Check out the Boston public radio website WBUR for a powerful example of comics journalism: Invisible Injury: Beyond PTSD explores the emotional consequences of the decisions that soldiers make during wartime — decisions that often go against their own moral code.
“Moral injury” is something different from post-traumatic stress disorder. As the introduction explains, “Post-traumatic stress disorder is triggered by a terrible event — in combat, that’s often something that has happened to you. But what about a terrible event that has happened because of you?” The comic explores that question through a combination of conversations with veterans, flashbacks to actual events, and concise summaries of research on the topic. The visual medium really brings it to life, not just in the depiction of events but also in illustrating more abstract ideas, such as the way soldiers may become gradually alienated from the rest of the world in the course of war.
Symbolia is a digital magazine that blends comics and journalism, using the medium as a way to tell true stories. The format is particularly powerful on the Symbolia iPad and Kindle Fire apps, which bring in sound and other interactive features to enhance the storytelling, but it also has a PDF version that will work on any computer or tablet, albeit without the special features.
The latest issue, “Heroines,” features five first-person narratives from women around the world. All are powerful — the struggles of a Dalit (low-caste) woman in Nepal, the testimony of two women who were guards at Guantanamo — but the one that caught my eye was “Luna of Cairo,” the story of an American woman who works as a bellydancer on a tourist boat on the Nile.
Illustrated by Leela Corman (Unterzakhn), “Luna of Cairo” offers an inside look not only at the life of a bellydancer but also at the life of a foreigner in Egypt. The excerpt below focuses on the casual sexism that Luna and the other women of Egypt encounter every day — and its corrosive effects.
To read the rest of Luna’s story and meet other heroines, check out this month’s issue; Symbolia is reasonably priced at $2.99 per issue or $11.99 for a six-issue subscription.
Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]
Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]
Legal | A Belgian court of appeals has ruled that Tintin in the Congo is not racist and stated that the book has “gentle and candid humour.” The ruling came in a case brought in 2007 by Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, an immigrant from the Congo, and the Belgian Council of Black Associations. Although Herge himself expressed regret in later life for the book, which includes numerous depictions of black characters as stupid and inferior, the court did not support the plaintiffs’ claim that “The negative stereotypes portrayed in this book are still read by a significant number of children. They have an impact on their behaviour.” [Sky News]
Manga | Tezuka Productions, which handles the works of Osamu Tezuka, has signed a deal for Diamond Comic Distributors to distribute its comics, toys, T-shirts and other products outside of Japan. [Previews World]
Comics | Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, discusses the clash between the creative drive and the corporate interest, as it played out at the House of Ideas: “There’s certainly a cautionary tale in there, but I think it’s inevitable — because Marvel Comics is a really rich example of the way that pop culture works and that the Marvel story really gets to the way that art and commerce are always going to be battling it out in pop culture. If you’re trying to have mass appeal and artistic expression at the same time, there are going to be compromises. And when you bring powerful corporate interests into the equation, it’s pretty predictable what will happen.” [The Phoenix]
Crime | Police say a Willston Park, New York, man shot his girlfriend in the back Monday following an argument about the AMC adaptation of The Walking Dead. Twenty-six-year-old Jared M. Gurman reportedly believed a military mishap could lead to the release of a virus, triggering a zombie apocalypse; Jessica Gelderman, 27, thought the idea was absurd. According to police, the argument escalated and even continued through text messages after Gelderman left the apartment to spend the night at her parents’ house. When Gelderman returned to try to smooth things over with her boyfriend, police allege he was sitting on the stairs with a .22-caliber rifle; a single round pierced her lung and diaphragm and shattered her ribs. Gurman was arrested when he took Gelderman to the hospital. She’s in stable condition with the bullet still in her body. [Newsday]
Legal | Disney has filed a motion to dismiss a $5.5 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit filed in October by failed dot-com Stan Lee Media Inc. in its sixth attempt to claim ownership of the Marvel characters co-created by Stan Lee. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. Disney calls the lawsuit “completely frivolous,” and argues, in part, that the claims have already been litigated and rejected. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Publishing | As final print edition of The Dandy promptly sells out and the venerable U.K. children’s comic migrates online, David Fickling briefly discusses why he launched The Phoenix — a weekly geared for readers ages 6 to 12 — nearly a year ago, and why comics aren’t dead: “Reading comics was always a delight. Reading them under the bedclothes or the desk, even better. Now at last the experts are understanding the importance of reading comics. The loss of reading for pleasure has been identified as one of the principle reasons for falling standards of literacy. Perhaps part of the reason for our disgraceful literacy rates is that we don’t have comics. Comics are a link to books not competition; in short they are a great leveller.” [The Telegraph]