Monday, February 25, 2008

Getting Graphic

I've always loved cartoons and comic strips. When I was a preschooler I discovered the comics page in the Los Angeles Times and rose early each morning to pull the paper off the lawn and turn to page 6, part B, where Nancy and Sluggo awaited me. (They were cartoon characters of very few words, and therefore available to me.) Later I went on to develop daily relationships with Mary Worth, Terry and the Pirates, Dick Tracy, Lil Abner, and eventually Peanuts, still later Doonesbury, and on I still go, this more than half-century later, when I scan all the cartoons in the New Yorker before settling down to the articles. Comics have always been a key point in my long journey to and through literacy.

When a friend brought home Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis after reading it in a Dartmouth diversity study group, I was delighted. By both writing and drawing her story, Satrapi gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the Iranian revolution and its impact on a progressive family caught in the middle of tumultuous events. She made use of Persian miniatures in her backgrounds, and I realized that for her to restrict her story to words only would have been to deprive the reader of her vision. Persepolis is now out in movie form, nominated for an Oscar in the animated division. She's since written and drawn several other books, each one giving me an inside look into the workings of Iranian culture, a look beyond the veil, as it were.

Joe Sacco is another writer who uses graphics to complete his story. He is a reporter who draws, and I found his Palestine to be filled with the anecdotal images of his travels there, his visits with the Palestinian people. I came away with new insights into the struggles in that war-torn land.

I have been really impressed with Lucinda's additions to the Graphica
collection, as it is now called. James Sturm, one of the founders of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, lends his talents to a wide range of topics. His James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems projects a range of historical experiences, from 19th Century backwoods evangelism, to betrayal in coal country, to early 20th Century Jewish baseball. His work has a definite edge; his characters seem haunted by the history in which they find themselves.

I just read a book by Adrian Tomine which explored coming of age issues for Asian youth and which left me feeling, well... old. That's fine, because today's graphic artists/cartoonists seem to consider any topic potential fair
game for their talents. The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation isn't merely a cartoonist's "impression" of the events of that fateful day; it's a graphic distillation of the report itself, which was read carefully by co-authors Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón. It's a thinking person's version made visible.

We're lucky to have librarians so open to all current forms of expression. Check out our graphica collection and see if there aren't works that appeal to the kid and adult that co-exist in you.


Vt Teacher said...

I really appreciate your collection of graphic novels.

Growing up, I think Maus was the first one that showed me that there could be more done than what I found in my GI Joe comics. I have trouble convincing myself to pay $15-20 for a book that I can read in a few hours (even though it's a fair price considering the time and effort that goes into it as well as the cost of color, etc) so the library is perfect way to consume them.

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