Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Occupy Kickstarter

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Say what you will about the Occupy movement, but its reach seems to grow every single day. Whether it be through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, or professional blogs like Huffington Post, every other post is about the Occupy movement or reaction to the Occupy movement. Well, now comic books are getting into the game. For once, Bluewater Productions are not the guys behind this effort. Instead, some of the industry’s most prolific talents are gathering to put out Occupy Comics.

The collaboration is looking to embrace the artistic nature of Occupy in order to get its message out there in a cohesive and straightforward manner. Tim Seeley, J.M. DeMatteis, B. Clay Moore, Ben Templesmith, Steve Niles, Molly Crabapple, and Marc Andreyko are just a few of the artists and writers involved. Heck, even Douglas Rushkoff is listed as a contributor. Each and every cent donated via Kickstarter will go towards paying the talent involved and to produce the book. The creators will then be able to donate whatever they receive straight to the movement so that it can continue on. As of typing this, $2,116 out of the $10,000 needed has been pledged.

The Kickstarter campaign will be available until December 9th with multiple rewards available for different tiers of donation, including a paper copy of Occupy Comics for $20, a copy of the Occupy Comics Documentary by Patrick Meaney, director of Grant Morrison: Talking With Gods and Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts for a $25 donation, and a signed and numbered anthology for $50. Or, if you’d like, $1 gets you a thanks on their website. Hopefully this will get a unified Occupy message out there to those still looking to hear one.

(via Bleeding Cool)

Laika Lives!

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Laika may have been the first animal to orbit the Earth, but there was no way to bring her back down safely, which also makes her the first to die in space—meaning that Nick Abadzis’ graphic novel account of her life doesn’t have a happy ending, upsetting a great deal of people. Some, including filmmakers, have questioned if the book needed to end that way, if there wasn’t some way to make the ending less depressing:

Filmmakers often get in touch, wondering whether there might be a way of presenting a version with a more positive spin to it. Well, of course there is, but then you’d be changing history, or at least blunting the truth of what took place that day in 1957, and unfortunately, you can’t change history, not one line.

Though history can’t be changed and the book will stay true to events, Abadzis is willing to play a game of “what if?” with Laika, honoring the 25th anniversary of Big Planet Comics in Washington, DC with a series of alternate endings dubbed “The Alternate Endings to Laika Show.”

So far two strips have been put up, both presenting stories that aren’t entirely implausible, but still vary widely from the truth in ensuring that little Laika survives.

(via The Beat)

A War with No Name

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Notes for a War Story by Gipi isn’t a work of nonfiction, but it was certainly inspired by real events—the author lives in northern Italy, right near the western border with Slovenia. If not for the fact that he lived in Italy, the fighting in the former Yugoslavia could have been his war, and his life. And the book is a reflection of that, the story of three teenagers lingering on the outskirts of war, never seeing it, but feeling its effects nonetheless.

Stefano/Little Killer, Christian, and Giuliano (the narrator) are three kids wandering through the countryside in an unnamed country, stealing stuff to sell and just looking to survive and maybe some day make it big. Giuliano is a bit of an outsider to the other two, because he was raised by two parents with good jobs, and really only left that life behind so he could fit in with his friends. He is filled with doubt about the things they do, but it is unclear to him—and even to us, the readers—if this is because these things are wrong, or because he “just doesn’t understand.”

We follow the trio as they become acquainted with a man named Felix, who pulls them into the business of organized crime and later into the war itself, in a reflection of the real-life connections between organized crime and factions in a civil war. The book doesn’t analyze or explain these connections—this is just the way it is, and when Giuliano actually has the intelligence and temerity to question that state of being, it separates him further from his friends.

The story itself can be a little hard to get into, but it quickly picks up and becomes a rather easy, though emotionally-detached read. The characters are designed with sketchy, awkward lines that succeed in illustrating the scene while generating feelings of unease. I appreciated how the protagonists looked like teenagers, even when their mood shifted from scared to sinister and points inbetween.

Notes for a War Story has had a share of accolades piled upon it, including the 2005 Goscinny Prize for Best Script and the honor of Best Book at Angoulême 2006. It’s a shame that we don’t see as much impact stateside, because this book has a lot to offer in terms of craft and subject.

