Category Archives: Political Comics

Section of my blog devoted to analysis and review of political comics: their origins, significance, and impact as both literary and political tools.

The Lessons “War in the Neighborhood” Could Have Taught Us at Occupy

000 introductionThe struggles we find ourselves in –for justice, equality, and a democracy worthy of the name– are not new. Yet we’re endlessly forming new groups, writing new charters, experimenting with new tactics as though we were the first people ever to struggle against injustice.

Driving across North America in the past year, we were struck by the profound lack of institutional memory in radical communities wherever we went. People doing work that was important, even essential, could often tell us nothing about what their organization had been like 10 years ago, if it had existed at all.

The left leaves few records and most of these are hagiographies–saintly accounts of the lives of larger-than-life heroic figures that read more like myths than histories. It is a rare book that transcends this shallow style and speaks frankly about the painful difficulties encountered by social movements. That kind of book is full of important lessons for us. ”War in the Neighborhood’ is that kind of book.

I wish I’d had a chance to read it before walking into that Occupy camp, 5 years ago. It would have saved me a lot of headache. Here’s why.

000 too much like everyone else

1: You aren’t the first people to take public space

‘War in the Neighborhood’ is partially about the struggle to protect the public’s right to use Tompkins Square Park. One of those uses, dating to before the struggle, is as the site of a tent city for the homeless. In the course of the struggle to preserve the park as a place to drink and hang out, conflicts with the cops made it an unsafe place to sleep.

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Confrontations between cops and activists would raise the emotional temperature of the park, but while the activists could go home, many of the people living in the tent city were home – and had nowhere to go when the cops came to work out their frustrations.

000 homeless already lived there

“Reclaiming” urban space is always more complicated than it looks. In North America particularly, that space is always colonized land. In a more immediate sense, the space is often being used by people who don’t want to see it ‘reclaimed’. During the era of the Occupy camps, we dropped into that park without any notion of this. We were bringing media and police attention to a space that homeless people had been living in quietly for years.

000 homelessness is a problem of capitalism

I wish we’d all known a little bit more about past struggles like ours, and known ahead of time that we needed to be mindful of the needs of the folks already living in the park. They are capable of doing their own very powerful organizing if they choose, organizing we could have supported if we had treated them with respect.

 

 

2: The police are not your friends

Alright, there are plenty of people who know this, and I can hear them into the peanut gallery rolling their eyes at the obvious point and congratulating themselves on how on-point their politics are. Good for you.

000 the cops are not your friends

The trouble is, not everyone knows this, and vague denunciations of authority from angry punks do not always persuade the larger group. The police are tricky, and they know how to present a friendly face as well as their real one. In ‘War in the Neighborhood’, we see the cops put pressure on squatters by offering them a deal. The squatters, divided by the proposal, eventually accept. Needless to say, they are betrayed by the police.

000 the cops are not your friends 2

Some of the people at Occupy knew better than to waste time talking to the cops, but many did not. The police could make little demands about where we put our tents or how we hung our tarps, and sow division without working very hard– these petty demands caused us to turn against each other. They were going to evict us eventually either way but the conflict over whether or not to comply with these petty demands created real conflict between us.

The police are not all billy clubs and tear gas. They will make little helpful gestures to win your trust. At one Occupy march, I remember them sharing bottled water with us. But by then we were wise – “Ew, cop water,” was how one friend put it. Earlier we had not always been so savvy. The police’s polite request to ‘liaise’ (read: pump us for information) or offers to protect our marches (read: control and contain our protests) convinced some people that they were on our side. When they swept into the camp in the middle of the night, tore down our tents and brutalized one of our friends, they made it perfectly clear whose friends they were.

I wish we had all known well enough to be on the same page, and understood the role of the police in suppressing resistance.

 

000 cop in our head

3: Outside organizations will try to control your politics

The left is full of self-appointed leaders and self-anointed messiahs. Academics, vanguard parties, one-man black blocs and all kinds of people whose analysis is so pure that they get high on the fumes. These people will show up at your movement and tell you where it’s going, what path it’ll take to get there, and what kind of clothes you should wear for your media appearances. What they won’t do, generally, is the dishes – or anything else useful.

000 outside politics

This isn’t so much a problem of ideology as of personality. Some people know how to be humble, pull together as a team and do their share of every kind of work. Some people are so convinced of their special genius that they think they are making the most important possible contributions by telling everyone else what to do and think.

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‘War in the Neighborhood’ shows us both kinds of people. Luna, a member of the RCP, becomes one of the most persistent and dedicated squatters. An angry anarchist denounces her participation and the squat as a whole because they are, presumably, guilty by association. Eventually, Luna herself leaves the party over its homophobic views and controlling nature.

000 luna and rcp

When Occupy enjoyed its brief historical moment, plenty of groups wanted to control it. They showed up with their critiques, their literature, sometimes even with printed t-shirts. They would try to change the way Occupy was governed, or how it framed its messaging. Some were a problem, but others weren’t. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter so much what group they were from. What mattered was how willing they were to set their personal politics aside and work for the collective good of the group, instead of trying to co-opt it to serve their own purposes.

It can be a lot to keep track of, especially for folks who are new to activism. But I wish I’d known then what I know now – people show you how much you can trust them based on how respectful and committed their participation is.

SQUASH 15

 

4: But you never know who your best comrades will turn out to be…

…but you can find out, easily enough! People vote with their time and energy. Look to see who’s putting in the work and who’s standing around talking shit. In ‘War in the Neighborhood’, we see a variety of people, including communists, ex-cons, teenage anarchists, people with active addictions and the homeless prove to be the best of comrades.

That is not always intuitive. It is easy to be drawn to the most articulate people, or the ones who seem to have the most support in the group. You can be taken in by people’s charms or by the appearance of experience. In the end, though, it doesn’t matter how articulate someone is, how experienced they are, or how great their analysis is, if they can’t put their own agenda aside and work as part of a team.

SQUASH 14

At Occupy I definitely had a preference for people who shared my politics and cultural values most closely. But I learned in time that I valued the friendships of all kinds of people – liberals, social democrats, other anarchists and even 9/11 truthers (thanfully, those guys came around).

Of course, we were working inside an anarchist framework, with a set of anarchist assumptions. Over time, I watched a lot of those folks evolve into the best anarchists I know. But I think this point holds true no matter what the ideology of your group. If people focus on the work, it doesn’t matter where they’re coming from. You’re headed the same way.

