Tag Archives: graphic history

Previous Crowdfunding Projects

As part of our expanded Promotions section, we will be bringing together a monthly digest of political comics from around the world, in search of support. Here is a listing of past crowd-funding projects that we have publicized. 

Content compiled by Amy Miller and N.M. Guiniling



Title: Freaks’ Progress
Author: Gretchen Hasse
Crowdfunding on: Indiegogo

freaks progressFreak’s Progress is twenty-first-century take on the morality play, a traditional theatrical form that demonstrated morally and socially correct behavior. Hasse’s goal is “to explore the deep heterogeneity we live with, and how that heterogeneity can create both deep understanding and radical confusion,” based on her “experiences as an artist, educator, social justice advocate, and resident of urban neighborhoods in transition.”

Hasse has an extensive portfolio of her work available on her website.

This project is accepting funds through the end of the year.

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/freaks-progress
Title: Digitize History Comics for Reluctant Readers
Author: Bentley Boyd
Crowdfunding: On Kickstarter

Digitize HistoryStarting in 1995, Boyd has been adapting stories of United States history into comics featuring a Chesapeake Bay blue crab named Chester. Originally, the strip syndicated in Virginia with the goal to encourage voluntary non-reading children to engage with history. Now, Boyd seeks funding to digitize his entire collection to make them available to everyone.

During this digitization project, Boyd is also planning to expand on Chester’s adventures through American history by adding more jokes, more details, and by providing links to on-line history resources.

This project is accepting funding through Dec. 27, 2013.

 

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Recognize that chunky sweater?! That’s right, folks–that’s Chomsky, in comic form!
On Indiegogo now is an exciting new political comics project. Click the image above to check out the campaign – or any image on this page, for that matter!

Writer and Illustrator Jeffrey Wilson and Luke Radl are putting together a graphic novel developed from an interview Wilson conducted with Noam Chomsky in 2012. For those familiar with Chomsky, you may understand me when I say that he is a wealth of information that is perhaps difficult to take in all in one sitting. Most recently, I heard him interviewed on CBC Radio Q, on the topic of NSA and spying programs–and just as a side note, Chomsky mentioned a great deal of information with regard to COINTELPRO and the counterintelligence programs that waged war on progressive groups in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a lot of history and analysis to take in in 10 minutes. And that’s why I think a graphic novel interpretation of Chomsky is so promising. In the words of the creators,

“We take the historical examples used and give them a depth that might otherwise be glossed over. For example, when Chomsky mentioned the Free Speech Movement of the 60’s during the interview, we do the research and take you back to that time period so it is not just a passing reference but a real and dynamic moment.  This work is important because it will offer not only an introduction to the thoughts and insights of Chomsky but the graphic novel form allows us to layer information and move the reader through time and space in unique ways.”

With that said, Wilson and Radl have a lot on their plates…. and that’s AFTER fundraising $15,000.

chicago protest

As for artwork, I can’t think of many other contemporary comic artists who could do better than Luke Radl. He initially got my attention on Cartoon Movement with his comics journalism coverage of the 2012 NATO protests in Chicago, in which members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, led by 3 young Afghan women and peace activists, marched to the gates of the summit. Veterans, in the fashion of the protest on the Washington Monument during the Vietnam War, threw their metals over the fence in one of the most powerful acts of protest I have seen against the war in the last decade. It was an incredible thing to see illustrated. His full portfolio can be viewed here: www.lukeradl.com/illustration

Donate what you can. Share where you can. This looks like a wonderful initiative.

graphic noam promo image

 

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Terminal Lance on Kickstarer

the white donkeyJust came across what appears to be an amazing war comic project on Kickstarter. I highly recommend people check it out–if not to add to his already-attained goal–but to pre-order a copy of what is surely to become an incredible comic.
The White Donkey is the creation of Max Uriarte, an artist and US veteran who served on two deployments to Iraq. His regular web comic, Terminal Alliance, features often-funny shorts about army life. While not a military person myself, a lot of my closest friends (including my husband) are veterans–and the stories definitely ring true with what I’ve heard before.

