Saturday, January 10, 2015

I Am Charlie (III): The Panels

Third in a related series of posts on the Charlie Hedbo assassinations.

    I confess to scrapping today’s post in its entirety late last night, after much reflection and internal debate. This happens a lot with my drawings, moreso when I try and write anything serious or measured. Indeed the history of this very blog is testimony to why editors can often serve a crucial role as a buffer zone. More below the fold...

   In all honesty I’m just overwhelmed, and frankly at a loss for either pictures or words. Every time you go on-line you are promptly inundated by a flood of opinion and perspective on what is a nuanced and horrible situation. One red flag for me is seeing my thoughts become co-opted by elements of bigotry and ignorance – when you find your sentiments on the side of some loathsome people then it’s time to take a step back and reassess. Now there is a kneejerk wave of second guessing ("Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie"), for the most part by purity trolls who probably fail to get even Colbert's Americanized version of sanitized satire. Fortunately the only overarching morality that remains above the tide is that it is wrong to murder, wrong to kill someone because of a cartoon, or anyone with an offensive opinion. That is the tentpole issue we rally around (Update: millions, as it happens - sans the United States). And speaking of balancing between bluntness and nuance: the only handout I will be using in class for this entire section will be Joe Sacco's piece on satire.

Excerpted image by Joe Sacco/The Guardian

   And yes, to be sure there is an endless stream of other horrible events occurring on a daily basis (such as the near-simultaneous NAACP bombing, latest Boko Haram massacre, Florida etc.) and compassion fatigue seems to set in after repeated exposure and people will naturally begin to withdraw, or - unless they feed off that sort of thing, heavily filter and sedate. I think that’s one of the factors behind why political cartoons never seem to elicit much unless they trigger anger, or sorrow, and there is an ever-escalating negative feedback cycle at play as well. This turns a lot of people off - from editorial panels and arguably politics in general - and in my cynical view it bleeds off into the naiveté and apathy of the general public (see Clay Jones' "Selective Vigilance"), who would much prefer idle amusements, Hallmark platitudes and pretty pictures instead.
   Most of this post was suppose to have let the work of others speak. Then I took everything down and started all over (finishing fifteen minutes before deadline update: five hours late). Really, there's only two mages throughout all of the reactions that have stayed with me.  This one is being falsely attributed (shared over 150k times from the Unofficial Banksy page) to Banksy – the original is in fact by freelance graphic designer and illustrator Lucille Clerc (see more of her work here). This is one which coalesces everything into a simple metaphor and succinct statement which represents the modus operandi of why I teach cartooning, and in a way is the hopes of educators everywhere:

Image: Lucille Clerc/from Twitter

There are so many powerful panels being created in response: your homework is to select from pieces regarding the murders by other international cartoonists seen over at Cagle Cartoon's thread, Liberation's "Ça crayonne dur pour Charlie," and more at Cartoon Movement. We will review and critique your choices and preparatory sketches of your own ideas in class after the accompanying lecture on rights versus responsibilities in editorial cartooning.
In closing this particularly one, by London-based writer + illustrator Sarah Mcintyre, is to me by far and away the most poignant and the most powerful yet to arise from the entire tragedy.

Image: Sarah McIntyre/Jabberworks

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