Joe Sacco
Fantagraphics, Seattle, 2001, English
Fiction, Comics and Graphic Novels
ISBN: 9781560974321
On 1 book list
Warren Lehrer

Despite my evangelizing of visual literature, I have to admit that I’m not a huge reader of graphic novels. Generally, I find the boxes too confining, and the relationship between the images and the text too predictable. But the graphic novel (and the comic strip) has been pried opened in recent decades, both in content and form by some phenomenal artists and storytellers—most notably, Art Spiegelman, Julie Doucet, Harvey Pekar, Alison Bechdel, R. Crumb, Marjane Satrapi, Chris Ware, and Emmanuel Guibert—and their work has brought me in. The “comic book” author/artist I follow the most is war reporter/cartoonist Joe Sacco. He travels to conflict zones throughout the world and reports on the people he meets and conditions he finds, placing himself in the scene as the perpetual self-effacing but curious outsider looking for character and truth. In The Fixer, Safe Area Gorazde, and War’s End, he’s in Bosnia. In Palestine and Footnotes In Gaza, he’s in the occupied territories. In Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, he teams up with “recovering war reporter” Chris Hedges to report on areas in America left destitute by profit, progress, and technological advancement (ending in the promise and wackiness of Occupiers in Zuccotti Park). Sacco’s books are not polemical—they are works of on-the-ground, bottom-up journalism. Published in 1996, Palestine is powerfully drawn and written, deeply moving, funny, and heartbreaking. Structurally, Sacco really breaks open the comic book form in the way he shifts point of view, scale, and sequencing of frames, and plays with text as part of his compositions.

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