There’s a long list of things I would do if I was a rich man, but high up on that list would be funding comics journalism, or graphic journalism. Whatever it is that Joe Sacco established roughly 20 years ago, anyway. This is a rare occasion where I’ll cite Wikipedia, but they list Emi Gennis, Jen Sorenson, Dar Archer, Matt Bors and Josh Neufeld (among others), and I’m constantly surprised that this isn’t more of an established thing by now. As Anne makes clear in the introduction, that’s mostly because funding is incredibly difficult to come by, especially with a project like this one that covers years of interviews, travel and multiple artists. I’m only going to briefly summarize these sections, as they’re chock full of details (and footnotes after the fact), so the only way to really do them justice is to read them yourself. The title gives you the basics of what’s covered in here, and it’s broken down into four sections. First up is The United States, which deals with fast fashion, the real life of a model, clothing stores, thrift stores, warehouses full of clothes to be recycled, and the trade agreements that “govern” this whole mess. The story of the model (and her description of the ones that were best able to adjust to the environment and the ones who weren’t) is heartbreaking, as is the general waste and pollution caused by the thrift industry (and how little of the profits actually make it to charities). The second section deals with Austria and the history of textiles and fashion, including stories from people who have lived their whole lives in the industry and are seeing it start to vanish due to competition from the larger clothing chains. The third section tells the story of Cambodia, the working conditions and wages of the factories, how that sometimes turns into sex work and how it can cycle back into garment work due to a lack of other options. The fourth section is The World, and it’s probably going to be the most surprising chapter for people who only have a passing knowledge of the sex trade industry and trafficking. The shocking bits (to me, anyway) detail how sex trafficking (slavery, basically) is treated the same in the US as voluntary sex work, and how funding for getting rid of sex slavery often gets tied up in ridiculous moral rules that come from the hyper-religious types. Fighting these moralistic scolds is incredibly difficult because they’re successfully blurred the lines for years, and money that could be more effectively put into housing and counseling for actual victims instead goes into advertising to convince people that their children will be sold into slavery if they leave their parents’ sight for a few minutes. It does conclude on a hopeful note, with some practical advice on how to change things for all of the various problems they’ve documented, but it’s daunting to say the least. Even if you think you’re an expert on this subject I guarantee that you’ll find new information in here, and the comics are drawn by the some of the best artists working today. If you know any millionaires please tell them to throw some money at people who are looking to do this type of graphic journalism, because the world needs more of it. $13.95
I’ve read plenty of anthologies over the years that I’ve been writing reviews here, but very few of them could qualify as a love letter. This comic here? That’s exactly what it is. This is 20 of some of the best artists going right now, and they all have one thing in common: an obvious love of the tv show Friday Night Lights. If you’ve never heard of this show, or if you dismissed it out of hand because “it’s about high school football,” all I can say is that you missed out. There’s still time to fix your mistake, as it’s still on Netflix as of May 2016; just watch the first few episodes and try not to get hooked. Or maybe the fact that so many great artists came together for this project will clue you in to how great of a show it was, I don’t know. Does it seem like I’m not reviewing the stories? Yeah, I’ll get to that. I’m just trying to convert the last few decent people in the world who haven’t already seen this show. Frankly, I remember most of the stories as giant hearts on the page, so it’s tough to write anything mildly intelligent about that. OK, I’ll flip through this again. Highlights include the Tim Riggins cut-out doll as the centerfold (comes with different outfits!), Tim Riggins in the year 2050, a story about young Billy Riggins, the conversion of a skeptic into a fan of the show, how the team playbook got leaked to a rival, a growing rage of somebody trying to convert friends as they get increasingly sleepy while watching the show, and Coach Taylor sitting on the Iron Throne. Seriously, if nothing else, just look at that list of artists and give it a shot for that reason alone. Or do it the right way: watch the series, then go back and enjoy this fanzine. I’m not going to close with the team motto right here, but know that I am thinking it.
Is it OK to admit that I don’t really like kids? That’s a blanket statement, sure, but I mostly don’t care for the ones that I’ve met (as an adult, obviously). That being said, if all kids were like Freddy in this comic, I’d probably be surrounded by a gaggle of the little critters as we speak. Well, technically if they were like Freddy then they’d be off entertaining themselves and I’d still be doing exactly the same thing that I am now, which sounds fine to me. This graphic novel tells the story of Freddy, her uncle, her mother, her neighbor upstairs, her neighborhood friend and her dog. While there are doubts with some “all ages” comics on whether or not it would be appropriate for little kids, make no mistake: this comic would be be PERFECT for little kids. The world of grown-ups is told from a decidedly child-like perspective (and that’s actually a huge compliment, as it’s not an easy place for most adults to access creatively) and everything pretty much works out for Freddy in each individual story. Oh, and those stories include an average night with her uncle, her being a kid around a group of old men who are sitting outside and smoking (maybe my favorite piece of the book, as I loved how that entire group was unwilling to break that stony masculine silence to acknowledge her insanity), a day at the beach (where she never removed her hoodie, even in the water), the simple logic involved in seeing a series of dug holes and offering to help dig more (without having the slightest idea of or interest in what they were for), finding a star in one of the holes and trying to get it back into the sky, sneaking into her uncle’s apartment to borrow some flour while he’s sleeping (only to wake up startled when she slams the door to leave), and I’m in danger of just telling you all of the stories here, when really you should be discovering them for yourself. If your general opinion of kids is similar to mine, you might not enjoy these stories. You probably will, but I’m well aware of the fact that there are depths of cynicism to which I still haven’t sunk. I’m pretty damned cynical, but these stories were just so sweet and heartfelt that I may have to go read some political blogs for a few hours to get some of that cynicism back. For people with kids, this is an excellent “gateway comic” to try and get them interested in the genre so that you can someday show them the more adult comics. She has a ton of mini comics available too, but give this one a try. It’s a hard book not to love. $10