Molly Crabapple

Occupy Wall Street and Comics: Documenting a Movement

Occupy Comics poster

Turn on the news or check online news sites, and you’re bound to see coverage of Occupy Wall Street, a series of demonstrations protesting corporate influence over our culture’s systems of government and finance. It’s essentially a reaction to what is perceived as class warfare perpetuated by a significant minority of powerful individuals and institutions (referred to as the 1%). (So much media coverage is focused on protracted confusion at the movement’s purpose, so in case you’d like to know more, Rolling Stone has an editorial by Matt Taibbi that gets into it deeper, and of course there’s always never-wrong Wikipedia.)

Whether you think the movement is just a bunch of lazy hippies or a crusade against big banks, it’s got people’s attention. Over 100 cities in the US have local versions of Occupy Wall Street, and more than 1500 have popped up in cities around the world. This has not gone unnoticed by the world of comics.

Occupy Comics is an anthology currently raising funds for the movement through a Kickstarter campaign. Coordinated by writer/director Matt Pizzolo (Godkiller), the comics will first be released as digital comics and individual comic book issues, and then collected and reprinted as a hard cover graphic novel. All creators and production staff have agreed to donate their salary to Occupy Wall Street to help pay for supplies during the winter months. An impressive line-up of comics creators have already committed to contribute, such as The Walking Dead‘s Charlie Adlard, 30 Days of Night‘s Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, Joshua Hale Fialkov (Tumor, I, Vampire), and Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School founder Molly Crabapple. From the Kickstarter page:

This book is intended to be a time capsule of the passions and emotions driving the movement. We are comic book & graphic novel artists and writers who’ve been inspired by the movement and hope to tell the stories of the people who are out there putting themselves at risk for an idea. What is that idea? Most of the media will tell you the idea is a vague and befuddled mess, but movements don’t coalesce around vague, befuddled messes. We hope that through the medium of comics we can share some of the ideas and experiences driving this movement.

All of the writers, artists, business executives, and the publisher are being paid to produce this book… and they ALL are donating 100% of their revenue (not profits, but ALL monies they receive) to the occupiers. They want to support the movement through the winter by providing warm clothes, heaters and bathrooms if possible, and other amenities.

One of the anthology’s contributors is Susie Cagle, a comics journalist who has provided non-fiction comics for McSweeney’s, Alternet, Truthout and other publications. She has been attending one of the west coast versions, Occupy Oakland. As a member of the press, she has a bright orange press badge visibly hanging from her neck. Despite this, she has twice been swept up in aggressive police action, once getting hit with tear gas, and once getting arrested along with other press and legal observers. Occupy Oakland has been one of the more unstable Occupy sites, perhaps most notably when Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, a former Marine and member of Veterans for Peace, suffered a fractured skull when he was hit by a projectile apparently fired by the Oakland police. During Susie Cagle’s 15-hour detainment at two different jails, she witnessed mistreatment of arrested protesters by the Oakland police. She was charged with failure to leave the scene of a riot and was instructed not to return to the demonstrations until her December 5th hearing or she will be charged with a felony. She plans on returning to continue work on an illustrated history of Occupy Oakland.

Of course, not everyone is supportive of Occupy Wall Street. Frank Miller, once a vocal supporter of creator rights (he was among the first to join in an attempt by comics artists and writers to unionize in 1978) and unafraid to call out corporations on their greed and poor treatment of comics creators (Miller was a vocal supporter of Jack Kirby’s efforts to regain his original artwork from Marvel Comics). But after 9/11, he was was seemingly reborn as a devout supporter of the War on Terror above all other concerns. His most recent release, Holy Terror, is a wish-fulfillment of a Batman-esque superhero crushing the terrorist organization Al Qaeda and it has been met with criticisms of anti-Islamism. In response, Miller admitted that he knows “squat about Islam”, but this hasn’t stopped him from criticizing the entire religion and populace of the Middle East on terrorist extremism. So it isn’t entirely surprising that he posted to his website last week a rant against the Occupy Wall Street movement, stating that participants should instead enlist to help the War of Terror.

“Occupy” is nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness. These clowns can do nothing but harm America.

Speaking of nostalgia, that “harm America” argument is the same one used to discourage Vietnam War protesters and other Woodstock-era demonstrations, including the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

For a response to Miller’s statement in comics form, see this special edition of Ty Templeton’s Bun Toons web-comic, which observes that “it was an oddly out-of-touch moment to tie the ‘War on Terror’ to a clichéd list of old school anti-hippie slurs” to a rather pointed caricature of Miller.