SQUASH 5

 

5: Holding space may be the only thing you agree on

This is a much less universal lesson than some of the others, but I think that you can apply it pretty broadly. Groups form around particular issues, and people may not agree on much else. Holding space was at the centre of the Occupy movement’s politics, and applies equally to the struggles for public space and homes depicted in ‘War in the Neighbourhood’.
000 tea party

Rules are a recurring theme for ‘War in the Neighborhood’. Should this squat be drug free? Should we negotiate with the cops? Are we prepared to tolerate sexism? In different ways these questions are all part of the bigger question: “How will we make this space our own?” and “What is this space for?” But while everyone agrees with ‘making this space our own’, they can’t even agree what that looks like.

000 disputes

At my Occupy camp, and I suspect at many others, the problem was worse, if anything. Should we march? Should we build the camp? Should we make signs? Should we make dinner? Again, holding the park was just about the one thing we all agreed was necessary.

This was a real shock to me. I arrived thinking that people would more or less be there for the same reason I was – tired of the growing power of the rich and ready to hold them to account. The reality was not so simple. I wish I had been able to better anticipate that.

 

6: People whose help you might hope for will sit on the sidelines and criticize

There were some people who were not so ready to accept the riot of ideas and ideology on display at Occupy. I couldn’t believe them. I was putting aside a lot of my own ideas about how the world should work out of some abstracted sense of the common good. Why couldn’t they do the same?

000 sideline criticism

People have agendas. They look at social movements and they ask themselves if these social movements serve those agendas. Then they decide if they are going to participate, criticize, or both. If your revolution doesn’t look like it’s going to serve their purposes, don’t expect to see them frying tofu in the kitchen tent.

“War in the Neighborhood” shows us that people have different reasons for wanting you to fail. Maybe they don’t like some of your members. Perhaps they disagree with your group’s tactics. Maybe they didn’t get their way in your group and so they left.

Sometimes people who should be comrades simply aren’t. It’s easy to take that personally, but you shouldn’t. It happens every time. All you can do is to keep doing your best to be honest, persistent and fair.
000 disputes 2

7: There are no easy answers

Maybe I should have known this one before Occupy started. I thought I knew it, really. I thought I knew that things were so close to hopeless that it would take a change in world conditions to create an opportunity for change. But then in Occupy I saw that opportunity.

In a way, all social struggles have the potential to make us feel like everything has changed. ‘War in the Neighborhood’ shows impossible victories – people taking over abandoned buildings, neighborhood people fighting back against police violence, homeless people winning the right to maintain a tent city in Tompkins Square Park.

But even when all the rules of normal life seem to be inverted, there are no easy answers. You can fight like hell and do everything right only to watch it all fall apart because of some unhappy accident. We are still learning, all of us struggling to build a better world. I don’t think anyone has all the answers. But if we could get better at telling stories about what went right – and what went disastrously wrong – we might not be quite so completely doomed to repeat our history forever.

 

wordless visually stunning

 

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(Don’t) Join the Army, by Darren Cullen

North America: Why Aren’t you familiar with Darren Cullen? I think he’s right up your alley.

While his previous art, available for viewing on his site, http://www.spellingmistakescostlives.com covers other subject matter, his first published book, out October 17, is (Don’t) Join the Military – an absolute assault on the eyes that blends incredible artwork, political satire, and a dark sense of humour that had me thinking all through it that he must be a veteran.

jointhearmy_cover
Title: (Don’t) Join the Military
Author & Illustrator: Darren Cullen
Self-Published: October 2013
More Info: Darren Cullen’s Website: Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives

As the U.S. struggles with its ongoing war machine, here is a document that nips the syphoning of soldiers in the bud: at recruitment. Largely composed of content that mimics and mocks the recruitment-style propaganda, familiar to those of us on both sides of the Atlantic, Cullen juxtaposes biting humour (that will make you laugh out loud, as dumb as that sounds in a review) against images of war that can barely be reconciled: dismembered bodies, civilians being murdered, and soldiers having breakdowns.

The over-arching theme remains the lunacy of war, the ignorance needed to carry one out, and the level of lying and manipulation that must take place to market them.

burn down the sea

“I’m really interested in advertising and the gulf between the advert and the reality,” says Cullen.  “…and there doesn’t seem to be a starker example of that than when it comes to army recruitment. The adverts makes it look like a kayaking and abseiling holiday but if you join up you’re thrown into an actual hell on earth, forced to kill and be killed. It’s horrific.”

military_forces

If this were not all enough, there are lots of goodies stuffed into the booklet itself. Most notably, in my opinion, is the fold-out at the end–a jaw-dropping 3-4 ft insert that reminds me of a Mayan Codex… a fold-out expanse of war in its various dimensions, from recruitment to death.

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Just a small selection of Darren Cullen’s fold-out in (Don’t) Join the Army.

It need not be said that this kind of work doesn’t speak to everyone. Cullen has weathered quite a bit of difficulty just in finding a printer who would help him publish, due to the content–which I think is saying something in this day and age. But the offence is not so much to the violence, in my opinion. We see depictions of violence and war frequently. But this cuts into the insanity of advertising violence and war being sold to us as something other than what it is, and mocks it ruthlessly for being so blatant a contradiction.  It seems quite natural, in this context, that Cullen would point out, “I think the expectation and the reality [of the military] are so different, it’s a perfect subject for satire.”

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Re-Writing History: Review of A Graphic History of the Vietnam War

Some discussion has come up around Ad Astra Comix and a recent addition to our stock list– a graphic history of the Vietnam War. Not only does the book gloss over major historical events, like the Gulf of Tonkin incident (and the fact that it never happened, yet was a major cause for the war to escalate). The historical narrative, which has had 40 years of time for reflection, comes to some very troubling conclusions. As a new generation looks back on Vietnam as the war of their Grandmothers and Grandfathers, and as a generation that has been raised far too comfortably around operations in Iraq and Afghanistan being “business as usual, there is a serious need to dispel this re-write of history in the comic record. -NMG.

by Allen Ruff, guest contributor

A Little Background

As the U.S. aggression in Vietnam escalated in the mid-1960s, the liberal Cold Warrior Walter Rostow, an advisor to John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, spoke of the need of “winning hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese, at least those under the control of the US client regime in Saigon, if US force was going to prevail. As the barbarity of the venture — the toll in lives destroyed and the devastation exacted — spread, the invaders not only failed on that front in Vietnam, but also lost the campaign for political support, the battle for hearts and minds back in the States.
By the time this photograph was taken, public support for the Vietnam War had plummeted.
By the time this photograph was taken, public support for the Vietnam War had plummeted.

