In the preface to his new book "Journalism," Joe Sacco pinpoints the challenges of the comics artist who seeks to be a reporter: "Aren't drawings by their very nature subjective?" he asks, before answering with a simple "yes." And yet, this has been Sacco's point all along, that, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, "Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices — just recognize them."
The rap on Sacco, of course, is that he is less a journalist than an advocate, who in such works as "Palestine" and "Footnotes in Gaza" blurs the line between observer and activist. That's true, I suppose, in the narrowest sense, but it's also reductive, and with "Journalism," he convincingly refutes the argument. It's not that Sacco doesn't take a position — or more accurately, a series of positions, since "Journalism" is a collection of short pieces that originally appeared in, among other places, Harper's, the Virginia Quarterly Review and the New York Times Magazine. For him, though, subjectivity is not an excuse but a tool. This is as true of his images as it is of his reporting strategy, which involves putting himself directly into his stories.