Tag Archives: graphic journalism

Educator’s Perspective: “Sh*t My President Says”

It’s said that no work of literature is written in a vacuum.

One of the first things you learn to do as an undergrad in any course in literature is to unpack the political, cultural, and societal implication of whatever it is you’re reading, because whether the author intended it or not, he or she was assuredly influenced by the circumstances in which it was written.  Even as a high school student I learned that Shakespeare’s fascination with witchcraft in Macbeth is likely an influence of the King under which he was writing, who had an interest in the occult himself; The Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm both have their roots in a kind of British political anxiety, and the only way that On the Road can be more of a manifesto of the early counterculture movement is if copies of it are beaten by riot officers.

Yet I’ve always been more interested in the political, cultural, and social capital hidden away in the more obscure media, the stuff that, for whatever reason, has for so long escaped the notice of conventional scholarship. Though teachers have long adored the political cartoon there remains a strange, standoffish attitude toward the comic book, as though we’re all still in the 1950s and Dr. Wertham is sitting across from us making all sorts of uncomfortable eye contact over a stack of World’s Finest. Thankfully that attitude has receded significantly in recent years and I’m happy to see more and more that teachers like myself are having success in using the rife political and cultural content of comics as a springboard to discuss ideas as diverse and grandiose as race relations, diplomacy, and the importance of de-mystifying the “other”ness of foreign cultures, peoples, and ideologies.

The conversation about the political and sociocultural implications of comics – really, of all media – is always hobbled somewhat when it hits a K-12 classroom environment.  There begin conversations about correctness and age-appropriateness, and whether a book can or should be introduced to the student population for fear of indoctrination. Year after year mainstays like The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird are called into question by school boards and parent groups across the country, and while their reasons are varied they general boil down to what we want our children to discover about who and what we are.  Works that are censored for classroom use have a common thread: they oftentimes highlight the worst of us, in an attempt to ensure that we avoid making the mistakes of our ancestry.

That being said, it seems highly unlike that Shannon Wheeler’s “Sh*t My President Says” will ever see regular use as a implement of classroom instruction, given that it is both a comic book, and therefore still a subject of academic uncertainty by some of my colleagues, and demonstrative of one of the most deranged, startling, and ultimately embarrassing garbage fires of the 21st century.  It is eye-opening in its candor, tragically funny, vitally informative, and ought to be required reading for anyone hoping to study the political machine of the early 21st century. It may very well be one of the most important historical artifacts of this decade.

All because of Twitter.

“Sh*t My President Says” is a perfect example of the historically-embedded nature of media. Even without Wheeler’s accompanying caricatures of Trump as a riotous toddler with a phone fetish, the collection of our mentally-errant President’s 140-character temper tantrums provides a sobering look at just how we got to where we are. Taken with Shannon Wheeler’s supplemental artwork, the Tweets take on a second life: their childishness is thrown into a stark relief with the inclusion of the author’s idealized boy king Trump, and indeed the whole work might read as a fiction were we not living it as we are now.

From a teachable standpoint, nothing beats a work that provides the subject’s words as they were uttered while simultaneously offering a responding critique of them. In this way Shannon Wheeler has submitted to his audience a kind of living primary source, an artifact that both serves to document history as well as record our collective reaction to the oftentimes unbelievable events of our current political climate – which, of course, is a form of history in and of itself.

Is it teachable? Absolutely, and pertinently so: in much the same way that we recognize the crassness of the language in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or the sexuality of “The Awakening” as indicative of the societies and cultures of the time in which they were written, Wheeler’s compilation of the fractured thoughts of our enfeebled Commander-in-Chief are likewise a reflection of the state of our society. Wheeler provides a means to process an pivotal event in American political history in a way that is accessible for its simplicity, honest for its presentation, and as painless  an experience as it could be possibly be for the author’s satirical approach to her bumbling, foolhardy subject matter.

Nevertheless, I give Mr. Wheeler a great deal of credit for his work in compiling this trainwreck of a timeline in recording the Trump tweets he has.  For the levity with which it is presented, there is something truly sinister about seeing these words become actions, and those actions engender other, more awful actions. Longtime exposure to those levels of ego-maniacal word vomit cannot be healthy for an individual, and I hope sincerely that Mr. Wheeler recovers quickly for his exposure.

While its unflinching revelation of the worst of our potential all but guarantees it never sees widespread classroom use, I fully expect that passages from “Sh*t My President Says” will find their way into political science and literature classrooms across the globe. This cutting work of comics journalism is a vibrant reminder of how we ended up in this mess, and I wager that there’s more than a few daring educators willing to make the case that, like Mockingbird and Rye, just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to its implications.

