Uncensoring Comix Journalism: An Introduction for Educators
From his offices at the Daily Planet, journalist Clark Kent stripped into spandex and saved the world outside his mahogany office doors. Now, it looks like the Daily Planet is in need of Superman’s help, as the Fourth Estate is under threat from dwindling sales and dwindling real news content.
“Journalism will survive, but it will reach a limited audience, as the sparsely attended productions of Aristophanes or Racine in small New York theaters are all that is left of great classical theater,” Former New York Times writer Chris Hedges worries, prognosticating a bleak future in which news is only for the elite, the rest of us left to fed on Kayne West and Kim Kardashian’s kerfuffles.
Could comics save the day? That’s right, comics – those immensely popular picture and word stories you always flipped past the real news to get to – can they bring real news back to the masses?
Graphic journalism – “real” journalism with pictures and words (and sometimes, interactive elements) – has pretty much nothing to do with Superman, except for the fact that he was a journalist in a comic. Graphic journalism are comics about reality, about our world – not fantasy, nor escapism. This medium is still in its infancy, but illustrates a clear path forward, one especially critical for students growing up in an media-satured world, in which it’s hard to tell Kayne from Kosovo, the kerfuffles from the real news.
My former collaborator on the graphic report “The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum” Dan Archer defines graphic journalism with elegance:
See him talk on BBC about his comic on human trafficking in Nepal which got ONE MILLION readers in a day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22283856
See also Dan’s comic on comics journalism at Poytner.
Symbolia: A Tablet Magazine of Illustrated Journalism elaborates on Dan’s definition, using comics journalism itself:
Below is a brief overview to the emerging field of graphic journalism, including canonical works like Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Joe Sacco’s Palestine, new and emerging artist/journalists like Susie Cagle and Sarah Glidden, and publications like Cartoon Movement (which is free!). For more background, you can read my article for Truthout “Warning: This Article Contains Graphic Journalism,” which includes a history of this emerging medium, along with interviews with Pulitzer Prize cartoonist Ted Rall and graphic memorist/journalist Sarah Glidden (amongst others).
FINAL NOTE: This post is intended primarily for the participants in my presentation at The English Council of Two Year Colleges, but I hope will be useful for any educator interested in exploring graphic journalism and non-fiction comics in general as a powerful means to critically engage students in our media-saturated world. Links take you to more background/purchasing info.
Sacco, Joe. Palestine (1993)
Sacco with Chris Hedges. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012)
Satrapi, Marjane. The Complete Persepolis. Pantheon. 2007
Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus 1996.
Delisle, Guy. Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (2007)
Jacobson, Sid and Colon, Ernie. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. 2006.
Nakazawa, Keiji. Barefoot Gen: A Cartoon Story of Hiroshima (2004 – originally published in Japan 1973)
Glidden, Sarah. How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (2011)
Bors, Matt. Afghan Life (2010). Read for free at CARTOON MOVEMENT!
Archer, Dan. Check out his work on human trafficking in Nepal from Archcomix.
And “The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education,” with me (courtesy Truthout)
And of course, the comic which lent the title to this site: Automated Teaching Machine, with fellow community college professor Arthur King.
Cagle, Susie. Check out her excellent comics reporting at her blog.
Any comics journalists or graphic non-fiction you love? Please share with me in the comments.