The war makers, of course, suffered a humiliating defeat despite their firepower. Failing to defeat militarily what was primarily a peasant-based anti-colonial and nationalist movement already decades old, it also lost the war on the political, ideological and cultural levels. Never having them in the first place, it never won the bulk of the Vietnamese people. The war machine murdered, maimed and debased too many and destroyed too much for that ever to happen. Those that survived, after all, were not about to buy the nonsense about “freedom” and “liberty” churned out by US propaganda specialists and parroted by a succession of corrupt, murderous regimes in Saigon. All the claims of the American “Free World” mission to save the country from “Communist Peril” rang hollow as that tiny land was scorched by what amounted to in a massive fly-by shooting.

Trang Bang, June 8th, 1972. A U.S.-Allied South Vietnamese air force plane dropped a napalm bomb on the village 26 miles outside of Saigon.
Trang Bang, June 8th, 1972. A U.S.-Allied South Vietnamese air force plane dropped a napalm bomb on the village 26 miles outside of Saigon.
 Defeat in some sense became inevitable, a done deal, when the Washington war makers simultaneously lost large swaths of political support at home. They lost the battle of ideas, the claims and justifications, and explanations of what the war was about as the body counts and war costs mounted.
That loss of domestic political support for the war has never been forgotten, especially by those intent on winning future wars abroad who have come to view that home front defeat as a significant “lesson” of the conflict, not to be repeated.
In their ongoing efforts those still imagining that Vietnam could have been won and those already invested in current and future interventions have utilized every available means at their disposal to revise and reframe the  story. At that level, the portrayals and accounts in the popular culture – television and film, in music, art and print media, even the comic book press – have long been been utilized in the campaign to mold “hearts and minds”, especially among the young and the impressionable, the potential recruits and fodder for future imperial campaigns.
Few recent examples illustrate that fact better than Zimmerman and Vansant’s graphic rewrite of the Vietnam war’s history. Well-illustrated by the clearly talented Vansant and shrewdly scripted by Zimmerman to include the actual words of participants, the book in some ways has more to do with the present than it does with some approximately accurate portrayal of what the US did to Southeast Asia.

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Title: The Vietnam War – A Graphic History
Written by: Dwight Zimmerman
Illustrated by: Wayne Vansant
Published: New York: Hill & Wang, 2009. 143pp

Now, of course, it can be rightly argued that the writing and depictions of history are always selective and that all historians make choices and have an agenda, an axe to grind. and that a graphic history could not possibly be comprehensive in any sense of the term. That all remains true since the agenda of this rightward revision of the war on ‘Nam comes clear right in the opener, in the foreword written by the retired Air Force General, Chuck Horner.
A combat pilot during Vietnam, Horner later commanded the U.S. and allied air assets during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. According to the publisher’s boilerplate accompanying his account of the Gulf War co-authored with fiction writer Tom Clancy, he, Horner “was responsible for the design and execution of one of the most devastating air campaigns in history.”

Horner, in one page, casts Vietnam in terms clearly pitched to the novice, the young high-schooler or working class kid, perhaps.

“Like other wars,” he tells us, America’s war in Vietnam, “began with a premise of good versus bad and which was which depended on whom you side with.” Well, okay for the obvious, war as some shape shifting morality play.
He then proceeds to explain that, “As the conflict dragged on, those views changed into the reality of a dedicated, committed North Vietnamese enemy and the committed-but-not dedicated US led-coalition.” The implication is simple (and simplistic): The US and its junior “coalition” partners (Who they were, he doesn’t say) lost because they weren’t dedicated enough, didn’t have the endurance or the will to win. Or, by implication, one running throughout the book, that their determination was undermined not so much by the tenacity of the Vietnamese adversary but by the falling away of support at home.
He goes on: “President Kennedy had committed our nation, but then President Johnson instituted polices that lacked dedication.” Here, immediately, one of the main themes of the conservative accounts creeps in: the war came to be lost because the civilian leadership, especially the politicians back home lacked the guts and the determination to see it through.
Following Johnson, “President Nixon became dedicated to getting us out of our commitment (to whom or what, Horner doesn’t say), but at “great cost to our honor.” Apparently even Nixon, known during the height of the war as the “Mad Bomber,” is viewed by this former Air Force lifer as aiding and abetting the commission of that sin of sins among the military, dishonor. (In some sense Nixon ended up getting a dishonorable discharge, but not for the major war crimes for which he should have been tried.)
What might be drawn from all that? Horner lays it out: “Years later, in Desert Storm, our politicians and our military, remembering the lessons of Vietnam, set goals and conducted operations that deserved our unqualified commitment and dedication.” That matter of dedication and steadfastness, once again.
Horner then raises a second read on the history commonly forwarded by the right: “In the case of the Vietnam War, the divergence of political will and goals resulted in constraints on our military operations.”  Disregarding or not knowing that war is the extension of politics, he seems to suggest that the whole thing could have been “winnable.” If only the military didn’t have to fight with “one hand tied behind its back” and they weren’t “stabbed in the back” by the peace movement and their allies in the “liberal” media.
The old canards die hard.
Horner tells us, as well, that “our South Vietnamese ally’s leadership could not rally the dedication of its own people.” As venal, repressive and as illegitimate as the US-bolstered Saigon sham of a government was, could it have been any different?  Horner may think so, but few others versed in the history appear to hold that peculiar line.
The Good General asserts, in closing, that Zimmerman and Vansant have come together to present the history, “in a clear and comprehensible way.” He concludes his foreword by describing the work’s present day purpose: “It serves to enlighten those for whom Vietnam is only academic history, so that we may be armed against making the same mistakes in the future.”
Interspersed with occasional accounts of heroic efforts by troops on the ground, the bulk of the narrative is loaded with half truths and craftily retooled tellings.  Parts of it read as if it was selectively scripted by someone with the suppressed memory of a sleepwalking amnesiac.
This tale — an illustrated comic after all — might seem “comprehensible” to the novice, those unfamiliar. After all, if Vietnam was nothing but a series of mistakes made mainly by a civilian leadership at home, unwilling to fight to win, then a further mistake, perhaps, might be made by one looking to this work for some understanding, today, of what that criminal enterprise perpetrated against the people of Southeast Asia actually was about.

allen ruffAllen Ruff is a U.S. Historian, Social & Political Activist; Host, Thursday’s “A Public Affair” – WORT, 89.9fm, Madison, Wisconsin; & Writer of Non-Fiction and an Occasional Novel. You can find more of his writings on his blog, Ruff Talk.

