||[Jan. 16th, 2008|04:05 pm]
100 COMICS TO READ BEFORE YOU DIE (or grow out of them)
#97 PALESTINE – Joe Sacco
"Someone wants to know what I'm here for..."
The Palestine/Israel conflict is often presented with weariness by Western journalists, a mopey sigh of, “Why can’t they all just get along?” After that comes a pithy observation about the likelihood of the survivors of this latest clash or bombing retaliating and inevitably repeating the circle of revenge. This is a useful handwave for us watching the news in our comfy homes; it’s a signal telling us not to bother trying to understand the conflict and its causes because it will never end. We’ll see it come around again next news-cycle.
That wasn’t good enough for Joe Sacco. A journalist who returned to his hobby of cartooning after growing bitter at his newspaper-work’s inability to make a difference, he spent two months in the Middle East talking to everyone he could and drawing everything he saw. In Palestine he invented a new comics journalism, a kind of documentary without video cameras.
Palestine is unflinching in its portrayal of the people and of Sacco himself. Unable to distance himself from a story in which he sees a clear right and wrong, he becomes part of it. Self-consciously drawing himself as an unflattering rubber-faced goon he stumbles around like a guilt-racked tourist of sadness, nevertheless unable to stop himself from perving on female Israeli Defence Force soldiers. He documents and sympathises, showing himself stage-whispering understatement into a Palestinian’s ear, “This occupation thing looks pretty harsh.” Though that’s all he thinks he can do, by sharing his story in an engaging and easy style that educates without ever stooping to teaching us lessons, he manages to do something that actually matters after all.