This week has been taken up with writing some longish piece on the controversies of the day, which, sadly take a long time, and in the scrum I didn’t get a chance to write up Saturday’s Comics Journalism event at Union Docs, so this rushed little blurb will have to do.
Josh Neufeld, Seth Tobocman, Matt Bors, Brooke Gladstone and Bill Kartalopoulos took part in a lively and informative look at what everyone is calling “the emerging field of comics journalism.” It was a very full evening — everyone had a presentation and then there was a Q&A so the whole things came to nearly 2 1/2 hours, but it was a packed 2 1/2 hours. Kartalopoulos presented a fascinating slideshow of journalistic/editorial cartoons going back to the 18th century. Tobocman talked about his activist comics from the squatter movement of the 80s to Occupy Wall Street. Matt Bors showed some of the work he’s running on Cartoon Movement which is absolutely one of the best comics sites out there—don’t miss the current ARMY OF GOD by David Axe and Tim Hamilton about the Congo, Kony and more (above). We’ve been fans of Bors for a while, and seeing him get so much recent attention (and awards) is gratifying. Neufeld talked about both A.D. his GN about Katrina and THE INFLUENCING MACHINE, his collaboration with Gladstone. The latter is the co-host of NPR’s IN THE MEDIA, and the explained that she had often been asked to write a book about her grand media theory but the graphic novel format is the one she felt was the most appropriate.
The whole evening presented a solid timeline for comics journalism, and even if the lines between editorial cartooning, memoir and comics journalism are kind of blurred, the attention being paid to it is growing and there seem to be more outlets— editor Joan Hilty was in attendance and noted she’s joined the board of Symbolia, Erin Polgreen’s new tablet magazine that will contain more examples of cartoon reporting.
Amélie Garin-Davet put the event together and did a great job; listening to stories of cartoonists protesting and hitting the hotspots of the world—from Afghanistan to Haiti to New Orleans — was a reminder, as Kartalopoulos showed, that cartooning has always been tied closely to social commentary and world events. It’s an immensely powerful and influential aspect of the comics artform; one that we don’t talk about enough in the usual comics outlets.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.