Battle of the Graphic Biographies: Hill and Wang

Continuing on with my theme “Battle of the Graphic Biographies” begun earlier this year Che Guevera, this month I’ve had a couple different titles at Hill & Wang take each other on– all a part of their Novel Graphics series. I, somewhat arbitrarily, began reading these books in chronological order: Trotsky, J. Edgar Hoover, Malcolm X, Reagan. My interest is obviously to provide some aesthetic feedback, but more to point out political strengths and weaknesses of the titles.

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My first note is that each book appears to be politically tailored for the audience most likely to pick it up—the biographies speak more or less favorably of the people they spotlight.  But my questions going in are, “Do I better understand the person I’m reading about?” “Am I hearing of their life in their own words–while seeing an interpretation of events from a 3rd person?” “Is this historically/politically accurate?”

trotsky bio

Title: TROTSKY: A Graphic Biography
Writer & Illustrator: Rick Geary
Published: 2009

I had serious suspicions about this one, going in. Whereas the other book covers are more or less realistic, Trotsky’s is purely mythological. We see him astride a horse as some kind of atheist St. George–all the while he sits underneath, naked on a pile of human skulls. These images come from two very different interpretations of Trotsky’s role in the Russian Revolution–both over-zealous and emotional, both incorrect. While I appreciate the re-visiting of historical cartoons and illustrations, it seems necessary for me to make note of the the point that both graphics were commissioned by opposing governments during one of the most highly polarized moments of the 20th Century: the rise of the Russian Revolution.

The cover of 'TROTSKY (The Graphic Biography)' took inspiration from these political cartoons of the time. On the left, Viktor Deni, an author working for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1918, depicts Trotsky as St. George, slaying the dragon of "counterrevolution". On the right, Polish government anti-communist poster to counter Bolshevik propaganda from Russia during the Polish-Russian war 1920, showing People's Commissar for the Army Lev Davidovich Bronstein (Leon Trotsky). Large caption reads: "Bolshevik freedom."
The cover of ‘TROTSKY (The Graphic Biography)’ took inspiration from these political cartoons of the time. On the left, Viktor Deni, an author working for the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1918, depicts Trotsky as St. George, slaying the dragon of “counterrevolution”. On the right, Polish government anti-communist poster to counter Bolshevik propaganda from Russia during the Polish-Russian war 1920, showing People’s Commissar for the Army Lev Davidovich Bronstein (Leon Trotsky). Large caption reads: “Bolshevik freedom.”

I think anyone who sees a book of 100 pages claiming to tell the life of Leon Trotsky is pretty much kidding themselves. Once into the story, you might be able to tell why: this man was a mover and shaker of continents, social structures and financial systems in a way that practically boggles the mind. In a time before television, let alone the internet and social media, Trotsky was world-famous for his ideas and his conviction to carry them to fruition.

This book, albeit abridging-ly, details his early years as a landowner’s son in modern-day Ukraine, a student activist and intellectual, his political development, his multiple exiles by the Russian Czar. It’s a whirlwind. In fact, it’s a struggle just to get all of these points down, without even going into what made Trotsky’s ideas so intriguing/dangerous, let alone his various roles in the the Revolution. Despite the obvious limitations, I believe Rick Geary does a stand-up job trying to pull together an epic biography that at least attempts to discuss serious politics.  Geary’s style lends itself well to the time period: a bit cold and minimalistic–but not cartoony. The line-work reminds me of borsch and cold, dry winters. In a good way.

I can’t really blame this book for what it isn’t–it’s not an in-depth biography of the Russian Revolutionary, in any sense. It’s not a clear history of the Russian Revolution either. But it will give you a crash course that may peak your interest, and lead you to other works about one of the most interesting men of modern times.

* * * * * *

malcolm x

Title: Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography
Writer: Andrew Helfer
Illustrator: Randy DuBurke
Published:  2006

Like Trotsky, Malcolm X is one of those four-letter words of the 20th Century. People alternately love and cherish or hate and fear everything that the man stood for. It really is a testament to the power of their ideas and the charisma with which they disseminated them.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Malcolm’s story has been told in epic fashion many times: there is the Autobiography of Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley. Spike Lee’s “X” with Denzel Washington was an immediate classic. Once these essential biographies have been consumed, you believe that you know the man’s story. However this graphic biography, in fact, delivers additional information that even someone familiar with Malcolm’s story will find new and enlightening. Scenes I found most interesting included the details of his time as a hustler on the East Coast–as well as his final days in conversation with Nation of Island leader, Elijah Mohammed, whose candid remarks about women are better displayed here than anywhere else that I’ve read.

Malcolm’s entire life is characterized by a seemingly endless sense of change and evolution. In the end, the man who seemed tireless in his conviction, his self-confidence, was also likely his harshest critic. He went from being a pimp and a hustler to a raging animal in prison, a Nation of Islam preacher and black segregationist to working with whites when and where he could. And where we led, people followed. Because of his constant evolution, it is difficult for critics to demonize him. His radicalism has also made it pretty much impossible to water down his message–as has been done with Martin Luther King.

Of all the illustrators of this graphic biography series, I am in love with Randy DuBurke’s style. It is by far my favorite. He illustrates an emotion with what seems be a shadow-heavy photographic realism. Stylized but not cartoony, I even see some graffiti-stylized splatters in the background, that give it an additional grittiness. Given that author and illustrator are two different people in this work, I find their respective trades synching incredibly well.

* * * * * *

hoover bio

Title: J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography
Writer & Illustrator: Rick Geary
Published:  2008

Rick Geary is back after Trotsky with this graphic biography of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. Actually, this book was produced before the Trotsky one, but I’m going in some other kind of chronological order.

Unlike Trotsky and Malcolm X, I had never read a biography of Hoover before, although I was familiar with his role in Communist witch-hunting post-WWII, as well as his hand in the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO counter-intelligence programs. What hadn’t occurred to me was the length of his office. The man was active in government from Emma Goldman… to Ronald Reagan. Think about that. Through half a dozen presidents. He was arguably the country’s most powerful civil servant. His ability to avoid partisan politics and harness the power of government bureaucracy, ironically, reminds me very much of his arch-nemesis Joseph Stalin. These two men dominated their countries with iron fists, using many of the same tactics, for much the same period of time. The key to both of their success was securing and mastering the administrative machinations of their positions.

While I see Rick Geary showing the light and dark of Hoover in this biography, he is at worst portrayed as a bit of a maniac who dabbled in unconstitutional activities for the protection of his dear country–and the all-sacred “American way of life”. We see the mass deportations of immigrant unionists, communists and radicals more as the shuffling of ants from one place to another outside the country–not the same brutal inhumanity with which Trotsky is depicted, sitting on a pile of bones.