Notes for a War Story
by Gipi
translated by Spectrum
published by First Second (New York, 2007)
ISBN 978-1-59643-261-1

Editorial Wikigroaning

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Editorial cartooning has a long history here in the United States, going all the way back to Benjamin Franklin’s infamous “Join, or Die” cartoon that was published as a call to action during the French and Indian War. So in preparing my last post about editorial cartoons and graphic journalism, I decided to take a look at the Wikipedia page for some background information and examples. I was greeted by this:

That’s the meat of the article in total. The article is comprised of an introductory sentence, two short paragraphs, two images, and a “See also” list of 10 items. For this old, influential form of communication that, judging from the amount of hits on Google, has a pretty decent presence on the web. And yet, the Wikipedia page (which is third in a search for “editorial cartoon” and fifth for “political cartoon”) is only a paltry 4,247 bytes of data.

On the possibility that a once-long entry might have been cut down by judicious editing or vandalism, a look at the article’s history shows a creation date of April 3, 2003 and since then it has endured about 1000 edits, and for most of its history wavered between 2000 and 5000 bytes.

Wikipedia has been accused of systemic bias and some groups (including Wikipedia itself) have taken action to counter this bias, but subjects like politics (particularly when pertaining to English-speaking nations), comics, and newspapers are not subjects that traditionally suffer from this bias. Yet somehow, editorial cartoons, which lie at the intersection of these, have been left behind.

The Left Forum recently held their annual conference back in March, and as part of their schedule, held a panel called “Political Cartoons: Resistance Through Ridicule.” Tim Kreider sat on the panel and later wrote a piece on The Comics Journal about the experience, describing it as “marginal and loserish and sad” because,

The crowd seemed to consist largely of grizzled, embittered Marxists, and the tenor of questions spanned the range from aggrieved to despairing. Why isn’t the Left availing itself of the power of political cartoons in this post-literate culture? […] Why is there no market for editorial cartoons anymore? […] Why are mainstream newspaper editorial cartoons so bland and craven and bad? Why can’t we seem to communicate our message effectively?

He spends the rest of the feature talking about the lack of a future for editorial cartooning as we know it, and what the Internet means for cartooning. The title of the piece cames from another panel he saw on the schedule: “What Is to Be Done?”

Maybe they should update their Wikipedia page, for a start.

A Refuge for Graphic Journalism

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Political cartoons have been around for hundreds of years, and as such, are pretty familiar to anyone who has ever picked up a newspaper. Graphic journalism presents more long-form reports and observations about the world we live in, and it’s been picking up steam over the past decade or two. The Cartoon Movement seeks to be a portal for these two forms of nonfiction comics, publishing new material at least four times a week.

The site got a major push last Wednesday with the publication of Sarah Glidden’s The Waiting Room, a 21-page comic about the struggles of Iraqi refugees in Syria. The research for this one-shot comic came from her travels with the Common Language Project, which will be more fully covered in her upcoming book Stumbling Toward Damascus.

For those interested in graphic journalism, it’s also worth looking at this piece by Erin Polgreen over at The Hooded Utilitarian. She talks about the different formats and styles that graphic journalism can take, like travelogues and portraiture. The ideas presented are only a small part of a panel she presented at The National Conference for Media Reform earlier this month, and you can listen to the entirety of that panel on the NCMR site.

Out and About: MoCCA Festival 2011

Friday, April 8th, 2011

This Saturday and Sunday is the 10th annual Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art Festival—MoCCA Fest for short—and in addition to a full stable of exhibitors showcasing new work, they also have two tracks of programming running each day. Panels of note:

Sequential Non-fiction
Saturday, 12:30, Room A

Moderator: Heidi McDonald (The Beat)
Panelists: Dean Haspiel (Cuba: My Revolution), Nick Bertozzi (Lewis & Clark), Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel), Nick Abadzis (Laika)

Painting real world stories, from autobiographical to historical, through the lens of the graphic novel.

The State of Editorial Cartooning
Saturday, 4:30, Room A

Moderator: Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch)
Panelists: Ruben Bolling (Tom the Dancing Bug), Tim Kreider (The Pain — When Will it End), Ted Rall (Year of Loving Dangerously)

The trials and tribulations of creating political cartoons in 2011.

