Tag Archive | comics

Selected Comix Collabs

I write comics in collaboration with cartoonists, which have been published in The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Nib, Truthout, The Believer, Project Censored (Seven Stories Press) and more. Here’s a selection of my work. For inquires, contact adam.bessie@gmail.com Follow on Instagram @adambessie

Notification: You’ve Got Cancer with Josh Neufeld, at The Boston Globe

Sewing Community, with Marc Parteneau in The Believer

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos’ ‘School Choice’ Movement Isn’t Social Justice. It’s a Return to Segregation.  With Erik Thurman for Fusion (now Splinternews)

Philosophers at Theme Parks with Jason Novak in the New Yorker’s Daily Shouts

No shame in staying alive: How medical marijuana helped save me from brain cancer,” with Marc Parteneau at Fusion (now Splinternews)

Children of the Code: Big Data, Little Kids with Dan Carino, at Truthout

The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform (Episode 1)  with Dan Archer, at Truthout

The Teacher Ghetto with Jason Novak, at The Atlantic

This School Is Not A Pipe with Josh Neufeld, at Truthout

The War on Everything with Jason Novak at The Los Angeles Times

Pink Ribbon Envy:Living with an Uncool Cancer (with Dan Archer, and Medium’s The Nib)

CONTACT: Adam.Bessie@gmail.com

Episode 2: Going the Social Distance (illustrated by Max Rodriguez)

Day 3 of Lockdown, after a full 7 hours remote teaching in my garage classroom. Read with Cake’s Going the Distance cranked up to 11!

There’s nothing like a pandemic to bring folks out of the house.

Read Episode #1 HERE: Face/Off

BC (Before Cornavirus), I ran 20 miles a week, and our lovely bay trail had some walkers, maybe a runner or two, and I recognized most of them. We waved, and went on our way. But really, it was mostly an empty run — which is the way I like it, especially after a long day teaching. Running is an integral part of my self-care — it’s not just about physical fitness, but spiritual balance, a practice especially vital during the last year, dealing with a recurrence of the brain tumor I’ve lived with for 11 years, along with 8 months of oral chemo (which is now complete, thankfully).

Read more on my relationship with exercise and the culture of the “Perfect Cancer Patient” here, in a graphic essay from a few years ago.

Indeed, running is my meditation, my daily spiritual ritual, one I turn to during hard times — like now. And now, more than ever, as a person with a chronic condition, trying to keep myself and family safe while teaching online for hours in a musty garage, I need that practice more than ever — that time alone, to run in nature, to regain balance, composure.

AC (After Corna), during lockdown, the whole community seems to be out walking — whole families, couples, little kids on bikes. On the one hand, it’s beautiful to finally see our community out enjoying nature together, away from the lure of the screen, holding hands, smiling, playing, taking advantage of the joys of the Great Outdoors.

Shot taken on run yesterday

On the other hand (which has been throughly sanitized), it’s a flippin’ pandemic!

Thankfully, it’s not nearly as packed in my neighborhood as this cartoon jests — and, folks are generally very respectful, great with social distancing. It’s nothing like the absurd outing on Stinson Beach last weekend, which got all of Marin trails closed. And in truth, if an area was as packed as this toon, I wouldn’t go there at all — and if I happened upon that crowd, I’d just turn around, rather than play Virus AvoiderTM.

And while the cartoon shows my perspective as a runner, trying to maintain 6 feet the whole way, it’s not just about me. I’m a big, hairy dude, and while speeding along the trail, sweating and heaving as I do, I imagine else on the path is performing the same calculation —

How the hell do I get away from that Bigfoot?

As a runner, I think it’s my responsibility to watch out for others — not the other way around. We are the faster traffic, and more likely to come up quickly on folks who don’t have a chance to react, or prepare mentally. Thus, now I map out my runs in advance to make sure I’m in empty areas, and ones without “choke points,” where we are less than six-feet apart. I try to find the widest paths possible, especially ones without any blind corners. Further, if I see people that are on a path I want to take, I’ll just wait for them to go by, or find another path, rather than having to rush past their social distance bubble.

