to explain Trotsky to a reasonable extent.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cyndi

    As always, well researched and exquisitely rendered. Enjoyable learning!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Doctor Moss

    The Russian Revolution is complicated, and understanding the lives of its major figures is equally complicated. A short graphic biography isn’t likely to tell the whole story of Trotsky, or any of the other figures or events. Of course, it doesn’t, but I think that’s okay. It’s a start for the reader. I think the author and illustrator, Rick Geary, does the right thing by starting with the stark contrasts in how Trotsky is remembered — a crusading idealist, the “brain behind the Russian The Russian Revolution is complicated, and understanding the lives of its major figures is equally complicated. A short graphic biography isn’t likely to tell the whole story of Trotsky, or any of the other figures or events. Of course, it doesn’t, but I think that’s okay. It’s a start for the reader. I think the author and illustrator, Rick Geary, does the right thing by starting with the stark contrasts in how Trotsky is remembered — a crusading idealist, the “brain behind the Russian Revolution”, fighting for the people of Russia against not only the tyrannical Tsar but also the tyrannical Stalin, or the power-mad “satanic purveyor of bloody revolution”, a tyrant in his own right. With the fall of the Soviet Union Westerners, maybe Americans in particular, are in danger of simply plowing over everything that happened as a nightmare, something that happened, is over, and we bid good riddance. But there was a reason the Russian Revolution happened, there were ideals behind it, and there are lessons to be learned in what went wrong. You get enough here of Trotsky’s story, at the center, to appreciate the intellectual and political turmoil of the revolution and its aftermath. Trotsky’s life is a path through the twists and turns — you’ll see a great deal of what there is to see by walking it. It’s also entertaining, and Geary’s art evokes a time and feel — the old imperial feel of tsarist Russian, the repetition of life in exile and imprisonment for Trotsky (and others), the exuberance of revolution, and the quandary of power in its aftermath. He conveys all of that in a very direct style and relatively simple drawings. He captures the mood, and he keeps his art behind the story. You won’t, hopefully, learn everything you want to know about Trotsky and the Russian Revolution here, but it could get you going on a good path.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ben Truong

    Trotsky: A Graphic Biography is a biographical graphic novel written and illustrated by Rick Geary and edited by Andrew Helfer, and traces the life of Leon Trotsky from hero to the Soviet Revolution to pariah and exile under Stalin. Leon Trotsky was a Soviet revolutionary, Marxist theorist and politician whose particular strain of Marxist thought is known as Trotskyism. A principle architect and hero of the Russian Revolution, then a pariah and exile under Stalin, Leon Trotsky, born Lev Davidovich Trotsky: A Graphic Biography is a biographical graphic novel written and illustrated by Rick Geary and edited by Andrew Helfer, and traces the life of Leon Trotsky from hero to the Soviet Revolution to pariah and exile under Stalin. Leon Trotsky was a Soviet revolutionary, Marxist theorist and politician whose particular strain of Marxist thought is known as Trotskyism. A principle architect and hero of the Russian Revolution, then a pariah and exile under Stalin, Leon Trotsky, born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, is a perpetually controversial figure, which makes the tameness of this graphic biography so disconcerting. Geary does a good job treating a touchy subject objectively, but that objectivity is detrimental in the long run: there is no context or commentary, no point of view, and while none of the facts and philosophies behind the Russian revolution is hidden, it is all relatively passionless. The text is basically a verbose time line, reinforcing the feeling that this book is a sort of supplement for some unseen history textbook. Trotsky: A Graphic Biography is written and constructed well. Geary recreates Russia of the period in his own distinct style. It's instantly recognizable while never distracting, detailed, but not cluttered. All in all, Trotsky: A Graphic Biography is a good biographical graphic novel about Leon Trotsky – a prominent figure in Russian history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Barbour

    You need to know at least a little about Trotsky if you want to understand how communism and socialism came to the rest of the world including the United States of America. I should say, especially the US. The way it shows up is usually in the garb of some kind of democratic socialism or social democracy or in coalition with the liberal/progressive - leftist side of American politics. These people would agree that Stalin and Lenin were wrong in the way it was implemented but they would be fellow You need to know at least a little about Trotsky if you want to understand how communism and socialism came to the rest of the world including the United States of America. I should say, especially the US. The way it shows up is usually in the garb of some kind of democratic socialism or social democracy or in coalition with the liberal/progressive - leftist side of American politics. These people would agree that Stalin and Lenin were wrong in the way it was implemented but they would be fellow travelers with a guy like Trotsky, who preached peace when it was the "Capitalist" nations that were making war but was fine with leading an army in war for the revolution. This book is a good introduction to the man and the times and places he lived.

