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The Guardian maps the rise of graphic novels, mentioning Chris Ware, Raymond Briggs, and Joe Sacco

Updated January 16, 2013


The graphic novel's spectacular rise: from kids' comics to the Costa prize
Cartoonists Joff Winterhart and Mary Talbot gain accolades that once would have seemed like a pipe dream
Becky Barnicoat
The Guardian, Friday 23 November 2012

Sitting alone in his box room, Pritt-Sticking speech bubbles on to panels drawn in disposable fountain pen, Joff Winterhart did not dream of literary fame and glory. The 38-year-old community artist from Bristol was out of work and filling his time with a project that might turn into an animation, might turn into a book, definitely wouldn't turn into a literary classic. "I kept thinking about what bad reviews it would get if it was ever published," he said. "I thought people would say it was extremely amateurish."

In the end, it turned into a 75-page comic book, Days of the Bagnold Summer, about a mother and her teenage son, and this week it was one of two graphic novels nominated for a Costa book award alongside Mary Talbot's biography of James Joyce's daughter, Dotter of her Father's Eyes. They are the first graphic novels nominated for the Costa. Against all odds, Winterhart had made literary history.

Just over 20 years ago, this sort of accolade would have seemed like a loopy pipe dream to most cartoonists. The literary establishment felt comics were for spotty kids who dreamed of being superheroes. Right-thinking adults may have guiltily re-read Tintin, or enjoyed Posy Simmonds in the Guardian and Steve Bell's political lampoonings, but comics weren't literature.

A comic book about the Holocaust starring mice changed that. Art Spiegelman's Maus, a graphic memoir about his relationship with his Holocaust-survivor father published in full in 1991, was a critical hit and in 1992 Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer prize. "Art Spiegelman doesn't draw comics," proclaimed the New York Times in its rapturous 1991 review. "Maus … is a serious form of pictorial literature."

Pictorial literature was born. Then graphic novels, then sequential art, then graphic memoirs. All seemed more palatable than plain old comic books, which critics still couldn't quite get their heads around. "The success of Maus was something of a false dawn," said comics historian Paul Gravett. "The comics industry thought mainstream publishers were finally going to wake up to comic books, but it didn't happen. Publishers didn't know how to market them."

Instead, there was a gradual creep. In 1998, the publishing director of Jonathan Cape, Dan Franklin, was given a manuscript by his children's division. "They said, we don't think this is for children, do you want to publish it?" he said. The book was Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs, a heartbreaking graphic memoir about the author's parents. It sold 200,000 copies. "It gave me a rather distorted view of how well comic books might do," said Franklin, "but I fell in love with the form."

Jonathan Cape began publishing a select list of comic books each year. In 2001, Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth won the Guardian first book award. "Chris Ware was a watershed," said Franklin. "Suddenly, people were talking about it. Comics had gone overground." Cape has since published some of the most respected comics of the past decade: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi about her life in Iran, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel about her secretly gay father, and Palestine, a long-form work of comics reportage by Joe Sacco.

In 2005, Faber & Faber began regularly publishing comics, and, Franklin said, there are now numerous independent publishers such as SelfMadeHero and Blank Slate "doing really, really wonderful stuff." Slowly, steadily, the comic book had cast off its superhero costume, climbed off the kids' shelf, and nestled in among the heavyweights.

But while Franklin agreed the market is growing, comic books are costly investments. Jonathan Cape publishes about 10 a year, Faber & Faber publishes two or three. "Money isn't remotely the same for comics artists as regular book authors – it's terrible," said Franklin. "They are often printed full colour, and the economics doesn't allow for a huge advance to the author." Angus Cargill, who publishes comics at Faber, says it would not be possible to greatly expand his list. "In publishing you either do loads and hope that one or two hit, or you try to find the best ones and make them count. The production costs, the time, and the fact that the comics market is smaller means we choose the second course."

Publishers are still surprised by the growing success of comics. Franklin "thought it was a joke," when he heard two Cape titles had been nominated for the Costa, and Cargill admitted the company underestimated how well author Craig Thompson's new comic Habibi would do. The 672-page love story based on a Middle Eastern fable was a huge seller. "We had to reprint it three times," he said. "There are 25,000 copies in print. Much more than we anticipated." He agreed the Costa nominations are a huge deal for comics. "It will encourage people to read books they wouldn't have done otherwise, and make places like Waterstones much more aware as well."

The director of the Costa awards, Bud McLintock, laughs off the suggestion that this year's nominations are tokenism: "The judges aren't in touch with each other, so it is just an amazing coincidence. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I heard. Graphic novels must be in the zeitgeist."

Author Wendy Holden, a judge in the best novel category for which Winterhart is nominated, thinks it's more than just zeitgeist. She was already a fan of the work of Posy Simmonds and Bryan Talbot (Mary Talbot's husband, and the illustrator of Dotter in Her Father's Eyes) so finding a comic book in her pile didn't seem strange. "I picked Days of the Bagnold Summer simply because I liked it," she said. "It was clearly one of the very best books I had read. When I heard it was the first time a graphic novel had been nominated I was surprised. To me it seems obvious that graphic novels should be considered for literary awards."
 
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware
Raymond Briggs

          



  The Guardian asks LYNDA BARRY about CHRIS WARE

Updated July 14, 2011


Six leading graphic novelists choose their favourite peer

Peter Kuper on Robert Crumb
I was 11 or 12, growing up in Cleveland when I visited [comic-book artist] Harvey Pekar's apartment - I only knocked on his door because his paper boy said he was some guy who had comics. He kindly showed me his record collection and then pulled out a full colour original drawn by Robert Crumb. This beautiful colour pencil art showed a large cartoon character whistling while he urinated into a toilet with flies buzzing around him. It blew my mind - I had no idea that cartoon characters could have genitals!
I met Crumb a few years after I saw that drawing. He showed me his sketchbook, and I sat there looking at it for hours. I got a sketchbook and started drawing. He demonstrated that comics could address anything you wanted and pointed me in that direction.
There is a level of honesty in Crumb's work that scares, intrigues and outrages people. There are few corners of his psyche or subjects that comment on our society he hasn't shone a spotlight on. Crumb does what he does, regardless of audience response. There are very few artists who take that chance and yet are so effective.
One of the things that makes Crumb's art so accessible is its clarity. Lots of the 1960s underground cartoonists experimented with comics in many wonderful ways. Crumb generally worked in a simpler panel-to-panel format that was about character and story more than about bending the medium. He also tapped into the history of turn-of-the century comic strips such as Popeye and Krazy Kat, as well as the roots of jazz and other aspects of Americana, which felt completely fresh and yet very familiar. He managed to bring these influences to a wider public, and be both loved and hated. He ignored both reactions, and has kept drawing and inspiring new generations.

Bryan Talbot on Joe Sacco
I have many favourite graphic novelists, as diverse as Posy Simmonds, Jeff Smith, Robert Crumb and Hannah Berry, but I think I'll have to plump for Joe Sacco. He was trained as a journalist and singlehandedly created the genre of reportage in graphic-novel form. Immersing himself in a situation, his in-depth reports use the medium of sequential art - like "graphic novel", the word "comics" is such a misnomer - to its full advantage, using the mix of illustration and text to convey complex issues very directly. His books, such as Palestine, Safe Area Gora?de or his recent Footnotes in Gaza, follow his investigations and interviews, explaining the history, politics and dynamics of the situation as he goes along. The palpable sense of place and the feeling that we're personally in the presence of the people who relate their experiences to him (and us) is a testament to his storytelling skills; his work is far more intimate than that of a filmed documentary. Comics have many superficial similarities to film - the use of long shots, closeup, zooms and pans, for example - but, filtered through the perception and artistry of their authors, they are much closer to prose in the way they transmit a personal vision. Joe Sacco is a master of this medium.

Posy Simmonds on Jacques Tardi
Jacques Tardi's work is brilliantly designed and graphically immaculate, drawn in the "clear line" style, but a line that is relaxed, inventive and personal like handwriting. He's a master of black and white, and colour. His book C'était la Guerre des Tranchées (It Was the War of the Trenches) is a compassionate and meticulously researched story about patriotism and disillusion in the first world war.

Ariel Schrag on Gabrielle Bell
I've always been inspired by Gabrielle Bell's work. It's very experimental in that she uses a lot of different forms - diary comments, fiction, topical stuff. She brings in autobiography, even some science fiction. She also experiments with different mediums: colour, black and white. One of the things I like most about her is her knack for the peculiarities of dialogue. She has a really good sense of picking up on some of the weird things you might say. She is very good at characters and human relationships, and is interesting on artists' role in society. I have seen her working, and she goes through a lot of revisions. It shows how much reworking can get it to a better place.

Martin Rowson on Joe Sacco
Although Art Spiegelman's Maus [about the Holocaust] is a work of incredible importance, I think it gave the entire genre a bum steer. It then got into this terrible kind of introspective, personal, adolescent angstiness. All this "you have to be serious about this because it's a serious art form": well, it is and it isn't. Therefore, discovering Joe Sacco was a liberation. Here is somebody who is using the medium as journalism and reportage. It's taking the best bits of the underground comics of the 60s - the radicalism - with the personal immersion you got with Spiegelman. It's an extraordinarily powerful way of telling a story - a true one in this case. The fact that he places himself in the heart of it makes it gonzo journalism turned into a graphic novel, although it's not really a graphic novel, it's a sort of visual journalism. In one of his books, there is a double-page spread of a crossroads in a refugee camp in Gaza, seen from about 30ft up in the air, and it's a beautiful piece of artwork.
The whole point of the medium is that it's meant to be immediate because you consume images much more quickly than you consume text. It has to have a visceral effect, and as reportage, art and sequential visual narrative, his work is just brilliant.

Lynda Barry on Chris Ware
Chris Ware is an American cartoonist whose work is so unusual that some hesitate to call what he is doing "comics". When I read his work, I get a Wright brothers feeling of being in something big, right as it's being invented. Eventually we will know what to call what he does, but for now "graphic novel" is all we have. And it isn't the right term for what Ware is doing at all. You can see through to the middle of the heartbreaking things in his work and know why this medium is the only way to say it.
Some think what is happening in his work might be literature, and they think this is a compliment. There are books about how to read comics in a serious way as if they were literature; how to take them apart to find out what makes them go. If you do this with Chris Ware's comics, you'll find the complicated structure you've been told is there, but you'll miss everything else. Looking at a diagram of an airplane is not the same as being able to glide in one.
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware
Gabrielle Bell

          



CBR features JOE SACCO as one of their necessary authors!

Updated June 9, 2011


Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium's most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.
This month we're examining the bibliography of one of the more interesting and significant cartoonists to come out of the alt-comix movement of the 1980s and '90s, Joe Sacco.
Why he's important
There's not many cartoonists in this day and age who can actually say they invented an entirely new genre virtually from scratch. Sacco can. Oh, sure, there were cartoonists poking at the idea of comics journalism before Sacco (most notably Spain), but it wasn't until Palestine that the idea of using comics as a form of journalism - to relay information and tell important, human-interest stories about events happening around the world, came to the fore. Few have followed Sacco down his chosen path - perhaps out of a fear of putting oneself on the front line - but the fact is you can draw a direct line from works like Safe Area Gorazde to recent books like How to Understand Israel in 60 Days, AD: After the Deluge and even Ward Sutton's book reviews. Sacco made it OK for cartoonists to explore nonfiction (that wasn't necessarily autobiographical).
The novelty of Sacco's particular niche tends to obscure some of his rather significant qualities as an artist and storyteller. He's an endlessly inventive cartoonist, capable of creating incredible detailed vistas that give readers a definitive sense of place and time. He's capable of moving from near-photo-like realism to a Basil Wolverton-ish exaggeration that can perfectly capture, say, a sweaty, crowded night club. In short, he's an amazingly gifted craftsman, one of the best people making comics out there today.
Where to start
Safe Area Gorazde, Sacco's story about a small, mostly Muslim town that somehow managed to survive the Bosnian War despite being surrounded by Serb forces, was the book that finally broke Sacco out into the wider public (and helped kick-start the graphic novel boom). It arguably remains Sacco's best work to date (though some may cite his latest, Footnotes in Gaza, as a contendor; more on that in a minute) and is the best starting point for any newcomer. The good news is that Fantagraphics has just released a Special Edition of the book, featuring reference photos, essays, updates on the people Sacco chronicles and more. Fanta has done a good job filling their Special Edition books with choice extras, so I'd say it's probably worth ponying up the extra scratch for this version.
From there you should read

The Fixer and Other Stories
The Fixer and Other Stories is a good next stop on our journey, as it continues Sacco's examination of the Bosnian War with a trio of compelling stores: the title tale, about a former soldier who helps correspondents find the headline-grabbing news they want; Soba, about a warrior-poet soldier who finds it difficult to adjust to peacetime; and the brilliant Christmas With Karadzic, wherein he and other reporters go out on a desperate attempt to meet and interview a known war criminal.
Safe Area Gorazde was the book that won Sacco national attention, but it was Palestine that first pointed the way towards what could be done by mixing comics and journalism together. As the title suggests, Sacco makes no bones about where he stands on the Mideast debate, and while he takes care to not present the Israelis as devils or the Palestinians as saints, there are no doubt those who will balk at anything that even suggests that Israel is unjustified in their use of force. It's not as strong a book as Safe Area - you can sense the author getting a feel for which tone the material should take, starting with an exaggerated self-deprecation before settling down into a more straightforward serious vibe. Again, I'd recommend going with the Special Edition version, which contains a number of lovely extras like sketchbook samples.
If anything Footnotes in Gaza, Sacco's most recent book is even angrier than Palestine in tone, though it's far from a polemic. Covering two barely mulled-over events from 1956, he draws deep connections between the injustices committed more than fifty years ago and the abuses heaped on the people living in the Gaza Strip today, detailing a shameful legacy. It's nothing less than a tour de force, as Sacco weaves effortlessly back and forth between the past and present and relays countless stories almost lost to the ages.
Further reading

But I Like It
When he doesn't have his reporter's cap on, Sacco likes to indulge in his cartoony, satirical side, a fact most evident in But I Like It a compendium of rock-oriented, mostly humorous strips, the most notable being In the Company of Long Hair, which recounts Sacco's adventures as a roadie and t-shirt seller for the punk rock band the Miracle Workers during their European tour. There's also a self-depricating essay on his love affair with the Rolling Stones, some funny one-page gags about the state of the music industry circa 1991, and some early poster art, not to mention a CD of the Miracle Workers live in concert.
Notes From a Defeatist collects all the material from Sacco's Fantagraphics-published pamphlet series, Yahoo, including In the Company of Long Hair. Despite that repetition, the book is worth getting, mainly for such pieces as the excellent More Women, More Children, More Quickly, about his Mother's harrowing experiences in Malta during World War II , and How I Loved the War, a chronicle of his obsession with the first Gulf War. Both stories point the way towards the more serious, political comics he would eventually produce.
Ancillary material
Sacco contributed a powerful story of female refugees entitled Chechen War, Chechen Women, in the Mia Kirshner-edited project I Live Here. In fact, Sacco's done a number of compelling stories for a variety of magazines, most of which have yet to be collected in one volume. Here's hoping that changes soon.
Sacco was also a regular collaborator with Harvey Pekar on Pekar's American Splendor series, a sampling of which you can get via the Music Comics collection from Dark Horse.
Folks who want to hear about Sacco's personal history and read what he has to say on various comics and journalism related topics should check out a very nice interview with Sacco in the Comics Journal Special Edition Winter 2002. I understand there's also a notable interview with him in the upcoming Comics Journal Issue #301.
Avoid
I don't know that I'd say you should necessarily avoid this book, but Spotlight on the Genius That Is Joe Sacco, a 57-page one shot collecting his early, early work (mostly culled from the pages of anthologies like Weirdo) is definitely not the place for newcomers to begin, as the focus is on more slapstick and satirical material, particularly on the vagaries of the corporate, work-a-day world. It's not Sacco's best work, certainly, and the fact that some stories are repeated in Notes From A Defeatist make it only that much less essential. Save it for when you've indulged in everything else he's done and still want more.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured products

The Fixer
War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96
The Fixer And Other Stories




  Guy Delisle, Joe Sacco and Chester Brown in BC Local News

Updated March 25, 2009


GOOD READ: These pictures are worth much more than a thousand words


The Tri-City News


Text
Published: March 24, 2009 10:00 AM
Updated: March 24, 2009 10:41 AM

By Jason Colantonio

Graphic novels are all the rage among young readers but non-fiction, particularly history and current events, told through the graphic novel format is gaining ground.

Popular notions of comic books are that they are light and, well, comic. But the following graphic non-fiction titles show that they are suitable to a wide range of real world topics, including history, current events and biography.

Art Spiegelman, early on, explored the comic book’s non-fiction potential in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, an anthropomorphic recount of the Holocaust, and in his post-9/11 work In the Shadow of No Towers. Maus (originally published in 1973) and its sequel Maus II (1986) were later compiled into one book. The story is of Spiegelman’s father’s life as a Holocaust survivor as well as of his own troubled relationship with his father.

In the Shadow of No Towers (published in 2004) is a large format board book with pages arranged like those of a newspaper. Spiegelman, through the use of drawings taken from news images, his own memory of 9/11, Cold War propaganda and turn-of-the-20th century comic strips, effectively captures the surreal and frightening political and psychological landscape of life during and after the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Both of Spiegelman’s books remain powerful examinations of their respective historical events.

Safe Area: Gorazde (set in Bosnia, 1992 to ’95) and Palestine, both by Joe Sacco, tell of the horrific conflicts in both regions. Sacco’s style is journalistic, the points-of-view on both side of each conflict are examined through the characters portrayed; Sacco himself appears in both books, observing and taking notes. Safe Area and Palestine also provide some historical background to the events shown and make good study material for those seeking to know more about them.

Originally from Quebec City, globetrotting animator Guy Delisle has published three award-winning graphic travelogues: Pyongyang: A Journey to North Korea; Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China; and Burma Chronicles. Each of these features the animator/narrator teaching animation and comic-strip skills to students in these countries and, along the way, dealing with culture shock with a good dose of humour and pathos. The best thing about these books is that, as Delisle learns about his host countries’ political cultures and social norms through everyday interactions, so do we.

The Complete Persepolis combines the two autobiographical volumes written and drawn by Marjane Satrapi, who was born and grew up in Iran during the 1979 revolution and its aftermath. In Persepolis, Satrapi struggles to define herself and her relationship with her family, friends and authority figures in home country as well as abroad when her parents send her to school in Austria at the age of 14. The second half of the story has Satrapi returning home at 18 to settle down but ultimately to resolve past issues before deciding to move again six years later, having found some inner balance between traditional and modern attitudes. Persepolis was later made into an animated film (produced by Satrapi) that won the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize.

Chester Brown’s moving four-part Canadian history epic Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography, like Delisle’s books, is drawn in a style reminiscent of Herge’s Tintin series, although he suggests in his introduction that his main influence was Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie. As the story of the rebellions at the Red River settlement in 1869 and in the Northwest Territories in 1885 unfolds, we are introduced to a large cast of supporting characters, including prime ministers John A. Macdonald and Alexander Mackenzie, George Stephen, the first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and Cree chiefs Big Bear and Poundmaker. We know how the story ends, nevertheless, the impact of the last scene is heartbreaking.

Ho Che Anderson’s King: A Comics Biography of Martin Luther King Jr. is stylized in the manner of a TV docudrama with an almost non-linear narrative (e.g. flashbacks). Told mostly from King’s point of view, King zeroes in on his early life, his entering the ministry and becoming a civil rights leader during the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-’56, his founding of the civil rights organization the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement and the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike during which King was assassinated. All the while, the story contrasts King the person with King the media image to create a fresh, new take on one of the major social movement leaders of the 20th century.

The Big Book of the 70s, part of Paradox Press’ Factoid Big Book series, is a compilation of vignettes about that decade of excess and identity crisis each drawn by a different artist in a different style. The narrator, Biff Lothario, appears in the first and last chapters as well as in a few in between. A variety of social, political and cultural events and trends are covered: Watergate, the oil crisis, TV programs such as The Brady Bunch and The Gong Show, disco music, the Bay City Rollers, Skylab and punk rock among them. The Big Book of the 70s manages to alternate between serious and humourous, all the while providing a fascinating panorama of a much-mythologized era.

Check these and other graphic non-fiction books out of your local library today.

A Good Read is a column by Tri-City librarians that is published every Wednesday. Jason Colantonio works at Coquitlam Public Library.


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Sacco
Guy Delisle

          



RUTU MODAN interviewed by Joe Sacco

Updated February 21, 2008


An Interview with Rutu Modan (excerpt)
Written by Joe Sacco
Friday, 15 February 2008

American followers of alternative comics probably first became aware of Rutu Modan with the publication in 1999 of Jet Lag, an Eisner-nominated anthology of work by the comics collective Actus Tragicus, founded by Modan with fellow Israeli Yirmi Pinkus. She had already been recognized as a national treasure in her home country, having been named the Young Artist of the Year by the Israel Minister of Culture in 1997. She went on to win four Best Illustrated Children's Book Awards in Israel, and today, at age 41, there's no denying that Modan has fulfilled her early promise with the publication in 2007 of Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly), a graphic novel of crystal-clear cartooning that transforms current events — turbulence in the Middle East, suicide bombings — into an intimate tale of human longing, self-deception and resilience.