Almost True
Sunday, 12:30, Room A

Moderator: Calvin Reid (Publishers Weekly)
Panelists: Gabrielle Bell (Lucky), Joe Ollmann (Mid-Life), Leslie Stein (Eye of the Majestic Creature), Pascal Girard (Nicolas)

Where autobiography and fiction collide.

Pizza Island: The Panel
Sunday, 2:30, Room A

Moderator: Brian Heater
Panelists: Julia Wertz (Drinking at the Movies), Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel), Kate Beaton (Hark, a Vagrant), Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie), Lisa Hanawalt (I Want You)

Some of today’s brightest young cartoonists share a workspace in Brooklyn. Here is their story.

YA and Comics: Ever the Two Shall Meet
Sunday, 2:30, Room B

Moderator: Whitney Matheson (Pop Candy)
Panelists: Tracy White (Traced), Lucy Knisley (Stop Paying Attention), M.K. Reed (Cross Country)

Some of comics’ most fascinating titles and groundbreaking artists can be found in the young adult section of your local bookstore.

On Saturday night MoCCA (the actual museum) is hosting a fundraiser wine tasting, sponsored by Corked and The tasting is not included in admission to the Art Festival, so tickets will cost $15 for members and $20 for non-members. The wine tasting will be held at the museum, located at 594 Broadway, from 8–10pm.

It’s also worth noting that there’s also a pre-party for MoCCA Fest Friday night at the Sutra Lounge; this one is hosted by Top Shelf and Zip Comics and includes musical and art performances, as well as food. Cover charge is a $5 donation to MoCCA.

Egyptian Comic Gets English Treatment

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

A comic book may have inspired the protests in Egypt, and now those protests have cleared the way for more comics.

Metro by Magdy El Shafee was published in 2008 and banned in Egypt in 2009 for “disturbing public morals,” and while it is a work of fiction, it may have proved too close for comfort with its story of a computer engineer who finds himself surrounded by corruption in various facets of society.

Though banned in Egypt, the graphic novel made its way to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, and was even translated into Italian. The protests in Egypt did a lot to pique interest in the United States and elsewhere as well, so the work is now scheduled for translation to English by Metropolitan, a division of McMillan.

El Shafee is hoping that with the new regime in place, his book might also see publication again in Egypt:

“I’m sorry that my novel is available in other countries but not available to my own people,” he said.

El Shafee has appealed to the new Ministry of Culture, but says that because his book was banned by court order, the courts will have to be consulted.

He said: “I’m waiting to hear if the Minister of Culture will allow it to be published again. They will have to consult with the courts. I’m hoping there may be some kind of apology.”

The book is scheduled for release in English in 2012. Portions of Metro were previously published in English by Words Without Borders.

(via Comics Alliance)

Explaining Health Care

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

We’ve been talking a lot about how comics are a great way to boil down complex topics, conveying these topics in a form that will get people to actually read and understand them. Publisher Hill and Wang has really taken this to heart, having published graphic narratives such as the The 9/11 Report and The Stuff of Life: a graphic guide to genetics and DNA. For their next project, they’ve enlisted MIT economist Jonathan Gruber to adapt the 2,400-page Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into a graphic guide tentatively titled Health Care Reform.

As one of the architects behind the bill, Jonathan Gruber is uniquely qualified to adapt the bill, though he was reluctant at first:

“I just wasn’t sure this would be useful enough. Then my wife and kids said, ‘You’re crazy. You’ve got to do this.’ So I decided to give it a shot. My family made me realize that there is such a misunderstanding of the bill and that it’s important to explain why we need this, and what it does. I’ve found that when people understand it, they like it.”

The book is slated for publication later this year (though anyone who needs easier-to-digest information now can always check out the bill’s official website).

(via ICv2)

Illustrating the March for Civil Rights

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Due to their pictorial nature, comics are sometimes thought of as being easier to read, which is why there are those who look down upon them as something for the young and uneducated. But there are those who see their ease-of-reading as a strength, a way to spread a message to those who cannot or will not read large blocks of text.

