Tag Archives: sean michael wilson

Review: The Minamata Story: An EcoTragedy

The Minamata Story tells the tale of the ecological disaster and fight for justice after that impacted the community of Minamata in Japan in the 1950s and beyond.

Story: Seán Michael Wilson
Art: Akiko Shimojima
Foreward: Brian Small

Get your copy now! To find a comic shop near you, visit http://www.comicshoplocator.com or call 1-888-comicbook or digitally and online with the links below.


Stone Bridge Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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Review: Musashi


Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s I watched cartoons religiously, even the bad ones. One of the more interesting cartoons I remembered watching and actually becoming enamored with was Disney’s American Legends. It portrayed fictional and sometimes true-life heroes as first normal humans, but their actions are what propelled them to legendary proportions. Their stories became the ideals Americans aspire to and what an “American hero” was.

This inflated patriotism would give children living in other countries an often-dreamlike vision of what Americans were. I remember growing up for a time in Trinidad and many of my classmates looking to me because I was American. They perceived I possessed some of those idealistic traits. It was not until I joined the military and saw that every country had their own versions of Johnny Appleseed and John Henry. In Sean Michael Wilson and Michiru Morikawa’s Musashi we are introduced to one of Japan’s greatest mythical heroes.

We meet Iori, his adopted son, who tells his story through a series of flashbacks. As we meet him at a tender age, where we see he has an affinity for fighting , as he takes on to swordsmanship quickly, as he joins the Toyotomi Clan in a war against the Tokugawa Shogunate, one where he stood out from the crowd because of his military prowess., but labeled a rebel because of his belonging to the Western forces at the Insurrection at Sekigahara. He would go wondering around Japan, refining his skills, which included his clash with the Yoshioka Clan in 1604 who his father had bested in a “comparison of Technique” competition, and who he bested several times, using psychology as his secondary weapon, would include crippling the master, a story that added to his legend. Through these encounters and fights, he would start developing his own tactics, ones would become the basis of his acclaimed book, The Book Of Five Rings, as he would move to Edo, and write the first inklings of the book, with his first pamphlet, “The Mirror Of The Way Of The War”. As every swordsman in Japan came to challenge him, he found his stay in Edo to be untenable, so in 1612, so he went south, where his most famous fight took place, against Sasaki Kojiro, who practiced the “No Sword” technique, as their skirmish was bloody and swift, as Musashi defeated Kojiro almost effortlessly.  As Tokugawa Ieyasu continued his destruction of the various clans, many masterless swordsman would join the Toyotomi Clan in defiance, which would include Musashi , as he rejoined them in their Osaka stronghold,  which despites their numbers and allegiance to the Samurai Code, was eventually defeated. He would become less interested in fights and more in passing on his knowledge to students, as this is when he would adopt Iori, then a homeless child and raised him as his own. He would always find the call to battle as part of public service to various clans, where they would retain his talents, and which would only make him even more diverse in his skill set. By book’s end, he would create the tome most connected to his legacy, and though his body would eventually become frail, his mind would still be sharp, as he would live a life that would be more fabled and more fulfilled than most men.

Overall, an excellent graphic novel that gives a thorough look at Japan’s most famous swordsman and the stories that would make him the legend he would become. The story by Wilson is well researched, enigmatic, relatable, and very entertaining. The art by Morikawa is very detailed and contains incredible line work. Altogether, a story that is as mysterious as Spartacus, but even more famous and through Wilson’s and Morikawa’s storytelling readers will see exactly why.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Michiru Morikawa
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel

The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel

The word “bible” is usually thrown around a little too literally. The word was and is still used to describe the King James Bible and contained both the Old and New Testaments. Copywriters who struggle to describe any concise book about a subject tend to use this very term to describe their product. Whether or not it’s apt is a completely different matter but the intention is clear and sometimes is very appropriate.

Either way, very few books fit this description and rarely do they even compare. Holy books stand on their own but books that examine a certain subject must stand on its own. Books in this category that are not part of some collection or a holy book must be extraordinary to fit in this category, what some call, classic. In this graphic interpretation of Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book Of Five Rings, we get an adept love letter to a book which has changed the world.

We dive head first into the ring of “Earth”, where we learn the philosophy which drives martial arts through Musashi’s stories which shows how one can use it the “Way of Martial Arts” to defeat an opponent or multiple foes. In the ring of “Water”, he pushes the adage of being like water, something that Bruce Lee made famous, but few knew he got this way of thinking from Musashi, as he relates his story of how he thought Tadadoshi, his two-sword style, one which encourages the swordsman to deeply consider their opponent. In the ring of “Fire”, he describes how to use the energy and fury of fight within battle to focus one’s energy, as he urges the reader to make their foe react while the subject leads how the fight will go .In the ring of “Wind”, he takes his time to admire the different martial arts and how they compare to his style and the usefulness of knowing them all, as he tells a tale of own master who challenged him and lost, by not even being able to touch Musashi.  In the last ring of “emptiness”, he urges the reader to become the other four elements, thus combining them to move naturally in their ways, in the way of Emptiness, as tells how one of his last students dying , eventually lead him to write down what he learned for future generations.