New Graphic Novels, Comic Books for You – 10/14/09

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of October 14 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

[And yes, I’m nearly a month behind. You don’t have to rub it in.]

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

Blood + Water – $17.95
By Judd Winick & Tomm Coker
128 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo Books; available at Amazon.com

Adam Heller is dying, but before he can take the big dirt nap, his best friends offer him a chance at immortality and he takes it. Now Adam is a vampire living it up on the wild side and it’s everything he could ever want. But the eternal party crashes to a bloody halt when an ancient monster awakens from the dark, forgotten places of the world and comes looking for Adam. The startling reason this monster has come looking for him may be the most horrifying realization of all.

I read this story when it originally came out in individual comic book issues back in 2003. (I can’t believe that was 6 years ago.) I find Judd Winick to be kind of a mixed bag as a writer, but this was one of his good ones. And as I recall Tomm Coker’s art is even better. It was so solid, I was kind of surprised a sequel never materialized. Maybe this collected edition is a hint that one is finally coming. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a preview. If anyone finds one, post it in the comments below.

Heavy Liquid – $24.99
By Paul Pope
240 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo Books; available at Amazon.com

“Pope has embellished his stylish love story with heart-stopping action and adventure. …Pope’s drawing and page design … is both technically assured and wonderfully expressive.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“This has the potential to attract a large audience, including serious readers, science-fiction buffs, artists, and would-be graphic novelists.” —SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

In a future where New York has evolved into a sci-fi metropolis, “S,” a man addicted to “heavy liquid,” a substance that is both a drug and an art form, finds himself trapped in a mystery littered with love and drugs. This new edition features bonus sketch material, new coloring and more.

Another one from Vertigo’s vaults, this was originally released in early 2000. Paul Pope is one of the art form’s more exceptional storytellers and artists and this has been on my must-get list for some time. It’s great to see this re-released. DC Comics has a pretty skimpy preview here in PDF.

The Fixer and Other Stories – $19.95
By Joe Sacco
216 pages; published by Drawn and Quarterly; available at Amazon.com

“Sacco is one of the most astute war-zone correspondents working today” –Rolling Stone

“A searing and amusing look at the motley collection of reporters, war profiteers, criminals, soldiers and hapless civilians trapped in war zone.” –New York Times

“Sacco doesn’t try to lay claim to the truth. He’s simply telling one man’s story, and it makes for an excellent book.” –Washington Post

“Sacco demonstrates that the narrative arts, including comics, can gather up complicated social truths with a gradual patience that often eludes the camera.” –Boston Globe

Using old-fashioned pen and paper, award-winning cartoonist Joe Sacco reports from the sidelines of wars around the world. THE FIXER AND OTHER STORIES is a new softcover that collects Joe Sacco’s landmark short stories on the Bosnian War that previously comprised the hardcover editions of THE FIXER and WARS END.

It must be re-issue week. This reprints material from 2003 and 2005. Joe Sacco is living proof that comics can do and be anything. Even journalism. And fortunately he’s real good at it, too. It’s sorta kinda like NPR in comics.

Blackbeard: Legend of the Pyrate King #1 – $3.50
By Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale, Robert Napton, Jamie Nash and Mario Guevara
32 pages; published by Dynamite Entertaiment

Dynamite presents their most ambitious undertaking yet – BLACKBEARD: THE LEGEND OF THE PYRATE KING #1! Under the stunning John Cassaday, producers Eduardo (writer of The Blair Witch Project) Sanchez and Gregg (producer of The Blair Witch Project) Hale are joined by Robert Napton and Jamie Nash to present the ultimate adventure tale of a bygone age, when pyrates ruled the waters!
Beginning with his childhood and carry through to his bitter end, Blackbeard’s legacy has never been explored as deeply and illustrated as beautifully (by Mario Guevara) than now!

I don’t really consider a comic by the makers of The Blair Witch Project to be all that big of a selling point, but Dynamite has had a pretty decent track record with properties like The Lone Ranger, Zorro and Sherlock Holmes. I think this is their first comic steeped in history and based on an actual person, and I’m sure liberties will be taken. But it looks like a fun ride nevertheless. Check out the preview at the publisher link above.

MOME Vol. 16 – $14.99
Edited by Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds
112 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

Since its inception in 2005, Mome has served as a comics McSweeney’s. Whether exposing new talent like Eleanor Davis (author of the recent Stinky by Toon Books); featuring short stories by contemporary graphic novelists like Dash Shaw (The Bottomless Belly Button); bringing the work of international superstars like David B. (Epileptic) to American audiences; or introducing the work of legends like Gilbert Shelton (The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) to a new generation of readers, Mome is the most acclaimed, accessible, frequent, and reasonably priced anthology on the market despite it’s high production values and mostly color format.