Do I wish the comic would take a little more interest in how J. Edgar Hoover was a detriment to the country? The historical precedents of jailing and deporting descent, spying and wire-tapping, infiltration into progressive groups? Yes, in fact I can’t really think of any other singular man who probably committed more damage to democratic movements of the 20th Century than J. Edgar Hoover. But that’s my opinion on the matter–and Geary makes little to no effort to hide the evidence that would lead someone to those conclusions. He includes his very trouble remarks on communists, unions, student activists, black people–alongside the sea of other people that rubbed him the wrong way.

* * * * * *

reagan

Title: Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography
Writer: Andrew Helfer
Illustrator: Steve Buccelleto and Joe Staton
Published:  2008

Of all of the graphic biographies, Ronald Reagan’s seems the most surreal. This is very much a theme of the book itself. Where was the threshold between Reagan the man and Reagan the actor? Reagan the actor and Reagan the politician? The book very much lends itself to the theory that there were no clear lines, even to Reagan himself. Acting was a part of him from a very young age, as were many of his political and moral influences.

Also more than any other comic in the series, this book relies very much on Reagan’s own interpretation of himself and his life–including instances like his student strike in university, which isn’t documented by the school–or his record 77 rescues as a lifeguard, even though there were many instances in those rescues where, hilariously, people apparently didn’t need to be rescued (THAT comic history vignette, I would love to see). More than many other American leaders, Reagan very much controlled what media and the public thought of him. That was his gift as an actor.

While there is some mention of his early days as an FBI informant, as a ‘friendly’ testifier in the mid-century Inquisition of American leftists and progressives, as well as his later involvement in the dismantling of unions, tax cuts for the rich, military intervention in Grenada… the underpinning theme Geary really seems to be driving home is Reagan’s mastery of the spectacle. It wasn’t really anything he did–and he did many things in his life–it was how he won support, how he charged through his competition and adversaries at the crucial moment. It wasn’t what he did so much as how slickly he was able to get away with it.

I find the artistic style of this work, shared by Buccelleto and Staton, to be my least favorite of the series. Faces and gestures are bubbly, cartoony, very “Leave It to Beaver”-ish, which works for Reagan but not for me. I feel like anyone who watched television during the last century knows this perspective of Ronald Reagan. So despite my distaste I understand perhaps why they went with it. Maybe, for all that time behind the camera, there really was no other way to see the man. He seemed to understand, at an early age, that public image is its own form of immortality.

* * * * * *

Of all the comics that I read, I enjoyed Malcolm X and J Edgar Hoover the most. Both had wonderful artwork and kept me intrigued with information that was new to me. However I appreciate the set as a whole for its fascinating takes on 4 totally different individuals. I have found much more intricacy in all of the books’ designs than I initially thought would be there.

100 Year Rip-Off is Back from Printers!

Fresh out of the box - mmm, the smell of slightly burned toner.
Fresh out of the box – mmm, the smell of slightly burned toner.

Fresh Out of the Box!

On Tuesday this week, I got the call to come and pick up 5 boxes of freshly printed comics – 100 Year Rip-Off has come back to life.  For those of you who follow these posts, you’ll know that this has been Ad Astra’s main project for the past few months.

First order of business is filling pre-orders from the lovely folks who supported me during my Indiegogo campaign–they are deserving of a comic on their doorsteps immediately, along with my most heartfelt thanks. It feels wonderful to have people around you who believe in your project.

Lessons

This Summer has been such a blur of activity, I feel like I haven’t really had time to sit down and process my first publishing experience. From the get-go, I liked the idea of publishing creative work from someone other than myself for the first go at it–I feel like creating and producing are two very different processes that deserve their own special care and attention. Likewise, I wanted to give myself at least some mental time and space to look at the process as much from outside myself as possible–a hard thing to do when you’re staring your own brain child.

And so I impart to you the lessons I’ve learned from this experience from Day 1 – from initial planning, getting in touch with creators, editing, printing, fundraising, and retailing.

Make a Timeline. It’s not that we all follow calendars, but they help your brain foreshadow the journey in which you’re about to take part. Get a cheap calendar from the dollar store, or a get a big piece of paper, and lay out everything you think will be involved in the process of your project.
Enjoy the Process. A lot of the editing work with 100 Year Rip-Off was incredibly tedious–essentially going over each image with a magnifying glass. But I actually enjoy this work, and find the focus involved therapeutic. If you find yourself going into territory that is boring or frustrating–but necessary for your project’s completion, find a way to make it a more enjoyable experience. Creativity, love, and care in work all stem from savored moments. Don’t rush it.

Make Connections.  Anyone who has a project they want to share should always have this in mind. Everywhere you go, you have opportunities to talk about what you’re working on. Don’t get all shy and say “I don’t want to promote myself”. Stop it! You’re not shamelessly promoting yourself–you are promoting your work, which has a life all its own. And let me tell you, it’s way more interesting to talk about with your neighborhood barrista in the morning than the frickin’ weather or new version of the iPhone. Come off it. People love projects. They love hearing about what the people around them are working on. Share the process you’re involved in with others–and you will always find people who say, “When you’re done–save one for me.”

Seriously Calculate Finances. Seriously. I know everyone hates it,  but understanding how much your project is going to cost is pretty important–especially when you’re asking people to help you out with money. This brings me to my next point, which is Indiegogo related.

Details of Delivery. Once your project is done, how’s it getting out to people? If you did a crowd-funding campaign, did you calculate for postage? How about international orders? These all seem like “good problems” to have, that you’re willing to table until you’re far enough along that they will come up–but think about them now. I included a promotional poster in with my Indiegogo campaign–one that I wanted to send unfolded to contributors. Well, after the campaign had ended, I found out that shipping it unfolded was going to cost 2-3 times as much as what people had donated for it! FAIL. Keep shipping in mind.

… I may add to this list later, but these are my immediate reflections on this particular project. I’d like to take some more time in the near future to really lay out the anatomy of the process, and perhaps turn it into its own How-To project.

Thanks for reading.

 

Preview: Liberator #1

Some of you will remember when I blogged about Liberator during its Kickstarter campaign. Looks like that money went to some good use – holy smokes, that artwork in this is amazing. Congratulations to writer Matt Miner and the Liberator team.

Graphic Policy

Liberator #1

Writer: Matt Miner
Pencils/Inks: Javier Sanchez Aranda
Colors: Joaquin Pereyra
Edits/Letters: Vito Delsante
Publisher: Black Mask Studios

Standard Cover: Tim Seeley, with Rod Reis colors

A hard-edged vigilante series about two young heroes who avenge the torture of animals, created by writer and real-life dog rescuer Matt Miner (Occupy Comics).