Overall, an engaging and beautifully written graphic novel about not only martial arts but how to strategize against anything and anyone. The story by Miyamoto Musashi and Sean Michael Wilson makes this book even more accessible and still is very much enjoyable. The art by Chie Kutsawada is simply gorgeous. The translation by Williams Scott Wilson is well done. Altogether, another essential book by Sean Michael Wilson, which shows that he is a writer more comic fans should know.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Chie Kutsawada
Translation: William Scott Wilson
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Advance Review: Tao Te Ching

Within some of the greatest religious texts that have ever been produced throughout the world, one fundamental underlying theme usually inhabits them all, truth. I remember the first time I read the Quran, and I came across the verse:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between your affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for a people who give thought.”

This was one lesson I never heeded or understood until I was a full-grown adult. In my younger years, I never looked for a partner but girlfriend. It wasn’t until I got married and found what being in a marriage was supposed to be. I saw it eventually in other marriages including my parents, the balance suggested this Quranic verse. Needless to say, just about every religious text contains “pearls of wisdom” that we can use to guide our everyday lives. In the latest and most easily understood version of the Tao Te Ching, the average reader gets a vast, thorough, and accessible version of this great Buddhist text.

The book quickly dives into humans need to categorize and separate one thing from the other, giving readers both a simplistic and contemporary comparison. This goes for every concept contained within the text, as the reader is never talked down to, but does what every great graphic novel, it makes the concepts visceral. One of the best explanations is contained in “Heaven is forever; earth is ages old,” which dives into the materialism that plagues most of society, and how the enrichment of the soul is more important. In the verse “The soft and weak will be victorious over the hard and strong,” they go over how often strength is confused with durability when being soft is confused with unreliability. Another interesting verse is “The softest in the world dominate the hardest just as you would whip forward a horse,” which reinforces the saying “the meek shall inherit the earth.” In the verse “The Way is the storehouse and kitchen of the Ten Thousand Things,” it speaks to the fact that no one gets anywhere alone in life but is helped by many on their journey. In the last verse that I will highlight is “The Way of heaven does not engage in nepotism,” it talks about how society eventually goes the way of the man that is good, even though those who usually get away with things, only seem victorious in the long run.

Overall, the graphic novel is an extensive explanation of this important religious text which both forms the basis of Buddhism but also has contributed to worldwide philosophy. The presentation by Sean Michael Wilson is engaging, well researched, and very relatable. The translation by William Scott Wilson is thorough. The art by Scott Kwok is alluring and vivid. Altogether, the creative team has made this essential text even more compelling not only for those interested in theology but also philosophy.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Translation: William Scott Wilson Art: Scott Kwok
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Review: Cold Mountain: The Legend of Han Shan and Shih Te The Original Dharma Bums

I remember when I started to read books. Like most children, what the school assigned us to read and what we liked to read were often worlds apart. I was never in a class where they would recommend both The Great Gatsby and Fahrenheit 451. One is considered part of the great canon of American Literature while the other is considered radical in its thinking but is now considered one of he forefathers of dystopian fiction. It wasn’t until I got out of school before I read about any of the beat writers, including the oftspoken Jack Kerouac.

Kerouac’s seminal work, On The Road gives readers the best presentations of his philosophy and way of life. He’s one of the more well known writers of his decade and of this subset. Pop culture has gotten to know him from TV shows like Quantum Leap. Contrary to popular belief, this school of thought that the Beat Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, did not start with these young stallions, but with two “dharma bums.” Sean Michael Wilson, Akiko Shimojima, and J.P. Seaton’s have put together a rather ingenious take on the Chinese legend of Han Shan and Shih Te in the brilliantly told Cold Mountain: The Legend of Han Shan and Shih Te The Original Dharma Bums.

Within the first few pages, we meet Han Shan, who we come to know as “Cold Mountain.” He gives readers a brief history of who he is and his attempts at living a rather ordinary life. He’s a young man seemingly failing at everything from being a scholar, to a soldier, to a farmer, and even being married. This is until he receives an epiphany and finds the courage to stand up to authority, religious and secular, and to fight social injustice. Thus sparking a movement. We also meet Shih Te, Shan’s young protégé, whose undying loyalty leads to the two being coined “The Laughing Pair.” They leave their poetry on tree trunks and rocks. The graphic novel allows the reader to follow this duo and their many fabled tales and the poems they inspired. It gives readers a more concise view of these brilliant philosophers.

Overall, an excellent graphic novel about these almost mythical figures which may have very well birthed modern philosophy. The story by Wilson and Seaton is smart, funny, and engaging. The art by Shimojima is sophisticated and virtuous. Altogether, it’s an elegant tome which pays tribute to the godfathers of “dharmic bliss”.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Translation: J.P. Seaton Art: Akiko Shimojima
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: Goodbye God? An Illustrated Exploration of Science vs Religion

From the birth of our country, Christianity’ ties to not only the Founding Fathers but also to the very principles the nation was founded on, is unmissable.  The mention of God is in every major piece of literature, letter, and even many legal documents. This way of thinking became part of the dominant faith system that would spread into every facet of what we call “The American way of life”. This was what most believed to be the only way, which lead to widespread dissemination.