Numbered among her fans is award-winning comics journalist Joe Sacco (Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde), who seemed like the ideal person to talk to Modan about the intersection between cartooning and reality in the Middle East. Luckily, both were able to find the time in their busy schedules to make this interview happen.
— MD

I conducted this interview with Rutu Modan (who is currently living in Sheffield, Great Britain with her husband and two children) by e-mail. Full disclosure: I wrote a favorable blurb for Modan's book Exit Wounds before being asked to do this interview; I agreed to interview Modan because I believe Exit Wounds is a truly remarkable, insightful work of comics that deserves significant attention.
— JS

Joe Sacco:
Exit Wounds is your first book-length comic. If you don't mind my simplifying the plot, it's about a somewhat awkward young woman, Numi, who believes the unidentified victim of a suicide bombing is her elderly lover, Gabriel. She tracks down Gabriel's estranged son, Koby, and he reluctantly gets involved in her effort to prove the body is Gabriel's. This certainly seems like the sort of story that could be based on a real incident. Was it?

Rutu Modan:
The main plot is based on an actual event, a body that was destroyed in a terror attack on a bus. This has happened before, unfortunately, but this time no one claimed the body. It seems it was a body of someone no one missed. A wonderful documentary was done on this event (No. 17 by David Ofek). The director tried to find the identity of the body. I saw the film and it was so strong. We would like to think that if we disappeared at least someone would notice — a relative, a neighbor, at least the vendor at our local shop. Although I've not experienced a terror attack myself, it was happening a lot around me a few years ago, and it did affect my everyday life and feelings. But sudden, brutal deaths are actually around all of us, anywhere, anytime, not just in Israel. (Every death feels sudden and brutal, even those called "natural.") I tried to describe this in Exit Wounds, and not just the dramatic side of it, but also the matter-of-factness of death and the everyday aspect of it.

Another experience contributed to the plot: Many years ago I dated a guy, and he did not call me afterwards. After a week, I came to the conclusion this guy must be dead: Why else didn't he call me? I could not think of any other reason. Worried, I called him — he was perfectly all right. (Now I can be happy about it.) That gave me the idea of this girl who prefers to believe her lover was killed rather than thinking he abandoned her.

The characters, the love story, everything is invented, but I did use a lot of events, anecdotes that happened to me or people I know. For example, when Koby goes to his father's apartment (his childhood home) after it was sold, the new owner tells him about the flea-market people who emptied the place. I based that on my own experience after my parents had died. I was there when the flea-market people came, so I could identify with Koby's emotions about the experience. Or the relationship between Numi and her mother: That's based on a friend I had in my childhood. Her mother was a very beautiful woman who married a short, bald millionaire, and my friend looked more like her father (though she wasn't bald). Her mother couldn't stand it. She made her life miserable. She forced her to have a nose job when she was 16 and a few years later made her marry her first boyfriend. The mother convinced her daughter that no one would be interested in her besides him. Actually, I had to reduce the abuse from reality for the story. Numi is not really my friend from school. But using her history made it easier to give Numi a feeling of a real person (to me and hopefully to the reader).

Exit Wounds is also a rather grim portrayal of a society almost inured to violence. Suicide attacks are discussed without much emotion or sympathy for the victims. The forensics people make jokes and in one scene a family member who retrieves the body of a loved one is particularly callous.

When the reality around you is so complicated or too frightening, people tend to detach themselves from it. We cannot live our lives fearing what's going to happen next; we have to protect ourselves. Ignoring it is one way. Macabre humor is another. It is like a shield you build around yourself. The problem is this shield becomes part of your personality eventually. You can't take it on and off like a shirt. Koby, who was hurt by his father, by the death of his mother, by living in such a violent country, becomes an untouchable person. He fears getting close to people. As an opposite to him, there is this girl, Numi. Maybe because she is younger, she lets herself be more vulnerable, which is dangerous but also, I believe, rewarding in the end.

What's interesting, too, is Palestinians are never even mentioned. It's as if the attacks have become such a part of life that their context is no longer of interest. Am I on the right track? How much of this jibes with your own experience?

I know it seems strange that the Palestinians are not mentioned in the story. You are right. Israelis prefer not to think about the context of the terror. For most of them the Palestinians are those bad people living far away who try to kill Israelis just for the fun of it. (The common belief is that "they are crazy.") It is too complicated to think of the context (the context depends on who you ask) and depressing, too. At the time of the Oslo agreement, things were different. Israelis had hope and were more willing to be politically active. There was a feeling that peace was near. Since the Second Intifada and the assassination of Rabin, people lost hope in finding a solution or at least understanding the political situation. So they refer to it as if it were some bad destiny that you just try to live with somehow with as little contact as your fortune allows. This is a very sad and dangerous situation. It is also not so comfortable to think about the context. It is difficult for us (Israelis) to stop seeing ourselves as the innocent victims, a role that we love so much and are such experts at being. (To be just, I will mention that historically we are not completely responsible for becoming such experts in being the ultimate victims.) We would have to see that we have responsibility, and then we would feel that we should — God forbid — do something about it! No, we much prefer to go and have coffee with friends, or do some comics.

Forgetting the context is very human. For example, when a beggar asks for some change many people think — "Why can't he work like I do?" — and keep going, ignoring him. They don't think of the whole economic system that put this man on the street. Having said that, it is strange how much Israelis ignore thinking about the Palestinians and the Palestinian problem. There are huge political forces that make sure to detach Palestinians and Arabs from the Jewish Israeli population. It is amazing that in such a small area, where 20 percent of the population are Arabs (not including the occupied areas) — and without any laws [causing] it — there is a complete separation between the societies. Mixed marriages are rare. We live in different cities and areas. You can live your whole life and not have one single acquaintance, not to mention friend, who is Arab.

In Exit Wounds I tried to reflect this reality, not explain it or say what I think should be — just to show it. As Susan Sontag once said: Art should tell truth not opinions.

Is there a Hebrew-language edition of Exit Wounds?

I am ashamed to say there is still not a Hebrew edition and it is completely my fault. The book was commissioned by Drawn & Quarterly, therefore, even though I wrote the script in Hebrew and had it translated (which was done wonderfully by Noah Stollman), I "made the drawing in English" — which means from left to right. Hebrew, like Japanese, is read from right to left. For the Hebrew edition I have to flip all the pages. That wouldn't be such trouble if I didn't make my main character a taxi driver. If I flip the pages he drives on the wrong side. In a realistic story that takes place in Israel, I think it could be quite irritating for the readers. And I have 150 frames where Koby drives his taxi! I have to draw many frames again, and it is quite boring to do so. For me this project is finished, and it is difficult to go back to it.

What's been the reaction to it in Israel? The book seems to scratch at a number of Israel's sore spots.

There is an Israeli publisher for Exit Wounds and probably, hopefully, the Hebrew edition will be published sometime next year. I hope it will be well received, but I do know that when people are close to the subject they can tend to be more critical.
 
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  3 D+Q titles reviewed on Student Traveler

Updated May 16, 2006


Readings from the Road: Three Graphic Novels Draw Readers into the World's Worst Places

Article by Alexander Provan


Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
(Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95)
The first time Guy Delisle sees the giant sea turtle drifting back and forth in the diminutive aquarium in the lobby of his Pyongyang hotel, he hardly notices it. The second time he draws the scene in Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Deslisle has just returned from watching a uniformed woman screaming through a megaphone to encourage the construction workers at an opera house in a country where there is barely any food or electricity, much less opera. This time, it garners a full page: From within the bowels of the darkened lobby, the turtle appears as flotsam in a chamber meant to sustain its life, but without purpose, and only for as long as that life can be totally controlled. In one of the last frames of the graphic novel, after saying goodbye to his guides and translators, Delisle turns around and offers the same confounded wave to the turtle in its cage.

The turtles cage refers to The Aquariums of Pyongyang, by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot, which recounts the ten-year imprisonment of Kang and his family in the Yodok gulag. But in Pyongyang, 40-year-old Quebecer Deslisle's first graphic novel in English, the characters are not prisoners as such. They are the citizens of Pyongyang with whom the author is allowed to interact on his two-month stint as supervisor foreign capitalist at a French animation studio utilizing cheap North Korean labor, and they drift back and forth from one darkened city street to another, from one truth to the next, creating a din of human activity that only serves to point up the stultifying absence of humanity.

Alienation is the subject not the typical alienation of travel but the alienation produced by a total lack of understanding of a culture, coupled with the gnawing feeling that this can't be real: Someone has to crack. But in Pyongyang, no one ever does. In his occasional efforts to coax the turtles into recognizing the circumstances of their captivity, the most subversive remark is an admission from one young man that the North Korean propaganda films shown to the animators as a special treat are boring.



War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995?96
(Drawn & Quarterly, $14.95)
While Pyongyang searches for evidence of humanity, Joe Sacco's War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995?96 is seething with it. Sacco is best known for Palestine, an acclaimed account of the last days of the first intifada, and his other works include Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95 and The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo. Taken as a whole, his oeuvre represents one of the most exciting developments in contemporary war reporting the placement of the ugliest conflicts within familiar places and among familiar faces, the humanization of war.

Soba, the title character of the first profile in War's End, is a hard-partying twentysomething artist, musician, and land-mine planter a local legend in his own right. The scenes change from a bar to the front lines, from a moment of moribund introspection to a dream of making a porno flick about Hegel, from an amputation to a wild dance party. Even amid the growing sense of the conflict's futility, Soba says, if you are in the mood, if you're dancing, everybody sees that there's somebody making an atmosphere, and people join you. We're really fighting for some kind of normal life.

In Christmas with Karadzic, Sacco joins two Sarajevan radio journalists pursuing Milosevic's No. 2 man on the morning of Orthodox Christmas. The Serbian war criminal appears at a small-town church to attend services, and the two journalists are ecstatic to score a brief interview. While they celebrate, Sacco stands in front of the man responsible for the murder of thousands and can see only a modern-day Eichmann. Even when pitted against the raucous humanity of Sarajevo's club scene, forever scarred by Karadzic's fighters, the evil of war cannot be reduced to the hulking body, dreary eyes, and pristine suit of one man.



Baghdad Journal
(Drawn & Quarterly, $34.95)
Fast-forward to the present day, and a conflict whose victims are still being buried, a place as tumultuous as Pyongyang is staid Iraq. Artist Steve Mumford made three trips to Iraq between 2003 and 2004 to record the occupation through sobering, realistic drawings and watercolor paintings. The resulting images and written account of his experiences are collected in Baghdad Journal .

Mumford nonchalantly places the absurdity of life during wartime on parade across pages of interrogations and midnight raids, crowded markets and Iraqi painters in their studios, soldiers sleeping in tents and sheiks congregating in mosques from stasis to sensation, without much sense of equivalence. These are, he writes, the spaces in between the bombs.

Baghdad Journal doesn't get to the bottom of things as much as it shows that, in the middle of a war in which the fog is still too dense for the figures to be sharply limned, there is no bottom. You can only know a war as much as you can know a place and its people: in Baghdad, as in Pyongyang, there is much to see but little to know.
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Guy Delisle
Steve Mumford

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Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (hardcover)




SPIEGELMAN and SACCO on controversial comics

Updated February 22, 2006


THE NATION - March 6, 2006 issue

editorial

Only Pictures?
oe Sacco & Art Spiegelman

What do American cartoon artists make of the worldwide protests ignited by the Muhammad cartoons published by the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten? The Nation's Sam Graham-Felsen posed a few questions by phone to two whose work we hold in great esteem: Joe Sacco, a Maltese-American, the author of Palestine and War's End, and Art Spiegelman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus and In the Shadow of No Towers.

What was your initial reaction to the controversy?

SACCO: My initial reaction was, "What a bunch of idiots those Danes were for printing those things." Did they not think that there was going to be some
sort of backlash? Cartoons like that are simply meant as a provocation.

To me the bigger context is that there are segments of the Muslim population around the world that have been pummeled with other images, like Abu Ghraib, that are also offensive. And you also have to see this in the context of how some Muslims around the world are viewing the actions of the US or allies of the US, for example Israel. You add all these things into the mix, and it's just another thing, another part of this ridiculous war that is being forced on people, that is supposed to be about a "clash of civilizations."

SPIEGELMAN: I have spent a lot of time soul searching and still come out on the same side of the equation. If there's a right to make cartoons, there has to be a right to insult, and if there's no right to make cartoons, well, I'm in big trouble. And I think America might be too.

Now that the images are out there, do the media have a responsibility to reprint them, or is it enough to describe them?

SACCO: Well frankly, I'd say it's enough to just describe them. Putting the cartoon itself out--what's the value of it? An editor, working in the real
world, has to balance a number of things. There is a value in showing people what the fuss is all about, but the impact might be violent, and an editor does have to think about those things. I think most American editors have handled it pretty well.

SPIEGELMAN: This notion that the images can just be described leaves me firmly on the side of showing images. The banal quality of the cartoons that gave insult is hard to believe until they are seen. We live in a culture where images rule, and it's as big a divide as the secular/religious divide--the picture/word divide.

The public has been infantilized by the press. It's escalated to the point where it's moot whether one should reprint these pictures or not because now to do it puts you firmly on the side of the libeler, the defamer. And yet, it seems to me that to write about this without access to the pictures is an absurdity. The answer to speech, in my religion, is more speech, a lot of yakking--and a lot of drawing. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, very often it requires 2,000 words more to talk about the picture, but you can't replace that thousand words with another thousand words.

If The Nation and the New York Times had simply said, "We're scared shitless," I could take that. I'm not only a cartoonist--I'm a physical coward.

What is it about images, as opposed to words, that seems to spark so much offense?

SACCO: It's a very pointed medium. In a split second you get it like a sledgehammer. That is the power of an editorial cartoon. I do not work in editorial cartoons; I do comic books. But in editorial cartoons, the idea is that one picture is going to give you the whole story--or not the whole story, actually, but reduce it down to some sort of essence, leaving aside context. It just gets to the heart of it, gets to a punch line. And I think there is an inherent power in the immediacy of an image.

SPIEGELMAN: Cartoons have a kind of acidic potency for clarifying a situation because they're reductive. It also seems to me that cartoons are defamatory by nature. One can mitigate the defamation by trying to indicate subtleties, you know, and often that ends up making it very difficult to make a cartoon at all. If anything, I think the cartoons have gotten too damn polite in America over the last decades. The cartoons have to be gag cartoons instead of emblematizations and essentializations of situations, which is what they used to be. When one manages to do that, it usually gets someone upset.

Will this controversy cause cartoonists and graphic artists to self-censor their work more frequently?

SACCO: No. I think maybe the idiot cartoonist should feel a need to be a little more self-censoring, when it comes down to it, but a thinking
cartoonist weighs what he or she is doing. Frankly, I don't give a damn about these Danish cartoons. In the end, yes, there is a principle about the freedom of expression that concerns me, but I'm always sorry to have to rush to the defense of idiots.

Should this controversy really be framed as an issue of freedom of speech?

SACCO: All societies have their taboos. Are these editorial cartoonists going to rush to the defense of anti-Semitic cartoons? I doubt it, frankly. There are countries in the so-called West--Germany, Austria--where depiction of Nazi imagery is against the law, and even doing a Hitler salute--you
could be imprisoned for something like that. It's a hot time on this planet, and tempers are going to flare, and people are going to get hurt with these
sorts of things. Freedom of the press, or the idea that you can depict anything--we simply don't subscribe to that when it comes down to it. I
mean, child porn is not allowed. There are certain barriers or borders we all sort of agree, or most of us agree, where you are taking things too far.
I personally don't necessarily think that attacking a religion is taking it too far, or even working within the imagery of religion to attack it. But you have to judge each instance, and what it means.

SPIEGELMAN: There has to be a right to insult. You can't always have polite discourse. Where I've had to do my soul-searching is articulating how I feel
about the anti-Semitic cartoons that keep coming out of government-supported newspapers in Syria and beyond. And, basically, I am insulted. But so what? These visual insults are the symptom of the problem rather than the cause.

In 1897 politicians in New York State tried to make it a major offense to publish unflattering caricatures of politicians. They were part of a Tweed-like machine who didn't like insulting drawings published of themselves, so they spent months trying to get a bill passed and to make it
punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

What happened?

SPIEGELMAN: It got killed. We have this thing called the First Amendment that was in better shape, maybe, then than now.



 
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  8-page Joe Sacco piece in the UK Guardian!

Updated January 24, 2006


follow the link to view the PDF
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Best of 2005: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated January 16, 2006


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Best Books of 2005 Survey

Headline: GRAPHIC LITERATURE
Publish Date: Sunday, 12/4/2005
Sections: A&E
Editions: Third Edition
Page: F8

Body Text:

[D&Q mentions]

Walt and Skeezix: Book One by Frank King
(Drawn & Quarterly, 424 pages, $29.95).

Lovingly designed by Chris Ware, with a lengthy biographical essay by Jeet Heer, this is the first volume in a planned series encompassing all 50 years of King's epic run on "Gasoline Alley." The book introduces the title characters, the endearingly plump auto mechanic and his foundling child, and begins a family saga in which time realistically passes and characters age. King's ravishing Sunday pages -- which will be featured in separate volumes -- are more formally inventive, but the gentle humor and observational skill of the daily strips offer their own special rewards.

War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96 by Joe Sacco
(Drawn & Quarterly, 80 pages, $14.95).

A welcome supplement to Sacco's "Safe Area Gorazde" and "The Fixer," this volume collects two more extraordinary pieces of graphic journalism from the Bosnian war: "Soba," an extended profile of a musician caught in the conflict, and "Christmas With Karadzic," an anecdotal account of a brief encounter with the Serbian strongman. Sacco displays his usual reporting skill, and his artwork is especially remarkable, employing his familiar obsessive cross-hatching in "Soba" but using a lovely gray-toned wash in "Christmas."
 

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Joe Sacco
Frank King

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Walt and Skeezix: 1921-1922 (Volume One)
War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96




  WALT & SKEEZIX and WAR'S END in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Updated December 13, 2005


St. Louis Post-Dispatch
A&E
GRAPHIC LITERATURE
4 December 2005

Walt and Skeezix: Book One by Frank King (Drawn & Quarterly, 424 pages, $29.95).

Lovingly designed by Chris Ware, with a lengthy biographical essay by Jeet Heer, this is the first volume in a planned series encompassing all 50 years of King's epic run on "Gasoline Alley." The book introduces the title characters, the endearingly plump auto mechanic and his foundling child, and begins a family saga in which time realistically passes and characters age. King's ravishing Sunday pages -- which will be featured in separate volumes -- are more formally inventive, but the gentle humor and observational skill of the daily strips offer their own special rewards.

War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96 by Joe Sacco (Drawn & Quarterly, 80 pages, $14.95).

A welcome supplement to Sacco's "Safe Area Gorazde" and "The Fixer," this volume collects two more extraordinary pieces of graphic journalism from the Bosnian war: "Soba," an extended profile of a musician caught in the conflict, and "Christmas With Karadzic," an anecdotal account of a brief encounter with the Serbian strongman. Sacco displays his usual reporting skill, and his artwork is especially remarkable, employing his familiar obsessive cross-hatching in "Soba" but using a lovely gray-toned wash in "Christmas."


Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Frank King

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Walt and Skeezix: 1921-1922 (Volume One)
War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96




JOE SACCO featured in The Oregonian

Updated November 7, 2005


Sunday Features
A Joe Sacco Reader

The Oregonian
23 October 2005

"War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96" (2005, Drawn & Quarterly, $14.95) -- In this two-story collection, Sacco explores characters from two very different sides of the war. Sacco's first piece, a profile of a young artist who worked with land mines during the Bosnian conflict, is a poignant exploration of the ways war ages the young. And it gives Sacco a chance to explore some of his favorite artistic territory: crowded, frenetic cafes and rock clubs, where everything looks as loud as it must have sounded. In the second story, Sacco tears around the countryside with two other journalists, looking for wanted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Sacco manages to poke fun at himself and the whole news business in the process, but he also offers a thoughtful, nuanced portrait of how normal real evil can look.

"The Fixer: A Story From Sarajevo" (2003, Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95) -- Sacco returns to Bosnia, this time to Sarajevo, to try to make sense of his complex relationship with a shady character named Nevin, who served as Sacco's -- and many other journalists' -- "fixer" during the Balkan conflict. Sacco skillfully weaves the story of his own questions of moral compromise with the moral compromise of the Bosnian government, which came to depend on warlords, gangsters and questionable characters such as Nevin to help defend the countryside during the war.

"Notes From a Defeatist" (2003, Fantagraphics Books, $19.95) -- This collection of Sacco's early work offers a good sense of his development as a cartoonist and his increasing interest in combining the form with journalism. The book highlights a number of Sacco's humor pieces ("Oliver Limpdingle's Search for Love . . ."), but there's also some moody stuff in here, too. In "More Women, More Children, More Quickly," Sacco documents his mother's experiences as bombs fell on Malta during World War II. Check out the amazing, insane, arresting hatch-work of "A Disgusting Experience." And look for one of my favorite pages of Sacco's, from "How I Loved the War," a perfect visual rendering of heartbreak and the increasingly overwhelming feelings of sadness and obsession that come with it.

