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Archer, Dan & Trusova, Olga – Borderland



Raise your hand if you think all slavery in the world went away in 1865.  Now take a minute to feel just a little stupid, both for raising your hand and for actually believing that.  Human trafficking is alive and well, and the people doing it are finding new ways around the law at every turn.  One particularly assholish way of doing it is to kidnap people to work for months or even years, then give them a payment for their services of something like $20 so that the worker can’t say that they were never paid.  Yes, apparently that is enough to trip up some courts.  This comic tells the story of seven people who were involved in various forms of human trafficking, but at least they all eventually made it out alive.  I believe the setup is that Dan draws the stories while Olga writes them, but most of these are based on testimonials told to other people, so it wouldn’t shock me a bit if Dan occasionally worked on the writing end of things as well.  Anyway, the horror stories in here involve a woman who was cut and left for dead as a baby (and things didn’t get much better for a long, long time), a man who found himself trapped in a work camp with armed guards, a woman who was chained to a pole and forced to live with the animals (and allowed to “escape” when her foot become infected to avoid them having to pay her), a woman forced to work in a public bakery, a big tough guy trapped in a labor camp, toxic exposure to some nasty chemicals while being forced to work, and a woman forced into sex work. It’s a powerful and haunting group of stories, and it draws attention to something that is often either ignored or considered not to exist. My only quibble is on a purely thematic level, as some of the stories just trail off without any resolution.  Granted, they all lived to tell their stories so some semblance of a happy ending is implied, but the story of the big tough guy in the camp in particular baffled me, as the intro seemed to be pointing out that ANYONE could find themselves in this situation, but left how he got out of it a mystery.  Minor quibbles, like I said, but the content is heartbreaking, and it’s all too easy to see how desperate people (or even some that weren’t desperate) could find themselves stuck in this situation.  $8

Archer, Dan – The Honduran Coup: A Graphic History


The Honduran Coup: A Graphic History

If you’re not a fan of comics where you might learn something, you had better move on on to something lighter.  There are plenty of options to choose from on this site, as very few comic creators bother to write about important political and military happenings around the world.  Editorial cartoonists like Tom Tomorrow and Lloyd Dangle, sure, but they’re not telling a lengthy story and they’re restricted to telling things that they can either explain in their weekly strips or are already common knowledge.  Dan has managed to tell the story of this coup from start to finish, and if you just see the word “coup” and think it must be ancient history, nope: this covers the period from 6/28/o9 to as close to present day as publishing this comic allowed.  Dan also gets in the history of the place, as the U.S. and its various corporations have determined the course of history in that country for a very long time.  Manual Zelaya took a few steps to make things better for the common people and was deposed in a military coup for his troubles, and wait’ll you see what happened to the people responsible for the coup.  Here’s a hint: jack shit.  As always Dan’s work is meticulously sourced, so if you have a moment or two when you have a “wait, did that really happen/did they really say that?” moment, it’s easy as can be to check it out for yourself.  In between the mealy-mouthed Democrats who don’t seem to take much of a stand on anything and the lone current crazy Republican sourced, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that this was a bipartisan avoidance of responsibility, which is the way of the world here in the U.S.  Fun fact: torture never had a majority of Americans support it (according to polls), even through all the Bush years, until very recently.  After Obama gave it his tacit endorsement (and that’s what it was when he closed the door on ever prosecuting the war criminals who tortured, a tacit endorsement), suddenly the people who don’t follow the news thought that it must not be that bad if both sides let it go at best and fully approved it at worst.  I don’t mention politics on this site often because that’s not the point of the site, but comics like this bring it out of me.  Anyway, there’s not much point of me spoiling the story.  The end was still a mystery to me, as the media lost interest here after the successful “elections” and I never did hear what happened to all the people who supported the democratically elected guy, not to mention what happened to Zelaya himself.  OK, here’s one spoiler alert: the good guys didn’t win this one.  Then again, that never seems to happen, does it?  I can see why people ignore the news altogether, that’s for sure.  Oh, and this is also a flip book, but it’s the same book twice, just one half in English and one half in Spanish.  I would think two different versions would have made more sense, but I could see where this would be a handy tool in multicultural classrooms… assuming kids are ever allowed to be taught about this shameful episode.  $5

Archer, Dan – What A Whopper


What a Whopper

A comic with a message!  Sorry, even with all the chaos in the world I rarely see something cross my desk that’s this socially conscious, with all sorts of links to boot.  This is the story of migrant workers in general and a group of workers in Florida from last year specifically.  Did you know that a fair amount of migrant workers are essentially legalized slaves?  Sure looks like it’s true.  And don’t start with any crap about how they choose to come here and the free market has to regulate itself.  One read through of this issue will show what a joke that is, not to mention if you happen to dig even a little bit through the links on the back page.  The connection to Burger King is simple: even after several companies finally did the right thing and accepted some regulations, Burger King wouldn’t do so, offering increasingly ridiculous reasons as to why not.  Dan says that after this was published BK did finally accept some of these conditions (like, for example, a 1 cent raise per pound of tomatoes) but it still holds up as a powerful, concise and even entertaining recap of the circumstances a good chunk of the unseen population of this country lives with every day.  Or they used to, anyway.  Things do seem to be improving, but man were they ever in the crapper to start with.  $3

Archer, Dan – Archcomix



Archcomix #1

Huzzah!  It looks like there’s finally a small press guy with a persistent social conscience!  Not that there haven’t been plenty of comics here and there with a social message, but after seeing two comics now it looks like this is Dan’s motivating factor in making book, and it’s about time that somebody was doing this on a regular basis.  It always boggled my mind that such a tiny community would focus 99% of its resources (feel free to quibble with that number) or navel-gazing or, you know, art.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’m often quite a fan of navel-gazing (done well) and art.  It’s just that there’s always a lot of shit going down in the world, and a lot of shit that has already gone down, that gets forgotten as soon as it happens.  This comic also marks a departure by Dan from his last issue, as this one has a pile of stories instead of just the one hefty piece.  First up (after the outstanding Noam Chomsky quote, just so you last surviving Republicans know to run right off the bat) is a conversation between a reporter and a Congressman turned lobbyist about the revolving door in Washington and how lobbying works.  For those of you who are thinking “through legalized bribery” well, yeah, but Dan goes into a bit more detail.  Next up is a haunting silent piece about a businessman who kills a deer on his way to work and can’t get the image out of his mind.   Then there’s the heart of the book, a longer story about the coup in Chile in 1970 and how it was financed and helped considerably by Nixon and the US government.  Dan actually takes documents that have been declassified to show exactly how blatant and lawless this was, just in case you needed proof that our government was (and sometimes is) essentially a criminal enterprise, or they would be if they weren’t the ones making and enforcing the laws.  Next is a short piece on gun shows, which is the sampled piece so you can see for yourselves but man are those exceptionally creepy things.   Dan then explains his love for a group of activist grannies (and their children and grandchildren) by showing how they protest and what they have fought for over the years.  Finally there’s the heartbreaking tale (even for a cynic like me) of a beggar in Nigeria, how he keeps the bridge he lives on thanklessly clean and how the other beggar on the bridge wouldn’t take care of his gangrenous leg because he couldn’t imagine living without it.  The amazing thing is that he manages to tell all these stories without ever getting overly sanctimonious or preachy, an occasional failing of leftist publications and commentators.  Of course, lunacy is the failing of some of the more right wing publications and commentators, and I’ll take sanctimony over that any day.   If you only read comics for the escapism, move along, you have plenty of options.  If you occasionally like to learn something, however, you can’t do much better than these comics.  $5