On the Ledge with Kevin Baker
To quote Bruce Springsteen at the Oscars, thanks for letting me come to your party.
I've been a professional writer since I was thirteen years old, and since then I've written just about everything, but Luna Park is my first graphic novel. It was so much fun to do, I should have been paying the good people at DC (a joke).
The story is named after what was far and away the most beautiful and the weirdest of the three, original, lost amusement parks out at Coney Island—a continuing obsession of mine. It starts in the present, with the old Coney coming down—as, sadly, it is now—and a couple of Russian mobsters fighting to pick up the real estate bonanza that will remain. Alik is a shtarke for one side with a dark past from the Chechen wars, and a girlfriend who works as a fortuneteller and other things for his boss's biggest rival. It's a noir story, with a little time-traveling, a lot of history, and a twist at the end. (See if you can discover it; there are clues throughout the story.)
It's also about Pushkin's great poem The Bronze Horseman; the story of a young man in St. Petersburg in the 19th century, who loses his beloved in a great flood and goes mad. He imagines that the terrible bronze statue of Peter the Great in the main square has come to life and is chasing him through the city.
The metaphor is all about the terrible toll that Russian history takes. St. Petersburg was a beautiful, otherworldly city that cost thousands of laborers their lives to build, all for the glory of the emperor, and the state. But then, Russian history never ends well. It keeps doubling back to these awful tragedies in which ordinary people are crushed under the tyrant.
It seems like the mirror image of American history, where things always seem to end well (at least for some people). Where Russia's great, surreal city lay on the edge of waters that regularly flooded and killed its inhabitants, Luna Park—also a surreal place, with its own, very Russian obelisks—was an amusement park by the ocean; a place of "manufactured fun" as its drunken visionary of an architect called it. Manufactured fun—an essentially American idea.
And yet, through the terrible confluence of the Cold War, the two nations' destinies become intertwined. Hence the twist at the end. But enough words. The pictures will sell you. They're by the fantastically talented Danijel Zezelj, whom I was privileged to work with. He alone is worth the price of admission to this funhouse. Enjoy!