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Joe Sacco

By Emmanuel

One thing all teens (or alt-teens) love are comic books. Although that may be a completely facetious statement, one thing I do know about teens is our shared love of confusing elders with a barrage of unnecessary questions. Cue picture:


That uncomfortable-looking artist in the middle (the ruggedly-handsome one) goes by the name of Joe Sacco.

In all seriousness we had the great opportunity to meet Sacco a couple of days ago and talk to him about his artwork. If you are unfamiliar with Sacco’s work it can best be described as fantastic. Sacco blends two passions of his to create a very aesthetically pleasing convergence of cartooning and journalism. You heard right. “Cartonalism.” Or if you perfer “Jourtoons.”

Sacco, who went to school for journalism and later came to the conclusion that he did not like being told what news he would report depending on who bought the most ad space, turned to a lifelong passion for cartooning. After turning out some pretty funny and well-executed, not to mention visually-engaging comics, Sacco ventured new ground. Illustrations of journalism. Real world stories mapped out and drawn to create a new form of art. *see “Cartonalism”

Sacco has since published a critically acclaimed book about the conflict in Palestine, and continues to draw readers in with the raw and very personal tellings of those who are usually avoided by camera and print.

Now the nitty gritty:

Sacco is a straight G, no… no, O.G. He came in cool and calm and didn’t show the slightest aversion to to a group of hungry teens (in the media world they have often been referred to as a pack of wolves). Even when senior member Ricardo went off on a complete tangent and started asking a question that went something like this…

“If the universe was connected with strings made of internet threads and the community of the world started visualizing people inside of the mind of computers would journalism fax itself and I.O.U.?”

…Sacco didn’t slap him, which showed how even a great artist like Sacco didn’t mind wasting time to listen to an underprivileged teen run his mouth.

When we got down to some real questions it was apparent that Sacco has put a lot of thought into his medium, not just slapping some cartoons over a story to make buxxxx. We discussed how his process involves everything from tedious note-taking and asking odd questions, (What type of clothing were you wearing? What were your surroundings like? How were you sitting?) to traveling across the globe in search for untold stories. He made it evident that there was an awful lot of work involved in keeping the integrity of the story-teller’s experience intact to hold true to his journalistic roots.

Meeting Sacco was a great experience, and if you are interested in the world, politics, cartooning, or perhaps a myriad of human experiences we would suggest definitely checking him out.

PS: Recently I was listening to “The Story” distributed by American Public Media and they had a story about one of two combat artists the military hires to produce art in the field, and they discuss a few of the issues Sacco says he encountered like being creative in the midst of such horrible occurrences. Subscribe to “The Story’s” podcast, I highly recommend it.

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