"Palestine" (2001, Fantagraphics, $24.95) -- For two months, in the winter of 1991-92, Sacco spent time in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reporting on what life was like there from the Palestinian perspective. The work is a complex, warts-and-all look at the roots of hate and violence and Sacco's attempt to make sense of the contradictions of the conflict. It marked his first large-scale work of comics journalism.

"Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95" (2000, Fantagraphics, $19.95) -- Sacco visited the town of Gorazde, in eastern Bosnia, four times in late 1995 and early 1996. Throughout eastern Bosnia, Serb forces had attacked and "cleansed" towns and villages of Muslim residents with a horrifying fervor. But in Gorazde, somehow, they had managed to survive. Sacco's work is a moving look at "a town's near-death," he writes in his introduction, as well as "a town's first steps in the direction of the living."

-- Inara Verzemnieks
 

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The Fixer
War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96




  JOE SACCO profile in THE OREGONIAN

Updated October 25, 2005


Drawn to the truth

Joe Sacco proves that a cartoonist can deal with war in Bosnia and the Middle East with a clear eye and a steady hand

Sunday, October 23, 2005

INARA VERZEMNIEKS
The Oregonian

Joe Sacco would rather meet at night, after he's put in a few good hours of work. The fewer distractions he has during the day, the better. He jokes that sometimes he wonders whether he should physically chain himself to his desk.

He's already two years into his latest book, with only, oh, two, three years to go . . . So, he'd rather not meet for coffee, if that's OK. He'd much rather meet for a drink. A real drink. Preferably Jameson's neat, with a hardpack of Silk Cuts -- "I don't smoke, except for Silk Cuts" -- on hand. You can't get them in the States anymore, so he picks some up whenever he travels. (Thank you, Duty Free.)

He travels a lot. Iraq. The Gaza Strip. Ingushetia. Bosnia.

There's a part of him that's "a little restless," he admits. But he also knows that he works better when he's settled.

And so, here he is in Portland, trying to stay put. Trying to minimize the distractions. Because a lot of people are looking forward to what Joe Sacco does next.

Some people refer to Sacco as the pioneer of a form called comics journalism -- painstaking, on-the-ground reporting, rendered in comic book form. Through the years, he has taken on the first intefadeh as seen through the eyes of Palestinians. He has told the stories of Muslims and Serbs coming to terms with the horrors of war in the Balkans.

And the accolades piled up. Enough for 20 book jackets. "The moral draughtsman," wrote Christopher Hitchens. . . . "The best dramatic evocation of the Bosnian catastrophe," wrote David Rieff in The New York Times. . . . "Sacco is formidably talented," wrote the Independent.

At one point, Sacco joked to me that he thought he might be one of the most written-about cartoonists around. I told him I didn't think it was a joke; I had slogged through hundreds of pages of reviews and interviews devoted to his work.

Now, for his latest book, Sacco, 45, has returned to the Gaza Strip, to the Palestinian refugee camp of Rafah, not only to describe what life is like there today, but also to re-create a single traumatic event that happened one day in 1956 that resonates still.

"I'm taking one of thousands of incidents that are lost in our history," he says, between sips of Jameson's, one night, sitting in a dimly lit booth at the back of the Space Room in Southeast Portland, not far from his home. "It's a way of spotlighting that; it's a way of saying, 'Look at this thing that you read one line about in a book, yet it has a huge effect on people's lives.' "

He doesn't want to say too much more than that about the book, not because he's trying to be coy, I decide, watching him through a parenthesis of smoke, but because he's still trying to sort it all out in his head, because he likes to speak very precisely about things. His thoughts tend to spill out in complete sentences, no ums or pauses, ever, and this is still a little unwieldy for him.

To call Sacco meticulous would be an understatement.

He seems to favor natty blazers paired with jeans as a kind of uniform. His work area, which he assured me was a hopeless mess, is in fact, an incredibly ordered space, full of perfectly aligned reference books and CDs. The only obvious disorder is a small tangle of papers off to one side of his desk. Files of photographs taken of the places he has visited and people he has interviewed sit nearby, carefully grouped under headings such as "Market Place Rafah" and cross-referenced against pages of notes and interview transcripts, which are filed in plastic containers beneath his desk. An illustrated book called "The Israeli Army in the Middle East Wars -- 1948 to 1973" lies near the window.

On one wall hangs a framed print of Pieter Bruegel the Elder's "The Triumph of Death," a densely structured allegory of the horrors of war, in which nearly every square inch of the canvas tells a story of its own. "I like work that's heavily detailed," Sacco said.

His own work, in fact, is so scrupulously detailed that other cartoonists I spoke to remarked on it. In an industry known for being labor-intensive, Sacco's methods stand out.

"Joe is almost fanatical about the way he draws," said cartoonist Jessica Abel, who created the comic "Artbabe," and who has done comics journalism work herself (though compared to Sacco, "what I do is fluffy," she quickly pointed out). "All that hatching!"

Craig Thompson, author of the 592-page graphic novel "Blankets," and a good friend of Sacco's, told me he once heard Sacco say that when he draws crowds of people, he cannot bring himself to draw a generic face on anyone. So he takes the time to give each person a unique expression, "which is a bit insane at times," Thompson said good-naturedly, and he laughed.

Sacco's books, which have ranged from a little more than 100 to nearly 300 pages, generally take a few months to report and several years to draw. His goal is to complete two pages every five days.

There have been times when he thought about altering his style, Sacco said, specifically because it is so labor-intensive, but then he realized, "That's what comes out of my hand."

Sacco was born in Malta but moved with his family to Australia when he was still a baby.

This seems like a good place to turn some of the story over to him:

In Australia, Sacco's parents formed friendships with other European immigrants, many of whom had lived through World War II, and they often shared stories of their experiences whenever they got together. "It was always in the air," Sacco said. "It was sort of a common currency. The idea of war, of conflict wasn't that distant for me. It didn't feel like something that couldn't happen. Just listening to those stories got me interested in people's stories, in a way."

When Sacco was 11, the family moved to the U.S., eventually settling in Oregon. Sacco, who attended Sunset High School, had been drawing since he was about 6. "It was never drawing for drawing's sake," he said. "I always wanted a story attached." But he didn't think of it as a career.

In fact, he took a journalism class in high school, and "it was love at first paragraph," he said. He went on to study journalism at the University of Oregon and had visions of one day working for a major daily newspaper, perhaps as an overseas correspondent. But after graduation, he found that jobs were hard to come by, and after a series of unsatisfying reporting experiences, including a stint with the journal of the National Notary Association, he basically gave up the idea.

He never stopped drawing comics, however, and eventually began to look for ways to publish his work. It was slow going, but gradually, through trial and error and lots of rejections, Sacco said, he began to figure out what worked and started to make "a weak living."

Much of his early work consisted of humor pieces and autobiographical stories. Cartoonist Peter Bagge, a friend of Sacco's for the past 20 years, told me that said he misses Sacco's more humorous work. People tend to think Sacco is deadly serious given what he writes about now, Bagge said, but "he's a really funny guy. He has an incredibly irreverent sense of humor. . . . He's actually alarmed friends and family of mine because he was so wacky. . . ." (Don't worry, I won't tell them about Bagge's daughter's Spice Girls dolls, Joe.)

Some of the articles that have been written about Sacco make his decision to combine journalism and comics sound like some sort of epiphany, a revelation that came out of the blue, but in truth, if you look at Sacco's work over time, it's clear that he had been working around the edges of the idea of how to incorporate the tenets of journalistic storytelling into the comics form for quite a while.

In one early comic book, Sacco chronicled his adventures on tour with a rock band, complete with direct quotes that he had scribbled down. In another, he reconstructed his mother's experiences on Malta during World War II, based on interviews he had conducted with her.

The big shift, though, came in 1991, when, while living in Berlin, Sacco decided to visit the Middle East to see for himself what life was like for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and then create a comic based on his experiences.

He scraped together $1,500 and spent two months there, taking notes, traveling, lingering in people's homes. He left only because he ran out of money. The resulting work, "Palestine," went on to win the American Book Award.

Something had clicked for Sacco.

Two weeks after he finished "Palestine," he was off to Bosnia.

One of the things that's so interesting about Sacco's work is the way he uses all the traditional tools of a reporter -- he takes copious notes, records interviews, keeps journals in the field that number in the hundreds of pages, snaps photographs and visits national libraries and archives for visual references -- to produce something that looks so unlike traditional journalism.

Something that comes up a lot in discussions of Sacco's work is how cinematic it feels.

"He can make you feel like you're moving through it, almost like a film," says cartoonist Abel. But unlike film, Sacco's work allows you to stop and linger, to live in each panel if you choose.

Like this page:

There's an immediacy, an intimacy to the work that also seems to come from the subjects that Sacco chooses for his stories. He tends to focus on ordinary people, and how they try to get on with their everyday lives despite the chaos around them, not on spokesmen or military officials. There are lots of scenes of people sitting on couches, talking, drinking coffee or tea, often carrying on about nothing that has to do with war. Girls pining over a pair of Levi's, young people flirting. It's the kind of mundane detail that likely wouldn't merit a line in a traditional daily news story, but it's what makes the horrors that come all the more real and terrible. Real horror always erupts against a backdrop of the banal.

Sacco had told me that he really likes to hang out in bars and cafes, "places where you can get something cheap to eat and drink," partly because that's where he could afford to go, and partly because, he says, "That's who I am. . . . You tend to meet a certain kind of person in those places -- people without power. They make up the majority of people who are run over by history."

While other journalists are holed up in the Holiday Inn, he's staying in people's homes, sleeping on their couches, sharing their meals. On one of his trips to Rafah, he rented a home in the refugee camp and lived there for two months.

And while Sacco is respectful of his subjects, he's never fawning. The faces in his books are unflinchingly drawn, with dark circles under their eyes, premature wrinkles, snaggled teeth, lank hair, paunchy bellies. Sacco told me once that the only movie that really inspired him visually was Sergio Leone's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," which he saw in high school.

"It was the close-ups," he said. "The focus on the ugliest features of a face, the way people sweat -- everything was grimy," and the influence is obvious in his work. "I doubt I could draw a really beautiful woman," he said. "I'm hopeless that way."

Sacco's subjects are sympathetically human, but never saintly. In "Palestine," he doesn't back away from presenting Palestinians spouting anti-Semitic comments. He doesn't romanticize.

Sacco doesn't take himself out of his stories, either. He is part of the narrative, there in the frames, exposing himself as human, too. ("So, what do you do around here for fun?" he asks a young woman from Gorazde, Bosnia, as an icebreaker." I don't have fun," she says. "OK! Scratch that opening!" Sacco writes.)

It's an interesting technique, the journalistic version of showing the math: letting readers know just who is telling the story, where he's coming from, what he's thinking and feeling, how the story is affecting him, how he affects the story. And in that way, Sacco's work seems to come a bit closer to the truth than an account told from a detached, omniscient point of view, one that washes out all sense of the storyteller.

That's the larger philosophical question hanging over any journalist's work, and one that reporters, particularly features writers, spend a great deal of time thinking about: How best to represent reality, when in the end it's your version of reality? It's a tricky thing. No matter how you assemble the facts, no matter what tone you choose, no matter the lengths you go to take yourself out of a story, you're still there. Everything, after all, is still being filtered through you.

Newspaper journalists, for the most part, have tried to resolve all this by simply not addressing it, by pretending they aren't there, at least in their writing. But the question still lingers.

What's interesting about Sacco's work is that he's come up with a creative visual solution that addresses all these issues, simply and directly, in a way that words can't. By drawing himself into his stories, Sacco is "revealing to the reader this is one person's interpretation of the events," he says. "The reader's seeing it through my eyes. A person can look at what I'm saying and judge whether he or she believes in my account, and they also can get a sense of my political leanings, which I think are pretty obvious if you read my work."

Sacco doesn't have much use for what he calls "standard American objective journalism," and he is unapologetic about taking a point of view in his work. (When I brought up that some people have criticized "Palestine" for not examining the Israeli point of view equally, that the very idea of telling things from the Palestinian point of view makes some people incredibly angry, he responded simply: "I am covering one side, but I feel I'm being honest and fair. I have every confidence in my work. I have every confidence in my own two eyes. I could care less what they think." )

In a way, Sacco told me, "I ended up being a journalist, accidentally, that I couldn't have been at an American paper."

When he was younger, Sacco said, only a few minutes would pass between the time he woke up, washed his face and got to drawing. For years, he has lived in service to his work.

Eric Reynolds, who works for Fantagraphics Books in Seattle, which has published much of Sacco's work, said that Sacco pursued his first two books of comics journalism "at great expense to his quality of life. . . . He was living below the poverty line, and he did that for 10 years, finding ways to go to these places on zero budget whatsoever."

At first, not many people seemed interested in what he was doing. "Palestine," initially published as a nine-issue comic book, "was one of the worst-selling comic books we've ever published," Reynolds said.

It's hard to imagine what that must have felt like, after devoting years to a project that Sacco obviously cared a great deal about ("I'm not going to pick up and go to every place where a bullet flies," he said. "It's what hits me in the gut"). But Sacco turned right around and did it all over again, scraping up the money to go to Bosnia by selling original artwork from one of his earlier comic books. "I felt compelled," he said.

It wasn't until his account of that trip, "Safe Area Gorazde," was published in 2000, that Sacco's work really began to take off. "Palestine," collected in a single volume a year later, is now in its 12th printing. "It's our second-best-selling book of all-time," Reynolds said.

Time and The New York Times Magazine are among the publications that have tapped Sacco for comics journalism work since then. Not long ago, the Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom sent him to Iraq, where he was embedded with American troops.

Up in his work area one night, two partially finished pages from his new book resting on his desk, Sacco said that while he considers himself both a journalist and a cartoonist, "If I had to put something on my tombstone, it would be cartoonist," he said, "because I don't think I'm going to be doing this forever."

He wouldn't mind doing some fictional work, he said. Or nonfiction work that wasn't journalistic.

"I keep telling myself this is the last big book I'm going to do," he said. He looked tired. He had drawn most of the day, but years of work were still looming ahead of him.

Not far from him hung a framed photograph of some children posing on a hillside overlooking a desolate camp in the middle of a vast desert. It was taken outside the Khan Younis refugee camp in 1956, and Sacco found it in the United Nations' archives in Gaza City while doing research for his latest book. He was so struck by it -- the bleakness of the camp, yet how happy the children looked -- he asked them to make a print for him.

Sacco was quiet for a few seconds. Then he said finally, "But I think in a few years, there will be something else that pulls me."

When it was time for me to go, Sacco, who has impeccable manners, made a point to walk me out to the porch. He shook my hand and watched as I walked down to my car in the dark.

As I was about to get in, he yelled from the stairs: "Make me look good!"

And that made me laugh. And he laughed. But there was a flash of vulnerability there, too.

All I could think as I drove home was: I wish I could draw. Because somehow, that image of him, which I still have in my mind, standing on that big porch, all alone, yelling, laughing, (quietly fretting) in the dark, says it so much better than I ever could.

Inara Verzemnieks: 503-221-8201; inarav@news.oregonian.com


©2005 The Oregonian
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GRAPHIC NOVEL AND COMICS SPOTLIGHT - DELISLE, SACCO, TATSUMI

Updated September 8, 2005


GRAPHIC NOVEL AND COMICS SPOTLIGHT

A 2005 Special from the editors of KIRKUS REVIEWS


Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
by Guy Delisle
September 2005 / ISBN: 1896597890

A Canadian native and inhabitant of France for the last decade, graphic novelist Guy Delisle has just published his first work in English, the story of the two months he spent working on an animation series in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kirkus called it “brilliant, passionately rendered reportage” with “no ideological axe to grind,” a pretty tough feat, given the grimly surreal Orwellian nightmare that Delisle encountered. Delisle’s knack for highlighting the peculiar details of everyday life in the somnolent capital city—the extravagant impracticality of the luxurious subway stations, cities without nighttime lights, the empty restaurants serving nothing, Kim Jong Il’s childlike visage beaming down from every possible surface—is balanced by a warm affection for his Korean guides and coworkers. Delisle renders the brutal realities of living (even temporarily) under this repressive dictatorship with a keen sense of humor, which, as comics journalist
Sean T. Collins points out, means the reader “can’t help but be moved that he’s one of the few people in the country who has the luxury of laughing.”


War’s End: Profiles From Bosnia
1995-96 by Joe Sacco
June 2005 / ISBN: 1896597920

While other writers were redefining the genre by exploring interior landscapes or bringing new soul to old action archetypes, Sacco was practically creating the sub-genre of graphic journalism with his paradigm-busting nonfiction warzone books Safe Area Gorazde and Palestine. Drawn & Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros says that not only is Sacco the only person “doing this kind of work in graphic form,” but he also “brings an intimacy to the subjects that may otherwise be lacking in other mediums.” In War’s End, Sacco adapts a pair of stories from his reporting on the Bosnian conflict that didn’t fit into Gorazde and uses them as an extended coda to that sad and vicious work. In “Soba,” Sacco is led through the post-apocalyptic party that is Sarajevo after the war by a veteran soldier turned underground rock god, while “Christmas with Karadzic” follows Sacco and two other journalists racing to cover the infamous war criminal going to church, expecting a meeting with the devil himself and finding only anti-climatic banality. As Kirkus noted, “This is not a book about war, but rather about how people live with themselves in what passes for the peace that follows.”


The Push Man and Other
Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Edited, designed, and with an introduction by Adrian Tomine
September 2005
ISBN: 1896597858

After suffering more than four decades of obscurity among North American audiences, Tatsumi is destined to become one of the better-known icons of alternative comics on this side of the Pacific. The Push Man, edited and designed by acclaimed American cartoonist Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve), is the first of a promised series of annual volumes that will chronicle the sometimes-sinister, sometimes-teamy, sometimes-comical work of one of Japan’s underground comics pioneers. This first volume, featuring stories originally published in 1969, reveals Tatsumi doing what he does best: examining what Tomine describes as “faces in a crowd, seemingly plucked at random and then examined down to their darkest, most private moments.” Readers might be surprised to find elements of manga enmeshed in Tatsumi’s noir sensibility. “Manga has been written off as trite ’tween reading,” says Logan Bay, of Quimby’s Comic Emporium in Chicago. “This is the kind of comic that will bring Japanese graphic novels out of the fan boy slums.” According to Drawn & Quarterly publicist Peggy Burns, “The Push
Man presents Japanese cartooning on an adult, literary level alongside North American masters such as the Hernandez Brothers, Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware.”
 

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Guy Delisle
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

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War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96
The Push Man & Other Stories
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (hardcover)




  WAR'S END in the Montreal Review of Books

Updated August 29, 2005


War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96
By Joe Sacco
$19.95
Cloth 80 pp.
Drawn & Quarterly 1-896597-92-0

Reviewed by Ian McGillis

Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde was an epic graphic novel that provided a better sense of the war in Yugoslavia than any amount of earnest journalism could have. War’s End is smaller in both scale and focus but no less intense, consisting of two short sections. “Christmas with Karadzic” recounts the efforts of a group of war-weary foreign journalists to score an interview with the notorious Bosnian Serb leader. “Sabo” shows us the unguarded side of the warrior/artist/musician who became the international face of Sarajevo’s resistance in the darkest days of the siege. As the war draws to a close, Sabo and his community of fellow survivors, all damaged to varying degrees, are left to decompress and deal with the fallout. Sacco’s innovative use of panels and text boxes is perfectly suited to conveying both the physical realities of war and the interior states – defiant, despairing, numb, and exultant – of his characters.
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JOE SACCO'S WARS END reviewed in Georgetown Voice

Updated August 29, 2005


Georgetown Voice - Leisure
Issue: 8/25/05

War journalism in black and white

By Sonia Smith
War correspondent Joe Sacco uses a very unconventional medium to examine how the effects of war linger after the fighting ends: graphic nonfiction.


In Sacco's new War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-1998, the inked minarets of Sarajevo's shelled mosques reach upwards, defiantly peeking out behind the socialist high rises.

In his meticulously drawn panels accompanied by insightful text, Sacco deftly captures moments more conventional correspondents lack the will or access to describe. He successfully reports the little things; he shows the idleness pervading the lives of Sarajevo's residents as they wait for the return of both running water and, someday, normalcy.

In the book's two profiles, Sacco covers an artist-warrior's grubby nights out among Sarajevo's youth in "Soba" and the morally ambiguous trip he took with two American radio correspondents to interview a war criminal in "Christmas with Karadzic."

Soba, with his brows locked in a permanent furrow, lets Sacco accompany him to his neighborhood bar, where he often heads after a day spent removing landmines and planting new ones. As Nirvana and German metal waft through the speakers, Sacco notes that Soba treats the bar like the front, strategically positioning himself next to his interests (which are often female).

As both an artist and a soldier, Soba laments to Sacco that the countless foreign correspondents combing the capital have repeatedly used him for their cliche "youth-in-Sarajevo" profiles.

Sacco humanizes Soba, who remains conflicted about the war and its personal implications for him. The international attention that the war has garnered for local artists means Soba finally has the opportunity to exhibit his artwork abroad and to study in Italy. When presented with this chance, however, Soba remains wary of becoming "just another refugee from Bosnia."

After the peace accords are signed, Soba stays around, performing in his rock band to a local audience with discriminating taste. The sadness he carries somehow matters less in Sarajevo, where among his shattered peers he can continue to be himself. "People think we have nothing here. They think Sarajevo is the end of the world, but it is exactly the opposite," he muses.

