From the acclaimed Eisner Award–nominated creator of Two Generals and Northwest Passage comes a gorgeous and spare illustrated exploration of the rapid rise and tragic fall of 1920s legendary jazz soloist Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke.
Told in stunning illustrations, Bix is a near-wordless graphic exploration highlighting the career of Leon Bix Beiderbecke, one of the most innovative jazz soloists of the 1920s next to the legendary Louis Armstrong. While composing and recording some of the landmark music in the early history of genre, Bix struggled with personal demons, facing the disapproval of his conservative parents and an increasing dependence on alcohol. Presented in predominantly silent panels to reflect his rebellious outsider quality and inability to communicate in anything other than his own musical terms, Bix tells the story of a music star’s rapid rise and tragic fall—a metaphor for the glories and risks inherent in the creative life.
Chantler's bracing look at the life of jazz musician Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke (1903 1931) frames musical genius as both gift and burden. Born in Iowa and distinguished as a child prodigy with a piano, Bix grows up to be an absolute failure at everything except jazz. Chantler's page layouts mimic the genre's irregularity: in miserable periods, regular panels march across the middle of the page in a repetitive line, but when Bix discovers the family piano and later the cornet, meets the woman he loves, and thrills in musical collaboration, panels joyfully pepper the page. The narrative keeps a tight focus on Bix's perspective, questionably eliding some reported scandals, and is nearly wordless (only a few conversations are recorded in text). The crisp, monochrome visuals are reminiscent of midcentury newspaper comics, as well as Seth's Clyde Fans. Throughout, Chantler returns to mine the fault lines of Bix's character, such as a tendency to quit on promises and relationships everything except the alcoholism that killed the musician at age 28. Flasks, bottles, and glasses undergird the story as regularly as a drumbeat, their final toll exacted in a melancholic, gorgeously orchestrated ending sequence. This graphic biography of an artistic innovator mimics the music he loved: chaotic, creative, and open to interpretation.