Comics Herstory: Rutu Modan
Rutu Modan is an Israeli writer perhaps best known in the comics world for her first graphic novel, She is a talented writer and illustrator, and has been working in the comic industry for over two decades. In 1995, she and Yirmi Pinkus (with whom she co-edited the Hebrew edition of MAD Magazine) founded Actus Tragicus comics. The goal of Actus was to reach a wider global audience by publishing a book per year. Since 1995, Actus has nearly accomplished its goal, producing numerous graphic novels and serialized comics. Modan has contributed to several Actus comics, and some of which were then published by Top Shelf Productions.
In the United States, Modan’s work, including Exit Wounds, The Property, Jamilti and Other Stories, and the children’s book Maya Makes a Mess, has been published by Drawn & Quarterly. The New York Times has also featured her work both digitally and in New York Times Magazine. In 2007, the NYT published a visual blog of memoirs from Modan’s life. The Murder of the Terminal Patient was a seventeen chapter story that was serialized in the New York Times Magazine.
Both Exit Wounds and The Property are about human relationships, though the stories themselves are very different. Exit Wounds is about an Israeli cab driver who discovers that his estranged father has died in a train station bombing and goes searching for answers. The Property is loosely based on Modan’s own life, and tells the story of a woman and her granddaughter returning to Warsaw, Poland in search of family property they lost in World War II. Both deal explicitly with relationships that people have to one another and their past.
Modan is a gifted storyteller and artist. Her illustrations are full of clean lines and flat shapes with vibrant colors. The art itself is extremely detailed and expressive, and tells a story of its own. She is one of the first graphic novelists in Israel. As such, Modan exhibits a freedom to break traditions in terms of art and storytelling, while giving shape and direction to Israeli comics.