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ISBN: 978-1-60699-623-2Available September 2012Diamond order code: JUN121131Order through FantagraphicsOrder through Amazon
BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is a challenging and idiosyncratic book that describes its subject from a great, absurd, and comic distance. It’s closer to the kind of associative resonance of poetry than what you would expect of a book called BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, released just weeks before [the real] Obama’s attempt at a second term in office. It has very little to do with actual reality, and weirdly seems more real than it has any right to be. 

In their original online iteration, these strips seemed like funny, weird non sequiturs, beginning not long after Obama’s election in 2009. Presented here, all together in untouched, “at-size” scans from the sketchbook Weissman drew them in, they seem less humorous and more like the slow aggregation of a large portrait, maybe not of the man, but of the time the man is living in. Or maybe closer to the truth—because let’s face it, I don’t know—is that it’s a portrait of what a person like Obama “means,” the intensity of the history and anger and hope and cynicism surrounding one man and his band of plucky lieutenants. Many of the strips repeat his name, “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA,” either as a title or as punctuation. As the story gets weirder and weirder, that metronome clicks along: BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA.

Is BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA meant to be a metaphor for the first—maybe only?—term of a president who, pinned with the hopes and enmities of an entire nation, is in fact a regular human who can crumble under pressure? Or a metaphor for the time that man lives in, a gross time, a time where nothing means anything that can’t be stripped away and spun over and over into any direction needed? Because the Obama of BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is a man who seems increasingly sad, confused; not only bowing under pressure but sinking. A man who talks to ghosts, who becomes a giant parakeet and flies with his two hip children to a desert island, where he regresses to egg state.
It could be all these things and more: the pages are an amalgam of Weissman’s gestural, affably abstracted cartooning style and layers and layers of Zip-A-Tone, the old adhesive tone used by mid-century illustrators and cartoonists to simulate tones and gradations. Weissman definitely doesn’t hide the lines either—you can see the artist’s hand all over the book, tucking bits of meaning everywhere, whether it’s tone, adhesive tape to block out the “panels”, colored lettering, or swashes of marker on top of everything. Everything is layered with potential multiple meanings. Even the cover blurbs are absurd and meta, consisting of out-of-context quotes from Hulk Hogan, George W. Bush, and this one from Fox News: “[Barack Hussein] Obama is okay…”

Nothing is real, nothing is straight ahead in this book. What Obama’s presidency “meant” at the beginning of his term is much different than whatever it is now; much more complex, much more “real,” and also very very surreal. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA manages to double this weird descent from giddy hopefulness to present-day miasma. I loved reading it; I love Steve Weissman and his work, but more importantly I loved how challenging it was, both during the reading of it, and especially now, trying to describe it. I hope the reader leafing through it in that bookstore will find it as pleasantly challenging.
(a longer, more image heavy version of this review is on my site)

ISBN: 978-1-60699-623-2
Available September 2012
Diamond order code: JUN121131
Order through Fantagraphics
Order through Amazon

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is a challenging and idiosyncratic book that describes its subject from a great, absurd, and comic distance. It’s closer to the kind of associative resonance of poetry than what you would expect of a book called BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, released just weeks before [the real] Obama’s attempt at a second term in office. It has very little to do with actual reality, and weirdly seems more real than it has any right to be. 

In their original online iteration, these strips seemed like funny, weird non sequiturs, beginning not long after Obama’s election in 2009. Presented here, all together in untouched, “at-size” scans from the sketchbook Weissman drew them in, they seem less humorous and more like the slow aggregation of a large portrait, maybe not of the man, but of the time the man is living in. Or maybe closer to the truth—because let’s face it, I don’t know—is that it’s a portrait of what a person like Obama “means,” the intensity of the history and anger and hope and cynicism surrounding one man and his band of plucky lieutenants. Many of the strips repeat his name, “BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA,” either as a title or as punctuation. As the story gets weirder and weirder, that metronome clicks along: BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA.

Is BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA meant to be a metaphor for the first—maybe only?—term of a president who, pinned with the hopes and enmities of an entire nation, is in fact a regular human who can crumble under pressure? Or a metaphor for the time that man lives in, a gross time, a time where nothing means anything that can’t be stripped away and spun over and over into any direction needed? Because the Obama of BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA is a man who seems increasingly sad, confused; not only bowing under pressure but sinking. A man who talks to ghosts, who becomes a giant parakeet and flies with his two hip children to a desert island, where he regresses to egg state.

It could be all these things and more: the pages are an amalgam of Weissman’s gestural, affably abstracted cartooning style and layers and layers of Zip-A-Tone, the old adhesive tone used by mid-century illustrators and cartoonists to simulate tones and gradations. Weissman definitely doesn’t hide the lines either—you can see the artist’s hand all over the book, tucking bits of meaning everywhere, whether it’s tone, adhesive tape to block out the “panels”, colored lettering, or swashes of marker on top of everything. Everything is layered with potential multiple meanings. Even the cover blurbs are absurd and meta, consisting of out-of-context quotes from Hulk Hogan, George W. Bush, and this one from Fox News: “[Barack Hussein] Obama is okay…”

Nothing is real, nothing is straight ahead in this book. What Obama’s presidency “meant” at the beginning of his term is much different than whatever it is now; much more complex, much more “real,” and also very very surreal. BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA manages to double this weird descent from giddy hopefulness to present-day miasma. I loved reading it; I love Steve Weissman and his work, but more importantly I loved how challenging it was, both during the reading of it, and especially now, trying to describe it. I hope the reader leafing through it in that bookstore will find it as pleasantly challenging.

