Tag Archive | diary comics

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

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