This issue features several of our favorite alternative comic artists of the last 15 years, bringing us great joy. Archer Prewitt is the first, with an all-new “Funny Bunny” strip created in between his active musical career. “The Moolah Tree” is the new Fuzz & Pluck graphic novel from Ted Stearn, following Fuzz & Pluck and Fuzz & Pluck: Splitsville, beginning serialization here. We are equally proud to debut new work from Renée French, whose work is also featured on the front and back cover of this issue. And Nicholas Mahler debuts to ask “What Is Art?” (translated by secret weapon Kim Thompson).

Also: the second chapter of T. Edward Bak’s “Wild Man – The Strange Journey – and Fantastic Accounts – of the Naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, from Bavaria to Bolshaya Zemlya (and Beyond)”; a new “Cold Heat” story by the team of Ben Jones, Frank Santoro & Jon Vermilyea; Dash Shaw interprets an episode of “Blind Date” into comics form; and new stories from Lilli Carré, Conor O’Keefe, Laura Park, Nate Neal, and Sara Edward-Corbett, with incidental drawings by Kaela Graham.

This highly regarded quarterly anthology is a great survey of some of the industry’s greatest and most innovative creators. If you’ve always wanted to sample quality alternative comics, here’s your first stop. Here’s a great big 12-page preview (PDF).

You Are There – $26.99
By Jacques Tardi & Jean-Claude Forest
192 pages; published by Fantagraphics Books; available at Amazon.com

The satirical masterpiece that ushered in the graphic novel era to European comics, finally available in English—the beginning of an ambitious publishing project introducing one of Europe’s most beloved cartoonists to American audiences. One of the earliest full-length, standalone graphic novels to be published in Europe, and certainly one of the best and most original, Ici Même was serialized in the adult French comics monthly (A suivre) in the early 1980s and then released in book form. A quarter of a century later, this dark, funny, consistently surprising masterpiece has finally been translated into English.

An unexpected yet smoothly confident collaboration between the darkly cynical Jacques Tardi and the playful fantasist Jean-Claude Forest (of Barbarella fame), You Are There is set on a small island off the coast of France, where unscrupulous landowners have succeeded in overtaking the land from the last heir of a previously wealthy family. That heir, whose domain, in a Beckettian twist, is now reduced to the walls that border these patches of land he used to own, prowls the walls all day, eking out a living by collecting tolls at each gate. His seemingly hopeless struggle to recover his birthright becomes complicated as the government sees a way of using his plight for the sake of political expediency, and the romantic intervention of the daughter of one of the landowners (who has her own sordid history with the politician) engenders further difficulties, culminating in an apocalyptic, hallucinatory finale.

Set in Tardi’s preferred early 20th century milieu, You Are There is drawn in his crisp 1980s neo-“clear line” style, gorgeously detailed, elegantly stylized, with impossibly deep slabs of black. You Are There is a feast for both the eyes and the brain.

As we cover in our documentary Dig Comics, the perception of comic books and their corresponding growth (or lack thereof) is notably different in countries other than the United States. This past summer, Dig Comics director/writer/host Miguel Cima discovered firsthand that France has a healthier, more diverse industry. This release from 1979 was apparently a significant moment in the growth of that industry. Here’s an even bigger 19-page preview (PDF).

The Act-I-Vate Primer – $24.99
Edited by Dean Haspiel, Nick Bertozzi, et al.
160 pages; published by IDW Publishing; available at Amazon.com

In the tradition of the acclaimed and groundbreaking anthology, Flight, the ACT-I-VATE Primer showcases a wide array of stories and talent -18 innovative creators, 16 intriguing properties, one beautiful book – and all-new, never-before-seen stories and art!

act-i-vate.com is the premier comic art collective on the Internet, featuring many renowned cartoonists who produce all-new material on a regular basis. The ACT-I-VATE PRIMER is a PRINT EXCLUSIVE anthology by many of the Act-I-Vate creators. None of the material in this book will appear on the Act-I-Vate website for at least one year from publication date.

There is a lot of good comics work being doing online and Act-I-Vate.com is one of the best hubs to find it. This anthology is another fine sampler. Here’s a 16-page preview.

That’s it for this week. Tougher than usual to whittle it down to a halfway digestible list. Yay comics!