Like the lighting of a fuse, this fall some citizens inspired by the legendary agitprop publication Adbusters and concerned with the state of the world, started a small protest in New York’s Ziccotti Park that quickly exploded across the globe. Even though for some reason the growing protest was not initially reported in the mainstream press during its first couple of weeks, news of the Occupy movement would become one of the biggest and most polarizing stories of the year. While protesters and the police often clashed violently (in many instances during the dead of night in areas deemed off-limits and blacked-out to the press) a world debate started. This debate isn’t always a civil one. In a nutshell: at one end of the spectrum are people who strongly support the Occupy movement as a long overdue backlash against a struggling economy, government policies that they claim favor corporations and the wealthy, and systematic class warfare (along with a plethora of other issues too numerous to list). At the other end of the spectrum are people who vehemently dismiss the protesters claims as the whining of lazy, entitled, unpatriotic parasites who don’t understand capitalist policies and are trying engage in class warfare against the wealthy. Strangely enough, both sides see high unemployment, lack of economic growth, rising national debt, 30 years of flat wages, the rising cost of living, healthcare, the shrinking middle class, and rising tuition costs for higher education as some of the key issues – they just completely disagree on how to address and fix these problems. This debate is exasperated even further in the media by the conflicting political and economic ideologies on display as the U.S. Presidential election approaches. The debate seems to have grown into dissension and spilled over to permeate every facet of society — even the comics industry.
Until the day that Disney finally finds a way to create animatronic artists and writers for Marvel Comics, comic creators remain human beings that often have strong and diverse opinions about things like the Occupy protests. Many creators have voiced these opinions in interviews, blogs, or through social networking.
Perhaps the most infamous example of these opinions was a political screed from 300 and Sin City creator, Frank Miller. Miller lambasted the Occupy movement on his blog, in a way that many people considered shocking, racist, and unhinged. Unsurprisingly (or maybe surprisingly, depending on your beliefs) there were also people that agreed with Mr. Miller and supported him for voicing his opinion.
The wave of backlash against Mr. Miller seemed to predominate, however. The internet erupted with commentary in response to Miller, including a podcast by Comic Booked’s own Emmet O’Cuana. Arguably the biggest response to Frank Miller came from another comic’s legend, as firebrand comic creator Alan Moore (Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and many more) jumped into the fray and delivered a scathing indictment of Miller and his assessment of the situation in a two-part interview with Honest publishing. To take it one step further than just the harsh criticism of Miller’s position, Alan Moore agreed to join the all-star line-up of artists and participate in an exciting project called Occupy Comics: Art + Stories inspired by Occupy Wall Street. Since the Guy Fawkes mask from V For Vendetta has become such an iconic symbol of the protests, it seems only appropriate that Moore should be involved.
The Occupy Comics project reached its funding goal on KickStarter, and will be a hardcover book with art and stories inspired by the Occupy protests. Creators will be paid for their contributions, and in turn have agreed to turn around and donate that money to Occupy causes and protesters. The list of contributors is absolutely staggering, and reads like a best of comics list; including but not limited to: Alan Moore, Ben Templesmith, Darick Robertson, Steve Niles, Tim Seeley, Si Spurrier, Molly Crabapple, Ryan Ottley, Tyler Crook, Amanda Palmer, and SO many more. These few names are just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the project website for a complete list of contributors.
It has recently been announced that David Mack will be joining the project and working with Amanda Palmer on a piece. David Mack is an amazing artist, best known for his work on Kabuki. I got the chance to chat with and observe Mr. Mack paint earlier this year at the ECCC Live Art Event, and was struck by his level of skill and quickness. Every artist that I talked to at the event was thrilled that Mr. Mack was taking part, and had nothing but gushing praise for his work. Comic Booked’s Nicole Sixx tells me that she has talked with Mr. Mack about a future interview, so be sure to check back for that.
Amanda Palmer should work very well with Mr. Mack. She is wildly-creative, and having seen her perform live and in person at a completely peaceful free Occupy concert here is Seattle, know that she has taken the time to actually attend Occupy events, as have many of the contributing artists.
Such iconic images and stories have come from the Occupy protests, that the Occupy Comics: Art + Stories inspired by Occupy Wall Street book should be amazing. We have seen an elderly woman pepper sprayed in Seattle, veterans harmed with rubber bullets in Oakland, a Marine admonish police officers for their violent actions in NY, and police officers with families put in harm’s way in a confusing effort to try to maintain order and safety in nearly every major city, and countless other stories. In the hands of such creative and capable artists, the possibilities for the book are truly limitless and inspire the imagination. I applaud artists that stand up and bring new life to these stories and events. When free speech is under attack, it is always nice to turn to artists for a little perspective. Be sure to check out the Occupy Comics KickStarter page and the Occupy Comics website to learn more.