In Cold Blood was one of the final published works of Truman Capote. He was an enigmatic highly intelligent man, with quick wit and high-pitched intonation to his voice. At his height in the 1960’s, he was one of the most highly acclaimed writers in New York and In Cold Blood was billed as the first ever non fiction novel. Capote spent six years and long periods of time in Kansas chasing his obsession with the murder of the Clutter family. His work included extensive research and interviewing members of the community, as well as the two killers Hickock and Smith. The genius of the book lies in the expression of terror and the impact of the horrid murders on the people of Holcomb. In fact this work had profound affects on Truman personally and has been the source of many a dramatization and movie. Capote in Kansas is a graphic novel originally written in 2005 and sees a new re-release as a hardback this month. Ande Parks was raised in Kansas and is known for his writing and inking in the comic book world. He began writing historical fiction with Kansas City massacre, in the highly acclaimed Union Station graphic novel. He brings with him Chris Samnee, who has become highly endorsed for his art on Daredevil but has also worked on Cap, Bucky and Thor. Capote in Kansas takes the events described in the infamous novel and explores the toll of the murders on those involved and Truman himself. Though the events are real, Parke explores the mindset of Truman and delivers through the pencils of Samnee.
Capote in Kansas is an incredibly interesting piece of graphic literature. As a fan of Capote’s writing and a lover of the movies about him, it is wonderful to see it transcribed in graphic art form with Parke’s creative insights. It is paced well, written succinctly and flows so eloquently. The literary tools employed by Ande work so effectively and enable Samnee to produce the most incredible black and white imagery. He manages to capture the peaceful simplicity of the rural town through intimate letterbox panels. The viewpoint alters from one scenic view to the next allowing it to focus on tenuously related aspects of the environment, from trainlines, to windmills to electricity pylons.
As Parke described in the commentary there are two central themes to the book: isolationism and crippling empathy. Truman travels to Kansas with flamboyantly inconsiderate snobbery and upon his rejection, realises his affect on the townsfolk and the real impact of the murders. These interactions and emotions are carried by Samnee’s pencils, as he draws with a simplistic intensity that is rarely perfected in modern comic art. The solemnity and sadness of Capote’s visage is the one recurring image of this book. His ability to adjust the shading of a character in order to express their feelings is truly genius. There are numerous examples of lonesome figures standing under the dimly lit bulb or by the pale moonlight. The book depicts a very sombre tone, which is perfectly apt given it reacts to terribly upsetting subject material.
As a response to the isolationist theme set in the beginning of the book, Truman needs to reflect on his own life whilst developing compassion for those around him. This takes the form of family members, community patrons and most pertinently a relationship with Perry Smith. Befriending a murderer is a difficult task to portray, and though the relationship between Smith and Capote was never full elucidated, Ande takes it to relatively intimate levels. It fits thematically and the reactions are in keeping within the realms of the writing. The key plot device that really lays Capote’s soul to bear, is his imaginary rapport with Nancy Clutter, the murdered sixteen year old daughter. It is impressively written, as her presence takes us complete unaware in relation to the rest of the story. As we progress, her importance becomes clear in helping Truman to understand the enormity of his task and direct this immensely treacherous path. The scenes involving Nancy are incredibly compelling and explore the thoughts of an innocent girl lost to the world. It plays a part of a disturbing imaginary love triangle between Nancy, Perry and Capote, which firmly represents the confusing and complex thought processes within Truman’s mind. This is the fundamental concept of the book and you begin to understand why there is a need for such silhouetted melancholy. This book represents a master class in tragic exposition and articulate black and white brilliance.
“In case you hadn’t noticed…they have suffered a loss”