Palestine: The Graphic Novel & the Art of Comics & Graphic Novels Presentation

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Comics, Graphic Novels, Manga and Anime, and yeah ... Art!
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What’s the best way to start a presentation about comics and graphic novels? Stack all the comics and graphic novels you have and photograph them, maybe!

The excerpts and photographs of comics and graphic novels are part of a presentation I did for the launch of Palestine: The Graphic Novel, a collective anthology with over 30 amazing artists, on November 6, 2010, in Amman, Jordan.

The graphic novel is in the design process and will be published once funding for printing is found. I will keep you updated.

This is the original transcript of my presentation [I will soon publish the one in Arabic].

Palestine: The Graphic Novel & the Art of Comics & Graphic Novels Presentation

By Mike V. Derderian

First and foremost excuse my Arabic that I love in the form of prose yet don’t exactly understand grammatically; thanks to inane and conscious-free teachers.

What are comics and graphic novels?

I am not going to take you back to the caveman days, nor will I take you to the beginnings of storytelling or novels.

Let us just say that comic books and graphic novels belong to an art-form that fuses words with images.

Why did this fusion come to be?

To give a story, a character or a cause another dimension!

Had Johann Gutenberg, who invented the printing press, been an illustrator he would have opted to illustrate the Holy Bible instead of printing it.

Gutenberg sadly died poor.

Another example on how not all creative people make good money out of their creativity especially writers in the Middle East.

Actually William Blake, the English poet and engraver, did that. He created engravings of scenes and stories from the Holy Bible. The man was so creative that he illustrated his own poems. Blake is probably one of the first graphic novel writers and illustrators in the world.

Last night and while I was preparing my presentation I reminded myself to keep things simple and not try to come out as a know-it-all as I don’t know it all – I am not; I am still a student learning how to make comics.

You’ve all probably heard of Joe Sacco’s Palestine in which he brilliantly fuses the art of comics with journalism. After spending two months in the West Bank, Gaza and the Occupied Territories Sacco wrote and illustrated a total of 280 pages.

Upon reading Palestine I asked myself, “what is stopping us from creating such a work that reflects our ideas and vision as Arab writers and illustrators?”

This question is the main reason why we are here tonight; to work together on producing Palestine: The Graphic Novel.

Many artists and writers have expressed their ideas and visions of Palestine before us, however, not in a collective comic book or graphic novel format.

Our graphic novel and through the imagination of the participating writers and illustrators will not only be about the pain, death and tragedy that have surrounded the lives of Palestinians since Al Nakba in 1948 but will also be about their innate hope and optimism.

“What do we want to achieve through this cultural-artistic-literary project?” someone might ask.

A graphic novel about Palestine. Of course the proceeds from the sale of our graphic novel will go to a charity in Palestine.

I was at Books@Cafe buying comics when the young lady at the cashbox with a shy disposition suggested that I buy a book by Mostafa Nimer Da3mas and Mahmoud Al Aza about Naji Al Ali and Hanthala entitled, Hanthala: The Immortal Eye Witness. I did!

For someone who loved Naji Al Ali’s drawings but did not know much about him I found the book very useful.

This is a quote by Al Ali and that I believe summarizes the reason behind my passion and the passion of many, who are present here tonight, for this medium.

“Drawing to me is a profession, a job and a hobby. Even though I’ve been working as a caricaturist for over 20 years now, I’ve never felt satisfied with my work. Sometimes I feel helpless in my inability to employ this expressive language in conveying my angst as it is quite immense. Still, drawing gives me an inner balance; it consoles me and at the same time tortures me. I often say that the caricatures I draw make me a fortunate man, and luckier from others, as it allows me to vent out my anxieties; others may die of the anguish that burdens their hearts and injects its daily dose of venom in their blood system. Seeing these people makes me realize that drawing consoles me,” Al Ali says.

This applies to most of us, and more likely all of us.

It is the scenario that governs our lives since the moment we discovered the amazing images that we can create through pencil lines on paper: Our addiction to drawing.