Sacco himself only appears in a few panels in the first tale, but is integral to the second. In "Christmas" he chronicles a Christmas-day trip he took to attend church services alongside Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Serbs, a man who remains one of the most wanted men in the world today.

After receiving a tip about where ex-communist Karadzic will be celebrating Christmas, the correspondents flash their press credentials liberally as they fly through checkpoints on the way to the church. The NBC radio stringer hangs his microphone out the car window on the way, hoping to record Kalashnikov fire along with the peals of the bells.

Sacco quietly laments his own guilt at not feeling anger or hatred when in the room with Karadzic, a man who has been accused of the slaughter of almost 10,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croats.

"I feel nothing intimidating about his presence, nothing extraordinary about this man indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for crimes against humanity, a man I have despised with all my heart for years," he says.

His reservations about not turning such a man in are artfully juxtaposed with the other journalists' unabashed glee at getting their exclusive interview.

Sacco succeeds best where he says little, letting his vivid pictures speak for themselves. On the whole, the lines in "Christmas" are smoother, the drawings less stark, speaking to the journalists' temporary existence in the war zone. International attention will shift and they will leave, but the war will stay with ordinary residents like Soba, indelibly etched on their existence.

War's End is Sacco's third work of "cartoon journalism." He previously chronicled the destruction in the Balkans in 1998's Safe Zone Gorazde. Edward Said wrote the introduction for Palestine, Sacco's two-volume novel based on his extensive travel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1996.

 
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  Graphic Novels in LA TIMES

Updated August 18, 2005


STYLE & CULTURE; summer books; Whether you're looking to break a sweat with some heavy lifting of the nonfiction kind or lie back with breezier beach-worthy prose, the 'endless' season promises a seemingly infinite array of options.

David L. Ulin
Special to The Times
Los Angeles Times

5 June 2005

When I was a kid, I considered it the height of luxury to lie on the couch in the living room with a stack of comic books and while away a summer afternoon. It's not that I was a comics geek; I just loved the idea of reading that wasn't, somehow, authorized. Back in the early 1970s, the term "graphic novel" hadn't been invented yet, and one of the appeals of comics was that they stood outside accepted culture.

Thirty years later, comics have become part of the mainstream, a quintessentially American popular art. This summer brings some particularly vivid examples of the genre, beginning with Will Eisner's "The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion," a work of "graphic history" completed not long before the artist's death in January, which takes apart the anti-Semitic hoax "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in a direct and accessible way.

"Ghost World" creator Daniel Clowes is back with "Ice Haven," a graphic novel inspired, alternately, by Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and the murder case of Leopold and Loeb. Then, there's Joe Sacco's "War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-1996," a bit of unorthodox war reportage that uses comics to explore both sides of the Balkan conflict. Sacco may not be as well known as Eisner or Clowes but, like them, he consistently pushes the boundaries of the form.

So much good fiction is due out between now and Labor Day that it's hard to know where to start. Let's look, then, to a local favorite: In August, Aimee Bender will publish "Willful Creatures," her first book of short stories since "The Girl in the Flammable Skirt." Bender is something of a ubiquitous presence this summer, with work in both "The Modern Jewish Girl's Guide to Guilt" -- a collection of essays edited by Los Angeles writer Ruth Andrew Ellenson and featuring Daphne Merkin, Gina Nahai and Rebecca Goldstein -- and "The Secret Society of Demolition Writers," an anthology in which none of the contributors, who include Alice Sebold, Michael Connelly and the book's editor, Marc Parent, have put bylines on their stories, in an experiment to test the freedom anonymity brings.

Speaking of local writers, Lisa Glatt has her own volume of short fiction, "The Apple's Bruise"; Lisa See's fourth novel, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," looks at female friendship and devotion in 19th century China; and in "God Jr.," Dennis Cooper takes us inside the head of a man trying to cope with a car crash in which his teenage son has died.

Of all the summer's novels, perhaps none arrives as eagerly anticipated as "No Country for Old Men," Cormac McCarthy's long-awaited follow-up to "The Border Trilogy." Christopher Sorrentino's "Trance" takes the Patty Hearst story and reinvents it, using the saga of the heiress' final months with the Symbionese Liberation Army to expose the mythic underbelly of 1970s America.

In "Until I Find You," John Irving tells the story of an actor desperate to reconnect with his elusive childhood, while Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down" offers a black comic take on suicide, on what happens when you hit the point of no return.

Death also transfigures John Berger's "Here Is Where We Meet," a lapidary work that blends fiction and memoir, past and present, to explore the intricacies of memory and time. "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana," by Umberto Eco, addresses similar issues, but with a different affect: Here, a sixtysomething book dealer finds himself with a case of selective amnesia, in which he can recall every word he's ever read but nothing of his life.

Jill Ciment's "The Tattoo Artist" traffics in its own sense of loss and reclamation, portraying an American painter who is discovered on a South Pacific island 30 years after she was thought to have disappeared. And with "Specimen Days," Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham takes a look at art's power to redeem us, creating a multilayered novel built around lines from Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and unfolding across three centuries.

The transformative qualities of art mark this summer's nonfiction as well. Steven G. Kellman's "Redemption" is the first full-scale biography of Henry Roth, whose 1934 novel "Call It Sleep" was followed by nearly 60 years of writer's block until, late in life, he reappeared with the epic "Mercy of a Rude Stream." In "The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa," New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman cites artists from Pierre Bonnard to Yoko Ono, arguing that art is not just stimulating but necessary to understand our place in the world.

Speaking of our place in the world, William Brittain-Catlin's "Offshore: The Dark Side of the Global Economy" presents a potent critique of globalization, exposing how corporations hide money in foreign tax shelters, leaving the citizenry holding the bag. This is hardly what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they espoused American independence; in fact, it's exactly the type of thing they were rebelling against. In "1776," David McCullough traces the first year of the rebellion, reminding us that history is never inevitable, while highlighting the role of personality and circumstance in the development of the American nation-state.

Closer to home, Andrew C. Isenberg's "Mining California: An Ecological History" looks at the environmental effects of the Gold Rush, in which literally tons of mercury were washed into California's rivers, while Samantha Dunn's "Faith in Carlos Gomez: A Memoir of Salsa, Sex, and Salvation" recounts the author's unexpected infatuation with salsa culture, in the fluid landscape of contemporary Los Angeles.

For Dunn, salsa is a vehicle of discovery, a way to reimagine herself. The same idea inspires Michael Ogden and Chris Day's "2DO Before I Die: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to the Rest of Your Life," which gathers 100 accounts of life-altering events, with tips on how to make our desires real. Of course, no book evokes the tension between desire and experience as deftly as Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain," published in 1924, and newly reissued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the author's death.

"The Magic Mountain" is one of the great novels of the 20th century, a stunning mix of realism and allegory in which an alpine sanatorium becomes a metaphor for Europe in the years before World War I. For Mann, humanity can't help existing between substance and spirit, but if that's the cause of our troubles, it's a source of hope as well. Or, as he writes: "And out of the worldwide festival of death, this ugly rutting fever that inflames the rainy evening sky all around -- will love someday rise up out of this, too?"

Copyright 2005 The Los Angeles Times

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JOE SACCO in Toronto Star

Updated August 18, 2005


Books

PEN & INK; Joe Sacco has built a global reputation on his astoundingly powerful tales from the world's war zones. A hardcover edition of two comics from the end of the Bosnian conflict displays his reach, says Ho Che Anderson.


PEN & INK
Ho Che Anderson
3 July 2005
The Toronto Star



There were once people called war artists. They had names like Harris and Colville and Leroux, just to mention a few - all of them built, perhaps only by necessity, just a little hardier than most of us are today. They got into uniform and sometimes fought on a battlefield and when it was over they took out brush and canvas and painted what they saw.

One man in the process of reclaiming that mantle is Joe Sacco. I know not whether our Joe ever donned fatigues and kicked righteous ass for his country, but I have no doubt he has seen and felt the effects of war.

Sacco, a native of Malta but a world traveller of the first order, has been a player in the realm of politically charged comics journalism, a genre he practically pioneered, since the early '90s release of Palestine, a series that looked at the Middle East conflict through the prism of the cartoonist's on-the-scene reporting. Winner of the 1996 American Book Award, critics lined up to praise Sacco for the quality of his research and insightful handling of issues rarely understood by the casual Western observer.

Just the same, it took the 2000 release of his 240-page, throat-slitting epic, Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, to make Sacco's reputation. This time he was on the streets of Gorazde, a small Bosnian Muslim enclave, relating survivors' stories and first-hand experience, a first-person tour of hell. Then it was The Fixer (2003), about a soldier turned combat tour guide for journalists. Sacco's latest is a dual portrait of life after the Bosnian conflict titled War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96.

It's like he's addicted to the life: speeding past checkpoints held by Bosnian soldiers with two of his gonzo buddies as they track down an interview with Radovan Karadzic in "Christmas With Karadzic." This trip through the badlands is set in motion by a tip from Jugoslava, a curvaceous Serbian TV exec (Sacco treats us to her ass but never her face) that the media-shy leader of the Bosnian Serbs would be attending mass at a Pale church. The same man who, as Sacco reminds us, once said of his occupation of Sarajevo, "The Sarajevans will not be counting the dead, they will be counting the living."

Evil is seen from somewhat closer quarters in the book's post-war story, "Soba." The eponymous Soba - artist, musician, warrior - has been a volunteer for the Croatian army after the Chetniks began their slaughter, but not before spending three months hiding in a basement, wasted on heroin, grass and pills.

Sacco is a master cartoonist, possessing a documentarian's eye. His next book deals with Chechnya refugees, and he has more recently been detailing the lives of Mobile Assault Platoon 4 as an embedded correspondent in Iraq. More fertile ground for the world's foremost comic book war artist.

Toronto's Ho Che Anderson is the creator of the celebrated King: A Comic Book Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Fantagraphics).

War's End: Profiles From Bosnia, 1995-96
by Joe Sacco

Drawn and Quarterly
65 pages, $19.95



Copyright (c) 2005 The Toronto Star
 

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  Comic Relief - Graphic Novels move into the mainstream. Newsweek article.

Updated August 15, 2005


Comic Relief
Take that, Batman. Graphic novels are moving out of the hobby shop and into the mainstream.

By Rana Foroohar
Newsweek International

Aug. 22, 2005

If you have any doubt about the power of comic books, consider that they are now required reading for the future military leaders of America. In order to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, cadets from the class of 2006 must study Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel "Persepolis," a coming-of-age tale set during the Iranian revolution. It's a wise choice for the syllabus, not only because it is such a compelling read but because the simple black-and-white frames of Satrapi's family saga will likely give the cadets a better understanding of Iran than any academic text, newspaper report or strategy paper ever could. "Persepolis" shows Iranians not as banner-waving fanatics or higab-covered shadows, but as individuals—funny, fraught and often fearful of the strange, powerful forces unfolding around them. "I'm not a politician or a sociologist or a historian, but I witnessed a lot of things that happened in a place that many people are concerned about right now," says Satrapi, speaking from her Paris studio. Comics, she adds, are particularly well suited to telling her story to a global audience: "Images are an international language."

Comics are certainly having an international moment, in terms of both sales figures and increased literary respect. Global publishers say that graphic novels—which include everything from the hugely popular Japanese illustrated stories known as manga to highly sophisticated works like "Persepolis," Art Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" and Joe Sacco's "War's End"—had their best year ever in 2004 and look to grow even more in 2005. In the United States, sales of graphic novels have leaped from $75 million in 2001 to $207 million in 2004. Booksellers in America, Britain, Germany, Italy and South Korea cite graphic literature as one of their fastest-growing categories. In Borders, one of America's largest bookstore chains, graphic-novel sales have risen more than 100 percent a year for the past three years. In France, where comics have long been mainstream, sales are reaching record highs, up 13.8 percent to 43.3 million copies in 2004; indeed, five of the 10 best-selling books in France last year were comic books. Manga, which already represents 20 percent of Japan's publishing market, is also spreading rapidly in South Korea, Thailand and other countries; in many cases, locals are buying American versions of the originals in an effort to learn English.

Move over, Spider-Man. Graphic literature has finally broken out of hobby shops and into the mainstream. Superhero fantasies have given way to grittier, more pointed works grounded firmly in reality. Academics in the United States and Europe are teaching comics as literature in the classroom. Books like "Persepolis"—as well as Sacco's "Palestine" and "Safe Area: Gorazde," and Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang"—are held up not only as great literature but also as instructive guides to global conflict zones. Polish graphic artists are commemorating the country's upcoming 25th anniversary of Solidarity with a slew of new comics. Once the province of indie publishers, graphic novels are now turned out by serious houses like Pantheon in New York and Jonathan Cape in London. Museums like New York's Whitney and London's Institute of Contemporary Art exhibit cutting-edge comics as art. In France, Minister of Culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres presided in May over the first national celebration of comic books (one of nine officially recognized arts), knighting comics artists from Japan, France and Belgium. Said Donnedieu, "I wanted to mark my attachment to this sector of creativity, to honor its beauty, its irony, its sometime ferocity, its perpetual imagination."

Indeed, the genre knows no rules or boundaries. The term "graphic novel" was popularized by Will Eisner, one of the first artists to elevate the medium beyond pulp fare with his 1978 work "A Contract With God," depicting his childhood in a Bronx, New York, tenement. Three decades on, publishers and retailers often use "graphic novel" to distinguish one-off books from the serialized ones put out by companies like Marvel and DC Comics—but many of the artists themselves prefer the outsider status that "comics" connotes. (In Daniel Clowes's new novel, "Ice Haven," comic-book critic Harry Naybors pontificates about nomenclature, finding the term "comics" superior to the "vulgar marketing sobriquet 'graphic novel'.")

The themes—war, oppression, terrorism, racism—as well as the drawings themselves are becoming increasingly sophisticated. "For decades, comics have been little more than yet another commercial tool to cheat children out of their lunch money," says Chris Ware, author of the much-heralded "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," the story of four generations of downtrodden men in Chicago. "Slowly, that's changing, with a growing number of genuinely artistically minded people starting to draw them, and the subject matter migrating to screenplays and Hollywood films."

Every month seems to bring a new film based on a comic book. Ironically, it was a drop in sales of serialized comic books like "Superman" and "Spider-Man" that helped catalyze the movie deals. Hollywood producers keen to show off new digital technology jumped on superhero content, and reaped the rewards of the built-in audience for superhero films. The mass-market exposure of the characters, in turn, started driving more people into the comics sections of their bookstores, where they discovered manga and graphic novels. Now those genres are getting more play on the big screen, too—witness the recent film versions of Frank Miller's "Sin City," Clowes's "Ghost World," Max Allan Collins's "The Road to Perdition" and Alan Moore's Jack the Ripper tale "From Hell."

The rise of serious graphic literature is less a new phenomenon than a return to a forgotten one. Rodolphe Topffer, a German illustrator who made Europe's first interdependent combinations of words and pictures in the early 1800s, was admired by Goethe. Charles Dickens's first works used pictures. As with so many things, Europeans invented modern comics—and Americans commercialized them. By the early 20th century, comic strips had taken off in U.S. newspapers, snapped up by hordes of new immigrants who used the universal language of images to learn English. Comics remained high art on the Continent, but in the Anglo-Saxon world they became mass-market pop fare, read, discarded and used to wrap fish. The rise of the sci-fi/superhero comic books in the 1950s did little to clean up the reputation of graphic literature.

So the 1986 publication of "Maus," Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about his parents' survival of the Holocaust (Jews were drawn as mice, Germans as cats), was a revelation. "I had thought that comics were all about superheroes," says Satrapi. "I remember seeing 'Maus' and thinking, 'Wow, you can do that?' and then, 'Yeah, and why wouldn't you do that?' " For at least a decade, no other comic novel approached the significance of "Maus."

The fact that so many do now is testimony to Spiegelman's godfatherlike role in graphic literature. For years he has spread the good word about comics (with the help of his French wife, Francoise Mouly, who is in charge of cover art for The New Yorker magazine), publishing smart comic magazines and mentoring top artists like Ware, Clowes and Satrapi. Given the outsider reputation of comics, it's no wonder that these same artists now express ambivalence about their acceptance by the cultural elite. "It's a Faustian bargain," says Spiegelman, for a medium that has traditionally been populated by outsiders to be discussed by academics and bought by the cozy middle classes in mainstream bookstores. "But at least we're a category now, and there is a place for more people to see the work."


The boom in graphic literature may stem in part from the need for fresh ways to comment on the increasingly complex political and social issues of the day. When asked why comics are having a moment now, Spiegelman jokes, "I hope it's not related to the [U.S.] administration." Still, it's true that he was the first well-known artist to react to 9/11, with a series of controversial comic strips that were rejected by many newspapers and magazines before ultimately appearing in the graphic novel "In the Shadow of No Towers." The subversive power of comics allowed Spiegelman to depict falling towers and satirize the Bush government while most other writers were staying clear of the disaster zone. "Comics aren't supposed to be 'serious,' so we can say anything," notes Satrapi. "Also, the use of a drawing, rather than a photograph, can create the distance necessary to handle a sensitive topic without being cynical."

Of course, the comic book benefits from the fact that we live in a visual world, communicating as much through images as through words. But even as comics lend themselves so well to the digital age, they also have an almost artisanal sensibility that appeals at a time when so much communication is virtual and ephemeral. "Part of the pleasure of a book is its object-ness," says Spiegelman. "Graphic novels inhabit that completely." "In the Shadow of No Towers" is printed on 12 heavy cardboard pages like a children's board book. The beautifully detailed panels in "Jimmy Corrigan," almost Victorian in their intricacy, make it feel more like a piece of artwork than a novel. Creating these books is akin more to sculpting than to writing; each panel is drawn by hand, and entire novels can take a decade or more to create. "It's work for a monk," says Satrapi.

The comics universe will undoubtedly continue to expand. A number of new releases, like Clowes's "Ice Haven" (which crosses the adolescent angst of "Ghost World" with "Simpsons"-style social satire) and Satrapi's "Embroideries" (frank talk about the sex lives of Iranian women), are already racking up strong sales. In October, in honor of the 20th anniversary of "Maus," Spiegelman will publish "Meta Mouse," a collection of sketches and background work from the original. Bidding wars for hot new titles are heating up; W.W. Norton has reportedly paid a hefty advance for R. Crumb's version of the Biblical tale of Genesis. Beyond this, manga publisher Tokyopop recently cut a deal to serialize manga in the hugely popular U.S. teen magazine CosmoGirl. And rival publisher Dark Horse plans to launch a series of manga Harlequin romance novels.

Meanwhile, the movies just keeping coming, with stars like Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Cage soon to be seen in comic-book adaptations. Offerings this fall include "V for Vendetta," based on an Alan Moore novel set uncomfortably close to reality in a totalitarian London under siege by terrorists. "Art School Confidential," an adaptation of Clowes's comic about a disgruntled art-school student—starring John Malkovich—is due in September. Meanwhile, Satrapi is penning a French animated version of "Persepolis" and is in discussion with an American studio about a possible English-language version. "There are still so many stories that can be told by comics," she says. "It's a relatively new medium, but I think it has a really long and beautiful future."

With Tracy McNicoll in Paris, Mary Acoymo in London, Mark Russell in Seoul and Kay Itoi in Tokyo
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2005 MSNBC.com
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PETITS LIVRES SERIES and WAR'S END (Joe Sacco) reviewed in Montreal Hour

Updated August 11, 2005


August 11th, 2005
Drawn & Quarterly seasonal goodies

D&Q something different
Isa Tousignant


Local graphics publisher does good

Coming to work to find a big package marked "Drawn & Quarterly" waiting on your desk is a sign that life is sweet. The local publisher of graphic arts goodies has been putting quality work into expertly executed packages of all shapes and sizes for 14 years now, and continues to expand its roster every year. In addition to comics, they publish graphic novels, art books and unique series like their Petits Livres. Here are a few of their summertime releases.

Joe Sacco studied journalism in university, which doesn't come as a surprise if you've read either of his most famous books, The Fixer and Palestine. War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96 predates both these works, but is here published for the first time. The book brings us his perspective on the Serbian conflict via two profiles: that of Soba, a Sarajevan artist and musician who recounts his work as a mine planter on the front lines, and that of Radovan Karadzic, head of the self-declared Bosnian Serb state Republika Srpska, and the man responsible for one of the worst genocides in modern history. Even in this early work, Sacco's perspective on this fascinating political situation was in a vanguard all its own. These are two rich little stories.

Of the pack I received, War's End was the only narrative comic. Julie Doucet's latest outing points to a whole new venture for D&Q: the art book. Lady Pep is the first work I've encountered from the author of Dirty Plotte since she stated a few months ago that she was leaving the world of comics. Her focus shifted into the visual arts, where, patronized by Galerie Graff, she has been busying herself with small graphic works of a more abstract nature.

This collection gathers together a series of her Sophie Punt mini booklets - homemade handbooks made of recycled materials apposed with drawings of characters and common objects, created in honour of the Slow Action Movement she inaugurated, and occasionally distributed via a kind of Distroboto in Helsinki. It's a fun opportunity for those of us who haven't seen the originals to leaf through these booklets and to catch up on the new work of an influential local comic artist, but Lady Pep is a bit of a mixed bag; it feels like leafing through someone's sketchbook, which is not always the honour it seems like it should be.

