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Joe Sacco

Biography

( back )

Joe Sacco's comics are entirely unique in the field. No one else writes and draws international political reportage in a comic book format. His books are amazing glimpses into the complex issues of global politics that never lose sight of the everyday people who live in states of war. The fact that they are comic books makes them only more remarkable.

Joe was born in Malta, October 2nd, 1960. He moved around the world to Australia, before settling in Los Angeles in 1972. As a child he vividly remembers buying war comics and Mad magazine 1950s reprints. He studied at the University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in journalism in 1981. That same year he received his first rejection slip from RAW that noted his strip had "almost been published" (see Chester Brown’s bio for a similar tale).

Joe continued to travel extensively in the 1980s living in Europe and Malta where he worked as a cartoonist, an editor and an arts news editor for various comics presses, including The Comics Journal.

Joe traveled to the middle east for the first time in 1992 and came away from Israel and the occupied territories with the material that would make up his groundbreaking 2-aprt comic book series Palestine (1995, Fantagraphics). Nothing like Palestine had ever been seen before. An accessible, thoughtful, and moving book of Middle East political journalism was hard enough. Joe had achieved all this through the innovative use of the dynamic medium of comics. Sacco was the recipient of the prestigious American Book Award in 1996 for "Palestine".

In 1995, just prior to the Dayton Peace Accord, Sacco traveled to Sarajevo and its surrounding areas. There he began his book Safe Area: Gorazde (2000, Fantagraphics), a staggering and fierce condemnation of the political impotence and badly planned UN operations during the Bosnian conflict. He continues to travel and write about the situation in Bosnia. He has an infrequent series called Stories from Bosnia with D&Q and the fall 2002 book The Fixer, a remarkable story about how people subsist in a state of war, by finding the last thing left to sell: They sell their stories to western journalists like Sacco.
Joe’s work has been exhibited at art galleries and universities around the world, and he has lectured on political conflict, journalism, and the art of comics.

Joe lives all over the world, chasing news stories.

"Sacco survives by making friends and living in the same conditions as those he covers. This gives his work a kind of street-level grit and insight, and it also makes it hard to romanticize the people he writes about...His drawings are stark, realistic visionsof the gray, depressing world of a land mangled by artillery shells and deformed by poverty." --Chris Hedges, New York Times


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