Some smoke, some chew gum, some draw and some do all three …

Today and in the upcoming days we will bring together the three elements of comics and graphic novels:

– Writing … manifested in the writers present today …

– Illustration … manifested in the illustrators present today …

– Coloring … manifested in the artists and painters present today …

Even calligraphy and lettering is an important element in comics and graphic novels.

The most important aspect about Palestine: The Graphic Novel is that it is going to be bilingual (Arabic and English) in order to reach everyone.

Some pages are still white and some lines empty … help us fill them out and be part of Palestine: the Graphic Novel.

This is probably the first graphic novel panel in the world, on a cave wall from somewhere around the world.

Little Boy:

Mommy! Daddy and Uncle are going to hunt wild animals and won’t take me with them? 

The ancient ones knew how to illustrate and design but they weren’t much into writing yet.

Had Johann Gutenberg, who invented the printing press, been an illustrator he would have opted to illustrate the Holy Bible instead of printing it. 

Gutenberg sadly died poor. Another example on how not all creative people make good money out of creativity especially writers in the Middle East.

Actually William Blake, the English poet and engraver, did that. He created engravings of scenes and stories from the Holy Bible. 

The man was so creative that he illustrated his poems. Probably one of the first graphic novel writers and illustrators in the world. 

This one is entitled Eve’s Creation

Another William Blake masterpiece. 

This one is entitled: Expulsion from Paradise

Joe Sacco, Brilliantly fused the art of comics with journalism. After spending two months in the West Bank, Gaza and the Occupied Territories Sacco wrote and illustrated a total of 280 pages.

Sacco brilliantly captures the details of a Palestinian neighborhood. His art is a fusion of the Clear Line style with his own styling of both characters and surroundings.

Zionist soldiers in Ramallah. Sacco’s Palestine is filled with narration boxes and detail: Truly the work of a journalist, who has an eye for detail.

Sacco demonstrating the hardships that Palestinians undergo when traveling around Palestine.

A touching image of two women talking to their relatives through a barrier. Another brilliant panel by Sacco that reflects reality.

Comic books and graphic novels worth reading: 

Let us quickly go through some comic books and graphic novels that are part of my book collection and that I hope you will be able to read one day.

Many Arab artists covered Palestine in their writings and illustrations especially caricaturists, whose one panels rely on the one arch story-line and visual. This is an amazing panel by Mahmoud Hindawi, an amazing artist.

It is very important for us, as aspiring comic artists and cartoonists, to acknowledge the works of other comic artists especially those who have started before us like renowned and veteran cartoonists Jalal Al Rifai and Emad Hajja in addition to younger cartoonists like Cartoonist Omar Al Abdalat, Mahmoud Hindawi and Mohammed X Afefa. The Cartoonist is a book that features the works of some of the former comic artists and others.

Of course no one drew Palestine the way Naji Al Ali did. The man’s work is like a fragmented eternal love poem of pain, death, angst, pride and dedication to his tormented mistress Palestine.

Hanthala: The Immortal Eye Witness by Mostafa Nimer Da3mas and Mahmoud Al Aza. “Drawing to me is a profession, a job and a hobby. Even though I’ve been working as a caricaturist for over 20 years now, I’ve never felt satisfied with my work. Sometimes I feel helpless in my inability to employ this expressive language in conveying my angst as it is quite immense. Still, drawing gives me an inner balance; it consoles me and at the same time tortures me. I often say that the caricatures I draw make me a fortunate man, and luckier from others, as it allows me to vent out my anxieties; others may die of the anguish that burdens their hearts and injects its daily dose of venom in their blood system. Seeing these people makes me realize that drawing consoles me,” Al Ali says.

I wanted to share with the attendees some of the books that shaped my imagination like this volume of Mickey and Batoot, which is Arabic for Donald. 

When I asked those who read these books to raise their hands everyone present did. Almost all of us read the same stories and comic books … yet we all found our different inner voices and styles as writers, illustrators and visual artists.  The interaction really encouraged us and we are looking forward to working with those who are on board.

In the Middle East The Smurfs are known as Sanafar, whoever coined the name when the series was being dubbed in Lebanon is a genius.  The Smurfs are the creation of Belgian Cartoonist Peyo, whose real name is Pierre Culliford. 

