Thursday, September 23

An explosion of ideas floods the non-fiction comic to portray the world of the pandemic | Culture

Cartoon drawn by Carl Nelson and written by Amber Cortés, from the book 'Pandemia' (Flow Press).
Cartoon drawn by Carl Nelson and written by Amber Cortés, from the book ‘Pandemia’ (Flow Press).

Lilly Tsosie belonged to the Navajos, the largest Indian community in the United States; She was a family grandmother and gave herself to others in her job as a blood drawing technique. He died at the age of 65 after being infected at the covid-19 plant, where he went because there was a lack of staff. About 30 cars accompanied her for three hours from the San Juan Regional Medical Center in New Mexico – where she had worked for three decades – to her home in Farmington. This is one of the true stories in the book Pandemic (Flow Press), which portrays the ravages of the virus in South Korea, Lebanon, Brazil or the United States through cartoons by 51 journalists, editors and cartoonists. The publication is part of the project The Nib, a non-fiction publishing house that emerged in the US in 2013 that has now gone from being virtual to paper and that at the end of March it has published for the first time in Spanish.

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The story of the utility is collected by the Californian illustrator Arigon Starr, 50 years old. “The biggest challenge is research. I had to get lots of pictures of the family and also get to know the area. In fact, I lived in New Mexico myself when I was a child, so I was lucky, ”says the artist, who belongs to the Kickapoo tribe of Oklahoma. “People forget about Native Americans. We are a small part of the population, yet our stories are great, our lives are great. And I am very happy that they have included us in this ”, he explains with emotion. Starr assumes that Tsosie came last: “I identify with her, it’s something a lot of women do. He worked until he passed away and caused enormous pain to his family, but also to his community, which came out in droves when his body was transported. Just to say goodbye. “

Vignettes painted by Arigon Starr in 'Pandemic' (Flow Press).
Vignettes painted by Arigon Starr in ‘Pandemic’ (Flow Press).

For the editor, Matt Bors (Ohio, 38 years old), this format can help to digest the information, since many people are “visual thinkers”. Then there is the satire. Comics are a great way to make fun of politicians and dismantle arguments, more entertaining than an article in a blog! ”, He opines by mail. Bors, who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, joins in with a ridicule of Donald Trump and fake news.

Bullets by Matt Bors in 'Pandemic' (Flow Press).
Bullets by Matt Bors in ‘Pandemic’ (Flow Press).

Many of the strips reflect on confinement. Amber Cortés (New York, 44 years old), with the script, and Carl Nelson (Utah, 36 years old), with the drawing, describe the perspective of the homeless. The couple discovered that in Seattle, where they live, people called the police to dismantle the camps organized by these victims, who were left homeless. “On the other hand, in Portland there was a kind of agreement between the city and some defense organizations. homeless to make these settlements. Specifically for people who were of color, queer or disabled. And it was successful. We discovered that they were capable of taking care of themselves ”, the journalist says in a video call. Nelson adds that in the United States there is a “huge crisis” within the sector: “For at least 30 years we have not had a national commitment to public housing.” Cortés found in the community the strength to overcome the pandemic. “And I would love to see more cases like this around the world, of people who help each other and who are positive,” he says.

On Flow Press, who has published the anthology in Spanish, plan to bring in new Spanish or Hispanic-American authors, according to editor Diego Rosembuj, (Buenos Aires, 46 years old), and translate two publications of The Nib a year, one that comes out in the spring and the other in the fall . “We follow the line of visual books that explain the world and we liked the idea of ​​having titles that were connected to the present,” he says from Barcelona. They reached an agreement in 2019 and looked for the number to start with, since they are all monographs ―on death, family, money―; but they decided to wait for Pandemic.

Cartoon from 'Pandemic' (Flow Press).
Cartoon from ‘Pandemic’ (Flow Press).

There are several stories that have impacted me, ”says the editor in Spanish. “I love the archive of historical images that appears in each issue and is from decades ago or from the 20th century. I was also surprised by the design of the Lebanon’s comic, which is very different from everything we are used to seeing in non-fiction topics ”. The artist Omar Khouri paints the silence of the explosion of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate in Beirut that last August left 205 dead, more than 6,500 injured, another 350,000 displaced residents, and that set fire to protests in the capital of the country that triggered the advance of the elections and the resignation of the prime minister, Hassan Diab. Journalist Yazan Al-Saadi (Kuwait, 37 years old) is unable to put emotions into words when he sees the image drawn by his partner. “It just hurts,” he admits.

Al-Saadi recognizes the complexity when it comes to summarizing the country’s situation – “vibrant, full of nuances” – in a few pages: “There are so many dynamics at play, the economy, politics, gender, colonialism, so many things. .. “. He chose an approach and a parable: “I imagined a spear, as a symbol of protest and human struggle, pitted against the shield, which are the regimes. I thought it would be a metaphor that anyone could understand. The fact that it is a Chinese teaching shows that there is universality. I don’t need to add a very stereotypical Arabic legend or traditional folklore to make this connection. It comes down to the basics of humans: lances and shields colliding. “

Cartoon from 'Pandemic' (Flow Press), by Yazan al-Saadi and Omar Khouri.
Cartoon from ‘Pandemic’ (Flow Press), by Yazan al-Saadi and Omar Khouri.

The biggest challenge The Nib faces is the continuity of the publication and its funding, according to Bors. “We have been through various media outlets that have supported us over the years. After our last editor left us, I stayed with the company and made it totally independent. We are now 100% subsidized by readers through our partner program, ”he says. The American aspires to become the main world reference in non-fiction comics and in the editor’s letter he sums up his objective: “The work we carry out providing a satirical and critical look at political issues tends to reach its peak when the world hits bottom. We hope the world will improve a lot in 2021, but we know that there will continue to be many things to draw comics about for a long time to come. “

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