All of Miner’s personal share of profit goes to dog rescue work.

There’s a release-day signing event at JHU Comic Books in NYC, June 19th at 6PM, https://www.facebook.com/events/133499776849210/

Liberator-iss1-cover1a

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Complete Up-To-Date Stock List

Last Updated: August 19, 2013.

America Gone Wild!
Creator: Ted Rall
Published: 2006 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Details: Softcover


Bayou (I, II)
Creator: Jeremy Love
Published: 2010 by DC Comics
Details: Softcover. Parts 1 and 2 of a 3-part series (last book is yet to be released). Review available.


The Bush Junta: 25 Cartoonists on the Mayberry Machiavelli and the Abuse of Power
Creator: (Various – Anthology)
Edited by: Mach White and Gary Groth
Published: 2004 Fantagraphics Books
Details: Softcover. Includes work by Seth Tobocman, Ted Rall, Peter Kuper, Spain Rodriguez, Steve Brodman, Lloyd Dangle, Carol Swain, Ted Jouflas, and Ethan Persoff


Che: A Graphic Biography
Creator: Spain Rodriguez
Edited: Paul Buhle
Published: 2008 by Verso Books
Details: Softcover. Review available.


Che: A Graphic Biography
Writing: Sid Jacobson
Art: Ernie Colon
Published: 2009 by Hill and Wang
Details: Hardcover. Review Available.


Che: A Manga Biography
Writer: Kiyoshi Konno
Artist: Chie Shimano
Published: 2010 by Penguin U.S.A. (Originally published in Japan
Details: Softcover English translation.Review available.


Comic Art Propaganda
Writing: Fredrik Stromberg
Art: Various
Published: 2010 by Ilex Press Limited.
Details: Softcover. Forward by Peter Kuper.


Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story
Writing: Mat Johnson
Art: Simon Gane
Published: 2010 by Vertigo Comics
Details: Hardcover. Review available.


SOLD OUT –Devil Dog: The Amazing True Story of the Man Who Saved America
Writing: David Talbot
Art: Spain Rodriguez
Published: 2010 by Simon & Schuster
Details: Hardcover. Review Available.


Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified U.S. History
Writing: Michael Hoerger and Mia Partlow
Art: Nate Powell
Published: 2010 by Microcosm Publishing
Details: Softcover. Review available.


Extraction! Comix Reportage
Creator: Various
Published: Cumulous Press
Details: Softcover. No longer in print. Review available.


FLOOD! by Eric Drooker
Creator: Eric Drooker
Published:
Details: Softcover. No longer in print. Review available.


SOLD OUT —Footnotes in Gaza
Creator: Joe Sacco
Published: 2009 by Joe Sacco
Details: Softcover. Review available.


The Hammer& The Anvil: Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America
Writing: Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Art: Wayne Vansant
Published: 2012 Hill and Wang
Details: Hardcover. Forward by James M. McPherson


Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung
Creator: Willow Dawson
Published: 2011 by Puffin Canada
Details: Softcover.Review Available.


J. Edgar Hoover: A Graphic Biography
Creator: Rick Geary
Published: 2008 by Hill and Wang
Details: Hardcover


Liberator: Issues 1 – 4
Creator: Matt Miner and Joel Gomez
Published: 2013 (Black Mask Studies)
Details: Single issues available with protective board/bag. Review available.


Life Begins at Incorporation
Creator: Matt Bors
Published: 2013 (self-published)
Details: Softcover. Review available. Author website here: http://www.mattbors.com


Louis Riel
Creator: Chester Brown
Published:
Details: Review available.


Mayday: A Graphic History
Creator: The Graphic History Collective
Published:
Details: Interview with comic makers available.


Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me
Words: Harvey Pekar
Art: JT Waldman
Published: 2012 by Hill and Wang
Details: Hardcover. Review available.


Notes for a War Story
Creator: Gipi
Published: 2007 by First Second
Details: Hardcover. Collector’s Edition.


SOLD OUT—-A People’s History of American Empire: The Graphic Adaptation
Creator: Howard Zinn, Paul Buhle
Published: 2010
Details: Softcover. Review Available.


Trotsky: A Graphic Biography
Creator: Rick Geary
Published: 2009 by Hill and Wang
Details: Hardcover. Part of Geary’s Hill and Wang Graphic Biography series.


The Silence of Our Friends
Creator: Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, Nate Powell
Published:2012 by First Second
Details: Softcover. Review available.


Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History
Writer: Harvey Pekar
Art: Gary Dumm
Editing: Paul Buhle
Published: 2008 by Hill and Wang
Details: Additional text by SDS Members; additional art by Josh Brown, James Cennamo, and others. Hardcover.


Take What You Can Carry
Creator: Kevin C. Pyle
Published: 2012 by Henry Holt
Details: Softcover.


SOLD OUT—UNeducation Volume 1: A Residential School Graphic Novel
Creator: Jason Eaglespeaker
Published: 2012 (self-published)
Details: Author website here: http://www.eaglespeaker.com. Review available.


V for Vendetta
Writer: Alan Moore
Art: David Lloyd, Steve Whitaker, Shiobhan Dodds
Published: 1988 by Vertigo Publishing
Details: Softcover. Definitely not a first edition. Review available.


The Vietnam War: A Graphic History
Writing: Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Art: Wayne Vansant
Published: 2009 by Hill and Wang
Details: Hardcover.


Who is Ana Mandieta?
Creator: Christine Redfern and Caro Caron
Published: 2011 by The Feminist Press
Details: Hardcover. Review available.


World War 3 Illustrated
Creator: Various (Anthology)
Details:  America’s longest-running anthology of radical comics. Published quarterly in New York City. Currently on #44 – “The Other Issue”. Review available.

Three Decades of Art in the City: A Review of Peter Kuper’s “Drawn To New York”

DRAWN TO NYfrontcover“Clearly New York was a dangerous place where terrible things could happen, but also a place that could turn ordinary people into superheroes.”

Kuper’s recently published work is building on the available literature making an argument for “graphic biographies” – not for people, but for places. Cities. Something attracts us to these massive collections of social activity that take on a life and personality all their own, and actually change us in the process. Radical artist (and former New Yorker) Eric Drooker postulates in the beginning of the book that people move to NYC as much to find careers and connections as they come to find themselves. Drawn to New York is a dedication to that power.