This is one of two albums that were popular back in the 1980s. The majority of comic books, like this book, were translated to Arabic by Lebanese Publishing Houses.

This 1987 volume was more like a comprehensive children’s magazine published in Egypt. Original Mickey Mouse and Donald stories were translated into Arabic with a dose of Egyptian humor.  The Egyptian publishing houses also published Mickey Jeep (a pocket sized Mickey mouse magazine with other Disney Characters) and Mickey’s Magazine. They were highly entertaining especially if you were into Duck tales ;-})

3antara Magazine, was a comics magazine produced by a Lebanese publishing house, Besat El Ree7, the Magic Carpet. Only this time its content was original and according to the magazine one line editorial, “drawn by university graduates.”

3antara is the name of Antarah ibn Shaddad, a.k.a Antarah Al Absi, was a poet and a warrior, who rose to prominence even though he was the son of an Ethiopian slave impregnated by a powerful tribal leader.

You don’t have to know and read all the comic books and graphic novels in the world but you have to know Tin Tin or Lucky Luke. Actually you have to ;-}) 

Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin) are among the most enduring and renowned comic series in the world. It is about a young journalist, his faithful dog, an alcoholic captain friend and absent minded professor.

Together the three or four counting Tin Tin’s dog Milou.

Lucky Luke was created by Belgian cartoonist, Maurice De Bevere a.k.a Morris.

Reading Lucky Luke equals watching a Western full of cliches that wouldn’t be passed by any politically correct editor. Disregard the cliches and you’ve got yourself one of the best cowboys from the west and to be more specific from Belgium.

You might as well look up Asterix, a series of French comic books by Rene Goscinny (writer) and Albert Uderzo (illustrator).

A children’s book by Maurice Bernard Sendak, an American writer and illustrator. Amazing visuals that sort of reflect everyone’s childhood especially the uber-imaginative.

Sendak is best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are. Imagination at its best. Kneading dough into a plane. You have to read it.

Who doesn’t know Abu Mahjoob! Emad Hajjaj over the years has managed to create a number of memorable characters. If you want to learn more about us and our habits and social norms this is the book to buy.

Not exactly a graphic novel Happens to Me of All People! is an original approach to the collaborative process between a writer and an artist.  Mohammad Tomaleh, who passed away, may he rest in peace, is one of Jordan’s renowned satirical writers.  Instead of illustrating his short essays Emad Hajjaj provided artwork that reflected the themes and spirit of Tomaleh’s pieces.

Hassan Everywhere is a book about illustrated dreams and poems written by its late writer Hassan Hourani. Hourani’s minimal illustrations and echoing words part of a jointed narrative are quite haunting and offer us a plethora of dreamscapes.

Samandal is one of the most successful comic magazines in the Middle East. The artwork reflects its Avant-garde approach to visuals and storytelling.

The brain child of Lebanese artists: Lena Merhej, Hatem Imam & Omar Khoury the dense magazine that comes in black and white is quite inspiring. It features the works of artists like Fouad Mezher, Ghadi Ghosn, Jana Traboulsi and Mazen Kerbaj.

P.S: ِ A group of Egyptian artists a few months ago launched a successful collective comic magazine entitledTok Tok Press on the name to check our their Facebook Page :-})  

Comics that have been often linked to children in spite of their often larger than life issues and topics discussed …

Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts is the only reason why I grab a Jordan Times newspaper. Now I directly go to their website. 

Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes are quite the dynamic duo. A boy and a tiger. Won’t spoil the plot for you so try reading it to learn more about the amazing universe that Waterson created. Waterson’s stories are about childhood, unbounded imagination, growing up and pure child’s play mixed with angst. 

Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace is a guide to mayhem and 101 on how to drive grown ups crazy. Simple illustrations with big words spoken by a cheeky kid.

Charles M. Schulz’ masterpiece about student angst and school blues. This should be included in our educational system’s curriculum!

If you thought The Ring was scary and creepy think again! Hideshi Hino is the man of horror. The Red Snake, which is the first in this series of Japanese maim and mayhem, is probably the best read in terms of storytelling.

