Go into any mainstream comic shop or bookseller chain, and the graphic novel series you are most likely to find starring a cast of native characters is “Scalped”. The 10 volume series (collecting all 60 issues of the comic book) is published by Vertigo Comics, a mature readers imprint of DC (one of the ‘Big Two’ comic publishers). Its high profile can also be attributed to writer Jason Aaron, who currently scribes popular superhero titles for Marvel Comics such as “Wolverine”, “The X-Men”, “Thor”, “Captain America”, and “The Avengers”. Continue reading Indigenous Comix: Taking a Critical Look at Vertigo’s Adult Series “Scalped”→
As comic lovers gear up for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (May 10 & 11, 2014), it has been announced that world-renowned protest artist and cartoonist Seth Tobocman will be in town. Seth will speak on over 35 years of experience making political comics, presenting his new upcoming book and sharing his experience on comics as a tool for social change. Tobocman will be giving one talk during the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and a city-wide talk outside of the comics community between May 7th and 10th.
Tobocman is most well-known for his role as a founding editor of World War 3 Illustrated, a quarterly self-published journal of political comics, based out of New York City. Since the magazine’s inception in 1979, World War 3 Illustrated has served as a launch pad for both emerging artists and radical ideas. The artist’s work appears regularly in its pages.
Tobocman is also notable for his comic documentations of a number of political struggles in New York City. His book, War in the Neighborhood, details the affordable housing movement of the late 1980s which led to a series of occupations of abandoned buildings at a time of intense gentrification.
“There were events that made big impressions, and effected the direction of my art,” Seth explained in a recent interview with the Toronto-based political comics website, Ad Astra Comix. “The invasion of Grenada (1983) led me to do my first stencil graffiti… The housing movement in my neighborhood offered me a vast area of subject material to explore. More recently, the Occupy movement showed up to confirm that we had been on the right track all along.”
Tobocman has explored some of the larger contextual issues communicated by the Occupy Movement in two recent full-length graphic books: Disaster and Resistance: Comics and Landscapes for the 21st Century (AK PRESS, 2008); and Understanding the Crash with Eric Larsen and Jessica Wehrle (Soft Skull Press, 2010). A collection of his earlier graffiti and stencil art is compiled in You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive (Soft Skull Press, 1999).
City-wide tickets are now on sale for $5 each to cover the costs of Seth’s visit. Interviews with media can be arranged by appointment. More information available shortly!
For more in-depth on Seth and his work, check out our interview we did for the 35th Anniversary of World War 3:
35 Years of World War 3: An Exclusive Interview with Seth Tobocman, Kevin Pyle, and Scott Cunningham
Books by Seth Tobocmanavailable for sale at the event:
For the second time in a week, Ad Astra Comix was out and about meeting and discussing the power of political comics.
Here in Toronto the International Studies Association is wrapping up there annual convention, with hundreds of academics visiting internationally to deliver talks and share ideas on everything from global economic migration to the homogenization of Indigenous cultures and practices worldwide. And we’re here to hell you… #TheresAComic4That . Continue reading #ISA2014 Mixer and Launch of Journal for Narrative Politics→
Written largely by alternative comics legend Harvey Pekar, “Students For a Democratic Society – A Graphic History” is a vexing text. Published in 2008, it breezes through a decade of radical organizing with moments of resistance narrated by witnesses to the history of the SDS. Along the way we learn the names, faces and stories of many of the most famous activists associated with the legendary student group, as well as some of their mentors. It is both a formal history and a collection of brief individual accounts, some spanning decades or a single afternoon, of former members of the SDS. Continue reading The Times They Have A-Changed | Review of “SDS: A Graphic History”→
As momentous as it sounds, no one could have known in 1979 that this self-published periodical based in New York City would become the longest-running anthology of political comics in the world–at least, that we’ve been able to find.
