House Logo

Joe Sacco (#110 of 3)

Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

Comments Comments (...)

Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists
Review: Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists

Almost eight years ago now, Yale University Press released a thick, glossy book by Todd Hignite called In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists. It was a collection of interviews with indie cartoonists, among them Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware. The book not only reproduced, in its almost 500 full-color illustrations, examples of the work of the artists being interviewed, but also reproduced the comics they read and loved and studied and borrowed from while developing their own way of drawing and of telling stories.

Last month, the University of Chicago Press released a book by Hillary L. Chute called Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists. While it doesn’t have as many lush, dramatic reproductions of comics new and old as Hignite’s book has, it’s nevertheless a satisfying survey of the artists who have turned and are still actively turning the graphic novel into a new kind of literature—and in so doing are now being stamped with the approval of academia and its elite university presses.

Chute’s book contains 11 interviews and spans the range of the comic medium’s creativity, from the artists whose work is fully fictional (Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, and Adrian Tomine), to work that’s closer to memoir and essay (Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, and Spiegelman), to new forms of political journalism (Joe Sacco and Phoebe Gloeckner), to theory and aesthetics (Scott McCloud). Chute also interviews two women who were at the helm of the most important underground comics magazines of the 1980s: Aline Kominsky-Crumb, who co-edited Weirdo with her husband Robert Crumb, and Françoise Mouly, who co-edited Raw with her husband Art Spiegelman, and who today is the art director of The New Yorker.

Far from Home Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

Comments Comments (...)

Far from Home: Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City
Far from Home: Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

A question for the history of the graphic novel: Will anyone ever write a cartoon equivalent of Moby-Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or For Whom the Bell Tolls? Will there ever be a cartoonist who in his or her real life does a bunch of dangerous and exciting stuff, such as work on a whaling ship, pilot a river boat, or fight in a war, and who then sublimates those experiences via the imagination into a work of fiction that’s vivid and dense and spiritually substantial? More specifically, will there ever be a cartoonist who can combine with his or her comics all that you get in Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin (the audacity, the action, the energetic globetrotting) with all that you get in Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (the disappointment, the ambiguity, the baroque psychology)?

Guy Delisle’s new Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City is a nonfictional graphic novel about being far away from home in an occasionally dangerous and precarious and confusing place. It’s about living for a year in Israel while trying to be a husband, a father, and an itinerant cartoonist. Insofar as it’s a memoir, Jerusalem is low-key and humorous, and brings to mind Ross McElwee’s documentary Sherman’s March. Insofar as it’s a travelogue, Jerusalem is inquisitive and observant, and brings to mind another doc: Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil. As a whole, the book is both enjoyable and instructive; it makes you chuckle and grin, and it makes you feel like a more informed, concerned citizen of the world.

Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde: The Special Edition

Comments Comments (...)

Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde: The Special Edition
Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Goražde: The Special Edition

With everything that’s been going on in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, etc. of late, it could occur to a restless young person that it would be a good idea—because it’s exciting and morally justifiable—to go to such places and report on what’s happening, to record the stories of war and revolution. An idea like that—specifically, to go to Benghazi, Libya—occurred to this reviewer only a couple months ago. Some people said it was a brilliant idea, exactly what a young journalist should be doing, heading to where the news is with a laptop, a camera, and a satellite phone, while others (family members) said it was an awful, disgusting idea, horribly selfish, and reckless.

While my plans have been tossed into the garbage, for the time being, the cartoonist Joe Sacco is someone who’s done such things, has gone to hot spots and reported—artistically, seriously—on what life was like there. He first traveled to the Middle East in the early 1990s, and his experiences there became fodder for his graphic novel Palestine. After that, he went to the Balkans. Safe Area Goražde: The Special Edition is not just a repackaging of Sacco’s illustrated report on the Bosnian War; it’s practically a DIY instruction manual on alternative journalism, a primer that reveals not just how someone gets into an isolated hot spot like Goražde, but how that person can believe he or she is capable of doing so in the first place.