Daily Oklahoman features The Fixer & Louis Riel

“Graphic novels portray adventures during wartime” / The Daily Oklahoman / Matthew Price / January 16, 2004

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.

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