  22. 5 out of 5

    StrictlySequential

    Fairly presented- a non partisan biography is a triumph in itself! As goodreader "ANDREW" says (for a different title) what is true for all of Geary's MANY historical works: "Geary simply lays out the facts through his writing and art, rarely editorializing or sensationalizing or imposing an overt opinion or point of view. And it's riveting." Hill and Wang used the "Serious Comics" imprint to publish four biographies which I acquired at once due to the quality of what I had already read from them Fairly presented- a non partisan biography is a triumph in itself! As goodreader "ANDREW" says (for a different title) what is true for all of Geary's MANY historical works: "Geary simply lays out the facts through his writing and art, rarely editorializing or sensationalizing or imposing an overt opinion or point of view. And it's riveting." Hill and Wang used the "Serious Comics" imprint to publish four biographies which I acquired at once due to the quality of what I had already read from them and I have cherished the three I've read so far. The publishing order: Malcolm X=2006 (Helfer+DuBurke) Ronald Reagan=2007 (Helfer+Buccelatto+Staton) JEd Hoover=2008 (100% RICK GEARY!) Leon Trotsky=2009 (100% RICK GEARY!) I wasn't going to read history backwards so I took the "when-they-were-born" chronological approach and have been EAGER to open the story of the most intense biography in the group! MY rhetoric: Trotsky was such an interesting man who I agreed with in the climate/situation he was in more often than not. He was motivated, determined, idealistic, charismatic and he refused to be a lackey at the expense of his life. He didn't use political side-speech which gave his audience, whom he enthralled, a clear picture of his beliefs and intentions because he didn't want to be a politician in the first place. He even put himself frequently in front of bullets fearlessly on horseback when he was traveling the countryside in his spectacularly impressive armored train when taking action was the most immediate way to forward his cause! PEOPLE SO FOOLISHLY FORGET THAT STALIN WAS AN EVEN WORSE MONSTER THAN HITLER! THE POWER/INFLUENCE/GOODWILL THAT TROTSKY HAD EARNED MADE HIM THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD HAVE "NIPPED" THE MASTER OF GENOCIDE "IN THE BUD" and he could/would have if the future could have told him that it was the most important thing anybody could have done! He would have had to bare down with all his body/mind/allies/etc. despite exhaustion and disillusionment but he could have possibly been the greatest hero of all of history! Of course nobody would know but that's what makes a TRUE HERO!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    I certainly learned about Trotsky. Geary does a good job of presenting his struggles and his commitment to the cause. I knew some of it, but plenty of info was fresh for me. A couple things that could have been more clear: Stalin's rise to power and ability to mess with Trotsky, who had obviously been more prominent in the revolution; and how Trotsky overcame language barriers when he was living in various foreign nations. The art isn't ground-breaking, but I liked it. A lot of faces, which is I certainly learned about Trotsky. Geary does a good job of presenting his struggles and his commitment to the cause. I knew some of it, but plenty of info was fresh for me. A couple things that could have been more clear: Stalin's rise to power and ability to mess with Trotsky, who had obviously been more prominent in the revolution; and how Trotsky overcame language barriers when he was living in various foreign nations. The art isn't ground-breaking, but I liked it. A lot of faces, which is appropriate for a book that's more about people and politics than action.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sj

    This was one of the densest graphic biographies I have ever read. I was very interested in the topic and I love graphic biographies, but this one was difficult to get through. If you are interested in the topic, you might like this book. It may require a little more background knowledge than I had.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Somewhat dry, reasonably factual, decidedly pro-Trotsky and with only limited utilisation of the Graphic Book format the book is still recommendable as a brief introduction og the life and (many) struggles of the man.

  26. 4 out of 5

    AGMaynard

    Learned a lot about Trotsky and early 20th century Russia/USSR. Even though he never hankered to be the supreme leader, and it's always uncertain when you play "what if?" but If Trotsky had been more supported, perhaps Russia would have been much better off. Recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine Lynd

    I just love graphic novelizations of people's lives or events in history. It takes only a short time to read, and the art almost always is moving and puts you right into that moment, or right into that person's experience. I would recommend this particular book for high school on up.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Eddie

    Essentially a slim bio of Trotsky. I did find that the book was correct in many of the analyses of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Garrett

    Rick Geary is awesome, and graphic storytelling is a it useful way to organize Trotsky's unorganized life. Short and accessible, this was fun and would be a good Russian history primer.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Codepoetz

    This is a fairly dry textbook history of Trotsky's political life and his role in creating the former Soviet Union. Stalin and Lenin, of course, are both key figures in the book.

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