There is richness in those stories that is baited with a bittersweet intrigue: war stories and military life draw just about every observer into it. And because war has a tendency to bring out both the best and worst in a human being, it will forever be a popular subject within all creative media.

Comics are no exception. In fact there is plenty of evidence to prove that comics pioneered a lot of the more realistic portrayals of war–I go into this at length in my post on Harvey Kurtzman, Two-Fisted Tales, and the birth of the anti-war comic.

Max is an incred

Comics with a Cause has just hit the $1,000 mark on Indiegogo. Let’s help them make this happen.

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News of this project totally hit me by surprise. My husband was the one to point it out to me- a new fundraising campaign for a web comic series, inspired by the question of “What men can do to end violence against women” launched by Rodrigo Caballero and his fiancee, Babette Santos in Vancouver last week. What struck me was that, not only did this project sound amazing, but that Babette–who I know completely outside of the world of comic books–was a bridesmaid at my wedding in Vancouver. What a small, wonderful world!
It sounds like this is going to be a pretty slick web comic with a great opportunity for it to be brought into print. The informative nature of the subject matter makes me happy that, once the initial funds are raised, there is no hindrance to anyone benefiting from its contents: a free web comic is a free web comic.

Through networking and contacts, Babette and Rodrigo have already drummed up a lot of initial support in the women’s rights community in the Lower Mainland– at women’s centers, shelters, and through advocacy groups. I think this project has the potential to do something amazing: please, instead of giving money to Gawker (a media company worth over $300 million) to see a 30 second cell phone video of my mayor smoking crack — support something positive. Support Comics with a Cause!

FIRST: Visit the Indiegogo campaign page!

NEXT: Check out their Facebook page for updates!

THEN: Follow them on Twitter at @ComicWithACause

ibly talented artist and storyteller. Check out his work, see for yourself, and consider pre-ordering.

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Title: Prison Grievances
Project Platform: Kickstarter
Author: Terri Leclercq, (author and educator) 

"Prison Grievances" is a graphic novel of guidance for U.S. prison inmates in their efforts to file complaints and protect their rights. Written by educator, Terri Leclercq.
“Prison Grievances” is a graphic novel of guidance for U.S. prison inmates in their efforts to file complaints and protect their rights. Written by educator, Terri Leclercq.

This project is not to create a book for a regular readership. Prison Grievances is written specifically for inmates of the U.S. prison system, fundamentally focused on education and empowerment. The book, reviewed by people at all levels of the prison system from judges to former inmates, details the step-by-step process for filing complaints with the court system, requesting a special piece of equipment due to a disability–whatever the case may be.

While this book may come across as little more than a practical tool for someone in a different situation than you, it serves a great purpose. The fact of the matter is that 1 in 12 Americans have been in the prison system, and over 2 million people currently sit in jail cells–that’s more prisoners than the People’s Republic of China (which, by the way, still has more people than the U.S.) Anyone who still thinks that the prison industrial complex isn’t a problem should do some more reading on the matter – maybe start with Shane Bauer’s recent heart-wrenching article in Mother Jones: “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons.”

Leclercq has taken the right approach in tackling this titanic challenge that we face as a society (whether we admit it or not–prisoners becomes ex-prisoners, who are then our co-workers, neighbours, and fellow citizens), and is attempting to hand these men and women a valuable tool. If this project speaks to you, please check out the pitch page and make a donation.

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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.

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.

 

Press Release: Fundraising Begins for Canada’s Oldest Graphic History!

example2FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

100 Year Rip-Off, A People’s History of B.C. to be Re-released After 40 Years
Canada’s Oldest ‘Graphic History’ on Record Highlights Stories of Working Class and People of Colour

July 20, 2013

Canada’s oldest recorded comic book history is coming back from the dead after more than 40 years—if it gets a little help. On the anniversary of B.C. joining Confederation, specialty comic book publisher Ad Astra Comics is launching a 40-day fundraiser for the comic book “100 Year Rip-Off: The Real History of British Columbia”. The campaign, which aims to raise a modest $800, will help to cover the costs of re-mastering and printing the comic for the first time in over four decades.

