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Case for Comic Journalism - CJR March/April 2005 Essay...

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CJR March/April 2005: Essay http://cjrarchives.org/issues/2005/2/ideas-essay-williams.asp 1 of 7 12/14/2007 5:03 PM I CJR Home » Issues » 2005 » Issue 2: March/April Ideas and Reviews The Case for Comics Journalism Artist-reporters leap tall conventions in a single bound By Kristian Williams t has been nearly twenty years since comics could safely be dismissed as kids’ stuff. In 1986 three books changed the way Americans saw the medium. Two of them — Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns — brought a sense of gloomy realism to the superhero genre. The third, Art Spiegelman’s Maus , used cartoon conventions to tell of his father’s experience in the Holocaust, depicting Jews as mice and Nazis as cats. Magazines were suddenly full of stories about comics “growing up,” and the term “graphic novel” entered the literary lexicon. In the Shadow of No Towers: Art Spiegelman, courtesty Pantheon Books Somehow “graphic journalism” didn’t make the headlines. But since the renaissance of the mid-eighties, more and more writers and artists have been producing serious nonfiction comics about current events, from war crimes to hip-hop. In the mid-1990s, Search the Site: printer-friendly send to a friend join our mailing list small text large text
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CJR March/April 2005: Essay http://cjrarchives.org/issues/2005/2/ideas-essay-williams.asp 2 of 7 12/14/2007 5:03 PM Joe Sacco’s two books on Palestine were hailed as groundbreaking works and made Sacco the best known of the new graphic journalists. Now comics, or graphic, journalism is turning up in daily newspapers, where its inherent subjectivity contrasts sharply with the newsroom’s dispassionate prose — another round in the debate over what journalism should be in the twenty-first century. In the October 10, 2004, issue of The Edmonton Journal , for example, David Staples and Jill Stanton used the comics format to tell the story of Dave Eamer, a Canadian truck driver who lost the use of his legs in a highway accident and went on to become North America’s first paraplegic long-distance trucker. The Oregonian has adopted a regular comics column, called “CulturePulp,” in which M.E. Russell depicts, among other things, his experiences running a marathon, hunting wild mushrooms, and watching a risqué lounge act. Perhaps not to be outdone by the competition, Willamette Week , a weekly paper in Portland, adopted the comics format for record reviews and interviews with bands. Those newspapers are following the lead of magazines like The New Yorker , which had Spiegelman cover the 2004 GOP national convention, and Details , which featured Sacco’s coverage of the Bosnian war crimes trial in 1998, Peter Kuper’s depiction of the 1997 Burning Man festival, and Kim Dietch’s account of the execution of Ronald Fitzgerald.
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