For many, this past January 20th was an abdication of the American ideal. No longer was talent, perspicacity, or a genuine desire to see thoughtful policy positions going to be the norm. Instead, boundless braggadocio and mendacity reigned. With the Trump Administration ascendant, it seemed like only dark times were ahead.
But almost immediately, events didn’t turn out exactly as planned. Only one day after the tepidly-attended inauguration, millions of people around the world marched in protest of the Trump Administration. Spurred to action by the chaos—seen and unseen—countless individuals banded together to show that they weren’t going to submit to the machinations of the new White House. Instead, they were going to… Resist!
One of the key elements of march, at least from an artistic perspective, was the release of RESIST!, a specially designed and created comics anthology that featured the art from a diverse set of creators. Back in January, I interviewed the editors of RESIST!, Françoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegleman about the process of putting together the first issue. Now, apropos of the celebration of American independence, Mouly and Spiegelman have released a second installment of their RESIST! centered around the theme of “Grab Back!” The latest issue is raw and immediate. The COMICS BEAT sat down with Mouly and Spiegelman to talk about the feeling of walking through Washington with the first issue, putting together a second edition, and the possibility of a special impeachment issue…
AJ FROST: Let’s go back to the early days of the Trump Administration: January 21st. Can you tell me what the experience was like after all the hard work of putting together the first issue of Resist!, handing it out, and people seeing it for the first time?
FRANÇOISE MOULY: That was so exhilarating in part because, I had talked down the experience of going to Washington to myself and when my friends were asking “Are you going to the march?”— My answer earlier in January was “Well I’m making a publication so I may not have to go” I thought that if I have a printed thing I may not need to be there. A couple weeks beforehand, I remember calling Nadja (who was still in Paris). I told her: “Guess what you better book the plane tickets, we are going to Washington, We can’t work this hard and then not be there at this moment.” She said “But, but, but” and I said, “No, you’ve got to do that!” So she did. And we got to Washington, we handed out the publication, we drove back and she flew back to Paris. It was insane.
NADJA SPIEGELMAN: But it was so worth it! The moment of being in the street… I think both Françoise and I can be a little claustrophobic in large crowds. But it was such an amazing one to be in… that energy, that peacefulness, that sense of unity. And to have this thing we were handing to people, that some people were like, “What is this”, but most people we handed it to were really excited to get it. We also had my dad [Art Spiegelman] with us, who shouted stuff like “Free comix! Free like our country used to be!”
FROST: Yeah, if someone came up handed me a comic I’d be like “that’s awesome” but I know a lot of people would be like “who is this guy? ”I saw the pictures from the day and I so wish I was there!
SPIEGELMAN: We held them above our head and people would fight their way through the crowd to get them; most people seemed really excited! As soon as you open up that first issue, you can see that its explosively diverse, engaged, colorful, and alive. You see it immediately in the mix of different styles, that when people were opening it and looking through it got a sense of the energy that was behind it from how it looks.
MOULY: Another thing for me was… I had been to Washington before and it’s really different than May ’68 and going to the streets of Paris. You hear the big demonstration and then you join it at a café and it’s like “Oh hey! What are we protesting?” I remember being 15 years old and screaming at the top of my lungs and having no idea what it was about, but I really meant it. That kind of thing in Washington is usually capped by a recap on the news where they give two minutes discussing the million people in Washington to the march and then a counter piece gets a minute and a half for the two hundred people at the counter demonstration who are against women’s rights. So it can be very frustrating.
But here, it didn’t matter if they recorded on the media or not. Just being there was exhilarating! Part of the thrill was how in tune it was. There were no police; it was self-policing, it was mostly women; there were a fair number of men, but they were in an environment that was not aggressively anti-women. Quite the opposite. There was a natural order that felt different, from the usual confrontation of the demonstration.
FROST: With that first issue of RESIST! being distributed on the street in Washington and across the nation, did you think there would be a second issue? Or did you think it was going to be a piece of the moment and then you would move on to something else? At what point did you think a second issue made sense?
SPIEGELMAN: In that moment when were in Washington with the protesters, we realized this wasn’t the end. Rather, it was the start of something that would continue and had to continue. We weren’t sure it would be able to work, we wanted to keep it free but it is dependent on the energy of the artists and the reporters to send in the work. And all the way up to the second issue we were holding our breath because if the energy is not there we can’t do it, but it was, we got more for the second issue then the first! It’s finding its style and that’s really exciting as well.