Overall, I work to be a good citizen of the trail — including waving and smiling! — so that the new folks enjoying the outdoors feel safe, and after this is all over, while maybe want to stay outside!

The below image is from “The Perfect Cancer Patient” with illustrator Marc Parenteau (co-written with Gayle Sulik)

All my comics are here: https://adambessie.com/2019/06/30/collected-comix/

New Strip: Teaching Live in Lockdown Nation (with Max Rodriguez)

EPISODE #1: Face/Off

Please stay tuned right after this comic for a reflection on how a whole nation’s teachers are going remote for the first time, including me for the first time.

The last week has been a bit like building an airplane while it’s taking off. I converted all 4 of my classes online in the last week — and I’ve never taught online. Sure, I’ve used course management systems, and have students have online discussions, and upload their essays to the cloud. But I’d never taught online — and this was by design.

Since I started teaching in 2002, I’ve been a face-to-face instructor. I was drawn to teaching by the live energy of the classroom. Teaching has always felt a bit to me like jazz, a work of educational improvisation. I’d come to class with a plan, with a composition for the day, a script. But this script was only just a means to get to the real work of the day — the music, the music of students real, live voices actively engaging in learning. The sopranos, altos, the laughter, the silence, the scratch-skritch of pencils and pens. Every day is different, no lesson exactly the same, no music the same.

Will there still be this music remotely?

Sure, there are many fabulous online instructors, those who have chosen that medium, and worked on it as a craft. But what of the rest of us, those teachers whose craft and talents are working in a live community?

Right now, I write these words at the kitchen table next to my son, who would normally be at recess right now, running with his friends, together, face-to-face. Instead, he is on a laptop, doing a series of standardized math exercises, and blowing fart sounds in my face.

From my comic with Josh Neufeld “This School is Not A Pipe” (Truthout). Diane Ravtich and Bill Ayers were interviewed for it.

My wife and I are homeschooling, as all Californians will be now. We grieve this, as we love our son’s local public school, and its vibrant community. My wife is also a public school teacher, and for the first time is working online. (Right now, as I write, she is on Google Hangouts with her AP Euro students). We share our garage — which we hastily converted into an office — to work with our students remotely. We’re taking trainings from our tech-savvy colleagues who have been working online for years, all the while having Zoom meetings with our departments, sharing tips and tricks with each other, all while actually meeting with the students remotely (who themselves are often taking online classes for the first time). I imagine our son’s teacher, Ms. B, is doing the same thing in her own remote teaching bunker, as millions of teachers are across California, across the US, across the world.

We’re all working together to keep the music of the classroom alive, the music that has been silenced by this pandemic.

I leave you with these final thoughts from one of my comics, as we all consider what will be the legacy of this remarkable moment, when the world’s classrooms all went silent, and we all escaped into the cloud:

From my comic with Dan Carino “The Children of the Code” at Truthout (2015)

For the rest of my comic collaborations see: https://adambessie.com/2019/06/30/collected-comix/

My Teens in Comics: The Rise of Graphic Journalism, Graphic Medicine & My Top Ten Toons.

Journalism will again become what it was more than a century ago – a form of art. –Chris Hedges

From The Perfect Cancer Patient with Gayle Sulik and Marc Parenteau

The teens did not bring Hedges’ words to fruition — mainstream journalism did not return to a golden age of revolutionary truth-telling, but quite the reverse, with our “post-truth” world, full of filter bubbles flowing with “fake news.” Yet, despite the grim state of contemporary journalism in general, Hedges prophecy has come true in the teens — for graphic journalism.