D&Q's Petits Livres series is a great initiative on their part to make the work of their artists accessible to a greater (poorer) public. All priced very reasonably, I received three such books, focusing respectively on Luc Giard, Marc Bell and Peter Thompson.

In A Village Under My Pillow, Giard is interested in a wider variety of subject matter than I thought possible, although the work nevertheless remains the product of an obsessive, repetitive man. A taste for rehashed Tintin is a must. Marc Bell's collection, The Stacks, is a morsel of beauty and my favourite among these releases; his work is infinitely richer in colour, and published in this quality, than it is on newsprint. The Stacks also introduces amazing expressions of his crazy creature world in collage, paintings, mixed media... a treat. And it's no wonder Thompson's The Chronicles of Lucky Ello was produced in part by Bell - the influence is clear. But Thompson's characterization is all his own, and this comic is filled with a poppy perception that's a pleasure to discover.
 
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  Washington Post reviews Sacco's WAR'S END

Updated August 4, 2005


The Art of War
By Daniel Raeburn,
author of "Chris Ware," who is at work on another book about comics, "The Imp of the Perverse"
Thursday, August 4, 2005; C02


WAR'S END

Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96

By Joe Sacco

Drawn and Quarterly. 65 pp. $14.95

Full disclosure: I've met Joe Sacco. Five years ago we strolled up Chicago's Lincoln Avenue, talking about the present circumstances -- good, fortunately -- of Sacco's Muslim friends Riki and Edin, whose stories he told in "Safe Area Gorazde" (2000), the central volume in his trilogy of comic books about the Bosnian civil war. So I know Sacco, barely.

But that's not why I'm proclaiming him one of our best cartoonists and writers. It's because of his work, which transcends not comics but journalism to pose the same questions as literature.

"War's End" asks, "If, when a war breaks out, all hell breaks loose, once it's over, where does hell go?"

To church, among other hiding places. Few locations are more fitting for humor than church, where a taboo against giggling perversely incites it. And no subject is more wrong (i.e., right) for the blackest humor, humor that is not even close to funny, than a sponsor of genocide -- er, ethnic cleansing. Fitting, then, that Sacco attended church on Orthodox Christmas, 1996, beside the wannabe Fuehrer to Bosnia's rebel Serbs, Radovan Karadzic.

"I have despised [Karadzic] with all my heart for years," writes Sacco, and yet faced with the man, he feels nothing. He recites this ogre's crimes against humanity, attempting to rekindle his hatred. To his dismay, he can't. "It's too much," he thinks, watching Karadzic bow before the priest. "Or, rather, he's not enough." In the flesh, the mass murderer is just another schlub.

The banality of evil that Sacco is ultimately concerned with, however, is his own. He and his journalist pals tracked Karadzic only to get the scoop on his whereabouts, not to bring him to justice, and so the target of Sacco's humor is himself. That night, with some Sarajevan victims of Karadzic's campaign, Sacco sees himself and the would-be killer of his hosts on the evening news. Sacco is embarrassed, especially because he alone knows the truth, which is that "going to see [Karadzic] was the most fun I'd had at Christmas in years." Bang. As with George Orwell's final sentence in "Shooting an Elephant," Sacco's aim is dead-on.

Although Sacco draws himself with an essayist's self-critical eye, toward his subjects he is as generous as a novelist. Take Soba, a soldier for whom peace is nearly as hard as war.

"A lot of people will go crazy after this war," Soba tells Sacco. "Especially the fighters from the special units. The war is everything they have." But Soba has something other than the war: fame. Soba is a folk hero, Sarajevo's numero uno rocker, painter and hipster. He's like Bono, if Bono had rocked not only the mike but a Kalashnikov. With the war nearly over, Italy offers to bring Soba to Milan, with his own studio and exhibition, all expenses paid.

"I don't want to go," Soba says, glumly sucking down his zillionth cigarette. "I don't want to leave Sarajevo now." Soba's postwar struggle is the struggle of any provincial artist: Should I stay or should I go?

He hears Milan calling but knows that when he leaves Sarajevo he ceases to be Soba and becomes, as he puts it, "just another refugee from Bosnia." Soba's ego won't let him be a nobody. Not for long, anyway. According to Sacco's afterword, Soba eventually moved to New York City to haul furniture by day and paint by night. "Fighting for survival," he called it; "the war was easier and better than this." Nevertheless his artwork was recently selected for the Venice Biennale. Like the warrior, the artist won't give up the fight.

In his introduction to "Safe Area Gorazde," the Leftist Formerly Known as Christopher Hitchens opined that Sacco's Bosnians are "not heroic -- though some of them are exemplary."

I'd argue the inverse. To make art in between bombings is to be truly brave. "We're really fighting for some kind of normal life," says Soba. Revealing that quotidian if unheralded heroism is what Sacco splendidly achieves throughout his Bosnian trilogy.

Full disclosure, Part 2: On that walk with Sacco five years ago, we passed a handful of Eastern European cafes that had split along the same fault lines as the civil war. Where all the emigre Slavs had once mingled, now Serbs, Croats and Muslims segregated themselves. Spooky. Still, I thought, it'll never happen here. Imagine a demagogue inciting Americans to expel all our Muslim neighbors by force. Nah.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company
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JOE SACCO: Cartoon Genius & War Reporter - article in "Embassy" (Ottawa)

Updated July 29, 2005


Embassy, July 27th, 2005
FEATURE
By Jordan Michael Smith


Joe Sacco: Cartoon Genius And War Reporter


The rags-to-riches story is a powerful American myth, all the more so because occasionally it is true. Joe Sacco did not start out in rags, and he is not exactly rich, but both accurate enough to make Sacco's life as riveting as those of his characters in his books.

Mr. Sacco single-handedly invented the genre known as "comics journalism." Art Spiegelman's Maus examined the effects of war, but it was based on Mr. Spieglman's visual transcriptions of his father's Holocaust experiences. Mr. Sacco's work, in contrast, is eyewitness reportage about contemporary war zones. His 1993 publication Palestine, which won the American Book Award, featured Sacco living with Palestinians during the first intifada in the early 1990s. Safe Area Gorazde saw him living in Eastern Bosnia from 1992-95 during the war. His latest hardback, War's End (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95), is about the last years of that same Bosnian war.

Mr. Sacco has been drawing since he was six years old. After receiving a journalism degree from the University of Oregon in 1981, Sacco toiled in various editorial and cartooning jobs for most of the decade. He edited news for the trade publication Comics Journal, he co-published an obscure monthly comics newspaper, and he even put out some romance comics.

In 1998 Sacco began traveling around Europe, looking for action -- a cartooning Jack Kerouac in his own On the Road. Following rock bands, drawing posters for German concert promoters, and designing record sleeves for underground musicians; some of these bohemian experiences are retold in Notes From a Defeatist, a collection of Mr. Sacco's earlier pieces.

Sacco traveled in the Palestinian territories and Israel in late 1991 and 1992. As Palestine documents, he was sheltered by refugees, and generally depended on the kindness of strangers, while dodging Israeli bullets and seeing houses bulldozed. "The first time I visited Palestine, I didn't have some notion that I'd be doing 'important journalism,'" he told the LA Weekly.

Indeed, Mr. Sacco was in near-despair at this point, thinking about quitting cartooning and getting a more stable job.

But the first issue of Palestine hit the shelves in Jan. 1993, and immediately garnered attention. By the time the book collection was released in 1996, he was being hailed as, as he puts it, "a cartoon genius." Sudden fame proved difficult for Mr. Sacco, and his attempts to grapple with stardom's pressures are documented quite hilariously in sections of Notes From A Defeatist and in Spotlight On The Genius That Is Joe Sacco.

In between the time he returned from Palestine and the book version was published, Mr. Sacco lived in Bosnia during the war. The harrowing experiences of living in a town on the brink of destruction and chasing after war criminal Radovan Karadzic form the basis of Safe Area Goradze and War's End.

Since then, Mr. Sacco's work has been ubiquitous, appearing most prominently in the Washington Monthly, a weekly political magazine that is influential among liberals in the U.S. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship to return to Bosnia and revisit some of the people he stayed with during the Bosnian War, experiences that resulted in 2002's The Fixer.

And now? Mr. Sacco is presently working on Footnotes In Gaza, a book about the Gaza Strip to be published in 2006.


War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96
By joe Sacco
Drawn and Quality
65 pp. $19.95
 
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  Village Voice Interviews Joe Sacco!

Updated July 20, 2005


The Interview
Stand Up Comics
Talking with Joe Sacco, the innovator of contemporary comics journalism


by Hillary Chute
July 19th, 2005 3:57 PM   write to us   e-mail story
  printer friendly


"Yes, I did comics in the Maltese language."
illustration: Drawn and Quarterly

Related:
* From the Lands of the Shattered
Hillary Chute reviews Joe Sacco's War's End: Profiles From Bosnia, 1995–1996
Cartoonist Joe Sacco has spent the last decade and a half traveling to places such as Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya, and Iraq to report on the circumstances of the war-torn and dispossessed. Sacco, who currently lives in Portland, is the author of Palestine (a '90s serial printed in book form in 2001), Safe Area Gorazde: the War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 (2000), The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo (2003), and, most recently, the collection War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-1996 (Drawn And Quarterly).

I've heard that you dislike the term "graphic novel."

I feel what I do is comic books. That's just the old term, and I have no problem with it. "Graphic novel" sort of posits fiction. I don't feel that what I do is fiction. My work, or some of Chester Brown's work, or Art Spiegelman's work—where does that fit in?

So why republish the profiles from Bosnia that are in War's End right now?

To cash in! I don't know if there was any real reason other than just to collect a couple of stories that were loose and out of print. "Soba" is from a comic book that I think is long out of print, and the other one, "Christmas with Karadzic," was in an anthology called Zero Zero.

Did you watch the video footage of the Srebrenica killings that were available?

I didn't. I just saw the photographs. I saw some photographs of still images from it, but I didn't see the killings themselves.

What was it like when you went to the Hague to do a comics story on the Bosnian War Crimes trial for Details?

It wasn't a complete tying-up, but I had been there at the end of the war, and thereafter, and just to see some people being brought to justice—or anyway, just to see the wheels of the machine of justice turning, as slowly as they turn, was nice.

I can't really think of too many other comics journalists.

I would say the field is relatively thin. I know there are French cartoonists who have experimented with the form and have done some reportage. And I know that Ted Rall went to Afghanistan.

What cartoonists do you like who are working today?

Well, it's probably the current pantheon—Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Seth, Marjane Satrapi, Charles Burns. There are others, of course. Unfortunately, I don't know a lot of the younger cartoonists and what they're doing.

What about journalists?

Going back in time, people like George Orwell impressed me, and Michael Herr.

You're a citizen of Malta. I heard that you did Malta's first comic-book series, a romance.

Yes, I did comics in the Maltese language. [It was called] Imhabba Vera, which means "true love."

Because Malta has no history of comics, comics weren't considered something for kids. In one case, for example, the girl got pregnant and she went to Holland for an abortion. Malta is a Catholic country where not even divorce is allowed. It was unusual, but it's not like anyone raised a stink about it, because they had no way of judging whether this was appropriate material for comics or not.

Your next book, on [the Palestinian refugee camp] Rafah, will be your first with a mainstream publisher.

It's Metropolitan, which is a division of Henry Holt. The editor was a friend of mine, and we just got to talking. She just knows the region well. She's actually Israeli. And she can help guide it and call me on any bullshit, or challenge things.

One more question about an upcoming project: The Gentleman's Guide to the Rolling Stones?

Let's just say that's on a back burner, although I do have tickets to see the Rolling Stones in Portland and Seattle.

What's your favorite Rolling Stones song?

That changes from day to day. Today, it would be "Let It Loose."

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Village Voice Features Sacco's WAR'S END

Updated July 19, 2005


Panel Discussion
Joe Sacco's War's End: Profiles From Bosnia, 1995–1996


by Hillary Chute
July 19th, 2005 2:16 PM   write to us   e-mail story
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Sacco: From humor to horror
photo: Drawn and Quarterly

War's End: Profiles From Bosnia, 1995–1996
By Joe Sacco
Drawn and Quarterly, 80 pp., $14.95 In "Soba!," the first of the two profiles in War's End (both originally published in the late '90s), Joe Sacco's purview includes the title character's porn aspirations—a film in which he and his friend would receive blowjobs while discussing Hegel—and the name of his rock band: Z.O.C.H., which stands for Golden-Gilded Dicks. Yet Sacco, the innovator of contemporary comics journalism, effortlessly moves from humor to horror on his scrupulously drawn pages. In bar and battle scenes alike, painstaking detail is skillfully offset by eclectic panelization and floating, fragmented text (inspired by Celine's elliptical prose style).

Reporting from "the land[s] of the shattered," Sacco always offers readers a complex and intimate portrayal of everyday experience. Here he calls attention to the mixture of the prosaic and the violent in Soba's life. The first terrifying pages of "Soba!," set against a black background, chronicle a day on the front lines in which the 27-year-old Sarajevan Muslim replaces the peeled-back scalp of a fellow soldier whose brain is showing, as Serb shelling sends bodies flying through the air.

"Christmas With Karadzic" concerns the on-the-run nationalist Bosnian Serb leader responsible for such atrocities as the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Amazingly, Sacco and his journalist friends successfully track Karadzic down at an Orthodox Christmas service in 1996. Standing close to the war criminal, Sacco tries unsuccessfully to feel revulsion for "a man I have despised with all my heart for years." Less dark and cluttered than "Soba!," the story suggests the banality of evil while crucially eschewing a moral. Sacco, appropriately for one so riveted to intricate truth, can only note that chasing Karadzic made for his best Christmas in years.

..
 
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  Joe Sacco Profiled in Mother jones!

Updated June 28, 2005



The Art of War
The celebrated journo-cartoonist discusses Bosnia, Palestine, and comic-book heroics.

Dave Gilson
July/August 2005 Issue

Joe Sacco occupies a unique spot in the no-man’s-land between underground cartoonists and war correspondents. By presenting his firsthand reporting from hot spots like Gaza, Sarajevo, and Iraq in gritty black-and-white comics, Sacco has won over serious fans of comics and nonfiction alike (and has been name-dropped on The O.C., of all places). His first graphic novel, Palestine, chronicled his travels in Israel and the West Bank during the first Intifada. That was followed by the widely acclaimed Safe Area Gorazde, which depicted his experiences holed up in a besieged Bosnian Muslim enclave. Sacco’s work is often called “comic journalism,” but that label doesn’t fully capture how he’s managed to simultaneously blend and defy both genres. It’s not your typical journalist, after all, who seeks inspiration from Robert Crumb. And it’s not your typical comic-book artist who goes looking for wanted war criminals like Radovan Karadzic, as Sacco does in his latest collection, War’s End, published in June.

The 44-year-old Sacco came to cartooning after a series of what he calls “half-assed” reporting jobs, but he isn’t after scoops: He looks for stories that will resonate long after the shooting has stopped and the ink on other reporters’ stories has dried. He took a break from the drawing board to speak with Mother Jones from his home in Portland, Oregon.

Mother Jones: How did you start doing this combination of reporting and cartooning?

Joe Sacco: I was already doing comics. Perhaps the first quasi-journalistic thing I did was go on tour with a rock band in Europe and write about those experiences. Almost all of it is true—I was writing down everything they were saying. When I went to Palestine I thought I’d do an autobiographical account, and it turned into something more journalistic. When I was there, something clicked in my head; I found myself interviewing people, searching out facts and figures. Later on I became much more self-conscious of what I was doing. When I went to Bosnia, I was there to tell someone else’s story and I was more methodical.

MJ: When you’re out doing interviews, are you looking at people as an artist and sketching them at the same time?

JS: I tend to wear the hat of reporter more when I’m interviewing people. I’ll tape-record or take notes. I always ask a subject if I can take his or her picture. In about 90 percent of cases they’ll say yes, but when they say no, I’ll surreptitiously do a quick drawing. It won’t be such an exact likeness that they could be identified.

MJ: Do most of the people you talk to getit when you tell them that you’re a reporter but you’re going to work them into a graphic novel?

JS: My guide had a copy of Palestine on my last trip to Gaza. He’d bring it out and show people what I was trying to do. That usually went over pretty well. Because there were actually drawings I had made of Gaza before, they were able to look at it and say, “Oh, this is me, this is much like the refugee camp I’m living in.”

MJ: When you’re re-creating events you haven’t witnessed, do people ever challenge your portrayal of those scenes?

JS: I try to ask visual questions. I’ll ask what someone was wearing, if that seems relevant. If possible, I’ll walk over the same ground that they’re depicting. Of course, I can never get it precisely as it was. It’s like a film director trying to represent a scene that took place in the 1700s. You reconstruct it to the best of your ability.

MJ: You’re usually the most cartoony character in your stories—your glasses are blank, your facial features exaggerated, your limbs rubbery. Why depict yourself like that?

JS: When I started Palestine it was a bit rubbery and cartoony at the beginning, because that’s the only way I knew how to draw. It became clear to me that I had to push it toward a more representational way of drawing. I tried to draw people more realistically, but the figure I neglected to update was myself.

MJ: War’s End is your third book set in Bosnia. Why have you kept coming back to that experience?

JS: I think any journalist who spends time in a place realizes that there are lots of stories around beyond their primary story. You meet so many interesting people and have all kinds of experiences. There’s probably one more story about Bosnia that I’d like to do, because I spent a fair amount of time on the Serb side of the lines, which isn’t apparent in the other books.

MJ: In the story “Christmas With Karadzic” in War’s End, you are trying to track down Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was wanted for leading the slaughter of thousands of Muslims and Croats, but when you find him, you have a very different reaction than you expected.

JS: I’d been stewing about Karadzic for a long time. Sometimes when you’re a journalist you put aside your personal feelings about someone because it’s more important to get the story. Then when you finally meet them, you’re not prepared. I realized I had nothing to say to this man. What could I say? “How could you do this?” That story is really about the fight between being a journalist and being someone who actually cares about what they write about. Maybe if he had strutted in or if there was some huge convoy and hundreds of paramilitary men around him, I would have been awed and hateful in the way I expected. He didn’t seem that intimidating.

MJ: That story is an interesting contrast to the story “Soba,” in which ordinary Bosnians come across as much more alive and interesting than someone like Karadzic.

JS: I think a journalist always connects better with the people around her or him than with a general or a politician. Those people are built to spin—that’s what they do. I will interview bigwigs if I get the chance, but you are seldom surprised by people in power—you’ve got to get awfully damn close to get anything new. I’d much rather hang out in a café. That’s where things are really happening.

MJ: Is becoming a conflict junkie an occupational hazard?

JS: I think it’s inevitable with anyone who’s covering these kinds of things—it’s interesting and on some level it’s just an adrenaline rush. Of course, I’m drawn to a place like Iraq because it’s the biggest story of our generation.

MJ: Are there any journalists or artists you look to as models?

JS: The people whose work I’ve admired are people like George Orwell and others like Michael Herr and, of course, some of Hunter S. Thompson’s work. I like good, straight reporting, too. Robert Crumb is an influence on how I draw, but not on the subject matter I take or my approach. One thing I do like about Crumb is that he’s chronicled his age, his times, and I think that is what artists should do.

MJ: As more cartoonists do reporting, what is the future of comic journalism?

JS: More editors seem to be aware of how comics can be melded with journalism and are interested in experimenting with the form. That’s good for cartoonists, but the work has to be good. In the end, we’re going to stop getting a pass just because we’re cartoonists. At some point someone is going to say, “How does this stack up against good prose journalism or documentaries?”

MJ: Do you think there’s any advantage to this kind of storytelling?

JS: It’s a visual world and people respond to visuals. With comics you can put interesting and solid information in a format that’s pretty palatable. For me, one advantage of comic journalism is that I can depict the past, which is hard to do if you’re a photographer or filmmaker. History can make you realize that the present is just one layer of a story. What seems to be the immediate and vital story now will one day be another layer in this geology of bummers.

Dave Gilson is Mother Jones' Research Editor.

