The BBC continues experimenting with comics as reporting, although their most recent attempt is fiction based on reporting. The fifth of five installments was released today. “Hooked” is the story of Buba, a young man in Guinea-Bissau who becomes addicted to drugs.
The author, an English reporter named Benjamin Dix, spent time in Guinea-Bissau before writing the short script for the comic. The artist, English-Nigerian political cartoonist Tayo Fatunla, is known more for artistic editorials than comics.
Unfortunately, “Hooked” comes off more as a public service announcement than a comic. It is not terrible, but it moves like a pamphlet or a Chick tract than something you read once and return to a second time for the art. Were “Hooked” to be longer and more character-driven, it would certainly be much more interesting.
I recently came across artist Priya Kurian when I read this illustrated article on the BBC. Look at those delightful pictures!
After a quick search, it seems that she mostly works with book illustrations, but also dabbles in advertising, comics, and animation. Kurian maintains two blogs (I’m not sure what the difference is): Delhittante and etcetera etcetera. Most of her casual work seems to focus on Indian daily life, but her for-hire illustrations range from folktales to young adult novels to, well, anything else.
There is a great universality to her pictures. Take the example to the right. Replace the dress with anything else and you have a scene from anywhere else in the world. Very cool.
I just love her natural drawings and colors. You can search all day but you won’t find an artist with more interesting work today!
Like every other guy on the planet, I consider myself a student of history. I particularly enjoy reading the history of people in turmoil. One topic which I’ve read at least a dozen books about is the Cultural Revolution in China. It was a time of torture, gulag, forced disappearances, and even famine. The most widely documented part of the Cultural Revolution is the anarchy created by the Red Guards, groups of mostly middle and high school students in the cities who organized destructive campaigns against Old Habits, Old Culture, Old Customs, and Old Ideas in the name of modernity. Mao himself encouraged the Red Guards as a way to rehabilitate his image after the disastrous Great Leap Forward.
Mao created an enormous propaganda campaign that included comic books, which helps give me something to talk about here. “Battle of Wits: We Are Chairman Mao’s Red Guards” is a fifty-four page comic about Xiao Hong, a middle school student who spies on her own grandpa and catches him in a conspiracy to send a university journal to Soviet spies. She goes through his mail, spies on him from above, and eventually gets the military police to catch him fleeing his own apartment in a rush to make a drop. It was all encouraged by Mao and the comic was all relatively mild compared to what actually happened during the Cultural Revolution.
If you have a chance, read the English translation here at China Smack. As with most propaganda comics, the writing is terrible. It’s the typical “illustrated narrative” style that is easy to do and not exactly a comic: the book does not need the illustrations. Nevertheless, the illustrations are beautiful. The artist used lots of different brushes and pens to create lush pictures that are somewhere between “Little Orphan Annie” and a really good Japanese comic. The writing and story, well, clearly leave a lot to be desired.
On a historical note, it appears this book was published in 1976, the year the Cultural Revolution ended, along with Mao himself. This propaganda was one of Mao’s last breaths, a desperate grab to keep his movement going.
On a literary note, there is a pretty big English translation (via the French) of Chinese communist comics called “The People’s Comic Book: Red Women’s Detachment, Hot on the Trail, and Other Comics.” It’s from 1973. I’ll write a review of it soon now that I’m thinking about it. Terrible comics, but interesting culture.