“100 Year Rip-Off: The Real History of British Columbia” is a blue-collar comic book history of the first 100 years of B.C.’s confederated history. Written by the late Robert Simms and illustrated by artist and current B.C. resident Bob Altwein, 100 Year Rip-Off was originally produced as a one-time 8-page broadsheet, accompanied by a counter-culture newspaper.

Ad Astra Comics, in consultation with Altwein, has digitized and re-mastered the work and provided complimentary additions to the content, including a map and glossary addressing the finer details of the original work. The text remains un-altered.

“100 Year Rip-Off is a graphic history that almost slipped into oblivion–right at a time when comic books and ‘graphic history’ comics in particular are reaching a peak in popularity,” says Nicole Marie Burton, campaign coordinator and founder of Ad Astra Comics, a micro-publisher that specializes in political and historical titles. The project is headquartered with the publisher in Toronto.

A quality printing of the re-mastered work means that 100 Year Rip-Off can get a new lease on life–and that means a new generation of readers will be able to benefit from these little-known stories of the province’s history.”
That history, according to 100 Year Rip-Off, includes a number of episodes in which B.C.’s residents were given the short end of the stick–as the name indicates. It documents, through meticulous research, the seizure of lands from B.C.’s First Nations alongside the banning of Indigenous cultural practices like the pot-latch. It progresses by chronicling the often-volatile history of labour struggles within the region, from the formation of B.C.’s first unions to the province’s recurring threat of a Winnipeg-style general strike. History enthusiasts will take interest in the detail of the text, while comic book lovers will enjoy the ‘School House Rock’ style of illustrations, so indicative of the contemporary comic and cartooning scene of the 1970s.

Burton points out that young activists may take interest in the rendition of the 1938 ‘Sit-downers Strike’ that took place at the Vancouver Art Gallery and in the Georgia Hotel–an action very reminiscent of the recent Occupy Movement.

100 Year Rip-Off is a standard-sized comic book of 30 black-and-white pages. Participants in the project’s IndieGoGo campaign can contribute for as little as $7 and get their own copy of the book mailed to them. Larger contribution packages include buying a bundle of comics at a reduced price–perfect for schools, unions, book stores, and special interest groups–along with a poster-sized version of the comic book’s reference map, which has been added to this specially re-mastered edition.

“The project is about revitalizing and popularizing the working class history of this province,” explains Burton. “But it is also celebrating the creative work of the comic itself, which in turn has become a part of our history.”
For more information, please visit the “100 Year Rip-Off” IndieGogo Campaign Page:

http://igg.me/at/100YearComic/x/1048985

Press Contact:
Nicole Marie Burton
c/o Ad Astra Comics
nicolemarieburton@gmail.com
647-863-4994
http://www.adastracomix.com

Review of “Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Politics of the Atomic Bomb”

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At its offset, it would seem that Fallout may be a part of a bandwagon to which most of the world is unbeknownst. The history of the self-described “graphic history” is a relatively short one. A natural off-shoot of the also-overly-used term, “graphic novel,” it has become something of a gold rush in a struggling book industry. Their accessibility and palettability makes them ideal for classroom and other educational settings… they appeal to young and old alike, etc. In a saying that seems as tacky as it is unlikely to the everyday cynic, graphic histories make learning fun.

But they also, often, make learning simple. Simplistic. Too simplistic. In fact many ‘graphic histories’ that have come out recently appear to be about topics by which the authors themselves don’t even appear to be highly engaged or inspired.

But, that is not this comic book.

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Title: Fallout: J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Politics of the Atomic Bomb
Written by: Jim Ottaviani
Artwork by: Various (including Janine Johnston, Chris Kemple, Steve Lieber, Vince Locke, Bernie Mireault, Eddy Newell, and Jeff Parker)
Cover Illustration by: Jeffrey Jones
Published: 2000 by General Tektonics (GT) Labs, as a part of a series of books about science and scientists

Originally printed in 2000, making it a bit ahead of the graphic history game, Fallout documents the Top Secret rise, gritty enactment of, and perhaps also the fall–if not materially, then politically, and above all morally–of the Atomic Age. It is a part of a larger series released by the publisher, GT Labs, of books that popularize (and perhaps humanize) science and the history of science to those not in the ‘know’.