Among these advocates is US Congressman John Lewis, who recently signed a deal with Top Shelf to co-write a comic (with his aide, Andrew Aydin) about the struggle for civil rights in the United States. It’s a subject near-and-dear to his heart, as he was heavily involved with the Civil Rights Movement in the ’60s: he helped organize and was a keynote speaker for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963 (where the “I Have a Dream” speech was given by Martin Luther King Jr.), and led the first march from Selma to Montgomery that became known as “Bloody Sunday” when they were attacked by state troopers.

Chris Staros, John Lewis, and Andrew Aydin

Aydin and Lewis were driven to action by a comic from 1953 titled The Montgomery Story, which told the story of the Montgomery bus boycotts and inspired many people to join the Freedom Rides. It was recently translated into Arabic and Farsi by activist Dalia Ziada, and Lewis has stated that he believes it helped inspire the protests in Egypt earlier this year, as thousands of copies were distributed across the Middle East.

No artist has been announced for Lewis and Aydin’s graphic novel yet, which is set for release in 2012.

(via Bleeding Cool and Newsarama)

How to Understand Israel… in 208 Pages or Less

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Comic artist Sarah Glidden has somewhat divided loyalties when it comes to the topic of Israel. As an American Jew, she is aware of the complicated history of the Holy Land, the Jewish people, and the desire/need for a Jewish state, but as a self-proclaimed progressive she is disgusted by the treatment of the Palestinians. In an effort to justify her opinions and finally put the matter to rest, she decided to take a Birthright trip to Israel, to “discover the truth behind this whole mess once and for all,” chronicling the experience in her graphic memoir, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less.

For those unfamiliar, Birthright Israel is a program where young Jewish adults (ages 18–26) are taken on all-expenses-paid, 10-day tours of Israel. The general purpose of the program is to strengthen Jewish identity and engender positive feelings about Israel, wherein lies the flaw in Sarah’s plan, and perhaps the book. She goes on this trip knowing that they are probably going to put some spin on many of the hot-button political issues, so she treats everything with a dollop of cynicism and waits for those “gotcha” moments where she can be right and they can be wrong. It can come across as irritating, especially when you consider that the trip is a free perk and some of her fellow travelers, like her friend Melissa, are just trying to have a good time. Melissa provides a good counterbalance to Sarah because she was raised in a pretty secular household and this trip represents a chance to reconnect with her Jewish roots.

With Sarah and Melissa as travel companions, the book provides an interesting look at Israel outside the usual tourist hot spots of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Those cities are included on the Birthright trip, but we also visit the Golan Heights, the city of Holon, the Negev desert, several kibbutzim, and the Dead Sea. Each section is accompanied by a map, and of course, the entire book is done in simple (but lovely) pencil drawings with watercolor. Though Glidden’s drawings are not overly realistic, they are detailed and colorful enough to give you a good sense of place and her people have just the right amount of expression to convey feeling.

Yet as a travel memoir the book can be frustrating. As a carefully scripted trip, Sarah can only see and experience so much, and it feels like her Birthright group spends a lot more time in and out of centers and lectures than it does actually exploring the country. Their trip to Jerusalem seemed so brief, as it took them to the Western Wall, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum), and a mall. We don’t really get a “feel” for the city until the Birthright trip is over, and Sarah and Melissa take an extra day to explore the city on their own.

The highlight of the trip might be the group’s trip to Masada, where the Birthright participants climb to the top of the plateau and visit the remains of the fortress on top, where they are told a story of the “brave defenders” who held out against a Roman incursion for years, before eventually choosing to take their own lives in defiance. Sarah comes prepared for this, reading the original account in order to pick out the falsehoods in the account that Birthright feeds her. It stands out as one of the few instances where Sarah’s cynicism works to her, and the reader’s, advantage.

As the trip wears on so does it wear down on Sarah, and she begins to doubt herself and her beliefs, realizing that the issues of Israel are more complicated than she probably thought, and that there are no easy or obvious answers. She leaves the country knowing more and less as the same time, feeling confused and perhaps even a little empty. The book ends like the trip does, with notes of doubt and uncertainty, conflicting ideals and an overwhelming sense of “it’s complicated.” It’s a real downer after a book that is at times funny, charming, thought-provoking, and rarely ever boring.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
by Sarah Glidden
published by Vertigo (New York, 2010)
ISBN 978-1-4012-2233-8