Comics: Closer than First-Person - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Comics: Closer than First-Person

Comics: Closer than First-Person

Published April 8, 2005

I have always had a weakness for comics. My newest favourites are graphic novels that recite history. Just read three books on this subject. They have a common thread, life during wartime experienced through the eyes of the innocents. The visual of the graphic novel somehow brings the distant world of the inhumane closer to heart than any documentaries I have seen, and these books brought me closer to these horrid events that have occurred and are still occurring in our human history.

Maus approaches the unspeakable.

I started with Maus by Art Spiegelman, a Pulitzer Prize winner. I hate to admit that I am rather bored with documentation of the Holocaust, seen so much of it and it had ceased to have any effect on me, except the traditional sadness of human brutality and insanity. Maus is great because it is not in the hero-making business. It is a brutally honest story within a story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive and at the same time it is set up against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival and the relationship between a survivor and his son.
It is not always the ideal relationship and yet it has a warm core to it and it moves easily between the grisly past and the difficult now as a result of this past. Art Spiegelman’s work from Maus is on display at the Reykjavík Art Museum as a part of the comic show Nine at Hafnarhúsið.

I couldn’t help compare the fate of the Palestinians to the fate of the Jews.

The next book I read was Palestine by Joe Sacco, winner of the American book award. Somehow it was a lot more difficult to read that one because it is not based on the past but what is actually happening now and I couldn’t help compare the fate of the Palestinians to the fate of the Jews. The parallel is uncomfortably real.

Sacco manages to use the comic book format to its full effect, bringing fragmented life into reality, his work made its way deep into my soul so that I actually felt as if I were with him on his journey, and like him I couldn’t wait to get out. Again it was the brutal honesty of the author about himself and his weaknesses, like in Maus, that made the story what it is, unforgettable.

Children were the soft targets of the snipers because they got paid for each person they killed.

Finally I read Fax from Sarajevo by Joe Kubert winner of Eisner Award. This is a story based on real faxes from Sarajevo. Joe received these faxes from his friend and comic book publisher Ervin Rustemagic during the siege of Sarajevo in 1992-1993. It tells the story of Ervin and his family struggling to survive and the many facts about war that was just too easy to forget: like how the rest of the world did nothing, and how many children were the soft targets of the snipers because snipers were paid for each person they killed and kids were an easy target. The adults would usually come out from their hiding to help them if wounded and then the snipers could shoot them too.

The place to get hold of these books and other like them is Nexus, the only specialist in comic books in Iceland and of course you can always get them at the city library’s ever-expanding comic book department.


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