MOULY: You know, we weren’t thinking about what comes next. What came next was sleeping. That’s all there was to look forward to and catching up on the rest of our lives, which had been on hold for literally like two months!
SPIEGELMAN: If at the very beginning… if somebody had said we want to make a free newspaper at sixty thousand copies and put together a grassroots team of volunteers to fund and distribute it around the United States, both of us would have said that was “Way too much work we have other things going on in our lives!” It was the fact that the process built incrementally that made us able to even conceive of it. So, to start thinking of it as, “Okay, maybe ten thousand copies in Washington, well actually okay, twenty thousand copies in Washington, no actually thirty thousand across the country… but then we had to get there step-by-step to get to the idea of a second one.
It was on January 22 when we decided to do the second issue.
MOULY: Let’s give credit where credit is due. It was after we came back from Washington that Nadja sat me down and said “Guess what we’re doing the second one”? and I was like “What?!” I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. But for Nadja, it was so many things. She was very articulate about it, and she felt engaged in something that had momentum. She’s a writer, locked in a room by herself working to meet a deadline. But here, she loves the fact that she can engage in a group project and both be driven by it while also directing it. For me, the learning curve was extraordinary.
SPIEGELMAN: It was almost insane. I felt on Jan. 22 that the blinders had been taken off. I suddenly felt the hopelessness of the world, as some people around me were feeling, and”being in motion, making something, made me feel connected to other people who are like-minded who are also making things; this is so necessary right now.
FROST: How much does watching the news inform which pieces go into the second issue?
MOULY: It took us about two months to put the second together and about two months to put the first one together. It took the months of March-May, followed by putting the second one out in July, which was better. It was more of an antidote to the “Tweet Mentality” where news changes every hour; we need that kind of distance without making it an annual, it’s already pretty good, one will be in January the other will be in July with six months in between. It gives a shape that makes the picture better than every hill and valley we witness in today’s cycle.
SPIEGELMAN: Issue 1 and 2 are different from each other not by our design, but because they are capturing a collective conscience. Where issue 1 has lots of women linking arms with each other, issue 2 has lots of women making fists. The theme for it was “Grab Back!” which we came to after looking at these submissions and being startled by the anger and saying that’s what we have to embrace, that’s what’s going on right now. They are capturing moments of the zeitgeist and trying to freeze them in time so there is some record of them.
MOULY: It’s true the first one had a lot more reacting to what had happened, basically describing shock and denial but this one is one where women are acting,
FROST: Has there been any thought to doing an art gallery showing in a dedicated space?
MOULY: We have had opportunities for this but we have had not had a chance. We only have so much energy and we simply couldn’t. And we had offers to make books of it as well. We chose not to and we don’t regret it. We would much rather do a free giveaway. A gallery would have been nice, but as it’s mostly the two of us, we just don’t have time to gather the artists here. But you never know. One can always build on what we have; that’s what is great about this publication. This first issue (as Nadja said) had almost sixty thousand copies and for the second we have passed 30,000 to get it in people’s hands and that is where the emphasis is going to be: getting it to the stores who want it for release parties on July 4.
FROST: Based on the experiences of putting together the two issues of RESIST!, will there be a third issue, maybe by next January?
MOULY: In some ways, we want to leave that possibility open and it will be decided. In part with the support from literally hundreds of thousands of people, of artists sending us pieces. If that continues to pour in the way it has up to now, it’s possibly closer we could have an issue near the anniversary of the election from last November, not to put a firm date to it. If the impacts of protest are there and somehow we have achieved the goal here, then that will affect the decision. It has already been amazing and impressive to both of us that there is that much energy to channel.
FROST: Do you think there’ll be an impeachment issue?! [Laughs]
MOULY: Well… if you help us put it together! Again, I think a big part of it of it is not so much bringing only power-controlling editors that tell contributors what to write about and what to do as much as taking advantage of what’s out there; we can take the temperature. If we can do it in two days, that’s fine with me.
FROST: Thank you so much for chatting with me!
SPIEGELMAN: Thank you!
MOULY: Thank you.
You can find Resist! at your local comic shop. For more information, or to order a copy, browse archived art, or just to keep up to date, visit http://www.resistsubmission.com/
All art used in this interview was by permission of the artists and editors of RESIST! All art is the copyright by the individual artists and RESIST!
Many thanks to Andrew Brenner for transcription assistance.