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Nashville City Paper Reviews WAR'S END

Updated June 27, 2005


Sacco provides vital look at 'War's End'
By Wil Moss, wmoss@nashvillecitypaper.com
June 27, 2005
 
Joe Sacco is a bit of an oddity in the ever-burgeoning graphic novel field - he's a war correspondent.
Sacco's first graphic novel, Palestine, was culled from his time in the strife-laden Israel in the early '90s. In Safe Area Gorazde, he chronicled his time spent in Sarajevo in '95 during a siege on one of the "Safe Areas" by Bosnian Serb forces. Sacco returned to Bosnia in 2001 and from his time there he gathered the material for The Fixer, a profile of a one-time soldier for a local warlord who took Western journalists to the front lines of the conflict.
These reports are brought to life with Sacco's vivid artwork, a thick, cartoony style reminiscent of R. Crumb at his peak. Sacco includes himself in his profiles, but always as a peripheral character. The focus remains on his subjects and their experiences.
All of that is true for Sacco's latest work, War's End (Drawn and Quarterly), a collection of two profiles he made while in Bosnia from '95-'96. Sacco's subjects are two drastically different men, but each is interesting thanks to Sacco's keen ability to capture important details and remain as impartial as possible.
"Soba," the first story, is about a Sarajevo soldier who comes alive when he's not on the field disarming and planting mines. Soba achieved some notoriety from the Western media during the war thanks to his skill as a painter and musician combined with the fact that he was fighting in the war. Sacco's profile seems to capture Soba's spark that interested the media so. At times Soba seems just like anyone else, but his observations on the war and what it is doing to his country show depth beyond his ratty hair and partying lifestyle.
Soba talks about how the war changed him, but how he doesn't let it corrupt who he is. Sacco captures that defiance and determination, but explores all other options as well. This isn't a straight-ahead narrative where each character has defined characteristics and attitudes - Soba is a real person with scattered thoughts and emotions, and Sacco's profile reflects that.
One of the most haunting images in the book accompanies this story as Sacco is walking the streets at night after a party: "[It's] not the police I'm worried about. It's the rustling in the garbage, it's the growling. It's the soft trotting behind you that stops every time you stop." He turns and sees the three savage dogs from the book's cover, waiting to pounce on him and the rest of Bosnia.
What those dogs represent turns up as the subject of the next story, "Christmas with Karadzic," as in Randovan Karadzic. Karadzic at the time was the president of Republic Srpska and the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, a man responsible for countless war crimes that would later earn him indictments for genocide and crimes against humanity from The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.
Of the two, this is the stronger story in War's End, following Sacco and two journalist buddies as they attempt to track down Karadzic on Christmas Eve for an interview. You get a real sense of what life was like in Bosnia at this time - road checks everywhere, useless politicians, constant gunfire, and that general sense of "life-must-go-on" townspeople get in wartime. The family Sacco stays with celebrates Christmas in a shelled-out apartment building like there is no danger.
Sacco's personality seeps through more so than usual in this story, particularly when he and his colleagues finally find Karadzic Christmas Day at a church. Sacco tries to reconcile his anger at Karadzic's larger-than-life crimes with the man he sees before him praying at church, but he can't muster up a single feeling either way - an unexplainable reaction that is nonetheless a human one.
While the general troubles Sacco writes about may have passed, different troubles have replaced them. Karadzic to this day remains at large. These stories Sacco tells offer a chance unlike any other to see specific glimpses into realities very foreign from our own. And in a day when the media is as shut off to the rest of the world as it is, glimpses like these are even more important.

 
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  The Onion Spotlights War's End!

Updated June 23, 2005


Daniel Clowes' Ice Haven (Random House) (Buy It!) bills itself as a "comic-strip novel," and its contents bear out the description. Using a variety of illustrative approaches torn from the Sunday funnies, Clowes offers a cross-section of the eponymous small town, a place where a young boy's disappearance prompts different responses—and sometimes no response at all—from his neighbors. In many respects, this is a summing-up work for Clowes: It's got disaffected young women, twists on genre fiction, and a pitiless portrait of a comic-book obsessive. But another element from Clowes' past comes to the surface by the end: A wicked sense of borderline misanthropic humor that keeps it from hitting the depths of Ghost World or The Death Ray, but makes for some dark laughs anyway...
Two of the most reliable alternative-comics creators of the past decade have new collections of essential work: Joe Sacco's War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-96 (Drawn & Quarterly) (Buy It!) collects the vivid character sketches "Christmas With Karadzic" and "Soba." The former follows a freewheeling, cynical war correspondent, while the latter presents a military hero turned soulful rocker. As for Roberta Gregory's Life's A Bitch: The Complete Bitchy Bitch Stories Vol. 1 (Fantagraphics) (Buy It!), it cherry-picks stories from her long-running and recently completed Naughty Bits series, jumping between the troubled childhood, wild adolescence, and droning adult working life of one vulgar and perpetually disgruntled woman. It's a little too busy and on-the-nose at times, but the emotions are as raw and honest as they come...
Marvel kicks off its universe-spanning crossover series with the debut of the eight-issue House Of M. Written by the ultra-prolific Brian Michael Bendis and lushly drawn by Olivier Coipel, it spins out of the events of last year's "Avengers Disassembled" storyline, in which Scarlet Witch went nuts and killed half her friends. Will Bendis bring the emotional core of his best work, like Daredevil, Powers, and Ultimate Spider-Man to the project? Or will it devolve into quips and chaos, like his last big crossover project, Secret War? The first issue is all setup, making it too soon to tell, but it at least looks like a ride worth taking...
Marvel's habit of handing projects to writers outside the comics industry might lead to a talent shortage once Joss Whedon, Orson Scott Card, and the like go back to their day jobs. But meanwhile, it's resulted in some strong efforts like the new-to-trade-paperback miniseries Black Widow: Homecoming (Buy It!), in which novelist Richard K. Morgan and artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Goran Parlov take the one-time KGB super-spy through a story with the snap of a big-budget thriller, the cool wit of an episode of Alias (back when it was still worth watching), and a Buffy The Vampire Slayer-like feminist sensibility...
DC takes the opposite tack to Marvel's outsourcing with Batman: Dark Detective, an in-progress mini that digs back into comic book history to reunite writer Steve Englehart and artists Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin. Their brief late-'70s run on Detective Comics (previously collected under the title Strange Apparitions) has become the gold standard for many fans for its psychological intensity, clever stories, and gorgeous illustrative art. The team's approach remains decidedly old-school, but it's old-school in the most satisfying sense...
There's nothing old-school about James Kochalka's irreverent, cartoonishly aggressive take on superheroes in his almost-too-cute-to-be-offensive Super F*ckers (Top Shelf). The first issue of Kochalka's new series introduces a pack of dysfunctional, crabby, profane teenage superheroes, plus a horde of wannabes and a couple of grotesque, oozy fans, all drawn in Kochalka's usual colorful, simple style, and all preoccupied with occupations like playing video games and getting high. True to the title, they're mostly obnoxious and creepy, but in a lively and cheerful way...
Postmodern superhero cartoonist Mike Allred continues his thoroughly straight comics adaptation of The Book Of Mormon with The Golden Plates Volume Two: The Liahona And The Promised Land (AAA Pop) (Buy It!), which retains the virtues and flaws of its source material. The story of one prophetic family's journey from Jerusalem to the Americas makes for a gripping adventure yarn, but once Allred gets past the harrowing ocean voyage at the center of the second volume, he's stuck with what comes next in The Book Of Mormon: lengthy quotations from the biblical book of Isaiah. It's not exactly the most comics-friendly text in history. Still, whatever the reader thinks of Allred's Mormon zealotry, it's hard not to be impressed by the passion bleeding through his vivid illustrations of pre-Christian civilization—and by The Golden Plates' hyper-defensive appendices, which are almost more compelling than the feature presentation...
Prolific Norwegian cartoonist Jason delivers another of his briskly paced existential thrillers with Why Are You Doing This? (Fantagraphics) (Buy It!), which hinges on a classic Hitchcockian premise: a shiftless young man takes a house-sitting job and gets wrongly accused of murder. As with a lot of Jason's work, the translated dialogue reads too flat and the action moves too quick, but any pacing problems are covered up by an ending that stings hard...
Joe Pruett's Desperado Publishing was launched in December as the latest creator-owned-comics collective following in the footsteps of Image (which now distributes Desperado titles); this month, the company continues to roll out new titles by familiar faces, with the debut issues of Common Foe (written by Shannon Denton and Keith Giffen) and The Stardust Kid (written by J.M. Dematteis). Stardust Kid, a busy, psychedelic fantasy along the lines of Dematteis' classic Moonshadow, looks promising, though the intrusive narration is weirdly chatty and domineering. Common Foe, meanwhile, is sheer incoherence; there's something supernatural going on in this bloody World War II tale, but the first issue doesn't permit any insight into it—it's just 32 pages of gunfire, screams, and indistinguishable soldiers dying...
Remember Mr. T? Well, he's back, in comic-book form. Writer Chris Bunting and artist Neil Edwards resurrect T as an urban avenger in the new AP Comics series called—what else?—Mr. T. Will audiences want to see their beloved childhood icon resurrected as a gritty drug-dealer-smashing brawler when they could catch him rapping about his mother on the Internet? The answer remains to be seen.


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War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96




GIANT Magazine Reviews WARS END!

Updated June 21, 2005


As smart-bomb footage and terrorist beheading tapes have shown,
sometimes cameras can make way seem "less" real. the flip side
of that is Joe Sacco, a comic-journalist whose dispatches from the Bosnian genocide's waning days are collected here. Sacco's tendency to take sides can work against him, but by focusing on the absurd, he brings the realities of wartime home like a bullet to the brain.
 

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  Washington Post spotlights WAR'S END!

Updated June 21, 2005


"The author masterfully details the minor indignities and wholesale horrors experienced by Sarajevo's citizens and soldiers. A-."–WASHINGTON POST

For the complete spotlight, please view the PDF!
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Time Mag spotlights War's End!

Updated June 9, 2005


Monday, Jun. 13, 2005
5 Fantastic Graphic Novels
These books are topical, complex and well written. They're also illustrated
By ANDREW D. ARNOLD

Try 4 Issues of TIME magazine FREE!
With so many movies now based on comic books, you might get a craving to see where Hollywood goes for inspiration. Here are five graphic novels that haven't been turned into movies—yet. Read them before the studios do. One caveat, though: no muscle flexing here, except maybe of your brain.

ICE HAVEN

DANIEL CLOWES

Already a master at creating hilarious stories about alienated weirdos, most famously in Ghost World, Clowes has more recently been exploring the formal properties of graphical storytelling. Inspired by the overlapping style of director Robert Altman, Ice Haven weaves more than 30 short strips into one cohesive portrait of a strange suburban town shaken by the disappearance of an odd little boy. Bruisingly satiric and brilliantly designed, Ice Haven will have you gleefully reading it two or three times in a row to unlock its complex interconnections.

LITTLE LULU

JOHN STANLEY, ILLUSTRATED BY IRVING TRIPP

The comics of Little Lulu, one of the greatest exemplars of cartooning for all ages and beloved by an entire postwar generation of kids, are being reprinted as a quarterly series of black-and-white collections (Vol. 4 arrives this month). The adventures of Lulu, Tubby, Alvin and the "fellers" seem as fresh and funny as they were 50 years ago. The gang gets big laughs from such absurd contrivances as Lulu's swapping her father's beloved mounted fish for a Civil War cannonball as a surprise gift. Stanley and Tripp keep Lulu as entertaining and revisitable as I Love Lucy.

ORDINARY VICTORIES

MANU LARCENET

Recipient of last year's Best Book award at the prestigious comics festival in Angouleme, France, this French import is an emotion-packed story about a burned-out photographer struggling to connect with the world and a woman. It becomes a book about family history, class struggle, guilt and forgiveness. Charmingly drawn, from the vibrant colors of the French countryside to the dreary suburbs of Paris, and filled with endearing characters, Larcenet's Ordinary Victories has all the attraction and dislocation of a trip abroad.

WAR'S END

JOE SACCO

Virtually a one-man subgenre of reportorial comic-making, the author of Safe Area Gorazde continues to delve into his experience in postwar Bosnia for its rich characters and complex moral issues. War's End contains two short pieces, in the first of which Sacco and a couple of local reporters track down the notorious Serb separatist and accused war criminal Radovan Karadzic as he attends a Christmas service. The second story, Soba, is a profile of an intense, charismatic native Sarajevan, an artist turned planter of land mines as he waits out the final days of the war. Sacco has trod Baltic ground before, but his Hogarthian black-and-white images and vibrant characterizations make for some of the most vivid and dramatic comics being published today.

WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?

JASON

The one-named Jason, a Norwegian, populates his darkly comical worlds with men and women whose heads have animal features: beaks, pointy ears and whiskers. In this full-color novella, Alex, a mopey artist, finds focus and meaning in his life only while he's eluding the police after being falsely accused of murder. A fast-paced thriller that uses funny animals to explore existentialist themes of memory and life's purpose, Why Are You Doing This? defies categorization but makes for awfully fun reading.

 
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  Bookslut Reviews War's End!

Updated June 9, 2005



War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96 by Joe Sacco
Back in the deep end of the comic book racks, Joe Sacco has returned with another scathing set of adventures from way behind the headlines. Following in the giant footsteps of the Maltese cartoonist’s earlier political work including Palestine, a two-volume treatise on the Gaza Strip as well as Safe Area Gorazde and The Fixer, other massive volumes portraying the desperate war in the former Yugoslavia, Sacco has added War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96.

Acting as sort of deleted scenes from Safe Area Gorazde, the two stories in War’s End are mini-biographies of two dramatically different men, but they also encompass the motley crew of media war junkies, criminals, soldiers and smugglers that have all been drawn in by the war. They also capture the desperate struggle of civilians trapped in a war zone in a dramatic manner that meets and exceeds the best war journalism of its time.

In the first story, "Christmas with Karadzic," Sacco opens with a car chase far too bizarre for any Hollywood film as the author and his renegade freelancing partner Kasey rocket past armed checkpoints. What’s the rush? Kasey, a stringer for NBC Radio, Voice of America, the BBC and others, has gotten a tip on a location for Serbian war leader Radovan Karadzic, wanted for crimes against humanity including genocide, assault, murder, plunder and other crimes against humanity.

In addition to a ghostly portrait of the war criminal, the story is also an interesting portrait of the war journalist and their strange mercenary tactics towards potential targets. Sacco describes his partner’s frustration as they run up against wall after wall in chasing Karadzic:


Kasey is switching gears…You don’t know Kasey like I know Kasey… His brain’s half cash register and right now it’s showing ‘NO SALE’… He’s the King of Strings, he gets paid by the piece… and so far this pale trip has been a monetary balls up…


In the end, the most remarkable thing about this monster is Sacco’s startling realization that Karadzic is really just this guy and that the artist can’t even summon the loathing for him that he would like to feel.

The second story, "Soba," has a fascinating subject. Soba is a charismatic but burnt-out wanna-be rock star who, at 27, is drowning his horror-filled memories of the war in the bars of Sarajevo. Despite his nightmares of shelling and battles in the hills of Bosnia, Soba has become a folk hero to his fellow denizens of the city. He is a guy that is so compelling that the hairy, sweating artist is equally interesting whether he is drawn dancing in the nightclubs or smoking, trembling and recounting the incredible tension of crawling through muck in the dark to disarm land mines. It’s incredible that Sacco has gotten him to reveal his own dark secrets like he has.


It’s really fucking dangerous. Sometimes you must get so close to their positions. Every time I feel like I’m doing it for the first time. We are working at night… We have only a stick to find their mines. When we find them, we take out the explosive and replace them… They have mines that explode a mine below when you pull them out. You have to check everything…

Sometimes I feel like I like that job. These days I feel that there’s something missing -- like I’ll go crazy if I don’t have that level of intensity… I’m nonstop in the atmosphere of that job, even now. You can’t relax because you must go back to it. I must keep that feeling or I might make mistake. I can’t relax anyway. When you relax, you start thinking and then you’re thinking, "What am I doing? This is crazy."


This is what journalism should be. Sacco has gone beyond the pale of giving a report on a place to tell a story that is completely, brutally and wholly true. He’s brought round the painful insight that a genocidal maniac can be a quietly dignified politician and a simple man can bring hope to his comrades in a time of terrible struggle. Sacco takes work to read but the artist’s combination of black humor and earthly drawings make for a truly astute combination.

War’s End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96 by Joe Sacco
Drawn & Quarterly
ISBN: 1896597920
80 Pages


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Boldtype reviews WAR'S END

Updated June 1, 2005


COMICS JOURNALISM
War's End: Profiles From Bosnia 1995-1996

Two early short comics from Joe Sacco offer contrasting portraits of an artist in wartime and an untouchable war criminal.


Review

Celebrated graphic novelist Joe Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine) is a muckraker in the noblest sense. He's a war-zone journalist who happens to use comics in his dogged documentation of injustice. Just republished by Drawn and Quarterly, these two early short stories depict a pair of fascinating characters on opposing sides of the Bosnian war, just as it was ending.

In "Soba," Sacco offers a portrait of a self-described Sarajevan artist-warrior, a local rock star who paints with scrounged materials by day, and plants landmines around the city at night. In the boastful antics, wistful reminiscences, and horror stories of this larger-than-life figure, Sacco traces the determination, hubris, and humanity of the entire ruined city.

In the second story, Sacco and two journalist friends manage to track down and interview Radovan Karadzic — one of the bloodiest of the Serb war criminals — outside an Orthodox church at Christmas. But to the trio's dismay, they find the nationalist leader to be maddeningly peaceful, even stately. As he sits in the church, all Sacco can do to remind himself of his loathing is repeat over and over Karadzic's deadliest statement during the siege of the Bosnian capital: "Sarajevans will not be counting the dead. They will be counting the living." This vignette evokes the frustratingly elusive nature of crimes against humanity: when the shells stop falling, massacres, rapes, and concentration camps emerge in stark relief against a ravaged civil society, but making sense and indictments of them is no easy matter.

Over the course of his career, Sacco's illustrations have grown almost pathologically detailed. It's as if each panel has to capture every last nuance of oppression, and only virtuosic inking can accurately portray the black and white of morality. In these early works, realism is more fluid: the stories bridge the aimless but talented caricatures found in Notes of a Defeatist with the steely focus of The Fixer. As always, Sacco masterfully exploits comics' ability to show us personality writ (or rather, drawn) large. (TW)
 
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  Booklist reviews WAR'S END

Updated June 1, 2005


Sacco continues his comic-strip reportage on the Bosnian war with this collection of two shorter stories whose events predate Safe Area Gorazde (2000) and The Fixer (2003). In "Christmas with Karadzic," Sacco joins a group of hard-bitten journalists trying to score an interview with Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic, the driving force behind the siege of Sarajevo. "Soba" follows a charismatic Bosnian artist as he hits the bars to obliterate memories of his army job planting land mines. "Christmas" is a brutally honest, first-person account of an encounter with evil; but "Soba" is the stronger piece, thanks to its fascinating protagonist, whose real art is for survival. Sacco's other reports from Bosnia are more substantive, but these stories share their expressive drawing, incisive observation, and shrewd combination of jarring visual perspectives, comic exaggeration, and black humor, which so well convey the chaos of the war... Gordon Flagg

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PW Gives Sacco's WAR'S END a "Starred Review"

Updated March 7, 2005


War's End: A Story from Bosnia-Starred Review

Sacco, Joe (Author)
ISBN: 1896597920
Drawn & Quarterly
Published 2005-06
Hardcover, $14.95 (80p)
Literary; Artists, Architects, Photographers
Reviewed 2005-03-07
PW

These two stories by Sacco bookend his definitive works of comics journalism on the Bosnian War, The Fixer and Safe Area Gorazde . Like those books, these stories take readers with Sacco as he searches for some truth in all the conjecture and confronts his own fears and suspicions about the war. In the first story, "Christmas with Karadzic," Sacco goes to great, often uproarious lengths to get an interview with the notorious Bosnian war criminal Radovan Karadzic as the leader attends Christmas services. The story climaxes with Sacco observing Karadzic, noting, "I feel nothing intimidating about his presence, nothing extraordinary about this man indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal... a man I have despised with all my heart for years." Rather than reporting the usual facts about Karadzic, Sacco shows him at his most mundane and, consequently, most revealing. In all of his work, Sacco displays a similar knack for seeing a subject from an entirely unexpected view, as he does with the second story, "Soba." The titular character is a regular guy and wanna-be rock star who becomes a war hero to his fellow Sarajevans. His story illuminates the conditions of wartime life and gives readers a lively character to hang onto amid the destruction. This work is painstakingly drawn and reported--it is both great cartooning and moving, revealing reportage. (June)


 

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  Philly Inq Spotlights THE FIXER & SCRAPBOOK!

Updated October 26, 2004


FEATURES MAGAZINE / ENTERTAINMENT
Other works by graphic storytellers
By Dan DeLuca
Inquirer Staff Writer
496 words
26 September 2004
The Philadelphia Inquirer
ADVANCE
H11
English
(c) Copyright 2004, The Philadelphia Inquirer. All Rights Reserved.

It takes a long time to make what Maus author Art Spiegelman calls "a comic book that needs a bookmark." Getting through a graphic novel by Joe Sacco, Daniel Clowes or Marjane Satrapi may take only an evening or two, but the painstakingly detailed word-and-picture stories often take years to produce.

While the comics-as-literature movement continues to grow, it's not every publishing season that sees a flurry of titles worth crowing about. This happens to be one of them. Spiegelman's In the Shadow of No Towers is the most prominent, but there are other noteworthy works:

Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis 2: the Story of a Return (Pantheon, $17.95). The second volume of the Iranian artist's memoir of growing up in an Islamic fundamentalist society finds the teenage Satrapi trying to readjust to her homeland after a Westernizing experience at a secular school in Vienna. The woodcut-like drawings are wonders of simplicity that suit the witty, moving story.

McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, #13 (McSweeney's, $24). This volume of Dave Eggers' literary journal was guest-edited by the prodigiously gifted Chris Ware, author of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, and is given over entirely to alt-comics and essays about them. Patterned after Spiegelman's pioneering magazine Raw, the beautifully designed book includes excerpts from all the major players, including Robert Crumb, Lynda Barry, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Ben Katchor, and Philadelphia's Charles Burns. The place to start.

Joe Sacco, The Fixer (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95). The author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde specializes in training a journalist's eye on the day-to-day lives of people caught up in ethnic violence in far-flung locales, bringing empathy and a sense of the absurd. In The Fixer, he focuses on Neven, a Sarajevan who works as a journalist's translator and "fixer."

