PEN America is a literary organization devoted to freedom of expression, and last year they launched Illustrated PEN, which features “fiction and nonfiction graphic narratives, comics journalism and illustrated reportage, stories of social justice and personal stories that can’t be told through words alone.”
And just announced, Meg Lemke, editor of MUTHA magazine and the curator for the comics programming at the Brooklyn Book Festival, has joined the organization as a Guest Editor, along with MariNaomi and Robert Kirby.
Meg says she “hopes to bring to the Illustrated PEN exemplars of the form that showcase the power of comics to tell stories in surprising ways. We talk often about literature letting us ‘see’ a new perspective. Comics can do that quite literally, and when it’s done well, there is a magical interaction between the visuals and text that stimulates a different part of our thinking. In our lives lived online, as readers we are inundated with imagery on the Internet, much of it advertising in margins (or popping up mid-screen). But comics can skillfully interrupt this oversaturation, as it necessitates we slow down and take in visual narrative, for example to parse a plot carried in background scenic details. Reading comics has been compared to reading poetry—they both invite play between the reader and the text on the page (be it broken into stanzas or word balloons).
Lemke has already worked on a Banned Books Week feature with Anne Elizabeth Moore, Jennifer Camper, and Mariko Tamaki. But more to the point, her first post concerns PTSD: The Wound that Never Heals, by Leela Corman, above, a devastating view of the death of Corman’s first daughter. There’s so much to discover in the world of comics; I look forward to seeing what Lemke has to show us.
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.