Blending first-hand accounts and quotes with hypothetical dialogue–deemed at the preface of the book to be true “science fiction”–Fallout takes you from the inception of the atomic bomb, as it was first simply a theory in the minds of a handful of scientists–many of whom were struggling to escape the grip of fascism in Europe. An prime example is the physicist Leo Szilard, one of the Manhattan project’s founders, who barely escapes Germany as a refugee in one of the last trains out of the country (he explains that he avoided scrutiny by traveling first class).

It is in this climate that scientists begin to do what would otherwise be unthinkable: keeping their work Top Secret, not publishing their findings, enlisting not only the funding but considerable control of scientic research through the U.S. military. It was all for a greater good: to defeat the rise of Nazi Germany and to one day, possibly, hopefully, end the War–to end all wars. For in the scientific mind, if it were in fact a given that the world is ruled by reasonable men–what man would there be who would begin a war against a country with a nuclear bomb? The book is rivetting not only in its ability to explain the scientific basis of how a nuclear reaciton works (something that has never made sense to me) but also in seeing how these men, who were all more or less geniuses and culturally enlightened intellectuals, could be led to believe that this project was not only a good idea, but an absolute necessity.

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The read is intriguing, even gripping (the first test of a nuclear chain reaction being recorded on the panel with the “click” “click” “click” “click” of the counter–the sound we all now associate with radioactivity in fallout zones–kind of gives you this ‘lightbulb over your head’ moment… “Aha! So that’s what each ‘click’ represents!”). You can tell from the narrative that the book is not only painstakingly researched, but done so by someone who believes in the need to know and understand the story. Perhaps this is an obvious requirement for all books of quality, but one that I would never take for granted in the category of a “graphic history”.

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I would give this book the highest of recommendations. It is everything I hope a graphic history to be when I open it for the first time. And although I began this piece talking about the medium, an exceptional graphich history will in my opinion, pull you into talking about the content as much, if not more, than the form.

In 2013, we are all so familiar with bite-sized pieces of atomic energy–from nuclear power plants to the trademark mushroom cloud, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Chernobyl and the meltdowns in Fukushima. But the introduction of such power into the realm of what was humanly possible was just as explosive, in the 1930s-50s, for everything from international Geo-politics to the limits philosophical and moral dilemmas that one human being can handle. In the words of Edward Teller:

“I made the great mistake of feeling relieved of my responsibility… the chance to show the world that science can stop a terrible war without killing a single person was lost.”

Or, more succinctly, of J. Robert Oppenheimer:

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Preview The Pages of 100 Year Rip-Off: One of Canada’s Very First Graphic Histories

Available here for the first time is a collection of pages from Ad Astra Comix’s upcoming re-release of the 100 Year Rip-Off. Originally printed in 1971 for the B.C. Centennial, Ad Astra, in cooperation with the artist Bob Altwein, are making the work available for a new generation. Enjoy!

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Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified U.S. History

ediblesecrets_coverTitle: Edible Secrets: A Food Tour of Classified U.S. History
Authors: Michael Hoerger and Mia Partlow
Illustrations: Nate Powell
Published: 2010 by Microcosm Publishing

As pointed out in its introduction, food is as good a filter as any for relating to government secrecy: both are ever-present realities of life that we swallow without much further thought. This book is a creative one, in that it ties a lot of things together. It’s a history book, a comic, a zine, …and a reproduction of declassified government documents.   All relating to food, either as a code word or as a coincidental element in major geo-political events (Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton was framed for robbing an ice cream truck at age 19; U.S. officials tried to assassinate Fidel Castro by spiking his milkshake with poison).