CARTOONISTS TO DIRECTOR OF ANGOULEME FESTIVAL: DROP SODASTREAM
Sacco, Siné, Katchor, Kerbaj, Coe, Drooker, Kuper, Madden, Tobocman, among dozens of others protest sponsorship by Israeli settlement manufacturer
FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 2014– Over forty cartoonists and illustrators from a dozen countries around the world released an open letter today to Franck Bondoux, director of the International Festival of Comics at Angoulême, asking the festival to drop its relationship with the Israeli drink manufacturer SodaStream. Among those signing the letter were French cartoonists Siné, Baudoin, Carali, and Chimulus, Americans Joe Sacco, Eric Drooker, Ben Katchor, Peter Kuper, Matt Madden, Seth Tobocman and Sue Coe, as well as Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh, Lebanese Mazen Kerbaj, Sudanese Khalid Albaih, Tunisian Willis From Tunis, Israeli Amitai Sandy, Brazilian Carlos Latuff, Spanish Elchicotriste, Italian Gianluca Costantini, and many more.
The letter comes as SodaStream increasingly is targeted by an international boycott due to the presence of its primary factory in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. The day before, headlines were made when actress Scarlett Johansson ended her seven-year relationship with the charity OxFam over disagreements stemming from her role as a paid spokesperson for SodaStream.
The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the largest in Europe, and the second-largest in the world. The announcement that it would be sponsored this year by SodaStream drew immediate condemnation from French activists.
The full text of the letter and list of signatories follows:
Lettre ouverte à / Open letter to:
Monsieur Franck Bondoux
Direction du Festival international de la bande dessinée
71 rue Hergé
We, cartoonists and illustrators from all countries, are surprised, disappointed and angry to find out that SodaStream is an official sponsor of the Angoulême International Comics Festival.
As you must know, SodaStream is the target of an international boycott call for its contribution to the colonization of Palestinian land, due to its factory in the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, its exploitation of Palestinian workers, and its theft of Palestinian resources, in violation of international law and contravening international principles of human rights.
Angoulême has had an important role in the appreciation of comics as an art form for over 40 years. It would be sad if SodaStream were able to use this event to whitewash their crimes.
We ask you to cut all ties between the Festival and this shameful company.
Khalid Albaih (Sudan)
Leila Abdelrazaq (USA)
Edd Baldry (UK/France)
Edmond Baudoin (France)
Steve Brodner (USA)
Susie Cagle (USA)
Jennifer Camper (USA)
Jean-Luc Coudray (France)
Philippe Coudray (France)
Marguerite Dabaie (USA)
Eric Drooker (USA)
Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz (USA)
Ethan Heitner (USA)
Paula Hewitt Amram (USA)
Hatem Imam (Lebanon)
Ben Katchor (USA)
Mazen Kerbaj (Lebanon)
Lolo Krokaga (France)
Nat Krokaga (France)
Peter Kuper (USA)
Carlos Latuff (Brazil)
Matt Madden (USA/France)
Barrack Rima (Lebanon/Belgium)
James Romberger (USA)
Puig Rosado (France)
Mohammad Saba’aneh (Palestine)
Joe Sacco (USA)
Malik Sajad (Kashmir)
Amitai Sandy (Israel)
Seth Tobocman (USA)
Eli Valley (USA)
Willis From Tunis (Tunisie/France)
Jordan Worley (USA)
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.
Freak’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.
Starting 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.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
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.
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.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Terminal Lance on Kickstarer
Just 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 with a Cause has just hit the $1,000 mark on Indiegogo. Let’s help them make this happen.
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!
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.
If you’re in the Toronto area you are cordially invited to Ad Astra Comix’ Open House and Solstice Party taking place Downtown on Saturday, December 21st. We think it’s probably the best way you could spend the darkest night of the year.
As many readers already know, Ad Astra doesn’t actually have a storefront, but we do have access to a local community space called Soybomb – which has, for the past decade, been a home for independent music and culture in Toronto. Food and drink will be available by donation – and all Ad Astra stock (comics, books, posters, etc.) will be 10%-20% off. So if you’re in the city, you probably shouldn’t miss it!
Here’s our poster. Please feel free to post and share with your social networks. A Facebook RSVP Page has been set up here.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Title: The Vietnam War – A Graphic History
Writtenby: 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 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.