Friday, June 27, 2014

Under the Hudson River: Book Review on Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain or The Mermaid in the Hudson

This week has probably been the hottest ever, much like walking through a steaming fog pocket that fills the atmosphere. So what better way to cool down by reading a book about rain, water and mermaids. For the last few weeks, I have honestly been excited about working on "Tails" graphic novel, which is still be printed out onto watercolor paper. Actually, today, I just got my first page print but  So besides drawing illustrations for Tails and writing a possible sequel, I wanted to read a novel based on the mermaid myth, "Sailor Twain or the Mermaid in the Hudson" written and illustrated by Mark Siegel.                                                                        
 The one word that can best descriptions for this story is "gripping", from a touching romanic to thrilling dangers that lurk upon land and below it. For this story, I try not to spoil any parts of this story because this is an instant                                 "need-to-read"book for people interested in the overlapping worlds of fantasy and the existing world of the Hudson river. The story is of Captain Twain, the captain of a steamboat that travels along the Hudson river, as his friend Lafayette, the owner of the boat, is going through the emotional struggle about his disappeared brother. Then one night, Captain Twain rescues a wounded mermaid and decides to nurse her back to health in his cabin. While a strong bond is being made, Twains learns that Lafayette is doing his own research when the author, C. G. Beverton, releases the book "Secrets and Mysteries of the River Hudson". So it is a race on protecting the mermaid and finding out what Lafayette is getting into. That's just the brief summary of part 1 of Siegel's tale, all the spoils are in the next three parts that you have to read. Heck, the climax gets twisted up like a wet rag that it is that gripping. 
                   When I first started it, I thought that I would stop once finished with part 1 but it actually made me want to read on. There aren't a lot of graphic novels that can really attract you in like that. One of the habits is that I would stop reading at a part, then I would flip through some of the upcoming pages to see if it catches my interest. But not with this, I read this like any other novel, by letting each page wanting to know more about the characters, story and environment they were put into. 

                      So as a graphic novel, the visual illustration need to appeal to the readers and need to be defined enough to understand the panel. I remember that I questioned myself if I have to start drawing in the digital medium for these novels to look more "professional" for the viewers. Here, Mark Siegel proved me wrong, with the use of the traditional fine medium of charcoal. I never seen it applied to the illustration uses like this before, which Siegel use creativity with limit of black and white pallet. From the smoky background of the city to the gray tones of the deep Hudson. Then with the characters, Siegel drew them as icon cartoons but with realistic elements to fill the panel. Especially with the clothing that illustrated the time period of 1887. And yes, I have been using this mermaid depiction to help illustrate my mermaid studies, giving off the textures of her fish tail and the acceptable body language.                                                           Another element that I like in this narration was the research, legends and myths that Mark Siegel blended into his story. When Captain Twain reads through C.G. Beverton's book, there are examples that can be familiar of the mermaid myth lore to what could be happening in the plot. The one story that is highlighted is like a greek legend about three mermaids being cursed to reside in different larges rivers for breaking one of the ancient laws. The tone reminds me a lot of the story Odysseus, taking a small interest into an adaptation of the three sirens. Maybe it is just me, since it is only explained in nine pages, but ever since I was working with my "Tails" novel, I was doing a lot of research about the mermaid folklore. 
                  Mermaid's Treasures 1998-2011). And then there are the interpretations as them as water demons, creatures that can be piranhas if you mess with their stuff (Walter Gregor 1881). To see where I learned these, here are the links to them: 
The network does expose a lot of the cultural legends with this one creation. For example, one legend from Ancient Greece was about the goddess Atargatis, who seem to be the alpha for the mermaids stories. She became a mermaid when he accidentally killed her mortal lover. Ashamed, she tried to escape her mistake by changing herself into a fish, but the water could not conceal her beauty so her transformation made her a mermaid (Briggs 2014). Another legend is from Scandinavian was that mermaids were considered bad omens for fishers while mermen were actually much helpful than deceitful (

 Overall, the stories that Siegel expresses tell a lot of the plot as to what may come into play. And it can even make you questions what the mermaids can be actually labeled as. Are you on the side of the cheerful, loving mermaids depicted in the "Little Mermaid" or are they just vicious man killers of the waters.  

So, again, I advice you to read this graphic novel and really appreciate the artwork and amazing story narration that you may enjoy. The balance on romance, mystery, thriller and question yourself about our human natures. Really, take time out of your Summer and try this book out, you won't be disappointed.
You can also read it online on his website :

No comments:

Post a Comment