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Archive for November 19th, 2011

By Bob Clark

Being one of the few mediums where it’s possible to create a wholly comprehensive narrative and aesthetic work as a solo effort, comics have become a place for innovative and sometimes groundbreaking autobiographical impulses, cartoonists mining their personal lives or those tied to them for all manner of sequential representation. It’s also been a way for artists and authors (the two being the same thing in affairs written and drawn by a single person) to express any number of the historic and political issues of the day in ways that contemporary storytelling is sometimes hindered by (there’s only so much that even Garry Trudeau can do in Doonesbury before having to resort to pictorial “icons” like the Newt Gingrich floating bomb or the Bill Clinton waffle– savvy pieces of political cartooning, but ones that strain credibility and realism in ways that even Uncle Duke’s hallucinations don’t quite). Kenji Nakazawa loosely mined his own personal experiences as a survivor of Hiroshima for the Barefoot Gen manga. Joe Sacco’s work as an enterprising illustrator-journalist in the various warzone crises of the 90’s led to some rather stunning works like Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, showing that comics could tackle and report current affairs with just as much validity as a prose piece or cinematic documentary. Art Spiegelman has spent more or less the whole of his career mining his personal life and connections to tragedies both historic and contemporary in avant-garde affairs like Prisoner on the Hell Planet, In the Shadow of No Towers and most especially his renowned Maus, in which he traces his parents’ joint paths through the nightmare of the Holocaust while simultaneously covering his own efforts to interview and connect with his father in the present.

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