The book is a mash-up of a few different categories of work. There’s an intimacy in the quick sketches that are clearly drawn in the moment, on the subway, in cafes, (which conversely make you feel as close as you can be to that original scene, while also conveying that this book is really allowing you to peruse someone’s private journal/sketchbook –which is just the best thing in the world). As you peruse these pages, your eyes taking in a mesmerizing quantity of geometric shapes (so many right angles, so many windows!), a section of sketches will be punctuated with a longer piece of sequential art that tells a short story. As you read, the work more or less gets better and better; I can only assume this is because it is ordered chronologically, but I’m not sure.

Sketchbook38-39-72

The power of Kuper as a “New York artist” really shines in his highly-detailed stencil comics (made with multiple layers of stencils and spray paint), like the collection of New Yorker facial expressions, or his 2am trip to the top of the Brooklyn Bridge, or his commentaries on gentrification and crime.

Beyond the actual aesthetic of his work, the variety of perspective here is pretty broad, and is perhaps a part of Kuper himself being a New Yorker and an outsider (he’s originally from Cleveland–which oddly enough, has its own amazing graphic biography by Harvey Pekar.) His work goes from feeling like a love letter to an observation by an anthropologist of a place that is completely his “other”.

Towards the end his work has gotten pretty sophisticated, with pieces of comics journalism coming in about major NYC events, like his strip, “The Wall”. This piece, and every other, seems set in its conveyance that this great city is great for the same reasons it is so unstable: it is constantly in movement.

Or in Kuper’s words:

“This city is change. That’s its glory – it’s a perpetually unfinished canvas, offering up possibility to each successive wave of artists.”

stencil art

A showcase of city and artist, with an interesting interplay between the two. That is, Peter Kuper is now, undeniably, a “New York artist”… the city shaped him. And in return, Kuper continues to pay tribute by making art that adds to the city’s ever-evolving mythos.

For more information about Peter Kuper, check out Peter’s book page in the PM Press store site.

Full Book Information:

Title: “Drawn to New York: An Illustrated Chronicle of Three Decades in New York City”
Artist: Peter Kuper
Introduction: Eric Drooker
Published: May 2013 by PM Press
Format: Hardcover only at this time
Size: 10.5 by 8
Page count: 208 Pages
Subjects: Art-Illustration, History-New York City, Regional-New York City
List Price: $29.95

Political Comics at #TCAF 2013

It’s safe to say that this past week was one of the busiest for me in recent memory. On top of working a 40 hour week at my day job (in 4 days), the Toronto Comic Arts Festival was in full swing and I was pulling together what I’d hope would be two kick-ass events for the weekend.phone photos 058
TCAF breaks records every year–has since I’ve been attending at least. If this year didn’t reach fire-code-breaking capacity at the Toronto Reference Library (in addition to several off-site satellite locations), and to be sure, they’re still still waiting on the official numbers, then it was awfully close. More notably there was an insane amount of talent at the show: Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly of RAW Magazine / MAUS / New Yorker fame. Jaime + Gilbert Hernandez, Tagame, Matsumoto, Chester Brown, Seth, David B… the list goes on.
Unlike my previous years at the festival, I saw a notable rise in interest (as well as work available) pertaining to political comic books. This is despite the skiddishness that remains around the term “political”. But whatever people want to call it, I found much more to chew on over the weekend than in years past.
Before I go into some books, a note on Comics Journalism.
If there’s one way to get people to talk comfortably about political comics and their viability, it’s Comics Journalism. I think it’s seen as a happy medium for a lot of  different interest groups, whether it’s non-comic folk looking for some different non-fiction, or comic fans looking for a different type of page to turn. In turn, the sub genre doesn’t effect the topic. Joe Sacco really birthed the term, from his thumb-to-index-finger loins, with work like Palestine and Safe Area Goražde, using comics to take on some pretty acceptable topics of intrigue in the journalism community… but since, really, you could do a comics journalism piece on just about anything and it would have the potential to be amazing. I look forward to seeing more and more come to maturity in this genre over the coming years.
…And secondly, a brief note about Art Spiegelman’s MAUS. I did not include MAUS in this list, because 1) I think it’s deserving of a little more commentary than one paragraph, for all it has done to influence the world of political comics… and comics in general. 2) It was put out 20 years ago. I feel like it’s a bit silly to put it among a list of up-and-comers with newly released works. (In other words, there will be more on MAUS as a specific work to come soon on Ad Astra!)
OK. To the books.

mattbors_lifebeginsatincorporation
LIFE BEGINS AT INCORPORATION by Matt Bors – I’ve never considered myself a fan of editorial cartoons, so when I decided to back Matt’s Kickstarter campaign, that really just meant that I liked his work more than I cared to admit. After a bit of discussion and a lot of planning on both ends, Matt was able to make it up to Toronto to promote his book at TCAF, in the midst of some type of Eastern-Time-Zone-only book tour.
The book is a collection of political cartoons and essays spanning years of wonderful American political drama- from the gay marriage debate that is still somehow being discussed, to the continuing occupation of Afghanistan and the reality that war-time simply seems to be the perpetual reality for Americans, post-9/11. I have plenty to say about this book and have already uttered plenty of niceties here. My recommendation over reading my book-length review is just to buy the book. It’s better.
From left to right: Rutu Modan (Jerusalem), Matt Bors (Portland), Sarah Glidden (vagabond drifter), Josh Neufeld (New York City)
From left to right: Rutu Modan (Jerusalem), Matt Bors (Portland), Sarah Glidden (vagabond drifter), Josh Neufeld (New York City)

I will add, however, that Matt gave a great presentation to an engaged crowd at the Comic Book Lounge on May 10, the night before TCAF–despite monsoon thunderstorms and a competing 10th Anniversary TCAF party down the road (we had this shit scheduled MONTHS ago. We’re not the splinter group. THEY’RE the splinter group!). Attendees included at least one other fellow Kickstarter backer, which was great to see.
On Saturday evening, Matt and I shared a table with comic creators Josh Neufeld, Sarah Glidden, and Rutu Modan to discuss “Comics & Politics” at TCAF to a great crowd who asked lots of questions–from comics journalism to comics activism, free speech and “to draw or not to draw” (discussing the Mohammed cartoon), stereotypes, backlash for work done… it was great. And what’s more, it shows a genuine interest in political comics from a variety of entry points.
sarahglidden_howtounderstandisrael

HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL IN 60 DAYS OR LESS by Sarah Glidden – Right in there on the topic of Comics Journalism. Sarah Glidden went to Israel on a Birthright trip and came out of it with How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. Not only is it a journalistic piece about the country, it is journalism of herself experiencing it. The artwork is very much a European comic book style, with simple, expressive line work and really nice coloring (these are pretty much the first two things I think about when someone says European Comics). It’s packed with a thousand little stories that maybe tell us more about an American’s viewpoint on Israel than Israel itself, in all its historical and political turmoil. But I like the frankness that Glidden gave when describing the outcome of the book while at the TCAF panel (at the risk of seeming “wishy-washy”), when she said that this place became real when she traveled there, and the people in it became human beings. While I may not agree with Sarah on her political conclusions (and I’ve yet to see, as I’ve yet to finish the book!), it hardly seems relevant when we’re talking about a work of art that is depicting a personal experience.joshneufeld_ADNewOrleans

A.D. NEW ORLEANS by Josh Neufeld – This book has been on my list to pick up for some time, and it was a pleasure to share a stage with Josh and talk to him about this project. I’ve yet to fully pinpoint my thoughts on this, but there is something to be said about  a writer’s perception of an experience, and a visualist’s perception of the same thing. Neufeld seems to pick up on details of the Hurricane Katrina disaster that go missing in other accounts–and it’s not just a matter of mainstream vs. independent media. The wreckage, the crowds, the sweat, the loss of cherished items… all pulls at you differently when you are immediately able to absorb the information through a drawn depiction, without the filter or process of language. I particularly like the variety of people interviewed and their respective color palettes in the book’s pages. This will be a great one to finally read cover to cover.

I also got two other books that were illustrated by Josh Neufeld – The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media, and Stowaway, written by Tori Marlan. Both works of comic journalism, although entirely different.


davidB_bestofenemiesBEST OF ENEMIES by Jean-Pierre Filiu et David – When I first eyed this book at TCAF last year, I’d already spent all my money. Good thing I have a better job this year. Best of Enemies explores the long and complex history of U.S.-Middle East relations. It is part 1 of 3: 1783-1953, and so incredibly fascinating. David B.’s illustrations are absolutely addictive; despite history typically being considered a dry subject matter, he ads enough art and style to the panels to keep even the subject’s most un-enthused reading on. In my limited French comprehension, David had to tell me in English that he and Jean-Pierre, an historian and former diplomat, are busy working on the next book, despite their own crazy schedules traveling around the world. I look forward to reading this one, as well as the coming two.


vendittihuddleston_homelanddirectiveTHE HOMELAND DIRECTIVE by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston – One of the few works of fiction that I picked up over the weekend, this self-described ‘political thriller’ is available through Top Shelf Productions, one of my favorite publishers. I always worry about books that look like this one… I don’t want to read a comic book version of the Bourne Identity, although the plot to this one sounds a bit more like the BBC TV show, Utopia. What pushed me over the fence with this one was the attention to detail that I can see–the stylistic and color scheme differences in the artwork as the pages change scenes, the elaborate plot that all ties together at the end (according to the dude from Top Shelf…. who I believe, cause they’re usually believable). Great cover art, too. I will get to this one, albeit a little later than some of the others. Suspicion ensues….


harveypekar_clevelandHARVEY PEKAR’S CLEVELAND with art by Joseph Remnant – In hindsight I’m trying to remember the reason I purchased this comic. It may have been the incredibly detailed pen and ink cross-hatch artwork, or the wonderfully vivid content of working class history in the Midwest, or the introduction by Alan Moore. All are good takers; combined, they won me over. It looks like a great read that most people would greatly under estimate.


7SbooksSEVEN STORIES PRESS at TCAF
Was so psyched to see Seven Stories Press –traditionally not a comics publisher–at TCAF this year. What a great addition to the exhibitors list. Tons of historical and political comics to choose from. I would place them as pretty much the only contenders to have stocked radical comics at the festival. Kudos to them coming and to TCAF for welcoming change and getting them on-board!

THE BEGINNING OF THE AMERICAN FALL by Stephanie McMillan – Yet another work of comics journalism, documenting the nature and relevance of the Occupy Movement in the U.S. This book was the 2012 winner of the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights Journalism Award – not an award that I’m familiar with, but impressive nonetheless for a type of journalism not yet fully grasped. I am particularly interested in this because it is a political comic that isn’t afraid to take a side- it clearly sees its prerogative as educating a broader audience about the Occupy Movement and inciting a greater level of political participation in the world around us. Can’t wait to read.

AS THE WORLD BURNS by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan – Also at the Seven Stories Press table was this title, also one that I’d never heard of. This book teams McMillan up with notorious deep ecology activist Derrick Jensen to make satirical play on the impending environmental and ecological crises of out time. While it is fictional (perhaps allegorical?) it is undeniably meant to shock people at just how close we’re getting to a great collapse. Looking forward to the read.

PARECOMIC by Sean Michael Wilson and Carl Thompson – Also by Seven Stories Press, about Michael Albert and his development of Participatory Economics. I will probably pair this one up with another comic I plan to review about capitalist economics and see how many of you are still awake at the end. Introduction by Noam Chomsky. See, now you have to buy it.

canadian books

CANADIAN POLITICAL COMICS at TCAF

If political comics can be construed as typical, then it is assumed that the great bulk of them at the festival would be from the U.S. Despite TCAF being a Canadian event, there’s just more of everything coming from the U.S. in comics. But to my delight I was able to find some great work available through Conundrum Press, a publisher based out of Nova Scotia.

THE HERO BOOK by Scott Waters – Not so much a graphic novel or comic as an illustrated memoir (it says that right on the cover), The Hero Book is an artistic yet journalistic look at the culture and psychology of Canadian soldiers. At least, that’s as far as I can tell. Sorry, I was too busy looking at the ABSOLUTELY JAW-DROPPING artwork to read any more than a couple of sentences. Holy shit, this book is beautiful. And from what I can tell, the content is right up my alley. Looking forward to the read.

CHIMO by David Collier – While dealing with the topic of Canadian soldiers like the work above, Chimo appears to be much more comic book-y. As a part of the Canadian Forces Artists Program (seriously, I was surprised as well to hear that such a thing existed), Collier actually went through basic training to be able to write this book. As far as I know, he was in his early 40’s at the time. Impressive, David! It makes drawing out 100 pages sound pretty damn easy!

PAUL JOINS THE SCOUTS by Michel Rabagliati – This book fascinates me. The folks at Conundrum described it to me as something from their ‘Young Adult’ section, but pointed out that it covers a lot of the FLQ crisis in Quebec during the 1970s. What an interesting combination! I love the idea of mixing political and non-political plot lines (isn’t that more like real life?). Paul is the author’s semi-autobiographical character, so it would appear that the work draws from a lot of first-hand experience. Looks like a great piece – can’t wait to pick it up.