So, with most tenets of belief, what one must do in order to be considered a good Christian, was first thought in the church. So, when the classic question of which came first:” The chicken or the egg”?  most teachers used religion to teach it while others used circular reasoning. What decades of this way of thinking has lead to, is the current political climate ‘s dismissal of science and almost all other reason. In Sean Michael Wilson and Hunt Emerson’s Goodbye God: An Illustrated Exploration of Science Vs Religion, the reader enjoys a careful examination how this dispute has festered and how it affects society’s ultimate direction.

In Part 1, “Evolution and Creationism”, the creators gives a definition of both while outlining history of the fundamental differences between the two sides of the debate while maintaining levity about the incredulousness of the argument for creationism. As they break down Darwin’s theory of sexual selection, as it has less to do with how the opposite sex looks like and more capability to survive. Then they take apart each claim of evidence based on what is written in the Bible and compare it to actual facts. They go on o take separate the creationist schools of thought in to “Old Earth “and “Young Earth”, and how alike and different they are from each other, as both center on literal acceptance of the Bible and creation was within the last 6,000 years. The book delves into the problem with this infiltration into what is considered fact, as Noam Chomsky clearly makes the connection to America’s current political stance on global warming, that it is “fake science”. They also get into how different school systems are tackling both theories as some of these cases have even gone to the Supreme Court. As the New York Times found in a poll that an overwhelming number of teachers for fear of backlash from parents, choose to stay neutral in the argument, and in many ways, leaves the facts unclear. As we also see where scientists have taken up the fight as well, where such collectives as The Steve Project, which has pushed that evolution is a unified belief based on science as fact. In “Part 2” Science Vs Religion”, they first discuss how much of the violence of the world, especially those against women, have parts of it tied to religion and gives specific incidents where people have used words form sacred texts to justify their vehemence. Of course, one of the worst uses of religious text was to justify slavery on other human beings. This is also where we discover the concept of “Humanism”, which more or less is spirituality based on equality and free thought. The creators also dive into how absurd the concept of calling oneself, an atheist, is, as not choosing a dominant religion doesn’t mean that one doesn’t have morals or feelings, though many religious sects would disagree. As the existence of religion, doesn’t mean that good thins will happen only to those who are devout, as the same thing for who aren’t devout, that only bad things will happen to them, as this is simply false equivalencies at play. By book’s end, the creators leaves footnotes that both enhance what the reader has learned and for further reading.

Overall, an excellent book which puts both arguments bare, leaving the reader to ponder on which direction has given the most evidence to sway oneself. The story text by Wilson is intelligent, relatable, and smart. The art by Emerson is beautiful. Altogether, a great book that redefines what a graphic novel can be and gives a readers a full experience.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Hunt Emerson
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy

Review: The Satsuma Rebellion

When it comes to beacons of bravery the most used comparison is “knight.” These men usually were considered some the bravest men in the world. Though this comparison, seems one dimensional, it is far from complete, as other parts of the world also featured men and sometimes women who exemplified this momentous attribute. They were not called knights. In Africa, the Dahomey Warriors were an all women army in the kingdom of Dahomey which now sits between he countries of Benin and Togo. In the movie and comic book, Black Panther the Dora Milaje were based on these warriors. In Japan they had Samurai who some may some are even more romanticized than the European concept of “the knight.”

These men of valor, much like knights, belonged to individual lords and barons and served their families for the rest of their days. Though they were in service to these houses they commanded respect wherever they went as they represented their masters and carried themselves with honor. As all things must come to an end so did their presence by forced modernization. In Sean Michael Wilson and Akiko Shimojima’s The Satsuma Rebellion, their final days and ultimate defeat is chronicled in an epic sweeping bow of a story.

During Meiji Era in Japan, the modernization and treaties with foreign powers lead to changing of Japanese culture, one which made Japanese residents do away with most traditions, including the class system which propelled the Samurai as an honorable and well-paid profession. Saigo Takamuri, one of the leaders in Satsuma, a key figure in the government, saw that with modernization, came corruption, thus he resigned , and started an academy which  trained all of these unemployed Samurai, and became the first version of military contractors, and made Satsuma so powerful, it seceded from the rest of Japan. This caused Meiji government concern, and lead to a warship to their artillery school, which heightened tensions and lead to open rebellion, one which lead to 50 students attacking a government arsenal and stockpiling their weapons and Saigo to come out of retirement. This lead to the siege of Kumamato Castle and a battle in Tabaruzaka, ones where Saigo and his men took heavy losses due to the sheer number of troops and weapons held by the Imperial government.In a final skirmish, The Battle of Shiroyama,  lead to the end of rebellion and the death of Saigo, as well as the end of the Samurai.

Overall, an excellent graphic novel which covers widely unknown part of history here in the West and does it masterfully. The story as told by Wilson is epic, smart, and action packed. The art by Shimojima is gorgeous. Altogether, a great graphic novel that gives the reader an excellent retelling of Japanese history in what feels like a powerfully entertaining story than real antiquity.

Story: Sean Michael Wilson Art: Akiko Shimojima
Story: 10 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy

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.

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