J. Edgar Hoover A Graphic Biography

Rick Geary

Hill and Wang




112 Pages



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An Eisner Award Nominee
A Texas Library Association Young Adult Round Table Recommended Graphic Novel

In the hands of cartoonist Rick Geary, J. Edgar Hoover's life becomes a timely and pointed guide to eight presidents—from Calvin Coolidge to Richard Nixon—and everything from Prohibition to cold war espionage. From a nascent FBI's headline-grabbing tracking down of John Dillinger and Machine Gun Kelly in the 1930s to Hoover's increasingly paranoid post-WWII authorizing of illegal wiretaps, blackmail, and circumvention of Supreme Court decisions, J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography provides a special window into the life of an outsized American and a bird's eye view on the twentieth century.


Praise for J. Edgar Hoover

"The life and times of America's top cop, by prolific author/artist Geary. His work for National Lampoon and Heavy Metal illustrates his long-standing taste for the pulpier side of things, but Geary also does solid work in historical comics, albeit ones with a gruesome true-crime slant. He brings the same clean artwork and swift but steady pacing to his graphic biography of J. Edgar Hoover. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1895, Hoover came from a religious clan whose 'family business' was the federal bureaucracy. Obsessively hardworking from an early age, with few friends but a careful eye toward staying politically neutral in order to advance his career, Hoover swiftly moved up the ladder from a lowly Department of Justice post procured for him by a cousin in 1917 to head the Bureau of Investigation by 1924. Geary expertly marks the exacting effort with which Hoover set out during the Depression years to transform the oft-ignored, nearly powerless bureau into a well-publicized and widely idealized national crime-fighting, gangster-busting force. Hoover was obsessed almost equally by fighting what he saw as the immoral poison of liberalism and by consolidating his power with that of the FBI—the two often seen as the same thing to Hoover and, thanks to his intense media lobbying, to the nation itself. In the postwar years, he became the embodiment of an American reactionary. Geary doesn't stoop to rumor-mongering about Hoover's sexuality—he points out that the cross-dressing story is most likely false—but he gives the director's lengthy, marriage-like relationship with second-in-command Clyde Tolson the importance it deserves, particularly since Hoover publicly proclaimed such a rigid, outdated view of sexual morality. As solid, thrilling and informative a guide to the life of America's most powerful authoritarian as one could ask for."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"The deft graphic chronicler of nineteenth-century homicide in the Treasury of Victorian Murder series turns his deadpan skills to an ostensible good guy. Of course, many think the FBI's founding director was a bad guy, who violated the Constitution he was sworn to uphold. That view comes up in Geary's just-the-facts-ma'am treatment, as do the rumors about Hoover's sexuality. Geary gives such things their due, but no more, preferring to limn the considerable evidence of Hoover's self-righteousness, paranoia, power mongering, and egomania. The resultant book is a dandy skim over a fascinating figure."Ray Olson, Booklist

"This comprehensive, highly detailed account is captivating. Hoover, director of the FBI for nearly 50 years, has been elevated to iconic status in the annals of U.S. history and pop culture. His story is well represented by this master illustrator's old-fashioned, highly stylized, black-and-white line art and high-crime drama-superhero comic-book format. Geary has done his homework: the cover and splash page distinctly mimic 1930s advertisements for the popular Warner Brothers' film G-Men, showcasing a machine-gun-toting, dapper Hoover looking much like James Cagney, who played him in the movie. The author provides a fascinating look at how pop culture (films, radio, pulp magazines, comic strips, etc.) worked to aggrandize the status of Hoover, who craftily used entertainment for propagandistic and self-promotional purposes. He befriended the likes of Jack Warner, who glamorized the FBI in his film. An interesting point that Geary reiterates is Hoover's strategy to remain nonpartisan while wooing presidential supporters from both parties. He maintains an unbiased, objective point of view, but still dishes up some dirt. This excellent graphic biography makes the life of Hoover and the history of the FBI both accessible and engaging."—Jodi Mitchell, Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, California, School Library Journal

"[Geary] traces the life and career of the creator of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, weaving a compelling portrait of a man isolated by authority and his desire for secrecy while simultaneously making a name for himself and his agency in the war against organized crime . . . Encompassing events from the Great Depression, WWII, McCarthyism, the Cold War, the Kennedy administration, the Civil Rights movement and Watergate, Geary's work serves as an engrossing, easy to take history lesson."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Rick Geary

  • Rick Geary is an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator. His most recent projects include Trotsky: A Graphic Biography and his continuing graphic series, A Treasury of Victorian Murder and A Treasury of XXth Century Murder. He has worked for Marvel Entertainment Group, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and Heavy Metal, and has contributed to National Lampoon and The New York Times Book Review.

  • Rick Geary Rick Geary