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On Saturday, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il made like untold hundreds of thousands of people in the country he immiserated over the course of his 17-year reign and died. To most of the rest of the world, he was a simultaneously clownish and sinister figure who enriched himself as the apex of a pyramid of Orwellian oppression and deprivation. Yet the spectacle of many of his former subjects abasing themselves with public grief over his passing is already making the meme rounds.
For comics readers, nothing can explain this paradoxical phenomenon better than Guy Delisle’s masterful travelogue Pyongyang, an account of the cartoonist’s time working at a North Korean animation studio. Publisher Drawn and Quarterly has posted a passage from the book that gives a sense of just how pervasive and intrusive a presence the Dear Leader was in the lives of North Koreans, with his face, name, and mostly bogus backstory visible in some way nearly everywhere you looked. Check out the excerpt, then do yourself a favor and make Pyongyang a last-minute stocking stuffer for yourself: It filters the totalitarian politics of North Korea and the controversy surrounding how best to handle it through a uniquely personal lens, and as an introduction to how the country works it’s tough to top.
Oh man, this was an unexpected treat to find in my Google Reader today: A six-page preview of comics memoirist-cum-journalist Guy Delisle’s upcoming travelogue Jerusalem, courtesy of Drawn and Quarterly. Delisle recounts a trip to an Israeli checkpoint as Palestinians attempt to pass through to attend Friday services at the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the resulting pages are a gorgeous demonstration of how to convey controlled chaos with a handful of lines and graytones. The full book, Delisle’s longest to date, comes out in April 2012.
Why aren’t there more news comics? Is that an odd thing to wonder, or to ask for? Probably; comics are generally fiction these days, after all, and non-fiction comics trend more towards autobio and self-reflection than looking at the world around us, but still. News comics. I think I want some. Continue Reading »
No sooner does The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon return from hiatus (welcome back, Tom!) than he breaks news of an exciting, and potentially controversial, new comic from Drawn & Quarterly: Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City, the latest in cartoonist Guy Delisle’s series of graphic memoirs-slash-travelogues. Why controversial, you ask? Because Delisle’s travelogues have all chronicled everyday life under infamously repressive regimes — North Korea in Pyongyang, China in Shenzhen, and “Myanmar” in Burma Chronicles. I have a feeling that many people won’t feel super comfortable with Israel keeping that sort of company. On the other hand, the book takes place in part during the three-week Gaza War that resulted in a 1100-plus-to-13 Palestinian-to-Israeli death ratio, so perhaps even Israel supporters could concede that the war-is-hell harshness of this conflict is in keeping with Delisle’s past efforts.
The book is due in Spring 2012, with an initial first printing of 30,000 copies. Click the link for more details, including what publisher and editor-in-chief Chris Oliveros has to say about the project.