What Comes After Post-Truth? With Jason Novak in The Awl

Hedges words also opened my 2011 Truthout report “Warning: This Article Contains Graphic Journalism“, a time when I found myself writing solely prose essays (the title is inspired by Rocco Versaci’s ground-breaking work of comics scholarship This Book Contains Graphic Language: Comics As Literature). Then, also, I was still making the case that comics are literature, an appropriate medium for study in college classroom. I interviewed the some of the key figures in the “new” wave of comics journalism: Sarah Glidden, who had just published the fantastic graphic memoir How to Understand Israel in 60 Days, Matt Bors (who had just published a remarkable comic on his travels in Afghanistan in a series “Afghan Life“, and hadn’t yet gone on to create The Nib), Ted Rall (who had already a long-track record of hard-hitting comics journalism), and Dan Archer who effectively defined the field in a comic and speech (click here). Indeed, graphic journalism was already heeding Hedges’ call — it was art, in every sense of the word.

And I wanted in.

From “No Shame in Staying Alive,” with Marc Parenteau.

A decade ago, I was a comics scholar, educator, and journalist — but what I really wanted to do was to make comics. And after meeting Dan Archer at San Francisco Zinefest, I got that first break, with our series for Truthout The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum (2012), a three part series exploring the privatization and standardization of education in the United States. I knew that as a pure-text essay, as I’d been writing for years, it would get a narrow audience of folks who already knew the issues and generally agreed. However, with this report, I hoped to broaden and diversify the audience involved in the education reform conversation.

From The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum with Dan Archer. Interview with anonymous Washington D.C. public school educator

At that time, few mainstream outlets seem to understand comics as a form of serious journalism — not only did I have to make the pitch for the story, but provide an explanation of comics as a legitimate medium (it was the same kind of argument I had made countless times in the academic setting). Truthout got it right out — thanks in large part to Anne Elizabeth Moore, co-editor of the first Best American Comics (with Harvey Pekar). Anne was also producing a fantastic series for Truthout “Ladydrawers,” and so Truthout understood comics as journalism. Thus, when we pitched the project, I didn’t have to explain why Dan and I were using comics — they were excited by the opportunity, and immediately grasped how such a project could drive active engagement over a wider and more diverse population.

From The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum. Interview with education activist Karran Harper Royal.

Now, in 2020, you can find comics journalism in most major outlets — indeed, Wendy Macnaugthon found her “drawn journalism” (as she dubs it) on the cover of the New York Times recently. This rising tide of interest in non-fiction comics is also reflected by the popularity of graphic memoir — such as Raina Telgemeier’s immensely popular series, including most recently Guts. Further, and most personally as a cancer survivor, the emergence of Graphic Medicine has created space for patients like me to tell their stories in a vivid and humanizing form.

From Pink Ribbon Envy: Living With an Uncool Cancer with Dan Archer at The Nib

This comics movement of the teens — built by incredible, and often ill-compensated work by countless creators, editors and publishers, some of whom I’ve shouted out here — created the space that allowed me to not just write, but actually get a number of scripts produced and published in a wide variety of outlets, including The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, and The Nib (Matt Bors‘ outlet truly created a platform to usher in this new era of comics journalism). I feel immensely grateful to have been able to join the field during this exciting time, and be surrounded by such incredibly talented and hard-working artists, writers, and editors, who continue be driven to illustrate the truth in a dark time — and do so artfully.

As we move into the 20s, I’m optimistic about the state of non-fiction visual storytelling. I plan to continue my work with comics journalism. However, I’m focused on my memoir It’s All In Your Head, a book-length hybrid comics/prose story of my journey living with a brain tumor while balancing being a parent, partner, and professor.

Here are my ten of the teens (with links). For all my comics, click here

Notification: You’ve Got Cancer with Josh Neufeld, at The Boston Globe

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos’ ‘School Choice’ Movement Isn’t Social Justice. It’s a Return to Segregation.  With Erik Thurman for Fusion (now Splinternews)

Philosophers at Theme Parks with Jason Novak in the New Yorker’s Daily Shouts

No shame in staying alive: How medical marijuana helped save me from brain cancer,” with Marc Parteneau at Fusion (now Splinternews)

Children of the Code: Big Data, Little Kids with Dan Carino, at Truthout

The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform (Episode 1)  with Dan Archer, at Truthout