Hino twists his Post World War II Tokyo memories into yarns of gruesome death and horror. Pure genius …

Three writers and illustrators and one character Phillip Marlowe, the relentless and unrelenting gum shoe. 

Film Noir at its best thanks to Raymond Chandler’s detective stories and central character Marlowe that in a way started the Film Noir genre that was solidified by a string of movies starring Hamphrey Bogart. 

It Rhymes with Lust is another example of Film Noir graphic novels. Quite fun to read thanks to its classic art and narrative.

R. Crumb is not for the coy and lighthearted. One of America’s most celebrated underground comic artists Crumb’s work is very sexual, crude and at times shocking.  His impressive illustration style will often make you overlook his shocking narrative.

Long before The Matrix movies there was Ghost in The Shell. Shirow Masamune’s cyber punk future graphic novel showcases a grim reality especially with the spread of techno terrorism and shady international affairs that quite prophetically reflect our present time after 9/11. 

Amidst all the chaos Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg operative from Section 9, an anti-terrorism tech unit, soon finds herself asking existential questions brought about by the union between man and machines.

Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku: The Inner Chamber Volume 1 is a historical fantasy.

The same way the Japanese have a thing for technology and robots they have a soft spot for sexually themed comics.

Sexuality is an area still not touched upon, at least directly, in Arabian comics.  Compared to other Japanese comics, which are internationally known as Mangas, derived from the word Mangaka, which translates to comic artist, Yoshinaga’s Manga is quite tame.  Her style is simply beautiful …

Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s The Push Man and Other Stories as the title indicates is a graphic novel in short stories format. The simple yet clear line style captures the bleak post World War II Tokyo.  In spite of his disturbing themes Tatsumi’s stories are quite realistic and universal.

The main story in Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s The Push Man and Other Stories. About a man whose job is to push as many people he can into the subway. Still analyzing the moral behind it and will soon post it here ;-})

If you’ve seen the movie you’d say that V is a freedom fighter; if you read this graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. You’d realize that there is more to this masked vigilante than fighting a totalitarian government … and its not all pleasant and noble. 

Unlike the movie that centered around V and Evey Hammond there is more to this masterpiece than just two characters brought together by fate. 

Moore’s words and characters are driven by what drives us all: Survival in hard times. This is more like a political essay enhanced by an amazing narrative and illustration.  Little by little and with every page turned we notice how the lives of the many characters in this brilliant work of fiction are affected by V’s actions. 

V for Vendetta is quite the page turner and the movie was merely a chapter from its chapters :-}) Remember remember the fifth of November. We tried to make our launch on the 5th of November to coincide with Guy Fawkes Day. We couldn’t still it was great to see you all last night.

How do you summarize a graphic novel of this magnitude? Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gobbons Watchmen is about deconstructing the caped and masked superhero genre turning them into humans with obvious and hidden fault-lines. 

It also has a comic within a comic storyline. A very dense read that is worth the re-read once you are done and survived its slow pace. Introduced a new era of anti-heroes and heroes and probably influenced the current Batman graphic novels that tackled the caped crusader’s inner angst and psychological issues. 

Zack Snyder’s movie was quite faithful to the graphic novel-You can say it was a panel by panel rendition. A lot of missing parts from the movie will astonish you once you start reading the book.

Graphic novels are not just about caped superheroes, sci-fi, horror and romance; they can be about anything. 

Gareth Hinds decided to illustrate Beowulf, an Anglo-Saxon poem about a hero and superman called Beowulf, who is out to save the court of King Hrothgar from an evil and man eating monster called Grendel. The poem is quite amazing. 

You’ve probably seen the animated version with Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother. Animating Angelina Jolie’s nude body and painting her in gold is not the best of ideas or is it ;-}) They even made her feet look like high heels! Robert Zemeckis what were you thinking?

In the poem Beuwolf doesn’t fall for Grendel’s mom at all. Anyway … Hinds’s graphic novel is a great example that we as writers and comic artists can write and illustrate any story we want from our own folklore and history; this is the essence of Palestine: The Graphic Novel. 

