Tag Archives: carl thompson

Review: Portraits of Violence: An Illustrated History of Radical Critique

In a world where everybody gives you a “piece of their mind,” it is almost hard to believe there was a time when people were put to death for their views. Who knew such a thing as a “dissenting opinion” could get people in trouble. As history has proven to us, sometimes it can take ages before a general belief becomes widely accepted, as was shown in the very well-known death of Galileo with his conception of heliocentrism. As the religious zealots of the time vehemently opposed him he was put under house arrest for the remainder of his life by the Church of Rome.

The world has evolved more since then becoming more tolerant of different viewpoints but only to a certain level. Those people who belong to the outliers tend to be either shunned or celebrated. Those minds that changed the world rarely ever get the credit they deserve when they are alive. It is mostly when they transcended this world that the masses usually discover their brilliance. In the brilliantly told and gorgeously illustrated Portraits of Violence: An Illustrated History of Radical Critique the talented creative team demonstrates just who these great men were and how they shaped the global community we live in.

In the first chapter, Brad Evans‘ “Thinking About Violence,” the author extrapolates segments of history where violence had been justified for the “greater good” only resulting in unnecessary mass casualties. In “The Banality Of Evil,” Hannah Arendt exposes the long insidious legacy of Adolf Otto Eichmann, the architect of the “Final Solution” and the subject of the upcoming film, Operation Finale, tracing the cruelty humans have inflicted on each other over time and the moral consequences of such actions. In “Wretched Of The Earth,” Frantz Fanon espouses the evils of colonialism and the terrible cycle of oppression it imposes on those inhabitants of the colonized countries, as has been illustrated here and in the movie, Concerning Violence. In “Pedagogy Of The Oppressed,” Paulo Freire introduces the reader to the one of the founders of critical pedagogy as his seminal work, who openly criticized his home country’s rule and through his work encouraged free thinking and challenging of ideas, extending to today’s generations. In “Society Must Be Defended,” Michel Foucoult dissects concepts like power and colonialism through   archaeological approaches, and discovering the intersectionality between these concepts/devices. In “Orientalism,” Edward Said uncovers the methodology which promulgates distorted and usually gross misrepresentations of Asian peoples by the West and the illumination of European beauty standards which forms part of the basis for stereotypes and one of the first accurate description of the treacherous power of racism. In “Regarding the Power Of Others,” Susan Sonta, in her last book before she passed away, conveyed how governments utilize violence not only in political/military situations, but to convey a public image of strength and progress, when it slowly scrapes away one of the few emotions that highlight the human condition, empathy. In “Manufacturing Consent,” Noam Chomsky demonstrates how the news is used to push ideas versus only reporting the facts. “Precarious Lives” recounts Judith Butler bravely going against tide shortly after the tragedies of 9/11, and questioned the “knee jerk” reaction to going to war shortly thereafter. In “Sovereign Power/Bare Life,” Giorgio Agamben examines and reveals “Life exposed to death, especially in the form of sovereign violence.”

Overall, a graphic novel which helps expose these “thinking heads” to the world, as they are not just “ethical pioneers” but “moral superheroes.”  The stories of each innovator is fluently told in a relatable and intelligent fashion. The art by creative team both humanizes these figures but paints them so beautifully. Altogether, an impressive book that in its short page run says more than most libraries on the world at large.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson and Brad Evans
Art: Carl Thompson, Robert Brown, Mike Medaglia, Michiru Morikawa, and Chris Mackenzie
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Parecomic – The Story of Michael Albert and Participatory Economics

Parecomic CoverParecomic is a graphic novel about something that affects us all: the system we live in–what’s wrong with it, and how we might be able change it for the better. Written by Sean Michael Wilson, and drawn by Carl Thompson, Parecomic is about Michael Albert–the visionary behind “participatory economics”–and his life’s struggle as a left-wing activist in the US.

The graphic novel is interesting in that it has two distinct parts. The first half is about Albert’s life and his experiences within the left wing of American politics. We go through his growth and evolution of his philosophy on participation as well as economics. It’s the origin story to his idea of “participatory economics.” The story begins with the beginning in the heady days of 1960s student demos and lifestyle rebellions; following the developments of the antiwar, civil rights, woman’s, and Black Panthers movements; to the establishment of alternative media like South End Press and ZNet.

The second half is the dissection of “participatory economics.” In various ways the graphic novel explains about this economic idea, how it differs from socialism, Marxism, capitalism and some examples of how it works in modern society.

But what is “participatory economics?” Proposed as an alternative to capitalism, participatory economics (parecon, for short) values equity, solidarity, diversity, and participatory self-management. In Albert’s vision, workers and consumers councils use self-managed decision-making, balanced job complexes, renumeration according to duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor; and participatory planning.

What particularly struck me about this graphic novel is it’s unwillingness to dumb down it’s subject. This is a read for those with an interest in economics, politics and participation and throughout it struck me that it’s not necessarily written for the masses. There have been other graphic novels that explain economic theory, but they have been written for folks to easily digest and understand. Here, everything is laid out in an intelligent way that challenges the reader to think through difficult concepts. This is an advance college textbook in graphic form. I found myself pausing on pages thinking through what it was saying and the concepts within. In other words, it made me think. Wilson makes what might not be easy to understand ideas digestible.

That’s helped by Thompson’s art. The style is simple but engaging, with great renditions of many real life people who are easily recognizable.

I’ll leave my judgement of the concepts for some other venue. There is some back and forth as to how participatory economics works and some of the criticism, but that’s limited. Instead I was left with a want to talk to Albert himself with my questions on how his concept works on the micro and macro scale.

Parecomic brought me back to a time in my life when I regularly thought through these ideas and concepts, a time when my brain was working over time with new ideas and connecting the dots. This graphic novel challenged me to think through new ideas as well as the world we live in. Even better it did so in a way I didn’t find boring or grating to read, much like some of the works referenced within it. Parecomic is a fine example of how far the comic medium has come. It’s no longer ruled by only heroes in tights, it’s now a tool in our greater understanding of the world and further education.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Carl Thompson
Story: 8.5 Art: 8 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy

Kickstarter Spotlight – Parecomic – A Documentary Graphic Novel

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It’s been a bit since I posted up a worthy Kickstarter project, but it seems Parecomic is the perfect one to kick this off again with.  Written by Sean Michael Wilson, and drawn by Carl Thompson, Parecomic is about Michael Albert and his life’s struggle as a US left wing activist.  The comics begins in the 1960’s with student demonstrations and lifestyle rebellions.

From the development of the anti war movement, civil rights, the woman’s movement, and the black panthers to the establishment of alternative media like South End Press and Znet. PARECOMIC shows us Michael’s story, and at the same time the ideas and issues that influence both our society and the better alternative that we can build via the anarchist influenced system of participatory economics. Or PARECON for short – hence the title for our book, which rather started out as a joke – but has stuck: PARECOMIC.

The comic book will be published by Seven Stories Press,  a NY publisher who specialize in books on human rights, politics, social and economic justice.

Best Pledges:  The pledges are a bit high, but the $20, $40 or $60 ones get you a copy of the book.