The Teacher Ghetto with Jason Novak, at The Atlantic

This School Is Not A Pipe with Josh Neufeld, at Truthout

The War on Everything with Jason Novak at The Los Angeles Times

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer (with Dan Archer, and Medium’s The Nib)

CONTACT: Adam.Bessie@gmail.com

This School is a Musical Masterpiece: The “Four Rs” to Reclaim Public Education from Corporate Colonialism

KHR 

This is Karran Harper Royal, a real parent of a teenager in the New Orleans public school system, whom I interviewed for the second part of the  Disaster Capitalism Curriculum (with graphic journalist Dan Archer for Truthout), about the “New Orleans Miracle,” as its been dubbed by corporate education reformers who believe Hurricane Katrina,  which killed nearly 2,000, and displaced 400,000, was “The best thing to happen to the education system in New Orleans” (And yes, that’s a real quote from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan). In 2012, amidst the polarized presidential election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, New Orleans was solid ground:  they both argued that the free-market, privatized model that Royal has seen replace the public school system represents a model for the country.   For Royal, a prominent, nationally recognized public education activist, the “New Orleans Miracle,” also represents a model for American education – a bankrupt one, a well-funded “fairy tale” that purports to be about empowering kids, but is really about unleashing the market to dismantle the “government monopoly on education.”

While Royal speaks with unrivaled passion,  hard evidence, and personal connection to the community, her voice is largely marginalized.   Royal’s experience is not an isolated one, as those who are closest to children – the parents, the teachers, and especially the children themselves – have the smallest voice in education reform debate, which has been colonized by the language, ideologies, and policies of outsiders – politicians, think-tankers, Wall Street funded non-profits, and CEOs who have no direct connection or personal interest in the communities they seek to mold in their image.

Previously, I’ve dubbed this phenomenon the Gates Paradox: the power of your voice in the education reform debate is proportional to the distance from the classroom multiplied by the amount of money you earn. Of course, each additional media outlet owned increases the influence by a factor of ten. Or, expressed in the native language of the refomers, the Gates Paradox is: VαDsv*$ [MSNBC/]10 = INFLUENCE][1]

Indeed, the corporate colonists control the education debate, imposing the terms and language of the discussion, as they largely control the medium in which the debate takes place: it doesn’t take a complex algorithm to demonstrate that corporate media favors corporate education policy, especially when the media channel is funded by the same billionaire also funding the education policy (as is the case with Gates and both NBC and PBS).

How does a parent like Royal fight against this corporate colonialism, which floods in her hometown of New Orleans, displacing local schools, dismantling local communities, and imposing foreign values and policies?  How do we get Royal – and other real parents, children, and educators – heard over the “fairy tale” of reform?

How do we overcome the Gates Paradox?

By going back to basics: The Four Rs – Recognize, Resist, Reframe, and Reclaim.[2]

RECOGNIZE:  Education reform is trending right now in popular culture – and not towards a progressive, grassroots vision. While the agit-prop documentary Waiting for Superman started the pop culture assault on public schools, there is a cottage reform media industry devoted to putting out stories which support the reform vision of education, pumped out of the big screen, the TV, the radio, the newspaper, and underwritten by reform friendly billionaires like Gates, who have spent millions on messaging.[3]  This propaganda arm of the reform movement propagates stories like the “New Orleans Miracle,” that float about in the public consciousness, supporting these policies throughout the nation.

Less obviously and more perniciously, these reform “fairy tales” provide a language for discussing education that reinforces this worldview: phrases like “failing schools” and the “cradle to career pipeline” are normalized, and in doing so, unconsciously frame the issue for a reader or speaker, as I observe in my comic with graphic journalist Josh Neufeld “This School is Not a Pipe.” (for Truthout.org). Thus, the first step towards reclaiming public education is in seeing through the propaganda, in even recognizing the stories and language of reform.

Duncan
RESIST:  It’s not enough just to see that the propaganda of reform doesn’t fit the reality of schools that most children, parents, and educators experience.  Indeed, I became passionate about advocating for public education upon seeing such an astonishing chasm between what the media said about my profession, and what I saw every day as a teacher in a community college.  Thus, I began to call out these false stories – much like Royal has (and of course, Diane Ravitch), to expose both the “fairy tales” of reform and the drum-beat of public school failure.

