Saturday, March 19, 2011

Footnotes from Innis Hall

image via Comic Book Resources

Joe Sacco spoke at length to an audience of over 200 at Innis Hall on U of T's campus Thursday night as part of a speaking series on the arts. His journalistic comic books focus on conflicts in places such as Gaza and Sarajevo. They tell of the impact of war on regular civilians. He brings an evocative eye to both the horrible conditions and everyday life of refugee camps such as Rafah. You hear a term like refugee camp and you're picturing some wind swept collection of tents, not a muddy city of thousands that's been there for 60 years. It's this unique blend of journalistic storytelling and comic book arts that set Sacco apart. While others have created autobiographical works of a more personal nature no one else really reports the way Sacco does.1 Especially when you see his work together you can really see the importance of it.

It was a pleasure to hear him talk about how he works with reference photographs, recorded interviews and first hand experience. After his talk he took a lot of questions and it's a little unexpected just how congenial a guy Sacco is. I mean he takes in a lot of dire stories in some awful settings and situations. He did admit that his latest book about Gaza which took about 7 years to create was probably the last one he'll do about Palestine or Israel for awhile. Fair enough.

FN1: I sort of forgot that probably the only other person creating this kind of reportage comic is Guy Delisle, a Quebec cartoonist and animator who has written about his travels to Pyongyang, North Korea and Burma (aka Myanmar). Again, though, you'd probably categorize Delisle's work as a travelogue or autobiographical comic essay rather than journalistic like Sacco's. They probably would prefer not to be compared to each other anyway with each artist's work standing on its own merits. You can see a sample of from Pyongyang below.

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