It’s a quirky take on a lot of different things that I enjoy reading about: history, secrecy, art, and food. I think it may take a special interest in the subject matter for the reader to really get down with this book, in my opinion—but I freakin’ love it. Nate Powell’s illustrations are the icing on the cake here: the first chapter’s title page shows Fred Hampton, dressed as Robin Hood, passing out ice cream to the neighborhood children. He hands a small boy a popsicle in the shape of a Black Power fist. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this. Original, political, historical, shocking, artistic: awesome.

fred hampton

 

Black History: A Comic Book Reading List

For the last 10 days of February, I put out a list of Top 10 Comics relating to Black History. I didn’t consider this a quintessential list; moreso, I wanted it to be a startting point for anyone interested in exploring the genre/medium combo.

From the get-go, I knew I could at least name 10 different titles, although I hadn’t read them all. And as research tends to do, I’ve added another few to this list, along with some notes. 

Black History Comics – A Reading List

bayou page shotBAYOU – 2010, by Jeremy Love.
It’s the Deep South–in the deep dip of the Depression. Young Lee was already afraid of the Bayou–that was where they dumped the body of Billy Glass–and who knows how many other blacks who “hadn’t known their place”. But when Lee’s white friend goes missing and her father is suspected to be involved, Lee sets out into the Bayou, a dark place of murder and magic, to rescue the girl from whatever has taken her, and in turn rescue her father from the fate of the gallows.
Here in the “new world” we often have a hard time picturing our history as folklore and our folk lore as mythology, but that is what is at work here. Jeremy Love does a great job with this book bringing that mythology to life in the stylization of Uncle Remus and his Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, et al. He even takes it a little further, with pieces of social memory that still seem a little too real, too close, to feel entirely comfortable with: flocks of “Jim Crows” that will eat you alive; monsters with the faces of minstrel characters. There is an anthropomorphic element here–lots of talking animals, stories and song that make the characters really pop. Think “Alice in Dixieland”.
Two Volumes have been released of the story so-far: I do hope that more is on the way…
Published: 2010 by Zuda Comics (online arm of D.C. – now closed.)
Awards: Glyph Comics Awards – Best Writer, Best Artist, Best Female Character, Best Comic Strip, and Story of the Year (2009);
Best Digital Comic for the Eisner Awards – Nominee (2010);
American Library Association – 1 of Top 10 Graphic Novels for Teens (2010);
Further Reading: Nice Analysis over at Web Comic Overlook (although self-admittedly long.)

nat turner page shotNAT TURNER – 2006 by Kyle Baker. Four issues bound into two volumes here tell the story of Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, leader of one of the largest slave revolts in American history. The genius of this comic is that it tells a compelling story while allowing the historical value to shine through. It uses all excepts of Nat Turner’s own words, taken from a “confession” he gave to a newspaper while in prison awaiting his execution (the word “confession” of course, is an editorialization from the newspaper of the time–however, one can hardly expect him to be remorseful for killing the men who killed and enslaved his kinfolk). We not only have a primary source, but a first-hand account of what we’re seeing depicted in pictures: the life of a 19th Century slave, the horror of life from capture, transport, sale, work, and punishment. The role of religion and prayer for slaves who survived. As a political and historical comics enthusiast, this is one of the gems. Kyle Baker looks to have taken 19th Century newspaper illustrations and breathed them full of life and human emotion. This and a nail-biting narration have practically gift-wrapped this bloody episode of American history.
Published: 2006 by Kyle Baker Publishing
Awards: Glyph Comics Awards – Best Artist, Best Cover, Story of the Year (2006);
Glyph Comics Awards – Best Artist (2008);
Further Reading: Nice review on Eye on Africa Blog

 

jackie robinson coverJACKIE ROBINSON, Issues 0 – 6 – Written by sports-writer Charles Dexter. Now I know nothing about this comic – save that it was published in 1950 and that it’s real. That makes it one of the earliest comic book depictions of a black historical figure (maybe the first?) and impossible to leave off this list, where I try to encourage that there is black representation, but also a note-worthy link to Black History (sorry Black Panther, Storm, Huey Freeman…)
That being said, I know nothing of the quality of this comic – the writing, the artwork. But regardless I like having this comic on my reading this for two reasons. It’s not only that it’s the sole comic that is more than 10 years old… consider the fact that a black baseball player would have difficulty finding lodging or a bar to sit in when this comic was released. Second, it’s written by a sportswriter, and I love sportswriter/political commentator cross-overs (the “Olberman” effect?).
Published: 1950 – 1951 by Fawcett
Further Reading: Good luck getting yourselves a copy of this – some issues retail as high as $75 for their 16 pages. But a decent telling of Jackie’s story (and the story of African Americans in the major leagues) can be found here at Awesome Stories.com 

