Archive for Social Issues

Forgotten story of Women’s Hospitals retold in WWI comic anthology

Women solidersThe story of how a determined group of women made a huge contribution to the war effort has been retold in graphic form for an anthology marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Selina Lock is the author of Go home and Sit Still which tells the true story of the Scottish Women’s Hospital, created by Dr. Inglis, a woman surgeon whose services were refused by the army.  Instead of ‘going home and sitting still’ as the army instructed, she created a unique hospital to look after troops in Russia.

The story is featured in To End All Wars: the Graphic Anthology of the First World War, published by Soaring Penguin Press, an anthology of 26 short graphic narratives based on actual events, places and people.

Lock is a Research Information Advisor at the University of Leicester and a contributor and editor to several comics anthologies. Lock recalls, “When I started researching women in the First World War I came across several accounts from women who had been involved in the Scottish Women’s Hospitals and thought they were an inspiring group.

to-end-all-wars-Go-Home-and-Sit-Still-Selina-Lock-Arthur-Goodman“There is an underlying message of feminism to the story because the SWH evolved from the suffrage movement. They wanted to support the war effort, while showing that women could contribute many different skills. But mainly I wanted to tell their story because I had no idea there were British women out in Russia running hospitals during WWI and I thought other people would also find that interesting.

“One of the editors John Clark, a political cartoonist from Nottingham, contacted me about the anthology as he knew me and my previous comic strip work. They were a few months into the project and realised they didn’t have any strips looking at the experiences of women during the First World War and asked if I’d be interested in pitching some ideas.

“I’m thrilled that my story ‘Go Home and Sit Still’, illustrated by Arthur Goodman, was included because it’s a high quality collection of comic strips, inspired by true stories. I feel it does a good job of showcasing a wide range of experiences from different people and different cultures rather than just focusing on the most familiar aspects of the war.”

‘Soda Pop Anthology’ Showcases Comics by Puerto Rican Women

Soda Pop Anthology is a collection of comics illustrated and written by Puerto Rican women and published independently by a studio of female comics writers, Soda Pop Comics.

Created as a vehicle to document this growing and vastly under represented community of artists its purpose is to establish greater visibility and acceptance for its female creators. Beyond the world of comics, few volumes published on the island of Puerto Rico share such a noble (and difficult) task. As such, it is important to address the “Soda Pop Anthology” as the beginning.

Soda Pop Comics was founded in 2007 by Rosa Colón and Carla Rodríguez in an effort to push other women to create their own comics. These initial efforts resulted in six collections of work under the stamp of “Anthology,” and gave way to four additional editions that were digitally distributed in 2013. The Soda Pop Anthology, gathers the best material from last year in 152 color pages and includes stories created specifically for this print edition.


“Opus Operática” by Rosaura Rodríguez; “El lemur y el pulpo” by Mónica Parada.

A total of 26 artists have participated in the effort, from beginners to more established and experienced voices, offering a fairly comprehensive and complete panorama of the current comic’s production on the island. Beyond the central concept — Puerto Rican women creating comics — there is no forced narrative nor theme that structures the collection.

Each pair of pages takes the reader down a different path — from Rosaura Rodríguez’s semantic games in watercolor to Mónica Parada’s raw absurdity, from the light and playful spirit that characterizes Soda Pop’s work, to Ivia E. Pantoja’s sci-fi imagination with a Japanese influence. Each are complimented with articles on the history of comics and tutorials.


“Aventuras en el mar” by Soda Pop Comics; “Niveles” by Supakid.

The Soda Pop Anthology is an essential publication for collectors of Puerto Rican comics and the hope is that it results in a greater appreciation of the medium. Those who know Soda Pop Comics’ work know the anthology is a link in a grand chain of initiatives — between exhibits, art classes, festivals, scholarship opportunities, and other social activities — aimed at promoting the production of comics on the island of Puerto Rico. Its importance shines through because of its introduction of new artists — and an invitation to join and participate.

Get your copy for a limited time at Libros AC in Ponce De León Avenue in Santurce or order it online at Soda Pop Comics and Amazon.

Cartoonist Roz Chast Receives National Book Award nod

Roz Chast is the first cartoonist to be honored by the National Book Awards in the adult categories when her newest book, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” was named to the Nonfiction Longlist for the 2014 Awards.

51-pNcJRB9L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_ “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” is Chast’s account of caring for her aging parents.

