Thursday, August 5, 2004

In the Shadow of No Towers

View a frame from In the Shadow of No TowersView a frame from In the Shadow of No TowersThis September, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, will publish a new adult-oriented comic book by Art Spiegelman, In the Shadow of No Towers. The book will explore, through a series of emotionally- and politically-charged cartoons, the trauma of 9/11 and the frustration many Americans have felt in the subsequent years.

The Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist has spent much of the last decade illustrating covers for the New Yorker, working and living only blocks away from the World Trade Center. The trauma of the attacks transformed into anger for Spiegelman, who grew increasingly upset with his own government. Resigning from the New Yorker, he returned to cartooning and, after immersing himself in the newspaper comics of the later 19th and early 20th centuries, began exploring his own political-themed cartoons.

In the Shadow of No Towers is a 42-page large-format cartoon collection, the appearance of which is reminiscent of large cardboard children’s comic books. Mixing vintage cartoon characters, Spiegelman’s own creations, and modern political satire, In the Shadow of No Towers explores the anguish of 9/11.

In the Shadow of No Towers does not depict a particular narrative, as Spiegelman’s Maus did, but instead uses individual comics to portray Americans, New Yorkers in particular, and himself in the aftermath of 9/11 and in the political climate that followed. Many comics are inspired by the author's own memories – in addition to living near the World Trade Center, his daughter Nadja had just started high school at the foot of the South Tower. Individual cartoons from the book have appeared previously in Forward and the print edition of The London Review but this will be the first time the series is presented in its entirety.

In his introduction to In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman writes, "I hadn't anticipated that the hijackings of September 11 would themselves be hijacked by the Bush cabal that reduced it all to a war recruitment poster...When the government began to move into full dystopian Big Brother mode and hurtle America into a colonialist adventure in Iraq – while doing very little to make America genuinely safer beyond confiscating nail clippers at airports – all the rage I'd suppressed after the 2000 election, all the paranoia I'd barely managed to squelch immediately after 9/11, returned with a vengeance."

Art Spiegelman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Maus (Maus: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II: From Mauschwitz to the Catskills), a chilling comic-format story of the Nazi holocaust. While Maus was a key book in the development of the modern American adult graphic novel, it is most highly regarded for the refreshing approach, both visually and rhetorically, with which it tells its story; in Maus, the Jews are depicted as mice, the Nazis as cats (the Katzies), and various other ethnic groups as various other animal species (the Poles, for instance, feature prominently as pigs). Spiegelman is an editor of Raw, an award-winning anthology of avant-garde comics, has been a regular contributor to The New Yorker and various underground publications, and has published comic-art works in a number of mainstream adult titles.

Spiegelman’s Maus protagonist/alter-ego even appears in In the Shadow of No Towers as a stand-in for Spiegelman. He has said of this juxtaposition, “This was a means of representing myself at a time when I couldn't even see myself in the mirror clearly.” fb

A Dear Mac Letter

View the exView the new girlDear Mac,

There’s no easy way to say this – I’ve found someone else.
Our time together has been great. Hell, I’ve spent more time with you these past few years than with my own wife. But it’s time we ended it. It’s time we moved on.

I’ve never been in a relationship like ours before. When we met back in 1999 I would never have thought we would be together so long or that we would do so much together. We met as business partners, in those first days when Cloudjammer was just an idea. You helped me get the company off the ground, first part-time then full-time. You inspired and collaborated, frustrated and consoled. You made it all possible and never asked for anything in return.

We’ve also played – far more than we should have, no doubt. We were late night world conquerors, early morning sci-fi adventurers, and all day superheroes. We were also artists together. You helped me through years of writing, thousands of photographs, hundreds of compositions and projects. You tirelessly helped me with research. You kept me in touch with friends and family.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. You’ve been slowing down lately, unable to keep up with the changing times and changing demands of both our business and personal lives. You try – I know you try – but I can’t keep on watching you struggle to perform tasks meant for a younger generation. It hurts us both.

She’s younger, thinner, and – not to put too fine a point on it – faster. She’s stepped in great – picked up the ball right away. She likes to travel, listens to the same music, and has done wonders for my writing and art. The wife even likes her, though she is jealous of the time I spend with her.

Thank you for six great years. I hope you end up with someone who appreciates you as much as I did.

- fb

All About Kerry

With months to go before a critical national election, the presidential campaign dialogue is, more than ever before, being communicated online. The prestige of party and candidate websites’s look, feel, accessibly, and message has increased dramatically in this presidential season. Unfortunately, the dialogue the official party websites provide is particularly stilted.

The official GOP website ( has devoted most of the home page and much of the navigation to bashing Democratic candidate John Kerry – at the expense of promoting George W. Bush. And while the GOP website discusses how awful John Kerry is – how he can never make up his mind and how liberal his record is – the official DNC website ( is dedicated to advertising their candidate and his plans – or, at the very least, his campaign promises.

The net result is that you now have two party web sites devoted to John Kerry – one in support, one in defiance.

The only picture of President Bush on the GOP website homepage is at the bottom of the page, right above a larger picture of Ronald Reagan. This tactic effectively renders the promotional value of the GOP site moot. Indeed, the superficial value of the site becomes aggressive and derogatory. Instead of wasting word and homepage real estate on defaming John Kerry, the GOP should be touting the presidential accomplishments and experience of George W. Bush – what he has done and how far we have come. The DNC should be left to take the pot shots at the incumbent president, not the other way around. The GOP site almost totally ignores their current leadership equity. Instead of posturing like a champion prizefighter, they feign to be the under dog. It doesn’t work in boxing and it won’t sell in politics, either.

The GOP has not necessarily done a bad job. Visitors can quickly and easily find the platform issues and George W. Bush’s plans to address them. The site is replete with examples of policy and leadership successes from Bush’s first term It is precisely because of this Bush-promotional content that site Kerry-based homepage is so shockingly misplaced. During our audit of the site, we counted John Kerry’s name 17 times on the GOP home page – including several instances which link to a Kerry movie and five instances featured in the primary website navigation! How about Bush? His name only appeared on the GOP home page 4 times, none of which were in the navigation.

This all works out for John Kerry – he now has two websites talking about him. The GOP website strategy is preaching to the choir – legions of Bushophites already committed to the Republican cause – while ignoring the promotional marketing undecided voters are looking for. This website amounts to an online attack website, adding little material value to the online political dialogue.

And if you’re not convinced that political websites make a difference, take a look at what Howard Dean did with his ("How to Raise $200 Million Online," issue 2003.11). Not only did Howard Dean’s website focus on promoting its candidate, it drove consistent interest and participation. One can only hope that future campaigns follow this lead instead of the GOP’s example.

While wrapping up the research for this article, Cloudjammer’s J.D. Jordan walked up to me and looked over my shoulder. Seeing John Kerry prominently on screen, he started to point out the ways the DNC could improve their website. The problem? He was mistakenly critiquing the GOP website. fb