Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Glidden’

Survival stories

Monday, December 3rd, 2012


Graphic journalism continues to make headway into the field of “serious” comics, and this time it’s available on the format/medium of our times, the iPad. Symbolia is a bi-monthly digital magazine featuring long-form journalism in the form of sequential art, for the (relatively) low price of $11.99 for six issues, or $2.99 for individual issues. The iPad app features audio, animation, and interactive graphics. Don’t have an iPad? Well, for desktop users (and Android, a platform they seem to have forgotten exists) they also sell Symbolia in a PDF edition, same price.

What do you get for your dollars? You can check out the free preview on their site, which features stories by Susie Cagle, Sarah Glidden, Chris A. Smith and Damien Scogin, Kat Fajardo and Audrey Quinn, and Andy Warner and Lauren Sommer. We’ve previously covered Glidden here in the blog, and her piece comes from her trip with the Common Language Project, which will be expanded upon in her upcoming book Stumbling Toward Damascus. “The Rollerbladers of Sulaymaniyah” is up to her usual standards and is pretty interesting, but perhaps my favorite piece in the preview was “Sea Change”, about the environmental troubles facing the Salton Sea in California.

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.

MoCCA Fest 2011: Sequential Non-fiction

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

As we mentioned it several times last week, it should be no surprise that we attended MoCCA Fest 2011 at the Lexington Avenue Armory this past weekend. We walked the floor, attended panels, and of course, bought lots and lots of comics.

At 12:30pm on Saturday they held the “Sequential Non-fiction” panel, which started a tad late as the previous panel about “Teaching Comics” ran over. The late start was not a problem; moderator Heidi McDonald managed to keep things running smoothly and ended the panel on time. The panelists were Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, Sarah Glidden and Nick Abadzis. I also spotted Lucy Knisley of French Milk in the audience, taking notes (and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one, as a few faces looked familiar).

Nick Bertozzi spoke about his recently-published Lewis & Clark graphic narrative, which was originally intended to be a mini-comic flip book that would read right-to-left in chronicling their journey west, then the reader would flip it around to read left-to-right for their return journey back east! The book ended up being a little too lengthy for that, so what we have instead is a fairly straightforward, 99% accurate account of their travels (Bertozzi admits he had to make dialog up). His next project is Shackleton, which deals with the famous Antarctic explorations of Ernest Shackleton.

The other Nick, Nick Abadzis, went into the origins of his graphic story Laika, about the first dog in space. He was inspired by a BBC article in which it was admitted that Laika did not survive very long on her journey. To create the book he did a lot of research in Russia, including visiting a private museum at the home of Gagarin (presumably Yuri Gagarin, but I’m not certain). The book was offered to several British publishers who were not interested, though one French publisher was. The book would have had its initial publication in French had First Second not made an offer for it. Abadzis is currently working on a book about the lives of his father and father-in-law.

Dean Haspiel went into his collaborations with Harvey Pekar and Jonathan Ames. Comparing the two, he said they were both very different in how they worked. Pekar turns in pages with stick figures and dialog, while Ames, despite being new to comics, understood instinctively to turn in full comic scripts that laid everything out. He also spoke about the origins of his book Cuba: My Revolution, where his friend Inverna Lockpez has been telling him bits and pieces of stories of her life in Cuba, and eventually he told her that she might have a real story to tell.

Of course, Sarah Glidden spoke about How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, and how she started off her career making daily journal comics to get into the habit, and doing the Birthright trip gave her an opportunity to write about a little more substantial. She originally started off making mini-comics about the trip (which she still had on sale at her table), but at a previous MoCCA Fest an editor Vertigo picked them up and asked her if she’d like to do an entire book.

When asked about the things that were most important in creating graphic non-fiction, Abadzis mentioned being balanced (and that his family was complaining he wasn’t), while Glidden cited this as a reason she didn’t like to tell other people’s stories, because she could mess up the facts. Haspiel emphasized it was important to him that he entertain his readers, while Bertozzi said something that is probably true of all the creators on the panel: he wanted a copy of his book in every library.

