Set primarily in Los Angeles in 1971, Blood of the Virgin is the story of twenty‑seven‑year‑old Seymour, an Iraqi Jewish immigrant film editor who works for an exploitation film production company. Sammy Harkham brings shows the underbelly of Los Angeles during a crucial evolutionary moment in the industry from the last wheeze of the studio system to the rise of independent filmmaking.
Seymour, his wife, and their new baby struggle as he tries to make it in the movie business, writing screenplays on spec and pining for the chance to direct. When his boss buys one of his scripts for a project called Blood of the Virgin and gives Seymour the chance to direct it, what follows is a surreal, tragicomic making-of journey. As Seymour’s blind ambition propels the movie, his home life grows increasingly fraught. The film’s production becomes a means to spiral out into time and space, resulting in an epic graphic novel that explores the intersection of twentieth‑century America, parenthood, sex, the immigrant experience, the dawn of early Hollywood, and, shockingly, the Holocaust.
Like a cosmic kaleidoscope, Blood of the Virgin shifts and evolves with each panel, widening its context as the story unfolds, building an intricate web of dreams and heartbreak, allowing the reader to zoom in to the novel’s core: the bittersweet cost of coming into one’s own.
“At its heart, Blood of the Virgin is a story about storytelling—the stories people tell themselves and others. This graphic novel convincingly conjures up the grindhouse movie-making scene in 1970s Los Angeles and tracks an ambitious young man’s flailing attempts to build a family and a career as a film arteest in that debased world. Sammy Harkham devoted fourteen years to making this book; we see him develop into a master comics artist, and he shows himself to be an astonishingly complex and subtle storyteller. Blood of the Virgin rewards reading slowly and re-reading—it’s a book with a lot of heart.” —Art Spiegelman, author of Maus
“Blood of the Virgin encompasses many locations, decades, experiences, and points of view, but always maintains its fundamentally relevant and modest human size. The story never goes where you expect it to, but there’s never a sense of error; and after the story is told you see that there’s not been a single misstep, and all is as it should be. Where did this book come from? It’s a complex and thorough portrait of a world I didn’t even know I was curious about, saturated with charm and rendered with the sure hand of an artist working at the height of his powers.” —Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers
“The only intersection of Sephardic outsiderism and the personal artistic struggle in termite art. I understand L.A. now.” —Josh Safdie, award‑winning co‑director of Uncut Gems
“One thing that’s great about this book is that Harkham is thorough. He doesn’t leave anything out. Especially when it comes to the unattainable.” —Jaime Hernandez, member, Will Eisner Comic Awards Hall of Fame, and co‑creator of Love and Rockets
“A stunningly ambitious, emotionally complex work from an artist with a distinct perspective on the pursuit of artisitic fulfillment.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Harkham’s accomplished cartooning, nuanced characters, and sharp period detail keept his sprawling tale thrumming with energy and painful insights.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review