Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov (“Homestead”), JM Dematteis (“That Which is Most Needed”), Douglas Rushkoff (“Exploitation: Our Noble Tradition”), Ales Kot (“Citizen Journalist”), Ben Templesmith (“Clever”), Ronald Wimberly (“Occupy Shadows”), Joshua Dysart & Kelly Bruce (“Casino Nation Part 1”), Alan Moore (“Buster Brown at the Barricades” Parts 1 and 2), Matt Pizzolo (“Channel 1&”)
Art by Joseph Infurnari (“Homestead”), Mike Cavallaro (“That Which Is Most Needed”), Dean Haspiel (“Exploitation: Our Most Noble Tradition”), Tyler Crook (“Citizen Journalist”), Ben Templesmith (“Clever”), Ronald Wimbely (“Occupy Shadows”), Allen Gladfelter (“Casino Nation Part 1”), Ayhan Hayrula (“Channel 1%”)
Colours by Jeremy Cox (“Citizen Journalist”)
Illustrations by Charlie Adlard, Molly Crabapple, Guy Denning, David Lloyd, Matt Bors, Art Spiegelman
Cover by Mike Allred
Published by Black Masic Comics
Important. There’s a word a lot of right thinking people, often myself included, run headlong from. Important tends to mean worthy, worthy tends to mean well intentioned and dull and dull means, well, dull. You are NOT entertained, to misquote Maximus and that surely defeats the purpose of entertainment, especially when it’s entertainment in comic form.
Occupy Comics issue 1 is very important. It’s also entertaining and here’s why; this is a hefty sample of the best writers and artists on the planet using one of its most accessible art forms to talk to you. Not teach, not educate, just talk. This is a comic about the Occupy movement, about the reasons behind it and most of all about how the world is now. It should be dull but it sparks with the sort of imagination and visual wit these people can’t help but bring to their work.
Take “Homestead”, the first story, written by Joshua Hale Fialkov and illustrated by Joseph Infurnari. Set in Pennsylvania in 1892 it’s a story about worker’s rights and the horrific end to a particular riot. Infurnari’s pencils are Eisner-esque, crammed with character and battered, careworn faces and the first page, with the outline of a man going through his punishing daily routine is blisteringly smart. The story itself is short, brutal and makes a point; people have always been exploited, things have always got better, keep going.
It’s a hopeful note that’s carried through into ‘That Which Is Most Needed.’ Mike Cavallaro’s relaxed, friendly black and white style is a perfect medium for what’s essentially a short lecture in comic form that explains the basis of the movement, the people they’re protesting against and comes at both from a very different perspective. It’s a relaxed, compassionate take on the movement and one that should be the first thing most people read on it.
Visual wit is also on display in “Exploitation: Our Noble Tradition” by Douglas Rushkoff with art by Dean Haspiel. A single page comic that cleverly uses the same design to reflect how time periods have changed but exploitation is timeless it’s coldly angry where the previous piece was kind. It makes its point forcefully in four panels, and again, summarises yet also expands on the issues at hand.
Then we get to ‘Citizen Journalist’ and this is the story you should buy the book for. Ales Kot is blazing a trail across the industry at the moment, his blisteringly smart Wild Children still available from Image and his mini-series Change about to be collected. He’s also the new writer on Suicide Squad and is in the process of turning that book into something extraordinary. Here though, with help from the subtle, expressive art of Tyler Crook and Jeromy Cox’s stunning, shop window and sodium light-styled colouring, he provides you with a look at the Citizen Journalist. These are the people on the frontlines, not protesting, but reporting, keeping both sides honest and looking at the individuals in the story rather than just the issues. The story is a character study, another completely different perspective on the Occupy movement and a how-to for Citizen Journalism. It’s extraordinary, honestly the best comic work I’ve seen this year. Buy the book just for this.
Ben Templesmith’s “Clever” is up next and marries his always impressive, always mildly grotesque art with a blisteringly angry narrative about the 1% and the control they have. It mirrors They Live, is fast, angry, smart and drives it’s points homes with typical eloquence. It’s followed by a one page strip, “Occupy Shadows” by Ronald Wimbley which uses a loose, Jim Mahfood-esque style to reseat the protest as a group of ninja helping their local communities out. It’s a small, fun piece that’s one failing is it feels like it should be the start of something much larger.
“Casino Nation” by Joshua Dysart and Kelly Bruce with wonderful black and white art by Allen Gladfelter is the first part of a series and it’s easy to see why. This is the first prose piece in the book, listing the people they view as responsible for the Recession and placing them in a deck of cards. It’s a smart idea and in many ways embodies the desire to educate and entertain that lies at the heart of the book. It’s also one of the first pieces almost certain to make you angry.
“Buster Brown at the Barricades” is, of course, written by Alan Moore and is one of the book’s real highpoints. It’s a detailed, insightful and bone-dry funny look at the use of comics in political protest. Superficially the driest part of the book, it’s infused with Moore’s typical enthusiasm and wit. It also, yet again, provides a new perspective; dissent is healthy, protest is healthy, they’re both things we’ve been doing for a long, long time.
Finally, “Channel 1%” written by Matt Pizzolo and illustrated by Ayhan Hayrula changes perspective one last time to the one we all share; the people watching the news, reading the papers and trying to make sense of an issue which is vitally important to some and crushingly dull to others. Pizzolo’s script is wry, funny, completely grounded and adds another side to the dispute, the agenda-driven work of the media. It does this completely open-eyed with no tub thumping or propaganda and closes the book exactly how it starts, on a high.
Scattered through the book are illustrations that cover similar ground and, again, they approach it with real wit and inventiveness. Not all of them land, but the ones that do include Art Spiegelman’s closing image of a 1% couple looking worriedly at the cracking floor of their penthouse, Molly Crabapple’s vibrant shot of a woman hoLding the American flag emerging from a cloud of tear gas and David Lloyd’s superb centrepiece, which sees V playing matador to the Wall Street bull. Again they offer different perspective on the Occupy movement and the imagery it evokes.
This is an important book, not just because of what it’s about but what it is. This is a comic about contemporary political issues crammed with the best creators on the planet and funded by KickStarter. It’s the culmination of creative talent and audience to create something new which is immensely entertaining and informs you even as it’s entertaining you. Like I say, it’s an important book, and one you absolutely need to read.