This coming Wednesday, on the 14th, we will begin our course in “Making Comics” at UPenn. It will be the job, and indeed the great pleasure, of JC and myself to introduce a new set of student to the sometimes arcane language of visual storytelling and the rich diversity of material found in the world of comics.
But the world of comics is, sadly, very much in the news right now. As our class begins cartooning and cartoonists have become center stage of the cultural dialogue, as the start of our class marks a week since the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
We had intended this section of our website for weekly musings on comics and comic-making, to provide some entertaining reading for students and an opportunity for other cartoonists and comics scholars to speak their minds. We hoped to maybe even point readers around to some of the biggest news stories in comics that week. I had thought to begin this week by saying something nice about Irwin Hansen’s work on Dondi. Lighter fare, to be sure.
But this week’s news isn’t about lighter fare. Its about the very terrible acts of violence that occurred in Paris and the power that we cartoonists exercise in a world where freedom of speech is still a battlefront. Sad and shocking and terrible, it is a week that reminds us that the singular and unique voices found in cartooning can have a dramatic effect upon our culture.
There have been many voices from the world of comics talking about just that during the week. Quite a few of them can be found in this New York Times article. Of particular note there is Tom Spurgeon of Comics Reporter. Tom’s long-running blog is one I often suggest to comic enthusiasts for its insight and depth into the cartoon culture, its history and its prevailing sense of camaraderie.
As we look forward to making comics this week it’s impossible to forget the tragedy and senselessness of the last week’s attacks. But freedom of speech IS still a battlefront in many, many places and cultures all over the world and, maybe, the very public outrage for the attacks and the demonstrations of support shown to fellow cartoonists this week will inspire a new generations of artists and writers.
So we look hopefully forward,