Chast is the only woman on this year’s list. The Wall Street Journal noted that, between this nomination and Alison Bechdel’s MacArthur “genius grant,” ”It’s a good day to be a female cartoonist.”

Chast replied, “I totally agree. Actually my first thought was just it’s good for cartoons, for the graphic form.”

Chast’s cartoons have been published in many magazines, including The New Yorker, Scientific American, Harvard Business Review, Redbook, and Mother Jones.

She is the author of “Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons of Roz Chast, 1978-2006,” a compilation of her favorite cartoons. She also illustrated “The Alphabet from A to Y, with Bonus Letter, Z,” a bestselling children’s book by Steve Martin.

Her awards and honors include honorary doctorates from Dartmouth College, Lesley University/Art Institute of Boston, and Pratt Institute. She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a
Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College.

For more on Chast, visit her website.

The National Book Award is one of the nation’s most prestigious literary prizes. Winners will be announced at the invitation-only National Book Awards Ceremony and Benefit Dinner on November 19 in New York City. To see the full list of nominees or for more information, visit its website.

Artist Alison Bechdel Receives MacArthur Fellowship

They say good things come in threes, whether or not the adage is true, that’s exactly what’s happened to Alison Bechdel this summer.

Thing One: a six-week artist residency in a 15th-century castle in rural Umbria, Italy.

Thing Two: the news that Bechdel’s musical Fun Home — which had a critically acclaimed run at New York City’s Public Theater last year — is going to be produced on Broadway. And no sooner had she settled in at the castle than Thing Three happened: a call from the MacArthur Foundation telling Bechdel she’d won a fellowship.

The five-year grant comes with $625,000. The MacArthur website explains: “The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements.”

This is not an award one applies for; individuals are nominated and selected anonymously for a MacArthur. So to say Bechdel was surprised is an understatement.

“I really felt like — it was almost like someone hit me, like a physical blow,” she said in a phone call from Umbria, where she’s about to finish up her residency. “First I get to come to this amazing place, then I find out about Fun Home, then I get the call about the MacArthur.”

Ever modest, Bechdel said she initially struggled with feelings that she wasn’t worthy. “So many people deserve it,” she said, then quickly added, “It would be criminal to have any kind of negative reaction to it. But it’s pretty stunning and hard to get used to.”

Since the selection committee is anonymous, no one is available to be asked, “Why Alison Bechdel?” But the bio provided by the foundation fairly answers that question. An excerpt:

Alison Bechdel is a cartoonist and graphic memoirist exploring the complexities of familial relationships in multilayered works that use the interplay of word and image to weave sophisticated narratives. Bechdel’s command of sequential narrative and her aesthetic as a visual artist was established in her long-running comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For (1983–2008), which realistically captured the lives of women in the lesbian community as they influenced and were influenced by the important cultural and political events of the day.

Garnering a devoted and diverse following, this pioneering work was a precursor to her book-length graphic memoirs. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006) is a nuanced depiction of a childhood spent in an artistic family in a small Pennsylvania town and of her relationship with her father, a high school English teacher and funeral home director. An impeccable observer and record keeper, Bechdel incorporates drawings of archival materials, such as diaries, letters, photographs, and news clippings, as well as a variety of literary references in deep reflections into her own past.

The Fun Home musical, based on Bechdel’s graphic memoir, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in drama and was honored with other awards including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. When it reopens at Circle in the Square next spring, it will be completely restaged but have the same director, Obie-winning Sam Gold, according to a notice in the New York Times. Bechdel said she didn’t know if any, some or all of the Public Theater cast would come to Broadway. “It’s pretty much out of my hands,” she said. “I’m just decorative.”

Fun Home is expected to open for preview performances on April 4, 2015, and open on April 22. That’s just before the deadline for Tony Award nominees at the end of April, noted the Times.

IMG_10091-337x450At Umbria’s Civitella Ranieri, Bechdel produced and documented on her blog, a 10-meter-long scroll filled with life-size drawings in charcoal. Many of them are of herself practicing strenuous yoga poses. The physical activity, she said, helped get her “out of her head.” In one of the more humorous panels on the scroll, Bechdel is shown wearing a monk-like robe and washing her clothes in a sink. A downside of living in a castle, she noted: no washing machine.

A glance at the foundation’s website suggests there aren’t many other drawbacks. The enormous 400-year-old castle is nestled among lush, green hills and a nearby vineyard. She’s one of 10 fellows from five countries in residence right now, so there’s plenty of international stimulation. She’s spent her time there, Bechdel said, focused on drawing. And that scroll? “People actually want it here,” she said, sounding relieved about not having to ship it home. “They have plenty of room to display it.”

