08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail by Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman

Categories:  Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail
By Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman
Three Rivers Press

michaelcrowley08coverThe non-fiction graphic novel has, by most accounts been largely neglected. Those well-received works that have ventured into that world—Maus, Palestine, Perselopis, et al.—have largely been content to bide by independent comics’ fiction with the first-person narrative. This fact takes nothing away from their staggering importance to the medium—all of the above bravely tackled difficult and important issues while bringing comics a new-found level of respect both among the literati and a mainstream readership.

Their fixation with the memoir does, however, point to a seemingly fundamental hang up with the style—illustrated by that troublesome label “graphic novel,” a term which, in its very essence, implies some form of fictionalization, or, at the very least, the sort of first-person storytelling that often designates prose books for the fiction shelves. In a sense, it also points to a problem with scope.

There are few sufficiently educated in the world of sequential art who would argue that the medium presents more limitations its prose counterparts.  But as is often the case, it takes an outsider to shake things up. Michael Crowley’s 08 is hardly the first book to prevent a news-styled piece of graphic non-fiction, but it certainly is a member of a far rarer breed than one might reasonably expect.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Art Spiegelman Pt 5 [of 5]

Categories:  Interviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

In much the same way that that old stock faux-intellectual question of “what is art” played a major role in earlier installments of our conversation with Art Spiegelman, much of this fifth and final part of our interview delves into the concept of unintentional fictionalization.

It’s a key concept, to be sure, given the artist’s role at the forefront of the autobiography of movement in independent comics, a role best personified by books like Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers, and to a degree, in certain selections from his newly revamped anthology of early work, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!.

Spiegelman argues, I think accurately, there’s essentially no such thing as complete non-fiction, especially in the incredibly subjective world of autobiography, a concept he illustrates using a powerful example from Maus.

In this final part, we also discuss what made Spiegelman leave The New Yorker, the birth of Raw, why he isn’t an “artist’s artist,” and what role, if any, he played in that now infamous Obama cover.

[Part One][Part Two][Part Three][Part Four][Heeb Feature]
Read the rest of this entry »

Election 2008: An Interview with Tim Kreider

Categories:  Features, Interviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

For hundreds of years, editorial cartooning has played a role central to the political process, criticizing, lampooning, and generally bringing down a peg those who have chosen to place themselves on soapboxes. The medium has proven itself an ideal format for those subject matters we’ve otherwise had difficultly expressing by other means.

We’re two days away from what many on all sides of the political divide have deemed the most important election of their lifetime, and while we’re not quite at the finish line looking back, we’ve certainly experienced enough over the past ten months to give us a fitting picture of how the majority of the 2008 presidential election has played out. The time seemed opportune to speak with a veteran political cartoonist about the ways in which the race has played out on their end—a state of the union of sorts for editorial cartooning.

When I put the call out suggested interviewees (thanks, Twitter), the majority of responses turned to Tim Kreider. Kreider has been producing his weekly strip, The Pain—When Will it End, since 1997. About three years into the process, said pain turned external, and the artist’s work shifted its focus toward the political, a move which soon consumed his work, transforming him, for better or worse, into a full-fledged political cartoonist.

Kreider’s work has since been anthologized as two books by Fantagraphics: The Pain—When will it End and Why do They Kill Me? Recently, the artist announced plans to end the publication of  his weekly strip in its current form, early next year.

We spoke to Kreider about the state of editorial cartooning in 2008, the role of equal time, and what precisely his proposed retirement means.

Read the rest of this entry »

Interview: Keith Knight

Categories:  Features, Interviews
Tags: , ,

[Full strip here.]

For those with even a passing knowledge of sequential art’s long and colorful past, the concept of using comics to tackle complicated issues is hardly a recent occurrence.

From the early political cartoons of the 19th century, to contemporary graphic novels like Maus, Fun Home, and Persepolis, comics have long proven an incredibly effective platform for channeling and confronting the fears and pain that we’ve oft struggled so hard which with to come to grips.

The events of recent years, however, we have also borne witness to the seemingly infinite amounts of vitriol they’re capable of producing, from the lampooning of the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper to a New Yorker cover boiling down nearly every kooky fear of Barack Obama. For both better and worse, there’s something inherent in the relative simplicity of the medium that’s capable of encapsulating our deepest emotions with a few quick pen strokes.

Like images, words too are capable of taking on far more weight than their simple letters seem capable of holding. The idea that a single word can encapsulate hundreds of years of pain and oppression in two syllables is, on it’s surface, a seemingly absurd notion, but words, when saddled with enough baggage, can evoke a more visceral reaction than any simple combination of letters seemingly has any right.

Given the fact that Keith Knight managed to incorporate one of the most loaded words in the English language into a recent political strip not once, but twice, it perhaps shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that it manage to elicit a major outcry amongst students at Montclair State University, whose paper syndicates the artist’s weekly strip, The K Chronicles.

The strip in question, titled “Stories From the Campaign Trail,” is based on the real experience of one Obama canvasser. It’s funny and sad and even slightly—but just slightly—hopeful, all at once. It’s an important acknowledgement of something so deeply engrained in our collective American psyche, something that, try as we might to ignore or forget, will never go away if we continually refuse to address it.

Knight’s strip correctly points out the strange ways in which Obama historical campaign has brought these issues to the surface.

Surely most of us who read the strip don’t imagine Knight to be a defender of the word (Knight actually, cleverly never spells it out in his entirety, nor did he describe it as anything but “the ‘n’ word,” when speaking with me). The intense reaction on the part of some readers, at least to some degree, seems to be the product of a desire to keep these issues buried, where some believe they belong.

Or, perhaps some don’t feel that cartoons are the proper medium in which to address them. When Knight told me, “so many people expect their comic strip to be Garfield,” he meant it less as a shot at the oft-maligned strip than as an assertion that, even in a post-Maus age, where an artist like Kyle Baker can have a hit with a comic based on the life of Nat Turner, the concept of taking comics seriously is still an alien  to many people.

In the wake of the aforementioned strip, and the subsequent fallout, we sat down with Knight for a quick chat about race and the power of words and pictures.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Cross Hatch Dispatch 08/05/08

Categories:  The Cross Hatch Dispatch
Tags: , , , , ,

[Above, absence in book form. Below, filling in the Dispatch void.]

Read the rest of this entry »