 

 

SOOF - page shot

THE SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS – 2008, Written by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and illustrated by Nate Powell. This is a deceptively simple memoir of a man who moved to a small Texas town with his liberal white family in the 1960s. The town was intensely segregated, and the author remembers the stir it caused when his Dad invited a black friend and his family over for dinner. Besides political overtones and largely untold events of recent Texas history, which included protests and a serious accusation of black demonstrators firing on police–which was later determined to be false–Silence of Our Friends is a story of childhood memory that is touching, personal and honest. With a heavy emphasis on Powell’s art, the narrative re-creates the [often quiet] tension of racism, privilege, and friendship.
Published: 2008, by First Second Comics / Macmillan
Awards:
Further Reading: I’m a huge fan of Nate Powell’s artwork, so I will take this time to direct you to his blog over here at See My Brother Dance

MALCOLM X A GRAPHIC BIOGRAPHY – 2006, by Andrew Helfer, Randy DuBurke.
Published: 2006 by Hill and Wang
I have yet to full read this piece, but have it on my list. There is also another Malcolm X biography – by Jessica Sara Gunderson and Seifu Hayden. Neither Helfer nor Gunderson are names that I’m very familiar with in comics, so I’ve been slow to pick these titles up. However they are available for those interested.

King coverKING: A COMICS BIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. – 2005, by Ho Che Anderson. Generally considered to be more comics journalism, this volume collects over 10 years of Ho Che Anderson’s work into a biography of the renowned civil rights leader.  From a review on Amazing: “KING probes the life story of one of America’s greatest public figures with an unflinchingly critical eye, casting King as an ambitious, dichotomous figure deserving of his place in history but not above moral sacrifice to get there. Anderson’s expressionistic visual style is wrought with dramatic energy; panels evoke a painterly attention to detail but juxtapose with one another in such a way as to propel King’s story with cinematic momentum.”
Published: 2005, by Fantagraphics (the Complete Edition)

birth of a nation coverBIRTH OF A NATION – 2004, by Aaron McGruder and Reginald Hudlin and Kyle Baker.
McGruder, Hudlin and Baker definitely have satire in their sights for this piece – that being said, it touches on black culture and history more uniquely than other books mentioned here. Aaron has admittedly used some real stories in this work, gathered by himself and friends over the years to make this comedic work ask a darkly humorous question: If East St. Louis seceded from the Union, would anyone really care? East St. Louis (“the inner city without an outer city” it says), is an impoverished town, so poor that Fred Fredericks, its idealistic mayor, starts off Election Day by collecting the city’s trash in his own minivan. (A real story is inserted here, says McGruder – some people kept their trash on their rooftops to discourage the packs of wild dogs from rummaging through it. No joke…well, yeah, I guess he kind of makes it into a joke.) But the mayor believes in the power of democracy and rallies his fellow citizens to the polls for the presidential election, only to find hundreds of them disenfranchised (this was the 2000 election, so that part is also totally believable).
“Birth of a Nation” to me, is what comics have always been about–pointed political commentary that makes you split your stomach laughing at the same time. And in doing so, it raises questions of culture and national identity. A great read.
Published: 2005, by Three Rivers Press