After Bechdel finishes up her residency in Umbria, she’ll travel for a week and then come home. And she’s looking forward to it. “I’ve been working and traveling so much,” she said. “I miss Vermont.”

To see more of that work, check out the video below:

Toonseum hosts launch of comic-book salute to Holocaust Heroes

CHUTZ-POW_FinalCover_SMALL_RGBPITTSBURGH, PA – “Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust” tells the true stories of five extraordinary men and women whose bravery was more powerful than any special ability.

“This is the kind of story that doesn’t need capes,” says Joe Wos, director of the Toonseum, Downtown, who worked with the Holocaust Center of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh on the project. “We wanted to show that the simplest act of standing up can transform anyone into a superhero.”

The two groups hosted a launch party to celebrate the official release of the comic book on Aug. 14 at the Toonseum. Copies of the book were available for a special price of $3.

The book features the stories of five local heroes:

• The late Dora Iwler, who escaped camp after camp by posing as a Christian

• Moshe Baran, 93, of Squirrel Hill, a partisan in the forests

• His wife, the late Malka Baran, who saved a child in the camps

• Fritz Ottenheimer, 89, of Oakland, a German born Jew who witnessed Kristallnacht, immigrated to the United States and joined the U.S. Army to fight against his mother country

• The late Les Banos, a Jewish double agent who infiltrated the Nazis, sabotaged various missions, rescued shot-down Allied pilots and hid Jews

CHUTZ-POW_PanelsOttenheimer, whose parents helped smuggle hundreds of people to Switzerland to escape Nazi persecution, appreciates the comic book’s ability to reach younger generations.

“This is definitely something young people should know about and think of in terms of a goal for their life — to help others who are being unfairly treated,” he says. “They should know these things happened and try to learn about what lead up to the conditions.”

Baran agrees.

“Reaching younger people and whatever else we can do to have people think about (the Holocaust), especially in this crazy world, is important,” he says.

Drew Goldstein, chair of the Chutz-Pow! Project, says while there were “hundreds of thousands of superheroes through the world we could draw from,” these five were selected based on recommendations from historians and academics who served as advisers for the project.

“They are people who chose to step up when it looked like there was no hope and did amazing things,” Goldstein says.

Because comic books are rooted in Jewish history, using the format to tell their stories made sense, project organizers say.

“The comics industry overwhelmingly exists because of Jewish-Americans who were here during World War II,” Wos says. “All these early artists were Jewish. They had a great wealth of stories and a rich storytelling tradition that certainly helped in developing the characters. I think they were a group of people who needed superheroes, so they created them.”

The goal is to work with educators to incorporate the book into curricula for students in grades seven to 12, Goldstein says. He hopes to organize special presentations at area schools. The comic is the first in a planned set of books featuring Holocaust survivors, he says.

“We set out to revolutionize how Holocaust education is taught to the next generation,” Goldstein says.

Written by local author and comics historian Wayne Wise, the book features artwork by professional Pittsburgh cartoonists including Christopher Moeller, Dave Wachter, Marcel Walker and Mark Zingarelli.

“We didn’t change the stories,” Goldstein says. “We didn’t give them superpowers beyond what they did themselves.”

Chutz-Pow! Superheroes of the Holocaust will also be traveling to Pittsburgh ComiCon September 26-28, 2014. For more information, click here.


Reblog from Tribal Media

First Comic Book Institute Opens in Vietnam



HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam  – Opening ceremonies have just concluded on the first institute of its kind at Ton Duc Thang Vocational Training College.

The institute, which is located on Huynh Khuong Ninh Street in HCMC’s District 1, will introduce innovative techniques of drawing comic books, producing cartoons while introducing successful models of comic books to young artists, and serve as a bridge between businesses and students.

Phan Thi My Hanh, director of Phan Thi Media Education & Entertainment Co. Ltd., is head of the new institute.

Students will be trained via courses and have the opportunity to use their knowledge and skills to practice in a real working environment.

Hanh states the institute will open additional offices in the Mekong Delta, and the central and northern regions in the coming time. The Vietnam Design Association (VDAS) president Le Huyen adds that children’s demand for comic books and cartoons is increasing remarkably, especially in Hanoi and HCMC. The institute has set up development plans for the comic book and cartoon industry in Vietnam to meet that demand with additional goals to carry out research projects and develop human resources for the sector.



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