Posts Tagged ‘Occupy Oakland’

The Power of Comics Journalism

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Susie Cagle

Susie  Cagle is at it again! She continues to make news while continuing her exploits as a comics journalist covering the Occupy Oakland Movement. Last week Cagle was arrested and detained for fourteen hours after having been teargassed the week before by Oakland Police.

Along the way some have criticized her position as a member of press media considering her alliance with protestors. The supposition is that she can’t help but be biased when she produces her final work.  Who cares!

The idea that a comic artist is in the middle of this public melee and is going to chronicle it with words and pictures as only a comic artist can is fantastic! Comic Journalism is such a specialized and unique form of journalism I would be disappointed if the artist chose not to express opinion and miss out on an opportunity to fully express themselves creatively.

Comics have a long history of journalism in newspapers and though they may not have been in a long format that is used in comic books, comic panels and comic strips have always weighed heavily on opinion and have unapologetically influenced readers.

Thomas Nast self portrait

Thomas Nast who is considered to be the “Father of the American Cartoon” was instrumental in the downfall of New York’s powerful Tammany Hall leader, Boss Tweed who had defrauded the city of millions of dollars.  Nast was so relentless in his comic attacks on Tweed in the 1870’s that he was offered bribes to stop. Ultimately, it was Nast’s comics that were used to identify Tweed as an escaped fugitive in Spain.

In the 1890’s it was Richard Outcault’s pioneering comic strip The Yellow Kid, that gave rise to the term Yellow Journalism for the character’s role in promoting the sensationalizing of headlines to help sell newspapers.

Newspaper readers have always turned to the editorial comic to give them a bold, honest and satirical look at the headlines that spoke to them in a way that could be easily understood and appreciated. That is the power of comics.

The new trend toward long form comics journalism that is exercised by Susie Cagle, Joe Sacco, Josh Neufeld and others will give readers a new opportunity to experience critical events in our history in a personal way that can only be delivered through comics.

CO2 Comics contributor, Don Lomax’s classic work Vietnam Journal, though a work of fiction, has often been hailed as the most accurate graphic depiction of the Vietnam War. His first hand experience of having been there and his willingness to tell it and draw it as he saw it is what makes it great.  That is journalism. That is Comics Journalism.

I hope Susie Cagle continues to have the opportunity to be on the front lines of this Occupy Movement as a protestor and a journalist. Her experiences, as uncomfortable as they have been, are going to make one hell of a comic and will surely speak to a generation of young people who are finding and exercising their voice against greed and corruption and are intent on inspiring change.

Comics Journalism may well be the next frontier of the medium. One thing is certain, Comics Journalism is proof of the power of comics done right.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

Life Imitates Comic Art

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Susie Cagle

The Occupy Wall Street Movement is growing to monumental proportions and as it does we are paying witness to more and more conflicts between protestors and police. In Oakland the conflict hit home to those of us in the comic industry when comic artist/journalist Susie Cagle was teargassed  by Oakland Police while covering the protest as a member of the media.

Reading her account in an interview on The Daily Cross Hatch and watching Youtube videos of the conflicts arising there and elsewhere struck a sickening yet familiar chord with me that paralleled a theme used successfully in comics where the hero becomes the villain in the eyes of the public.

Since the terrible 9/11 tragedy of the the World Trade Towers in 2001, police officers along with firemen, first responders and military personnel have all been hailed as heroes. These men and women are real heroes that touch our daily lives and sacrifice their own to protect ours. Memorials, monuments and statues have been erected all across our country in towns big and small, over the last decade, paying tribute to their valor.

These same men and women are now portrayed as the villains in this unfolding drama, shown in armor, wielding weapons and battling the very innocent, unarmed people they have sworn to protect. Suddenly, they are the target of taunting, name calling and general public hatred. Sound familiar?

Spider-man was publicly painted a villain by J. Jonah Jameson, Bat Man upholds the mantle of villain in Dark Knight, The X-Men are hated for their superior mutant powers though they strive to protect the weak. Even the supers in the Incredibles are forced underground because the were presented to the public as a potential threat to society. The list of superheroes painted as villains is long.

The story is always the same. In the end it is the public that becomes the victim as it is left without its champions, its defenders, its heroes. In the comics the hero always overcomes and saves the day.  Unfortunately in real life, that is not always the case.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement has wakened America and the world to the imbalances of the haves and the have nots  but its campaign is in danger of dividing the people along our own social lines of defense.  Those officers are as much a part of the 99% as anybody. None of them are millionaires.  They are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters. Let’s not turn on them. Embrace them.  They have proven that they will put their life on the line for the public. They are our heroes.

Villainy wants the public at odds with the police and military. It is a distraction from the real issues of corporate greed and corrupt government. It is a battle that needs to be won and will need our proven heroes in order to succeed.

The heroes in comics are fictional and we all cheer when they come to the rescue. We can’t believe that they were ever forsaken. Let’s learn a lesson from our comic books and keep our focus on the real villains: The one’s with the most to gain at the expense of everyone else.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco

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