Three years before he died last year, the brilliant caricaturist, illustrator, animator and comic strip artist, Robert Grossman completed his as-of-then unpublished magnum opus, a decade long passion titled Life On The Moon: A Completely Illustrated Novel (Yoe Books). Grossman prided himself on illustrating “the un-illustratable” — an historical graphic novel based on the “Great Moon Hoax,” the most successful fake news story ever published.
Robert Grossman and the Moon
In 1835, The New York Sun published a series of six articles declaring the discovery of life–and advanced civilization–on the moon, which the newspaper attributed to the famous contemporary astronomer Sir John Herschel. According to the Sun, the lunar inhabitants included unicorns, bison, bipedal tail-less beavers, and intelligent humanoids with bat-like wings.
The book’s celebratory launch at the Society of Illustrators tomorrow, May 17, will include a panel to discuss Grossman’s remarkable career, moderated by Craig Yoe and featuring former Nation editor Victor Navasky, and former Time and New York Magazine art director Walter Bernard, and me.
New Takes on Old Thrills
Life on the Moon is a full-length graphic novel capturing this mythical world. Grossman said the book is set in a time when “many of the signal achievements of the 19th Century still lay well in the future, Andrew Jackson was president, the steamboat was the summit of technology, and news traveled slowly.” The novel includes real historical figures such as P.T. Barnum, Jean Jacques Audubon, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Charles Goodyear, and Edgar Allan Poe. Grossman guranteed that, “Life on the Moon is meant to be at least partly funny, and has a rip-roaring sci-fi ending.”
“I read somewhere,” he concluded, “that William Randolph Hearst insisted that everything he produced had ‘Tears, laughs, loves, and thrills.’” Life on the Moon has all that and more.
Grossman, one of America’s most innovative caricaturists, was a spirited storyteller with a bottomless well of historical fact and trivia to draw from. “In Life on the Moon he weaves a tale that cannot be read just once,” Yoe notes, “so on that next trip to the moon, take it along,” adding . . . “We are both humbled and at the same time immensely proud to be publishing this masterpiece in our new original graphic novel series. I fully expect the compelling and stunningly illustrated Life on the Moon, Grossman’s tour de force, to take place among the most revered work in our field!” I agree.