Literature isn’t written in a vacuum – but sometimes the stuff that inspires it sucks nonetheless.  It’s our job to learn from it, and works like Wheeler’s make that possible.

Listen to Graphic Policy Radio with Guest Matt Bors on Demand

This Monday saw a brand new episode of Graphic Policy Radio with brand new guest, Matt Bors!

Bors is an editorial cartoonist and editor of The Nib and was working at Medium running it since 2013. In 2012 he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and became the first alt-weekly cartoonist to win the Herblock Prize for Excellence in Cartooning. Currently he’s running a Kickstarter to collecting some of the best political cartoons, comics journalism, non-fiction and humor.

Eat More Comics packs more than 300 pages featuring dozens of the best cartoonists to ever toon a toon. I mean, it’s going to be a large book.

We talked to him about the Kickstarter, The Nib, and more!

You have until 4pm on August 12 to contribute to the Kickstarter and get your copy.

 

“Life Begins At Incorporation: Cartoons and Essays” by Matt Bors

Contributor Nicole regularly writes at her own blog Ad Astra Per Aspera. The below is reposted from that site with permission.

mattbors_lifebeginsatincorporationMatt Bors prides himself (perhaps reluctantly) on being “The Last” nationally-syndicated editorial cartoonist in the United States of America. While the rest of the “sequential arts” are in the midst of their own Comic Renaissance, political and editorial cartoons are withering away with printed newspapers—now used with more satisfaction for fireplace starter and nesting material for gerbils than reading.

Despite this, Matt has built a decent following through cartoons and commentary that are consistently present and politically poignant. What do I mean by “present”? Outside of his regular publishing in regional newspapers near his home in the Pacific Northwest, his website archives all of his comics—which, from the perspective of social media (which have been steadily replacing print as our chief news sources for the past decade) are all very “share-friendly”. The first piece I ever saw of Matt’s got passed along in my Facebook feed, I believe, by the The Occupy Wall Street Page:

steve jobs

Web comic celebrity Matt Inman once put it a few years back, “With The Oatmeal, I wanted to create something where the viral marketing itself was the product, rather than trying to put it on something else.” I would argue that, er, Matt B. essentially does the same thing except with politicians instead of cats wearing ties (which does hurt his stats a little bit). In the realm of politics, though, Bors’ drawn conclusions are successfully competing with mainstream news media, (and they downright Haretsukan others in the domain of editorial cartooning). While the medium of the comic panels is almost defined by its accessibility, as Matt Inman hints at, the content of said panels remains a refreshing escape hatch from the suffocation usually associated with mainstream political discourse. It’s a pretty impressive balance.

For how long have you waited for an editorial cartoon–with mainstream accessibility–to point out the following:

(Check all that apply)

[ ] Most high-profile homophobes are probably gay (Matt keeps a list that’s about 2-score long)

[ ] The path to the Middle Class in America is arguably longer and harder than the path to citizenship

[ ] Despite being elected as the “anti-war candidate” against the GOP, Obama has continued the War on Terror, surged the troops in Afghanistan, NOT closed Guantanamo, and fully ushered in the era of drone-based warfare, currently occupying half a dozen countries in the Middle East / Central Asia.

[ ] Millenials, as a generation, aren’t “lazy”: they’re fucked (link goes to this gem of an essay, included in Matt’s book, posted on Matt’s website).

[ ]  Occupy wasn’t a bunch of hippies sitting in a drum circle, and “I am the 99%” wasn’t just an incredibly meaningful slogan thought up in between bong hits.

811

At this point you may be thinking, “Isn’t this supposed to be a book review?”

The book is Matt in 200 pages. It’s everything that he offers as a political cartoonist in both form and content. It’s editorial cartoons and comics journalism, satire and commentary, covering women’s rights, marriage equality, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, gun control, elections, debates and popular [mis]conceptions about all of these things. It’s a powerful and enjoyable showcase that makes you wonder why NO ONE else is doing it like Matt is doing it. Matt made fun of me, more or less, when I described him like that before–I guess I just don’t know how else to say it.

Is there anything I disagree with Matt on?

His cartoon about Julian Assange, which focuses on the allegations of rape against the Wikileaks founder, to me, is like looking at Obama’s foreign policy today and trying to focus on the 2012 Benghazi Attack. My point? That’s it’s sooooo not the point. And yea, I’m a woman and I know all about non-consensual sexual encounters; and yea, there’s an American diplomat to Libya out there, listening to Steve King or Lindsay Graham, going, “Give me a fuckin’ break!”