David Rees, Get Your War On II (Riverhead, $12). Profane, partisan and painfully funny, Rees' post-9/11 comic strip - posted at www.mnftiu.cc - uses expressionless office workers uttering ironic anti-Bushisms to drive home its polemical points. To wit: "The Coalition of the Willing is about to rock! Thanks, Uzbekistan! Thanks, Macedonia! You guys are the best!"

Mark Beyer, Amy and Jordan (Pantheon, $21). A collection of strips published in alternative weeklies from 1986 to 1996, the black-humored Amy and Jordan portrays the misadventures of a couple living a Murphy's Law urban existence, encountering existential despair, ennui, and homeless people from another planet.

Adrian Tomine, Scrapbook: Uncollected Work, 1990-2004. (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95). In Scrapbook Tomine, a superb draftsman and chronicler of the inconsolable heartaches of the indie-rock crowd, gathers up assorted strips from music magazines, New Yorker illustrations, and posters.

Daniel Clowes, Eightball #23. (Fantagraphics, $7). The latest installment of the continuing comic by the author of Ghost World.   

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Boston Phoenix features Sacco's FIXER

Updated September 17, 2004


In Spiegelman’s footsteps: Satrapi and Sacco

Although she hadn’t met Art Spiegelman at the time, Marjane Satrapi recalls that Maus was an important inspiration in telling her story of growing up in revolutionary Iran in comic-book form. An artist and illustrator, Satrapi wrote children’s stories before she created her acclaimed memoir, Persepolis (2003). "Maus was the first comic that I read that was not a comedy and was not a superhero story," she said recently, over the phone from Paris.

Encouraged by studio-mates in Paris to set her own story to pictures and words, Satrapi dove into the form. Originally released in two volumes, it became an immediate hit in France, was translated into a dozen languages and was picked up by Pantheon/Random House in the States.

Whereas the first Persepolis deals with war and revolution, Persepolis 2 opens with Satrapi as an adolescent in Vienna, where her liberal-minded middle-class parents have sent her to school. Persepolis 2 is, in its own way, as moving as its war-torn companion volume (in which close relatives and friends are imprisoned and executed by the Iranian government or killed by Iraqi bombs). Like its predecessor, Persepolis 2 takes the particulars of the exiled young Marji and her depression ("I was nothing. I was a Westerner in Iran, an Iranian in the West. I had no identity") and puts them into the framework of typical adolescent and young-adult anxieties. It also takes us through Marji’s return to Tehran, an early marriage and divorce, and her final exile.

As in Spiegelman’s work, the comic-book form serves Satrapi’s subject matter. Her simple, woodcut-style forms have a childlike simplicity that’s belied by a taste for stylized design (comparisons have been made to Matisse) and Satrapi’s grounding in the history of Persian art. Where Spiegelman employs parody and satire, Satrapi scores with understatement: the subtext of loneliness and loss underlies the whole book and gives extra power to that final separation at the end.

Satrapi is still in touch with her parents, who visit her in Paris and talk with her regularly on the phone, but she knows she can’t go back under the current regime. "Today in my country you have journalists who are in jail for saying the same things I’m talking about," she says. "I don’t have any reason to think that my life will be safer than theirs."

Joe Sacco, meanwhile, can be seen as one of the most literal of the current crop of comic-book artists. After early work writing autobiographical and fantasy pieces, he returned to his college training as a journalist. Drawing on travels to Palestinian refugee camps and Bosnia, he has given an Orwellian journalistic dimension to the comic-book form.

Palestine (Fantagraphics, 1995) was striking for its behind-the-scenes depiction of life in the Gaza Strip, in which an anonymous group was individuated in Sacco’s interview material and in the meticulous rendering of faces. His Safe Area Gorazde (Fantagraphics, 2000) was equally compelling in depicting the miseries of the war in eastern Bosnia.

Sacco’s The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo, brought out in late 2003, has just entered its second printing. Unlike his previous books, it focuses entirely on a single individual, Neven, a "fixer" who negotiates day-to-day connections for foreign journalists but who has a somewhat nebulous past as a paramilitary. With a Muslim mother and a Serb father, Neven says, "I decided to stake my cards with Bosnia. I don’t know why."

Sacco implicates himself in Neven’s moral equivocations — he sees himself as the journalist-exploiter, drawn to disaster. "Put yourself in Neven’s shoes," he repeats while relating one shady dealing or another. And, "Put yourself in my shoes."

Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde were marked by their panoramic sweep. The Fixer is more claustrophobic, and the story of Neven is, perhaps intentionally, not the whole story. But Sacco’s drawing and sequencing of panels — the heart of comic-book art — are breathtaking. Turning the page from a tight "one-shot" of Sacco standing amid rubble to a two-page epic spread of blasted cityscape, you know you’re in the hands of a master.

 
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  The Fixer reviewed in Raleigh News & Observer, St. Petersburg Times, & Boston Globe

Updated April 12, 2004



THE FIXER was reviewed yesterday in Raleigh News & Observer, St. Petersburg Times, & Boston Globe by Carlo Wolff.

thanks.

Graphic novels come in all shapes, sizes and colors: anthologies of previously published, unrelated material; collections of thematically related material with a continuous story line; showcases for unrelated, up-and-coming artists; short story collections; and stand-alone stories. The best tell stories in which image and text cannot be separated.
Joe Sacco's The Fixer (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95, 105 pp), a particularly striking blend of picture and text, is a graphic work in the Maus tradition of stand-alone story. Published last fall, Time magazine's Web site ranked it second best for the year (after Craig Thompson's 582-page Blankets, from Top Shelf). Subtitled A Story From Sarajevo, this powerful probe of the collapse of the former Yugoslavia focuses on Neven, a onetime mercenary who will sell anything: women, cigarettes, even his principles. The information that freelance journalist Sacco buys from Neven results in a picture of a city that remains attractive and singular despite its wounds. The profiles of warlords Juka, Caco and Celo are frightening and brave, and Sacco's depiction of Sarajevo is heart-rending. The book teems with people you care for, and Sacco's hyperrealistic graphic style - busy, precise and passionate - effectively blends the horrific and the attractive. This goes beyond "official" reports of ethnic cleansing that kept Bosnia on the front pages for the first half of the '90s and rendered it old news after the NATO bombing of 1995. Remarkable art, remarkable journalism - this is a remarkable work of conscience.


Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Philly City Paper features Sacco's The Fixer & Brown's Louis Riel

Updated March 15, 2004


Sam Adams of the Philly City Paper does a grpahic novel round up and raves about two D+Q books:

On Louis Riel:

"Brown tells the story with evenhanded naturalism...the lengthy book is drawn with grace and solidity new to his work."

On The Fixer:
"Even by Sacco's elevated standards, The Fixer is strong stuff."
 
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  Daily Oklahoman features The Fixer & Louis Riel

Updated February 1, 2004


WEEKEND I
WORD BALLOONS

Graphic novels portray adventures during wartime
Matthew Price
Staff Writer
571 words
16 January 2004
The Daily Oklahoman
City
21D
English
Copyright 2004 The Oklahoman Publishing Company. All Rights Reserved.

Two graphic novels from publisher Drawn and Quarterly look at extraordinary individuals who lived in trying, war-filled times.

In Joe Sacco's "Fixer," Sacco relates the true story of Neven, a "fixer" who leads journalists to stories in and around Sarajevo during the Balkan conflict. Neven worked for Sacco as Sacco compiled "Safe Area Goradze," his history of the war in Bosnia. Sacco returned years later to find out what had happened to this "fixer" who had become his friend.

In the graphic novel, Sacco explores Neven's history: A lifelong Sarajevan, the half-Muslim, half-Serb Neven joined the warlords defending the city and the Bosnian Republic. After being injured in battle, Neven becomes a fixer, trying to make a living from his knowledge of the conflict.

Sacco, who graduated from the University of Oregon with a journalism degree in 1981, has chronicled conflicts in Bosnia and the Mideast in cartoon format.

Sacco received the American Book Award in 1996 for "Palestine," his book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sacco is the only major journalist working in a cartoon format. His books bring conflicts that are abstract for many Americans down to a human level. Readers get a better understanding of the overall issues and their human cost through Sacco's work.

"The Fixer" is a $24.95 black-and-white hardcover.

Chester Brown's "Louis Riel" explores the controversial tale of this Canadian historical figure thought of as martyr by some and madman by others.

Brown ("Yummy Fur," "I Never Liked You") worked for more than five years on this biographical story. Riel was the head of the provincial government during the Red River Rebellion of 1869. Riel was the passionate and popular leader of the French-speaking Metis people of what would become Manitoba. He spent almost 15 years in exile after the Red River Rebellion. Though he was elected to two terms in the House of Commons in that time, he couldn't take office without being arrested.

Riel returned to Canada in 1884 to help with another rebellion — though many believed he was mad. Riel claimed to have received special instruction from God and that the Metis would be His new chosen people.

Brown's cartoony style draws only what is needed without superfluity, a style well-suited for a historical tale. Brown has immaculately researched this story; a bibliography relates where and how he changed historical facts for dramatic purposes. "Louis Riel" is an educational, moving, challenging graphic novel that shows a talented cartoonist at the peak of his storytelling.

Chester Brown was born in 1960 in Montreal and lives in Toronto.

"Louis Riel" is a $24.95 black-and-white hardcover.

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Ottawa Citizen Declares 2003 "Year of the Graphic Novel"

Updated January 15, 2004


The Citizen's Weekly: Reading

Endnotes: Dare to get graphic: From bestsellers to Hollywood adaptations, this was the year of the graphic novel. Of course 'popular' doesn't always mean 'good.' PETER DARBYSHIRE considers a list of the year's critical hits

The Ottawa Citizen
1,014 words
7 December 2003
Ottawa Citizen
Final
C14
English
Copyright © 2003 Ottawa Citizen

The Fixer

By Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco pioneered "comic book journalism" with Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, harrowing documentaries of life in war zones. Here Sacco tells the story of Sarajevo that the media couldn't -- or wouldn't -- tell about the siege of the city. In this Pulitzer-worthy book, he uses the accounts of Neven, a footsoldier, to reveal a complex reality in which allies preyed upon each other and fact became indistinguishable from fiction. (Drawn & Quarterly/Raincoast, $36.95)

The Sandman: Endless Nights

By Neil Gaiman

Returning to the critically acclaimed comic series that made him famous, Neil Gaiman presents seven new tales of the Endless, immortal beings who personify such concepts as Destiny, Dream and Desire. A different artist illustrates each tale -- assignments that were perfectly matched to story and character. Endless Nights lacks the complexity and breadth of the original series, but Gaiman fans will love it anyway. (DC Comics, Little Brown, $37.95)

The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist

By Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon teams up with Dark Horse comics to present The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, a comic anthology series featuring characters from his Pulitzer-winning novel The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Presented in the style of comic book eras from the '40s to the present, the series pays homage to the forgotten pioneers of the form. (Dark Horse, $8.95 U.S.)

Quimby the Mouse

By Chris Ware

Thanks to Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, graphic novels are being taken seriously as an art form. Quimby the Mouse is a collection of comic strips featuring the misadventures of a cartoon mouse who endures a Beckettian existence of suffering and despair. Ware infuses Quimby's tales with fake ads and animation iconography, deconstructing the very medium of comics and reassembling it as a hybrid art form that is part autobiography, part existentialist tract and part meditation on the creative process. Ware is the James Joyce of comic artists. (Fantagraphics Books, $24.95 U.S.)

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

By Mariane Satrapi

Persepolis tells the story of the Iranian Revolution and its aftermath from the perspective of six-year-old Mariane Satrapi. Part autobiography, part history of Iran, Satrapi reveals the human impact of the revolution by focusing on the struggle of her family, wealthy secularists, to adapt. The story is beautifully complemented by the artwork, a simple but elegant mix of western and Middle Eastern art styles. Persepolis is simultaneously an elegy for Iran and a celebration of the spirit of the Iranian people, especially those who continue to resist the rule of the mullahs today. A must-read for all members of the Bush administration. (Pantheon, $26.95)

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

By Alan Moore

While the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is an older book, it deserves a mention because of its recent re-release and film adaptation. Moore creates a bridge between the literary and comic book worlds by casting characters from classic novels -- Dr. Jekyll, Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain -- as the equivalent of superheroes. The plot follows the quest of the League to thwart the destruction of London, but this is just an excuse for Moore to explore his favourite subjects: the responsibility of power, the human side of myths, the perils of conformity. Along the way, Moore throws in nods to comics history and enough literary allusions to keep even Harold Bloom happy. A modern classic. (DC Comics, Little Brown, $37.95)

The Boulevard of Broken Dreams

By Kim Deitch

Destined to become one of the canonical texts of the genre, Boulevard follows the growth and decline of an animation studio, whose employees are driven mad by a hallucinatory cat that is kind of a composite of Mickey Mouse and his countercultural opposite, Felix the Cat. Equal parts history, allegory and artistic romp, Boulevard is both an exploration of the role of the artist and a sharp critique of the ways animation has been drained of artistic merit and social value by the entertainment industry. (Pantheon, $32)

Summer Blonde

By Adrian Tomine

Adrian Tomine is the Raymond Carver of comics. Summer Blonde collects eerie tales of urban life, despair and isolation. While Carver identified the failures of the American Dream, Tomine charts its transformation into nightmare. Tomine's characters, all damaged in some way by society, explore the casual brutality of teenagers growing up in the media bombardment of the first Gulf War and the alienating effects of office life. A chronicle of the CNN generation. (Drawn & Quarterly, $26.95)

Nufonia Must Fall

By Kid Koala

A 21st-century love story and a musical novel, Nufonia is created by Montreal DJ Kid Koala. The story, which comes with a CD to be played while reading, follows a near-obsolete robot who falls in love with a human office worker in a world where everything is on the brink of a breakdown. Only daydreams offer solace. The story is told in black and white and without dialogue, but it has all the tenderness of a Charlie Chaplin silent film. Encore. (ECW Press, $29.95)

Louis Riel: A Comic-strip Biography

By Chester Brown

Chester Brown depicts the story of Louis Riel in spare black-and-white panels with a minimum of nuance -- the characters are mainly ciphers -- but the result is anything but simple. Brown takes Canadian history and manages to make it (a) entertaining and (b) a bit more complicated thanks to the attention he pays to construction of the Riel myth. Brown explores Riel's lesser-known characteristics. A "comic book" that should be required reading in history classes. (Drawn & Quarterly, $36.95)
 

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Sacco
Adrian Tomine

           Featured products

The Fixer
Summer Blonde (PB)




  Ottawa Citizen Reprints Time.com's "Best Comics of 2003"

Updated January 14, 2004


The best comics of the year, according to Time magazine:

The Ottawa Citizen
581 words
4 January 2004
Ottawa Citizen
Final
D2
English
Copyright © 2004 Ottawa Citizen

1. Blankets

By Craig Thompson

This semi-autobiographical novel, set in the snowy hinterlands of Wisconsin, tells the story of a lonely, artistic young man who struggles with his fundamentalist Christian upbringing when he falls in love. Fluidly told over 582 pages, Blankets magically re-creates the high emotional stakes of adolescence. Thompson has set new bars for the medium not just in length, but breadth.

2. The Fixer

By Joe Sacco

Sacco continues his pioneering work in comix journalism with this profile of a shady Sarajevo native and his stories of the city's siege during the early 90s. Combining detailed artwork with dynamic layouts and a grasp of the relativeness of truth, The Fixer is a vital pure comix

experience.

3. Persepolis

By Marjane Satrapi

It couldn't be more prescient or unexpected: a comix-style memoir by a woman who grew up during the Iranian revolution. Totally unique and utterly fascinating, Satrapi's simple style reveals the complexities of this veiled-off world.

4. Buddha, Vols. 1 & 2

By Osamu Tezuka

Japanese comix master Tezuka adds his own characters and stories to the life of the Buddha in these first two books of a projected eight. While always playful and entertaining, the central themes -- the cycles of karma and respect for all living creatures -- never stray from the tenets of the faith.

5. Nightmare Alley

Adapted by Spain

Spain, a veteran of the underground era of adult comix, adapts William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 novel of the midway. The perfect "comix noir" of a colourless world, Nightmare Alley churns your guts and loins with its nihilism, sex and freaks.

6. Louis Riel

By Chester Brown

Drawing the characters in a style more akin to daily cartoon gag strips, Brown tells the true story of a Metis mystic who led a rebellion against the Canadian government during the late 19th century. It's a compelling package that uses history to explore the nature of belief, madness and power.

7. Paul has a Summer Job

By Michael Rabagliati

Rabagliati's thinly veiled autobiography tells a genuinely moving coming-of-age story of a summer as a camp counsellor. Charmingly illustrated, the book follows Paul as he moves from self-pity to self-confidence, learning to live outside of himself through falling in love and helping others.

8. Palomar

By Gilbert Hernandez

At last all of Hernandez' stories located in Palomar, the small town "somewhere south of the U.S. border," have been collected into one volume. First appearing in the '80s and '90s, these deeply influential tales, a sort of Archie-comics-meets-Marquez melange of complicated pan-American inter-relationships, are a comix epic.

9. League of Extra Ordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2

By Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill

Forget the movie, if you haven't already. Writer Moore and penciller O'Neill take their cast of fictional 19th-century characters, including the Invisible Man, Mr. Hyde and Alan Quatermain and pit them against H.G. Wells' invaders from Mars. It's pure entertainment that also involves topical themes of foreign threats, WMDs and gene-splicing.

10. The Yellow Jar

By Patrick Atagnan

The never-before-published Atagnan turns traditional Japanese folk tales into gorgeous, full-colour comix told in a style reminiscent of ancient Japanese prints. Beautiful to look at and a delight to read, The Yellow Jar made for a knockout debut.

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Sacco
Michel Rabagliati

           Featured products

The Fixer
Paul Has a Summer Job




Rolling Stone Features Sacco's THE FIXER

Updated January 7, 2004


Joe Sacco is the subject of a two-page feature in the 1/22/04 issue of Rolling Stone which is timed to the release of his new Drawn & Quarterly graphic novel – THE FIXER. The legendary pop culture magazine states that Sacco is "America’s best comic-book artist" and also "one of today’s sharpest war correspondents." Contributing writer Mark Binelli traveled to Portland to interview Sacco for the in-depth career overview. Harvey Pekar, who is interviewed for the profile, commented that "…Joe is top-notch and his books are really important for the medium."
 
click here to download the PDF (1.95 MB)


Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  Kristine McKenna Interviews Joe Sacco In the LA Weekly

Updated December 31, 2003



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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




LA Weekly Features The Fixer & Acme Novelty Datebooke on Best of 2003 List

Updated December 31, 2003


Th LA Weekly has published their annual comics issue and god bless them! They feature Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook along with Joe Sacco's The Fixer as some of the best graphic novels of the year.

On Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook:

"This book reflects the humility, humor and genius of its author and forever ends the discussion of whether cartoonists should be considered artists."

On Joe Sacco's The Fixer:

"Few newscasts will give you a clearer or more indelible picture of recent global conflict than one of Joe Sacco’s books...The Fixer is no different. "


 
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware

           Featured products

The Fixer
ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  The Onion AV Club reviews The Fixer & Louis Riel

Updated December 22, 2003


"Both Louis Riel and The Fixer explore the common quandary of how patriotism gets reinterpreted as treason when regimes change. In that context, Brown and Sacco's careful illustrations have a subversive power: They scratch onto paper what had previously been a matter of rumor and vague perception."
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Village Voice features the Fixer as One of its Favorite 25 Books of the Year

Updated December 9, 2003


From the 12/10-16 issue of the Village Voice:

The Fixer: A Story From Sarajevo
By Joe Sacco
DRAWN AND QUARTERLY, 105 PP., $24.95

In 1995, journalistic cartoonist Sacco covered the Balkan conflict, and told the stories of the people around him in his remarkable graphic novel Safe Area Gorazde. In 2001, he returned to Sarajevo to meet up with his old "fixer," an army veteran named Neven who could set up anything for the right palm-greasing. This shorter, darker book concentrates on Neven and his stories—which Sacco notes he can't always believe—but puts them in the keenly observed (and drawn) context of smashed-up post-war Bosnia, the brutal territorialism of its local warlords, and old and young Sarajevans hustling to get by .
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  D+Q advertises The Fixer in The Nation's Fall Books Issue

Updated December 9, 2003


D+Q advertised Joe Sacco's THE FIXER in THE NATION's Fall Books Issue 12/8.
click here to download the PDF (580.97 KB)


Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Salon interviews Joe Sacco for The Fixer

Updated December 5, 2003


"Sacco's meticulous drawings, combined with detailed, personal accounts of his "subjects" (the word feels too sterile to describe his three-dimensional renderings), provide the kind of human, emotional context so lacking in traditional media reports. Newspaper articles and even television broadcasts may excel at describing the bare facts of a situation -- the number of people killed and wounded, the number of houses burned -- but they tend to fail at conveying atmosphere, nuance, meaning."
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  Dallas Observer Features Joe Sacco & The Fixer

Updated December 4, 2003


Comics From the Front
How Joe Sacco learned to stop worrying and love war
BY ROBERT WILONSKY


A scene from The Fixer, in which Joe Sacco, portrayed at right, goes to Bosnia to find Neven, who will tell him all. 

