Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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.
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.
They’re two Left tastes that’ll taste Left together: This Modern World cartoonist Tom Tomorrow and progressive pundit and activist Markos Moulitsas Zúniga have announced that Tomorrow is leaving his slot at the online magazine Salon to become the first-ever Comics Editor for Moulitsas’s popular liberal blog and political community, Daily Kos. Tomorrow’s final Salon comic ran today.
If you were like me, the Egyptian Revolution that unfolded over the past several weeks and culminated (for the moment) in President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster on Friday was a complicated thing to know how to react to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not like Glenn Beck prophesying the coming Luthor/Braniac-style Communist/Islamist team-up against the West, nor am I even a more run-of-the-mill conservative commentator rumbling ominously about the power of the Muslim Brotherhood. And my feelings upon seeing untold millions of ordinary, unarmed people weather the attacks of government goons quads and kick out a man who’s looted and tortured them and their country for decades (in part at America’s behest) with nonviolent protest was unalloyed joy.
But how to express that joy? Should I, even? After all, I know no more about the real political situation inside Egypt than any of the overnight experts who suddenly popped up to opine on the talk shows and cable news nets. My information was coming primarily from Al Jazeera English’s invaluable live-streaming broadcast on its website and from the Twitter streams of international and native Egyptian reporters on the ground, and from the relative oasis of calm analysis that was MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and its dialogues between host Maddow and correspondent Richard Engel. Was that enough?
She specializes in zeitgeisty op-ed columns featuring schoolyard-taunt nicknames for the most powerful people in politics…and in MAYHEM! She’s New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, and she’s kicking ass and uncovering the crime of the century in The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd, “A Work of Satire and Fiction” from Night Business and Gangsta Rap Posse author Benjamin Marra.
Told in Marra’s inimitable, po-faced ’80s-trash throwback style, TIFAoMD‘s preview pages show Dowd — winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and recently named the eighth-biggest hack in journalism by Salon’s Alex Pareene — lounging in lingerie, battling burglars, flirting with fellow Times columnist Tom Friedman, and trying to blow the lid off the Valerie Plame scandal before her big date with George Clooney. And for a political junkie like me, it’s basically heaven. (Ordering info and preview page after the jump.)
How can a harmless, feel-good bumper sticker get people so riled up? That’s what Box Brown sets out to explain with his webcomic “To Exist,” which traces the history of the “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Famous or infamous, depending on your political leanings and/or feelings about sloganeering, the sticker cobbles the word “Coexist” out of symbols for major world religions and has a tendency to spur some religious and political conservatives to paroxysms of conspiratorial rage, as you can see in the excerpt above starring Representative-Elect Allen West.
In addition to cataloging some of the more outlandish reactions to the sticker, Brown also traces its origin to the work of Polish designer Piotr Miodozeniec; the version you’ve likely seen is an unauthorized knockoff, making “COEXIST” the “Calvin Peeing” of the bleeding-heart set. Brown also advances some theories about why people would answer the equivalent of “Can’t we all just get along?” with such a resoundingly angry “NO!”, all while working through what looks to me like a pretty heavy Seth influence. Read the whole thing.
(via Jess Fink)
Finally, a cover gimmick that Real Americans can get behind. That eye-catching image above is of the cover to False Witness! The Michele Bachmann Story #4. Written by Bill Prendergast with art by Kevin Cannon, Danno Klanowski, Lupi McGinty, and James Powell, it’s the latest in a series of satirical takedowns of the Minnesota Republican Congressperson, mostly using her own outlandish quotes as ammo. This issue focuses on her religious views, and as such it features the disembodied head of Jesus Christ floating around like the Wizard of Oz with actual plastic googly eyes pasted on top. God Bless America!
The government of South Korea has a wee problem: Nobody believes them any more, at least when it comes to their account of the sinking of a patrol boat last March. According to polls, over half of South Koreans in their 20s don’t buy the official explanation that the boat was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. So what’s a beleaguered government to do?
Make some comics! As Bloomberg News reports, the government of Lee Myung Bak has released a 32-page comic about the incident, featuring a journalist who is investigating the story and discussing it with his fiancee. Here’s some sample dialogue:
“When it comes to security issues, I wish that all people would speak with one voice,” says a survivor of the sinking depicted in the comic strip. “The people should love and trust us in the military.”
As that sparkling bit of dialogue indicates, this comic is about as well done as most government propaganda comics, and it’s about as well received, too: Rather than stirring up support for the government, the comic appears to be resurrecting memories of the not-so-distant past, when South Korea was a military dictatorship and such propaganda was the norm.