ROSA PARKS & THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT – 2007, by Connie Colwell Miller (Author) and Dan Kalal (Illustrator).
Part of the Graphic Library series, this book is an introduction to Rosa Parks and her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Because the author provides a sequential and clear outline of the historical events of the time, the story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott is told in a meaningful and interesting way. The graphic novel is broken into four chapters, each one telling a specific part of Rosa Parks’ story. Through the content presented, readers are introduced to important figures involved in the civil rights movement, racial segregation laws, significant dates and court decisions, important events in the civil rights movement, and the political and social climate of the time. Furthermore, the author shows the impact the Montgomery Bus Boycott had on the civil rights movement and tells about Rosa s life after the boycott.
Published: 2007 by Capstone Press

still-i-rise-graphic“STILL I RISE”: A GRAPHIC HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS – 2009, by Roland Laird (Author), Taneshia Nash Laird (Author), Elihu “Adofo” Bey (Illustrator), Charles Johnson (Foreword)
Still I Rise is a lot packed into a little book: the entire history of Black America– recently updated in a new edition that includes the election of Barack Obama as the U.S.A.’s first African American president (the first edition, published in 1997, took us up to the Million Man March). I believe this work has excelled in highlighting history left out of a lot of American textbooks, for whatever reasons: including early attempts of slaves and former slaves uniting with white indentured servants, along with the rise of early black entrepreneurs and politicians in the South who were constantly attacked, broken down and weeded out. it it a solid portrayal of a lengthy question, and shows that the notion of American history as “white” history is manufactured, and deliberately dismissive of black culture.
Published: 2009 by Sterling

BLACK IMAGES IN THE COMICS – 2012, Edited by Fredrik Stromberg (Introduction by Charles Johnson).
Endlessly browsable illustrated journey through comics’ history of radical portrayals both good and bad.
This book spotlights over 100 comic strips, comic books, and graphic novels to feature black characters from all over the world over the last century, and the result is a fascinating journey to, if not enlightenment, then at least away from the horrendous caricatures of yore. Fredrik Stromberg, who is from Swede, explains in the introduction that he more of less made the volume because it had not yet been made; he set out to make a comprehensive art history of (mostly) white people’s depictions of blacks: as primitive and savage–even cannibalistic, then as dim-witted clowns. Halfway through the 20th Century, this begins to change, and with the inclusion of more positive representations of blacks (mostly African Americans), we see the emergence of black writers and artists, breaking new ground once again.
What begins as a somewhat depressing window on the small-ness of humanity has something of a happy ending with this evolution. However I’m reminded of the words of Charles Johnson, who in the introduction writes, “I wait for the day when…stories in which a character who just happens to be Black is the emblematic, archetypal figure in which we — all of us — invest our dreams, imaginings, and sense of adventure about the vast possibilities for what humans can be and do– just as we have done, or been culturally indoctrinated to do, with white characters…”
Published: 2012 by Fantagraphics


Some Additions:

My entire reading list is seriously lacking in the realm of arts and culture. I looked far and wide for a Hip Hop Graphic History, but am perhaps a bit early on that one – Ed Piskor’s exciting Hip Hop Family Tree comes out this October. Until then, you can preview some work on Boing Boing – or pre-order it from Fantagraphics!

Black Comix: African American Independent Comics, Art and Culture
Damian Duffy (Author), John Jennings (Author), Keith Knight (Introduction) – 2010, by Mark Batty Publisher

Super Black – 2011, by Adilifu Nama.
Super Black, although not a comic, it the most thorough work yet to break ground on the subject of black people in comics – their representation and significance. This also extends to blaxploitation film and art, where we see a real packaging of the ‘Black Hero’ for the first time in mainstream American culture.  Available through Amazon, some university literature courses, and perhaps your more-than-average book store.

ABINA AND THE IMPORTANT MEN – 2011, By Trevor R. Getz. Read more about it on the publisher’s website at Oxford University Press.

BAYOU ARCANA – An anthology of work in a similar vein to Bayou, looking at historical roles of race and gender in the Deep South.

The MARCH TRILOGY – Coming out in August, 2013. A graphic novel memoir of former Civil Rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis.

THE CAMPFIRE SERIES – by Steerforth Press includes “Mohammed Ali: King of the Ring” and a “Nelson Mandela” graphic biography.

There is also a “Nelson Mandela: Authorized Comic Book” that was produced by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

African American Classics