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Monday, January 29, 2024 

Non-fiction comics in France

The New York Times is reporting about writers producing non-fiction comics in France, and one journalist who's actually developed a comic about a very serious issue:
Soon after the journalist and historian Valérie Igounet heard about the killing of Samuel Paty, the schoolteacher whose 2020 murder by an Islamist extremist shocked France, she knew she wanted to write a book about him.

Paty, who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to students during a class on freedom of expression, was murdered near the middle school where he taught in a Paris suburb. “I absolutely wanted Samuel Paty’s students to be able to read this book,” Igounet said, “and it was obvious that a 300-page book with footnotes would be reserved for a different kind of readership.”

Instead, Igounet decided to produce a comic book: “Black Pencil: Samuel Paty, the Story of a Teacher,” based on two years of reporting and made with the illustrator Guy Le Besnerais, was published in October. It meticulously reconstructs the events leading up to the murder while also showing Paty’s daily life in the classroom. Le Besnerais’s illustrations are accompanied by Paty’s handwritten notes, newspaper clippings and messages exchanged by his students in the weeks before he was killed.
Something tells me USA and Canadian publishers are far less likely to turn out projects like these, with the woke way things are now going there, regrettably enough. Not mentioned in this article, however, is that these may have been cartoons produced by Charlie Hebdo, whose offices had long been the target of Islamofascist threats, which tragically resulted in violent murders nearly a decade ago. Here's some more:
One in four books sold in France is a comic book, according to the market research company GfK, and a growing number of those are nonfiction works by journalists and historians. In the past year, they have included titles such as “M.B.S.: Saudi Arabia’s Enfant Terrible,” a biography of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by Antoine Vitkine and Christophe Girard; “What Are the Russians Thinking?” based on the cartoonist Nicolas Wild’s conversations about the war in Ukraine during a 2022 trip to Russia; and “Who Profits From Exile?,” by Taina Tervonen and Jeff Pourquié, which looks at the economics of European immigration.

[...] Matthieu Vincenot, the manager of Bulles en Tête, a Paris comic book store, has watched its nonfiction section grow since the shop opened two years ago. “We decided to dedicate this section to nonfiction comic books because they’re very popular,” he said recently, pointing to three packed shelves at the store’s entrance. “The readership is very varied. We get people who are big readers of the news, and others who aren’t so much, and therefore learn about current affairs through comic books because they’re easier to read.”

Though they are booming in France right now, Vincenot pointed out that nonfiction comics are not new and, in fact, originated in the United States. Also known as “comics journalism,” the genre was pioneered by Joe Sacco, a Maltese-American journalist and cartoonist whose book “Palestine” was first published by Fantagraphics in 1993. Based on a 1991 visit by Sacco to Gaza, the book was recently rushed back into print when demand surged after the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7, 2023, and Israel’s ongoing retaliation.
Well I can't say I'm shocked a paper like the NYT would shoehorn in a sugarcoated take on somebody with a resume as repellent as Sacco's, whose GN with a title based on the Roman name for Israel was an attack on Israel over 3 decades ago. This is revolting, and undermines whatever point they're supposedly making, yet somehow, I doubt they really care about what led to the murder of Mr. Paty a few years ago. As for a GN about the Arabian prince bin Salman, it's a challenging query for now whether it's negative towards him for the right reasons, because if it turns out the aforementioned doesn't credit any of the positive steps he's taken in the past decade to improve women's status in Saudi territory, then that's where it blows.
In France, renewed interest about the Middle East also helped propel “The History of Jerusalem,” a comic book by the historian Vincent Lemaire and the cartoonist Christophe Gaultier, up the best seller charts in January.
I wonder what that GNs viewpoint is like? Because if it's unfavorable to Israel and doesn't recognize the historical Jewish connection, that'll mark another example of abusing the medium for bad purposes. I sure hope that's not the case, and that it is favorable to Israel. The article also notes:
She added that while comic books were more expensive to produce than essays, they also had financial advantages for publishers: They’re shorter and therefore cheaper to translate, and lend themselves easily to film adaptations.

[...] “With illustration, you can convey what happened while applying a filter to these horrific images,” Clément said. “The power of comics is they transmit a lot of emotion, and that also makes them a very effective tool for reaching a broad range of people.”
Sure, but they can also serve the goals of propagandists, racists and totalitarians, given the chance. The same goes for animation. Does that occur to anybody? I find it interesting they make it sound like they're completely favorable to the notion of turning comics into movies, because it's long been rendered a live action joke, and not a good one at that.

I'd strongly recommend conservative reporters start considering making use of the comics medium for conveying their viewpoints, because there is potential, and the time's long overdue right-wingers start making serious use of it too.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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