One cartoon not doing it for me, out of a thousand, is acceptable.

Matt’s book, Life Begins at Incorporation, can be purchased online through Matt’s website.

If you’re like me and live in Toronto, you can find it through the Ad Astra Comix Distro, The Beguiling, The Comic Book Lounge, Hairy Tarantula, and The Silver Snail.

Listen to this Week’s Episode of Graphic Policy Radio With Guest Symbolia’s Erin Polgreen

Last night, Graphic Policy Radio returned to the air and brought with it a special guest, Symbolia‘s Erin Polgreen. We discussed digital comics, comics journalism and Marvel NOW! and Adventure Time! Take a listen and see what you missed.

[gigya width=”210″ height=”105″ src=”http://www.blogtalkradio.com/btrplayer.swf?file=http://www.blogtalkradio.com%2Fplaylist.aspx%3FShow_ID%3D4235385&autostart=false&bufferlength=5&volume=80&corner=rounded&callback=http://www.blogtalkradio.com/flashplayercallback.aspx\” quality=”high” wmode=”transparent” menu=”false” ]

Listen to
internet radio with graphicpolicy on Blog Talk Radio

Graphic Policy Radio Tonight with Guest Symbolia’s Erin Polgreen

GP Radio pic MondayThe first episode of the new year of Graphic Policy Radio hits the air this Monday night with special guest Erin Polgreen, the editor of Symbolia Magazine.

It’s been a month since the launch of Symbolia Magazine, a new digital magazine bringing new and original graphic journalism to the world. The new app-based magazine of non-fiction comics journalism, edited by Polgreen. It’s now available at iTunes or via PDF for non-tablet users. A 6-issue subscription is $11.99, but a preview issue is available.

We’re going to chat with Erin about Symbolia, graphic journalism and the first month of the new venture!

We’ll also bee taking a look back at the comics of 2012!

So join us this Monday and call in to chat or talk with us on Twitter.

Graphic Policy Radio with Guest Symbolia’s Erin Polgreen

GP Radio pic MondayA new episode of Graphic Policy Radio hits the air Monday night with special guest Erin Polgreen, the editor of Symbolia Magazine.

This week saw the launch of Symbolia Magazine, a new digital magazine bringing new and original graphic journalism to the world. The new app-based magazine of non-fiction comics journalism, edited by Polgreen. The first issue is now available at iTunes or via PDF for non-tablet users. A 6-issue subscription is $11.99, but a preview issue is available.

And to celebrate the launch of this new venture, Erin is joining us to chat about Symbolia and graphic journalism.

So join us this Monday and call in at (619) 768-2952 to chat or talk with us on Twitter.

Symbolia Magazine Launches More Graphic Journalism

This week saw the launch of Symbolia Magazine a new digital magazine bringing new and original graphic journalism to the world. The new app-based magazine of non-fiction comics journalism, edited by Erin Polgreen. The first issue is now available at iTunes or via PDF for non-tablet users. A 6-issue subscription is $11.99, but a preview issue is available. Contributors include:

  • Susie Cagle’s thoughtful exploration of California’s Salton Sea.
  • A look at life in Iraqi Kurdistan by Sarah Glidden.
  • Kat Fajardo and Audrey Quinn on evolution and a fish called “The White Man’s Office” in the Lower Congo River.
  • The bold history of Zambian Psychedelic Rock, by Chris A. Smith and Damien Scogin.
  • Andy Warner and Lauren Sommer tour the millions of microflora in our guts.

Publisher’s Weekly has a bit more details on how it all works.

Each issue of Symbolia will feature 3-5 stories and all contributors will be paid. Initial rates are $75 to $100 per page, “not the best rates,” Polgreen said, “but we’ll work to boost them once we get more exposure. Symbolia will be a vehicle that provides paid work to working cartoonists.” The journal will generate revenue initially from issue sales and annual subscriptions, but Polgreen said they are also looking to advertising and sponsored content from graphic publishers; memberships with added perks—Google Hangout interviews with contributors and workshops—as well as syndication, “we also collaborate with other organizations to share costs and further distribute the content.” Polgreen said she also intends to look at revenue share plan for contributors, “after we build a subscriber base.”

Graphic journalism as a whole is seeing a Renaissance now with amazing works being released weekly, fueled by the power of the internet. Some of my favorite graphic novels this year have been of this type.

Symbolia is also open for pitches, so head to their site and submit your best ideas.

symbolia