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 Winetasting.com. 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.

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

The Revolution Was Streamed and Tweeted

Monday, February 28th, 2011

As she works on her next book, Stumbling Toward Damascus, Sarah Glidden has continued to stay abreast of current events in the Middle East, which means that like many of us, she was riveted by the news coming out of Egypt. And like a lot of us in the United States, she experienced it primarily through online video feeds, and Twitter. Unlike a lot of us, though, she and studio partner Domitille Collardey have created a comic talking about their reactions, titled “Egypt from 5,000 Miles Away.”

Stumbling Toward Damascus will be an adaptation of a visit Glidden took with several journalists as they traveled through Eastern Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Damascus in Syria, and will show “how they work together to make the news.” She’s been posting some artwork and sketches in her blog.

(via Robot 6)

Out of Sync

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

There’s a pretty big divide between what we know as mainstream comics (mostly superhero books) and the small press/indie stuff. Not to say that there aren’t people who read both, or that creators don’t cross over from one to the other, but comparing the crowds at say, New York Comic Con and Alternative Press Expo; they’re very different. And there’s mutual disdain—a mainstream fan might find indie/small press stuff boring or pretentious, and an indie/small press fan might find a superhero book idiotic or uninspired.

The disconnect is a real shame, because sometimes it feels like the people on the indie side of things have dismissed all superhero books outright, without looking at what they have to offer. I’m not talking about plotting or characters—let’s face it, sometimes they are pretty stupid—but the actual construction of the comic, the way they use panel layouts to create pacing, the way they integrate the text and images into a cohesive whole. The nuts-and-bolts that hold the medium together. The superhero genre has been around a long time, and they generally have the “how-to” part down.

The “how-to” part is the biggest problem with Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays, edited by Brendan Burford with a very diverse field of contributors. The term “picto-essay” is perhaps more correct; it is Burford himself that uses the word “comics” in his introduction and on the back cover. Many of the stories in this volume are reminiscent of photo essays, which are generally slideshows where each photo is accompanied by a caption. I have nothing against photo essays, or even these picto-essays, I just find the actual “comics” component weak. Two of the segments (“Portfolio” and “Subway Buskers”) don’t even have text; they’re simply sketch galleries of Washington Square Park and subway buskers respectively.

It also feels like the definition of “essay” gets muddled at times; a few segments lack a solid narrative structure that would have strengthened what they were trying to achieve. “What We So Quietly Saw” by Greg Cook presents segments from prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo without making the transitions from incident to incident clear. “Like Hell I Will” by Nate Powell presents various scenes from the Tulsa race riot of 1921 in a confusing jumble, not clearly connecting the captions to the panels with dialogue; what exactly are the latter type of scenes showing us?

Even with its weak points, Syncopated does have its bright spots. A few of the stories integrate text and images and follow a cohesive narrative flow, the result being some very excellent comics work. “West Side Improvements” by Alex Holden made for a very strong essay, teaching the reader a bit of New York history while also making a point about urban renewal. “A Coney Island Rumination” by Paul Hoppe and “An Encounter With Richard Peterson” by Brendan Burford also follow similar threads and themes. My favorite story is “The Sound of Jade” by Sarah Glidden, where she accompanies her father on an adoption visit to China. Another strong point was “Dvorak” by Alec Longstreth, who we’ve covered previously here in the blog.

For an early attempt at a comics essay anthology Syncopated isn’t bad, but it is wildly uneven.  Most essay anthologies follow a theme, something that ties all the disparate contributors and narratives together, something that this volume lacks. Future editions of Syncopated would definitely benefit from more direction.

Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays
edited by Brendan Burford
published by Villard Books (New York, 2009)
ISBN 978-0-345-50529-3