 

Maybe you know the feeling. Maybe it struck you one morning as you stared in the mirror before trundling off to the job you hate, or maybe it hit you so hard one night it woke you from your sleep like a prowler in the bedroom. It's that feeling of: I am useless. I contribute nothing. My life has no meaning. And what do you do about it? Probably nothing, because you're frightened of quitting the paycheck, of uprooting the life that's taken root deep in the soil, of stepping into the void where comfort is as foreign an object as a moon rock. So you live the life of resigned discontentment and pray for the opportunity that knocks on the door of your neighbor.

Joe Sacco once felt as though his life had no meaning. His were jobs built on the gray foundations of tedium and lethargy. In the 1980s, he held the position of associate editor for a publication run by the National Notary Association, where he spent a year writing about notaries--a subject about which he knew, and cared, nothing. He had received a degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 1991 and needed the gig, though not enough to soak his soul in formaldehyde. Among his other jobs: writing about advertisers for a Portland city magazine, chronicling First Amendment issues for The Comics Journal, running his own humor publication with a pal in Portland. Not bad gigs, in all. Just not good ones, either.

What he came to realize was that nothing "kicked him in the gut" till he decided to tell the story of Palestinians living, just barely, in the refugee camps along the Gaza Strip, described by the late Palestinian-American critic Edward Said as "the national Inferno." Sacco was traveling in Germany in 1990 when he became obsessed with trying to reconcile the demonization of the Palestinians with their status as a demoralized, defeated people living in horrific conditions under Israeli rule. He read books and newspaper accounts and couldn't get his mind and heart around the subject: Palestinians, he had long been told, were murderers and suicide terrorists, but how could this be true when they were merely trying to survive amid such terrible human-rights violations?

So Sacco packed his bags and for two months in 1991 and '92 lived among the Palestinians of the occupied territories and returned with notes and tapes and photographs. The result was nine issues of, of all things, a comic book titled Palestine, which Sacco did not know if anyone would even publish. It didn't matter. He had gone to Israel because he had to; all else were pointless considerations. When he did find a publisher, Seattle-based Fantagraphics, Sacco found himself as a rare, almost inexplicable breed of storyteller: the comic-book journalist who interviews dozens of people for hundreds of hours, takes thousands of pictures and walks countless miles through pock-marked battlefields and villages laid waste by bombs and death squads.

"It's not that I have some grand strategy about how all of this works or how it all works to better any situation," Sacco says from his home in Portland. He was born in Malta in 1960 and raised in Australia, and his voice contains soft, feathery remnants of an Australian accent. Sacco has often lived out of packed bags in Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy. He has returned to Malta to visit the homeland and been to Berlin to roadie for a punk rock band. And for the past decade, he has lived among the ruins of Palestinian settlements and Bosnian villages, where people live long enough to tell Sacco their stories, which he can put into his little comic books and share with people who would otherwise forget about them altogether. In 1995, Sacco traveled to the villages of Eastern Bosnia while the war there still trembled like aftershocks. He found himself in Gorazde, one of the so-called safe areas where some of the worst ethnic cleansing had occurred; Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95 was published by Fantagraphics in hardback in 2000.

"Now, it's more a question of personal compulsion to do something about it," Sacco is saying, taking a break from transcribing hundreds of hours of tapes for his next book, about Gaza. "If I didn't do it, I would have a hard time just looking at myself in the mirror. There are just times I wake up and I think, 'If I do not go to this place, then I'm not going to be satisfied with myself.' I know I would have been a coward, and I mean not just physically but morally. It sounds, maybe, a little pretentious, but that's kind of how I look at it."

You may know of Bosnia from CNN, may have heard of the Gaza Strip from a TV report. But what, Sacco wants to know, do you know of the people who live there? What do you know of how their homelands became hellholes? What do you want to know? He will tell you. He will show you. He will guide you through the minefields. Joe Sacco is the one in his comics with the Coke-bottle glasses and the buzz-cut hairdo and the Mick Jagger lips--the Ugly American who makes nothing look pretty.

He will show you, in Gaza and Gorazde, people who shiver in sodden and frigid conditions, melt without benefit of summertime shelter and watch as their family and belongings are blown apart by tanks and run down by bulldozers. He will show you Serbian warlords slaughtering thousands over scraps of barren land, old Palestinian women mourning little children, men who can't provide for their families, soldiers dying for not even the hint of a noble cause, governments torturing innocents in the name of nationalism.

"This is not a question of my doing something that's going to change the course of world history," Sacco says. "But I do feel sort of compelled to say something about it because I feel like it's just gonna come down to a worse situation at a point. With Bosnia it's just the idea that there was this mass slaughter in Europe, especially after this whole idea of never again--you know, about the Holocaust--and here we are on some level getting to this point where large groups of people are being massacred. I was infuriated by how the world community, including the United States, just turned it into a humanitarian crisis rather than a political one."

Sacco has a new book out, The Fixer (Drawn & Quarterly), about the man named Neven who, in 1995, guided the cartoonist-journalist through Bosnia for the price of packs of smokes or a nice meal or pair of blue jeans. Neven and other fixers like him were the stories behind the stories sent back from Bosnia back then--the eyes and ears of foreign correspondents who needed to file horror stories from the front lines every day. Some were former soldiers; most were gangsters and thugs. All were profiteering off slaughter. In the book, Sacco returns to Sarajevo to find Neven and find out who he really was--an impossible task among people who did and said anything to live one more day.

It is not enough to celebrate Sacco's work for what it isn't, comic books without superheroes. It needs to be appreciated for what it does: boiling down some complex shit till it looks so horrifically simple. Have you ever wondered just what impact Israel's annexing of territory in 1967 had on the Palestinians living there? Then pick up Palestine's paperback collection, turn to page 181 and meet Sameh, a Palestinian doing social work in a rotting refugee camp in Jabalia. Or find a few pages later the Jewish tourist who feels no guilt: "We won the land in the war!" Or ever wondered about how desolate a city Sarajevo really was during the fighting in the early '90s? Open The Fixer to the spread, early on, of Sacco trundling up to the Holiday Inn, standing on the desolate horizon like the last rotting tooth in a junkie's mouth.

Maybe you think, like the American tourist, he's full of shit--a propagandist spreading a truth but not The Truth. But you can't read Sacco's work without giving just the slightest thought: Wrong has been done here, and what can be done to make it right?

"That makes me feel like, 'OK, the book accomplishes something,'" Sacco says. "Giving you another idea, that's pretty much the idea--just to let people know, at least the people who read the book, that there's something else going on behind the news that these 10-second reports on the news are not telling you. They're not giving you any feeling for what's going on, and I guess the hope is just that there's not just me but a number of people doing this work in other media, and that as a whole it does make some impact on sort of a popular front level. It makes some sort of impact with people so that at least they can question the government or the media. And whether that goes a step further, I don't know."

Sacco is underground cartoonist as documentarian (and activist, maybe), how Robert Crumb might have turned out if his work were about more than a guy with a hard-on for fat chicks. He shows you everything he captured, recorded or recalls during the three years (or so) it takes to complete these collections, during which he might take the occasional trip to some godforsaken land for The New York Times or the other hard-news publications for which he writes and draws.

There will come a time when he can no longer do this--when he turns 50, Sacco believes, he will be unable and probably uninterested to sit in cold places for hours or months, and Sacco will then move to telling, maybe, his own stories. Already he has begun considering his autobiography, a life story told through the music of the Rolling Stones. But first comes Gaza, available in three years, more or less. There are tapes to transcribe, photos to dig through, pictures to draw.

"I think that the special thing that comics have is that they are so accessible," Sacco says of the reasons he chose this as his medium. "It's just hard to interest people in certain subjects. It's hard for me to sit around with people who just don't pay attention to the news and discuss the Palestinian situation. They're gonna listen a little bit to be polite, but in the end they're just gonna want to talk about something else. And with this book I think there's a segment of the audience that says, 'Well, I should have read something about this a long time ago, and this looks really damn easy.'" He laughs. "It's subversive in that way because it's accessible as an object, but what's inside it can be just as brutal or just as deadly as anything else."



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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Eastbay Express Spotlights Joe Sacco's Bay Area Fixer Signing

Updated December 4, 2003


Sarajevo Joe
Reporter Sacco visits Cody's
Joe Sacco

FRI 12/5

With his thinning blond hair and his paunch, Neven looks like an ordinary Joe Six-Pack from anywhere in Europe or America. Hard to believe that in the Bosnian civil war of 1992-93, he went into bars, pulled a revolver, and rounded up every man he saw for trench-digging duty on behalf of a Muslim warlord named Caco. Or that he hustled foreign journalists for cigarettes, drinks, and serious money as a guide to the anarchic chaos that was Sarajevo.But that's the point of Joe Sacco's remarkable memoir, The Fixer (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95) -- that Neven the Fixer was no different than anyone else, doing what was necessary during the brutal years when displaced people, killing fields, and gangsters-turned-chieftains transformed tolerant, multicultural Sarajevo into a graveyard of dreams. Neven knows where the bodies are buried. Sacco, who appears Friday evening (7:30) at Cody's Books on Telegraph to sign copies of his book, also knows Sarajevo well. As a political reporter who uses "commix-journalism" to tell his stories, he has covered Palestine (his first book) as well as Bosnia (Safe Area Gorazde) and other hot spots. 510-845-7852 or CodysBooks.com -- Kelly Vance

 
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Joe Sacco

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The Fixer




  PW interviews Joe Sacco & spotlights The Fixer

Updated November 24, 2003


Joe Sacco, Comics Journalist
by Calvin Reid -- 11/24/2003

PW Forecasts > Nonfiction
PW Talks with Joe Sacco


Sacco established his reputation as a serious journalist with Palestine (1994), a firsthand account-in-comics of Palestinian life under the Israeli occupation. Next came Safe Area Gorazde (2002), which documented the brutal victimization of Bosnian Muslims by Serb nationalists during the Yugoslavian conflict of the early 1990s. In The Fixer: A Story From Sarajevo (reviewed here), he returns to Sarajevo.

PW: Tell us why you returned to Bosnia and Sarajevo and about Neven, the "fixer."

Joe Sacco: I first met Neven in 1995 and thought he'd be good for a story about how civil society in Sarajevo broke down during the war. When the war started there was no Bosnian army. To defend the country it essentially turned into a warlord situation. Very little has been written about that. Neven was very much involved and I could tell his story as well.

PW: Why Neven?

JS: He's an interesting character, and using him allowed me to tell the story of how journalists often have to rely on totally uncreditable people who have their own agendas. It's a story that isn't told very much. The book makes it clear that you can never trust Neven, you can never know what's really true. He's not a sympathetic character but he can be a poignant character.

PW: In the book he is both heroic, risking his life to defend Sarajevo, and as barbaric as other Bosnian irregulars who were murderers and criminals. Which portrayal is true?

JS: Neven knew a lot about the warlord situation in Sarajevo and his stories were consistent, but even I could never really make up my mind about what was true. But a verdict wasn't really necessary. Neven represents the kind of people who inhabit a place like Sarajevo. The truth can be stretched in many different directions.

PW: Is he symbolic in some way?

JS: Yes, somewhat. People in Sarajevo can be needy and friendships are unstable, but the book is also about Neven as an individual. After the war he's in dire straits.

PW: What is Sarajevo like today?

JS: Sarajevo is a café economy. The cafés on the main streets are full, but then you wonder, what are all these people doing here in the middle of day? The economy is bad and people are desperate. Reconstruction after war is a long process.

PW: How do people respond to you as a cartoonist/journalist?

JS: People and other journalists take me seriously. No one's bothered that I do comics. In fact, it helps me. When I travel and show people my books, there is no language barrier.

PW: How do you go about your work?

JS: I take lots of photos for reference; otherwise I do what any reporter does. I do lots of interviews; I keep a journal and look for stories. When I return home I index my notes, write the story and begin to draw. I don't draw much in the field, maybe some sketches. In the field it's about getting to know people.

PW: What motivates you to do comics about war? Is it the suffering you encounter?

JS: Yes, the suffering does motivate me. I wouldn't do this if it didn't. When I see what I've seen, I'm compelled to tell these stories.

PW: When did you know you wanted to do serious journalism in comics form?

JS: I have a journalism degree, but I also came out of the autobiographical comics movement of the 1980s. I had always wanted to go to the Middle East, to the occupied territories, and after I got there I thought, well, I should do comics about this and my experiences. My journalism training just kicked in. By the time I did Safe Area Gorazde, I was more self-conscious about it.

PW: What are you working on for your next book?

JS: I'm working on a long book about Rafah, a refugee camp in Gaza. It will be a profile of the town and its history, and it will be published by Metropolitan Books.

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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

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The Fixer




PW gives The Fixer a "starred" review

Updated November 24, 2003


The trade publication PUBLISHERS WEEKLY reviews Joe Sacco's new graphic novel THE FIXER.


THE FIXER: A Story from Sarajevo
Joe Sacco. Drawn and Quarterly, $24.95 (144p) ISBN 1-896597-60-2

* Intrepid reporter and comics artist Sacco returns to Bosnia and Sarajevo to chronicle Neven, a "fixer" who leads Western reporters to stories, dispensing information and literally guiding them through the fascinating, dangerous landscape of post-war Sarajevo and Bosnia. Neven worked for Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde) when he wrote his previous book about the Bosnian war. Initially suspicious of him, Sacco gradually realized Neven’s own story—a microcosm of the Balkan conflict itself—may be the most compelling story of all. A native Sarajevan, Neven watched as rebel Serb nationalists armed themselves against an unarmed multi-ethnic Sarajevo and Bosnian Republic. Neven eventually fought to defend Sarajevo as his city was torn apart. He joined criminal gangs, thieves and borderline sociopaths—warlords who often defied the government—who ultimately took up the call to defend the Bosnian Republic. Wounded in combat, Neven became a fixer but was intimately involved—as a legitimate soldier, guerilla irregular and victimized citizen—in every aspect of the bloody conflict. He’s really selling Sacco his own story ("Can you imagine the sort of movie that could be made about bastards like me?"), and Sacco marvelously weaves in his own feelings of uneasiness and awe at his guide’s grim life story. The tightly wound, humane and suspenseful nonfiction graphic novella employs visual devices—e.g., the haunted, unreliable protagonist, obscured by shadow and cigarette smoke—from the best traditions of film noir. Sacco’s finely wrought, expressively rendered b&w drawings perfectly capture the emotional character of Sarajevo and the people who struggle to live there. This superlative and important story is easily one of the best comics nonfiction works of the year. (Nov.)
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

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The Fixer




  Modern Times features D+Q; Sacco, Tomine & Matt to sign

Updated November 24, 2003



MODERN TIMES FEATURES DRAWN & QUARTERLY AS ITS INDEPENDENT PRESS
OF THE MONTH FOR DECEMBER

Renowned Cartoonists Joe Sacco, Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt to Make Appearances

The landmark San Francisco bookselling institution, Modern Times, is featuring one of the world’s leading publishers of art & literary comics, the Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly, as its independent press of the month for December. As part of the month-long celebration, Modern Times will feature all D+Q titles at 25% off and will host an event for Joe Sacco and indy press party with Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt.

On Thursday, December 4th at 7:30, American Book Award-wining war correspondent/cartoonist Joe Sacco will present his new graphic novel THE FIXER, which has been named one of Publishers Weekly’s books of the year for 2003. In his new book, the author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde returns to post-war Bosnia and paints a compelling portrait of his associate Neven, a Sarajevo Serb loyal to the Bosnian government. Neven was one of the many "fixers" who sell war correspondents human tragedy and moral outrage stories in order to survive when the bombs are falling. Sacco will be on hand to sign and discuss THE FIXER.

On Saturday, December 13 at 7:30 PM Modern Times will host an Indy press party for D+Q with Bay Area resident Adrian Tomine and Joe Matt. Tomine, who novelist Nick Hornby called a "great talent" in his New York Times Books Review of 2002 graphic novels, will sign and discuss his work including SUMMER BLONDE and 32 STORIES. Joe Matt who will be making his first San Francisco appearance ever and his first bay Area signing in over five years, will be signing and discussing all three of his acclaimed graphic novels including POOR BASTARD, PEEPSHOW and FAIR WEATHER.

Modern Times is located at 888 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

ABOUT MODER N TIMES:
Modern Times is a progressive bookstore for San Francisco, located in the Mission District. Since 1971, Modern Times has offered wide-ranging literature on globalization, politics and media. Additionally, Modern Times features cutting edge titles in cultural studies, criticism, fiction, and increasingly, graphic novels. Modern Times maintains informed sexuality and gender sections, and features one of the Bay Area's most extensive collections of writings on Latina/o history and culture, complimented by a full selection of Spanish language books. And did we mention our children's books? Modern Times also fosters a vital literary community with an exciting calendar of author events.

ABOUT DRAWN & QUARTERLY:
With cartoonists that have been instrumental in defining the literary comics medium for the past twenty years, Drawn & Quarterly has become one of the most influential art and literary comics publishers in North America, if not the whole world. Book lovers, who appreciate exceptional quality in literature and design, laud D+Q for creating elegant objects that transcend the boundaries of books and comics. D+Q has grown from being a periodical company to a book publisher with over 20 titles a year and an extraordinary backlist of perennial best-selling titles that are regarded as literary classics.

For more information contact:

Amanda Davidson
Modern Times Bookstore
Mtbs@moderntimesbookstore.com
415-282-7025

Peggy Burns
Drawn & Quarterly
peggy@drawnandquarterly.com
514-279-0691


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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Adrian Tomine
Joe Matt

           Featured products

The Fixer
Fair Weather (PB)
Summer Blonde (PB)




PW features The Fixer as one of its best books of the year for 2003

Updated November 24, 2003


"Sacco returns to Sarajevo to profile the life of a former Bosnian military mercenary and quasi-thug who has become a "Fixer": a man who assists Western journalists, ostensibly guiding them through Sarajevo's confusing present, but who actually serves as metaphor for its brutal recent past."

 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  Portland's Willamette Week Features Joe Sacco & The Fixer

Updated November 24, 2003


"Sacco's beautifully rendered black-and-white drawings and crisp prove that comic books can be as powerful a medium as film or the printed word. "
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




The Portland Mercury reviews The Fixer

Updated November 24, 2003


"Sacco draws all the situations--those described by Neven, as well as others from official reports--with the same graphic, unflinching accuracy. He does not embellish the violence in an action comic style, nor does he soften the grotesqueries with blurred vision. His gory details are vivid, disturbing, and utterly real. "
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  WNYC's On The Media Speaks To Joe Sacco

Updated November 17, 2003


Joe Sacco was on the WNYC radio show ON THE MEDIA this past weekend discussing his strip for the Washington Monthly.
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Boston Globe Features Joe Sacco's The Fixer

Updated November 17, 2003


The Sunday 11/16 issue of the BOSTON GLOBE features an article on Joe Sacco and THE FIXER:

"Sacco demonstrates that the narrative arts, including comics, can gather up complicated social truths with a gradual patience that often eludes the camera."
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  The Oregonian speaks to Joe Sacco about The Fixer

Updated November 14, 2003


The 11/14/03 issue of the OREGONIAN features an interview with Joe and plugs his 11/20 Reading Frenzy event as well as THE FIXER.

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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Washington Post spotlights The Fixer

Updated November 12, 2003


The 11/9 edition of the Washington Post featured THE FIXER as the graphic novel of the week in its Sunday Media Mix. The venerable paper commented on the book's unique look at war, compelling storyline and also declared that "Sacco is blazing a trail."

 

Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Sacco's The Fixer on the cover of The Globe & Mail review

Updated November 10, 2003


Writer James Adams interviewed Joe Sacco while Joe was in Toronto for the book’s launch.
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Time.com reviews Joe Sacco's The Fixer

Updated November 3, 2003


Andrew Arnold of Time.com reviews THE FIXER:

"'The Fixer' continues one of the most creative and unique visions in the arts today. Joe Sacco has single-handedly created a media sub-genre: comix journalism. He brings alive the life and world of a funny, friendly, dangerous, mysterious person who seems a pure product of his place. "

THE FIXER will be in stores on 11/12/03.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  Joe Sacco interviewed by CBC: The Arts Today

Updated October 22, 2003


While in Toronto for his FIXER launch sponsored by the Beguiling, Joe Sacco was interviewed by the national radio show CBC: The Arts Today. The show aired on 10/15, we'll upload audio soon.

Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




The National Post features Joe Sacco & The Fixer

Updated October 9, 2003


Jeet Heer of Canada's National Post states that "honesty and empathy are the hallmarks of Sacco's journalism."

 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  The EYE Spotlights Joe Sacco & The Fixer

Updated October 9, 2003


Guy Leshinski of the Toronto weekly THE EYE writes "...there is no denying the power and sensitivity of his work."
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Joe Sacco In The October 5th Toronto Star

Updated October 6, 2003


The Toronto Star features Joe Sacco and THE FIXER to promote the upcoming 10/6/03 Beguiling special event for the debut of the new D+Q graphic novel.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




  The New York Review of Books on Joe Sacco and Daniel Clowes

Updated August 12, 2003


Here's a lengthy article on Palestine, Safe Area Gorazde (Joe Sacco) and Ghost World (Daniel Clowes) from this week's edition of The New York Review of Books:
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer




Exclusive online interview with Joe Sacco

Updated July 31, 2003


Joe Sacco has been hard at work on his new book from D+Q, The Fixer, for the past two years and he recently took time from his busy schedule for this interview with January Magazine. See below for more.
 
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Featured artist

Joe Sacco

           Featured product

The Fixer





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