Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Comics of Interest: Palestine

Palestine by Joe Sacco (Fantagraphics Books, 2007)

I picked up a copy of Joe Sacco's Palestine from Ashland's very own More Fun Comics the other day, and I'm already a huge fan. The control of his lines and shading are incredible. He clearly draws a lot from folks like Crumb, but Sacco's lines are so much tighter and controlled. It's an interesting stylistic contrast, though, to the always frothing chaos and unpredictability of the Palestinian conflict that Sacco has immersed himself in. I love the way he positions his "thought boxes" in a way that pushes the readers eye across the page.

Panel layout is another one of Sacco's strong suits. Although this (below) isn't one of my favorite examples it still becomes abundantly clear that the layout of the panels is key to Sacco's storytelling (as it is to a lot of comic books artists but follow me). Many of the panels are inset over a larger image or are broken not in a grid pattern, but sometimes by diagonal lines or any number of unconventional line patterns or non-patterns. Panels are often broken in ways that seem to directly push against conventional layout. And this might sound like it would inhibit the reader, but it's the opposite. He effortlessly moves the reader from one panel to next, I have to actually force myself to slow down, which is nice. I want to sit there and soak up all the rich details his drawings.

And the idea of the comic medium used for journalism is really interesting to me. The idea of "objective" journalism meeting the need for a a rise and fall every issue seems oddly well suited for one another. Plus there's the tension between the vitality and brutality of the people he meets and the places he visits. Which brings me back to panel layout. The panels seem to be another trick that suggests that his is something different and his subject is something different, fragmented overlapping, but always stunning.

I love this stuff and I can't wait to become even more poor snatching up the rest of his books.



  1. I still think Chris Ware is the king of unconventional comic layout -- he really makes the reader work and challenging the idea of the traditional left-to-right top-to-bottom narrative. I still need to check out Sacco, been meaning to for some time. But comics is mad expensive, yo!

  2. I totally agree. He does super interesting panel layout, but it's almost always some kind of rectangle or square divided by a gutter of white. So he works really hard to be inventive within the bounds of conventional panels. Except his new stuff serialized in VQR (which isn't a very good magazine). That stuff is bat shit crazy, as far as layout is concerned.

    Which is different than what Sacco is doing. Sacco is letting go of the panel and opting for a more "organic" flow of the narrative. Of course someone like Will "Grandpappy of comics" Eiesner was doing that kind of stuff 50 years ago. SO... um... we both are right!