Comics After Catastrophe

What a difference two weeks makes. In my last installment I wrote that “The United States answers to no one, and we like it that way.” At the time, I was ticked off over the president’s decision not to participate in the U.N. conference on racism or the Kyoto Accord.

Now, the talk in Washington is all coalition building and international cooperation. We’ve dropped our unilateral attitude and now acknowledge that we need allies–those same nations that were working to improve human rights and the environment, and others besides. Unfortunately, it took a terrible tragedy and the deaths of thousands of innocents to wake us.

Since September 11, I’ve been too focused on the terrorist attacks and its fallout to think much about comic books or to write a Surly installment. First there was the shock of seeing a column of smoke hovering over Arlington, Virginia, and knowing that the Pentagon burned just a few miles from my home. Then, I was overcome by rage at the terrorists. Then I was moved by the courage of New York City firefighters and the amazing story of Flight 93–where passengers and/or crew sacrificed their lives to save people on the ground. It turns out not all heroes are in comics books–some of them live among us in the real world.

I hope that, after we bring the terrorists to justice, we don’t go back to our old unilateral way of thinking. The U.S. is not separate from the world. If anything, this last week shows just how much events across the globe affect us.

This Web site is supposed to be about comics, and like everything else comics have been affected by the terrorist attacks.

Closest to home (my home, anyway) was the cancellation of The Expo 2001. This is a great event where readers get to mingle with the folks who write, draw, and publish independent comics. Expo takes place every September in Bethesda, Maryland. It was supposed to start this year on the 14th, but of course travel was still chaotic at that time.

Up in Brooklyn, cartoonist Dean Haspiel stood on the roof of his apartment building and watched events unfold at the World Trade Center. He described the experience for for’s Splash. (You’ll have to scroll down to find Dean’s story.)

New Yorker magazine decided this was not the time for cartoons, and did not include any in its latest issue. However, not everyone agreed. Slate has posted an archive of cartoons showing reactions to September 11 from around the world, including this plaintive Superman cartoon.

Over in Hollywood, Sony pictures pulled a trailer for the upcoming Spider-Man movie, due to be released next May. This trailer showed Spidey capturing a helicopter full of robbers–he leaves their chopper hanging in a big web spun between the World Trade Center towers. (You’ll notice the movie Web site has been stripped of pictures–I think these also included the towers.)

Finally, a group of comic artists is putting together a special comic book, the proceeds of which will go to the Red Cross. Titled 9-11: Emergency Relief, the book will feature the talents of Will Eisner, Tony Millionaire, Jessica Abel, Tom Hart, and about a million others. It will be a “collection of these cartoonists’ personal non-fiction accounts of their experiences related to the tragedy.” Look for it in January.

It sounds like a very cool project, but please don’t wait that long to help with the relief effort. Do something, whether it’s giving blood or donating to the Red Cross or the NY Firefighter’s Fund. There are heroes in the real world, but they need our help.

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