Forwarded from Josh Neufeld

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Jul 24 15:36:41 MDT 2002

Dear Mr. Proyect,

I was forwarded your post and wanted to quickly respond. I'm glad to see
you sharing information about Joe Sacco's work with your peers, but a
couple of facts need clarification. "Palestine" was originally published
in periodical form (by Fantagraphics) in 1993-1995. It was only
collected this year in the form you are reading. "Safe Area Gorazde" was
published in 2000 in one fell swoop, as a true graphic novel, also by
Fantagraphics Books. This may explain why "Palestine" has not received
as much press attention as did "Safe Area Gorazde" (I remember reading
an extensive review of "SAG" in the "New York Times" Book Review),
although, obviously, the stories told in "Palestine" are just as pointed
and relevant today as when they were originally told.

To me, Sacco does not transcend the form of comics - which is capable of
telling any sort of story, just as is poetry, prose, film, dance, etc. -
but uses it in an interesting new way that shows just how limitless
comics' potential really is. But I'm a cartoonist myself, so I'm biased!

Furthermore, as a contributing artist to Harvey Pekar's comics, I can
attest that he continues to do "American Splendor" to this day, the only
difference that he no longer pays his own money to put them out, but is
assisted by Dark Horse Comics.

Well, thanks again for spreading the word of great comics like Sacco's,
and please forgive my unsolicited comments.


- josh neufeld

> Status:  U
> Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 22:06:16 -0400
> To: joshn at
> From: martha rosler <navva at>
> Subject: Joe Sacco's "Palestine"
>  >Status:  U
>  >From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>
>> To: m <marxism at>, wsn <wsn at>,
>>    psn <psn at>, pen-l <pen-l at>
>> Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 19:09:18 -0400
>> Subject: Joe Sacco's "Palestine"
>> Mime-Version: 1.0
>> X-MIME-Autoconverted: from quoted-printable to 8bit by
>> id
>> g4ON78C11408
>> Precedence: bulk
>> Sender: psn-owner at
>> I am working my way through this comic book based on Joe Sacco's
>> encounters with various Palestinian individuals and families during
>> the first intafada. To call it a comic book hardly does it justice,
>> although in a technical sense that's what it is. Sacco, who I've
>> never heard of before this work, is using the comic book as a medium
>> to express some very intense ideas and feelings that perhaps can
>> never be captured by word alone. He is clearly influenced by Harvey
>> Pekar, who wrote a series of comic books in the 1980s about his life
>> as a low-paid hospital orderly in Cleveland. He wrote the stories
>> that a number of different artists illustrated, including R. Crumb
>> whose 1960s comic books defined the counter-culture for millions of
>> young people, including myself.
>> Sacco is more closely related to Pekar, since his work has a strong
>> social and political dimension as opposed to Crumb's nihilism. But
>> where Pekar's subject matter is his own foibles and the grit of
>> lower-class Cleveland life, Sacco chooses to write about global hot
>> spots in a manner typical of a John Reed.
>> He first gained critical acclaim through "Safe Area Goradze", a comic
>> book about the Bosnian catastrophe. Understandably, the NY Times and
>> other mainstream voices were unstinting in their praise since the
>> consensus was against Serbian nationalism, a view that Sacco shared
>> apparently.
>> His latest work has been ignored by the same book reviewers who made
>> Goradze a success--for obvious reasons. I stumbled across "Palestine"
>> at Labyrinth, a scholarly bookstore near Columbia. It has an
>> introduction by Edward Said, who writes:
>> "But what finally makes Sacco so unusual a portrayer of life in the
>> Occupied Palestinian Territories is that his true concern is finally
>> history's victims. Recall that most of the comics we read almost
>> routinely conclude with someone's victory, the triumph of good over
>> evil, or the routing of the unjust by the just, or even the marriage
>  >of two young lovers. Superman's villains get thrown out and we hear
>> of and see them no more. Tarzan foils the plans of evil white men and
>> they are shipped out of Africa in disgrace. Sacco's Palestine is not
>> at all like that. The people he lives among are history's losers,
>> banished to the fringes where they seem so despondently to loiter,
>> without much hope or organization, except for their sheer
>> indomitability, their mostly unspoken will to go on, and their
>> willingness to cling to their story, to retell it, and to resist
>> designs to sweep them away altogether. Astutely, Sacco seems to
>> distrust militancy, particularly of the collective sort that bursts
>> out in slogans or verbal flag-waving. Neither does he try to provide
>> solutions of the kind that have made such a mockery of the Oslo peace
>> process. But his comics about Palestine furnish his readers with a
>> long enough sojourn among a people whose suffering and unjust fate
>> have been scanted for far too long and with too little humanitarian
>> and political attention. Sacco's art has the power to detain us, to
>> keep us from impatiently wandering off in order to follow a
>> catch-phrase or a lamentably predictable narrative of triumph and
>> fulfillment. And this is perhaps the greatest of his achievements."
>> Here is a page from "Palestine":
>> The book is available from
>> --
>> Louis Proyect, lnp3 at on 05/24/2002
>> Marxism list:

Josh Neufeld: Comix, Illos, Web Design:

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Louis Proyect

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