Graphic Novels can be about real stories, people and countries, and can be the work of fiction. I should have included Ho Che’s graphic novel, King, about Martin Luther King, in my presentation. It is quite unique in style and narrative. 

This is a link to a video teaser about Ho Che’s graphic novel: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4nz20_martin-luther-king-graphic-novel-ho_creation

I don’t recommend this to anyone with existential issues as it is quite depressing. I was barely able to finish it.

If you thought the movie starring Will Smith was bleak this is bleaker! We want to create stories that also inspire and reflect hope.

Each and every writer, illustrator, painter, singer and poet participating in Palestine are free to choose the theme, spirit and style of their story. On the 26th & 27th of November we are going to have a literary-artistic get-together between 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. during which each and everyone one of us will present his or her story. We simply want to inspire each other!

Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novels, The Story of a Childhood 1 & The Story of a Return 2, bounded in one volume [the one you see above], are about her family and childhood in Tehran. 

Persepolis is an inspiring graphic novel about coming of age, consciousness, moral thinking, freedom, kindness, loss and above all creativity and imagination unbound.

As the title suggests this book is about the right to be hostile, the right to express your own thoughts and above all the right to be you ;-}) Aaron McGruder leaves no stone unturned in his scathing yet funny critique of the United States of America, Afro-Americans and everyone else. 

His characters Huey and Riley Freeman verbally abuse and bat everyone into a pulp. If you need to know they are only kids. Even George Lucas’ Jar Jar Binks and Lucas himself get their fair share of beating ;-})

Highly political, socially conscious, witty and full of punch-lines The Boondocks Treasury [The Right to Be Hostile] is a book you won’t be able to drop once you pick it up. It is a visual Stand Up Comedy routine in graphic novel format. Why did I include it in my presentation? To simply say that each and every one of has the right to write about anything he or she want especially for Palestine.

Thanks to Jeph Loeb (writer) and Tim Sale (artist) my love for the caped crusader was re-ignited. 

The Long Halloween is basically Batman vs. the Mafia, The Joker, Scarecrow and Catwoman in addition to other interesting characters. It also introduces Harvey Two Face and gives Commissioner Gordon a far superior role like in the recent Christopher Nolan movies, however, this graphic novel is far better than both movies. 

The term graphic novel came to prominence when comic series, like this 13-issue story, were bounded in one book. The same applies to all the graphic novel that I’ve included in my presentation. Before being published as graphic novels Ghost in the Shell, V For Vendetta and Watchmen were published in monthly issues. 

The illustration gives Batman a fresh outlook and to Ghotham City a twisted feel.  The muscular and clear line style was abandoned to give the blue and gray costumed Batman a surrealistic and dreamy feel that can never be achieved through film in fear it might end up Adam West campy.

Before reading Art Spieglman’s Maus I and II I decided that I should read Joe Sacco’s Palestine.

Palestine has always been in my mind since 1948. I know that my hand and the hands of the artists, who will participate in this artistic endeavor is not in the fire like those who are under fire in Palestine, but our hands can most certainly draw what our eyes can see, ears hear and hearts feel. 

In Maus Speiglman writes and draws his father’s story, a holocaust survivor, in which Jews are depicted as rats, Nazis as cats, Poles as pigs, the French as frogs and the Americans as dogs. 

Both graphic novels Palestine and Maus offer an in-depth look in two different mind sets: The occupier and the occupied; the hangman and the condemned; the murderer and the victim.

Fin

To learn more about Palestine: The Graphic Novel and the participating artists go to our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/gkQIUl

P.S: Thank you Anna Mudd for reminding me that I have to post this presentation on my blog. Life is all about sharing the knowledge and experiences :-})

Blog photographs: “Comic Books on a Cardboard Background by Mike V. Derderian

Comments
  1. This is wonderful mike! Thanks 4 putting this together ,, I AM educated 🙂

    :boomarked 4 sure: !

    • mikevderderian says:

      Hala Haitham :-}) 3al ras my friend!

      A lot of things happened since I did this presentation. Work on the book is rather slow but we are almost there. Will keep you posted about the launch date :-})

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