But this is not enough: further, it’s important to resist not just the reform stories, but the reform language itself, which is drawn largely from the lexicon of the business world, and not education.   Once starting a conversation around “failing schools,” the debate is already lost; this term implies an entire worldview, one suggesting that public schools themselves are solely responsible for the struggles they face, much like a failing business. Logically, the “failing school” should be shuttered – much like failing business, with old management and employees fired, and new ones installed to secure “success”. In this way, there is a clear, unwavering line from a single phrase to an entire ideology, and specific policies, such as school closures.   Thus, we must not just avoid exposing the stories of the colonists, but their misleading language – which reinforces these stories, and favors the underlying corporate ideology.

REFRAME:  For the first few years of writing about education, I primarily focused on these first two steps – on pointing out the astonishing flaws of the reform propaganda.  But this, too, is not enough: indeed, reformers rightly point out that while many of us decry their  agenda, we don’t as readily point to our own vision.  I know that I’ve been guilty on this count – even as I’m working in my own college to develop new methods of teaching, and new programs to serve students.   Thus, instead of just pointing out the flaws in the corporate agenda, we must fill in the gap – to share our own stories, and our own language, through traditional media channels, and moreso, through social media.

“Public education is like producing a musical masterpiece,” Royal told me, in providing her own vision of an ideal public school system, one that would improve upon the privatized, two-tiered system that has taken over her hometown.  “[You need to provide] each instrument with the right sheet music to get the best performance from that particular instrument. Each instrument is different and can not be standardized, but with the right music, each can reach its highest heights.   When children are given the kind of educational support they need based on who they are, they can produce beautiful music,” she concludes, reframing schooling with a fresh metaphor, a new language, a new vocabulary of reform, one that highlights the inherent humanity and individuality of children, while still imagining a harmonious, yet diverse community.

Imagine: What kind of policies would our politicians produce if they imagined the classroom as a musical masterpiece rather than a business, or even worse, a pipeline?  What kind of classroom experience would children have immersed in metaphors of music, rather than spreadsheets and oil?

RECLAIM:   To reclaim the promise of public education, to develop policies that are more musical than monotonous, we must reclaim the conversation from the educational colonists.  We must find ways to mitigate the Gates Paradox, to render this algorithm of inequity obsolete, to tell the stories of what we see, in the language that we use, and get the public to hear it.

This is easier blogged than done.

However, as I attend the Network for Public Education Conference March 1 and 2nd in Austin, TX, (along with Karran Harper Royal, Diane Ravitch, and many others) we will not just resist, but work proactively and collectively towards a more humane, democratic, truly public school system.

The music has just begun…

npe-conference-2014-poster-2


[1] See my essay at Truthout:  “The Answer to the Great Question of Education Reform? The Number 42”  for an extensive discussion on the technicalization of education – and its dissidents.

[2] For extensive evidence on reform propaganda see Adam Bessie.“GERM Warfare: How to reclaim the education debate from corporate occupation.” Project Censored 2013. Ed. Mickey Huff. Seven Stories: New York. 2013.

[3] For documentation, see my essay at The Daily Censored: “Ms. Reform: Education Reform as Starlet of NetFlix’s “House of Cards”

Chronicle of Higher Education Review of ATM

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Arthur and I were honored that our non-fiction comic “Automated Teaching Machine” was reviewed in the Chronicle of Higher Education.  I never thought I’d write that sentence…

From Kafka to Computers, a Graphic History of

Automation in Education

By Megan O’Neil

As the debate about the role of technology in education builds, two California community-college professors have published their own commentary on the automation of teaching—in the form of an illustrated comic.

 The comic was published by the news site Truthout and has been circulating among faculty members on California community-college e-mail lists.
Read More:

http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/from-kafka-to-computers-an-illustrated-history-of-automation-in-education/46149

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