(a longer, more image heavy version of this review is on my site)

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futurejournalismproject:

Reporting on Africa Through Interactive Comics
via Color Lines:

I ask Bunmi Oloruntoba why he works in comics; his answer speaks volumes.
“In many ways, the medium is like the African continent itself: it’s misrepresented,” he says. “When it comes to the continent, you know, it’s the conflict, it’s war, it’s the famine. And in comics, it’s Spiderman, the Hulk, superheroes! One genre within the medium has grown so large that it eclipses the medium, and people can’t see the potential. Just like it’s hard to see the humanity, the complexity, the drive of all the things Africans are doing, because it’s been eclipsed.”
This eclipsing is what novelist Chimamanda Adichie has called the problem of the ‘single story.’ Oloruntoba, a Nigerian-born journalist and academic in Washington, D.C., is proposing a solution: collide Africa’s single-story problem against comics’ single-story problem, and see what interesting new particles appear. With literary editor Emmanuel Iduma, he runs 3Bute.com (pronounced tri-bute), adapting other writers’ stories about Africa into three-page comics — and then wrapping those comics in a ‘mashable’ layer that lets any reader dot the panels with their own public annotations. Mouse over a drawing of a laptop surrounded by partiers, and you can watch a Youtube music video of the Hausa hit they might be dancing to; mouse over a drawing of Charles Chikwanje boldly refusing to reveal the name of his gay lover on Malawi television, and get a recommendation for a biography of Bayard Rustin. It’s new-media innovation, historical context, Wikipedia rabbithole, and sometimes even loyal dissent, side by side. And all of it is a living antithesis to the single story.

FJP: What’s really neat is that 3Bute uses what they call a mash-up platform that lets writers and artists collaborate on the 3 page visualizations. Each works like a pinboard where readers can tag a story with relevant context. Visit the site and check it out.
Image: 3bute.com collaborated with the Caine Prize, Africa’s leading literary prize, to adapt all the stories shortlisted into comics. Above is a screenshot from Bombay’s Republic by Rotimi Babatunde.

This relates to our previous post on the state of editorial cartooning in Canada and the US, specifically about what was said regarding “journalistic cartooning” in other parts of the world (I’m paraphrasing).

futurejournalismproject:

Reporting on Africa Through Interactive Comics

via Color Lines:

I ask Bunmi Oloruntoba why he works in comics; his answer speaks volumes.

“In many ways, the medium is like the African continent itself: it’s misrepresented,” he says. “When it comes to the continent, you know, it’s the conflict, it’s war, it’s the famine. And in comics, it’s Spiderman, the Hulk, superheroes! One genre within the medium has grown so large that it eclipses the medium, and people can’t see the potential. Just like it’s hard to see the humanity, the complexity, the drive of all the things Africans are doing, because it’s been eclipsed.”

This eclipsing is what novelist Chimamanda Adichie has called the problem of the ‘single story.’ Oloruntoba, a Nigerian-born journalist and academic in Washington, D.C., is proposing a solution: collide Africa’s single-story problem against comics’ single-story problem, and see what interesting new particles appear. With literary editor Emmanuel Iduma, he runs 3Bute.com (pronounced tri-bute), adapting other writers’ stories about Africa into three-page comics — and then wrapping those comics in a ‘mashable’ layer that lets any reader dot the panels with their own public annotations. Mouse over a drawing of a laptop surrounded by partiers, and you can watch a Youtube music video of the Hausa hit they might be dancing to; mouse over a drawing of Charles Chikwanje boldly refusing to reveal the name of his gay lover on Malawi television, and get a recommendation for a biography of Bayard Rustin. It’s new-media innovation, historical context, Wikipedia rabbithole, and sometimes even loyal dissent, side by side. And all of it is a living antithesis to the single story.

FJP: What’s really neat is that 3Bute uses what they call a mash-up platform that lets writers and artists collaborate on the 3 page visualizations. Each works like a pinboard where readers can tag a story with relevant context. Visit the site and check it out.

Image: 3bute.com collaborated with the Caine Prize, Africa’s leading literary prize, to adapt all the stories shortlisted into comics. Above is a screenshot from Bombay’s Republic by Rotimi Babatunde.

This relates to our previous post on the state of editorial cartooning in Canada and the US, specifically about what was said regarding “journalistic cartooning” in other parts of the world (I’m paraphrasing).

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Yesterday on CBC’s “Q” Jian Ghomeshi interviewed both Terry Mosher and Matt Bors regarding the state of editorial cartooning. Trying to embed the CBC’s audio player is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree, so rather than embedding only that segment, I was only able to add the entire 75-minute show. Just forward to the 4:00 mark and you can listen the 20-minute segment on cartooning. 

EDIT: removed the embed because it wouldn’t not autoplay. Here’s the link.

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Art Threat | political art & cultural policy

Based out of Saskatoon (possibly one of the most fun cities to say out loud), Art Threat is:

…a leading media outlet devoted solely to political art and cultural policy. We write about art that seeks to interpret, influence, or reflect upon society. We discuss policy as it pertains to culture. And we showcase artists whose work inspires social change.

This is what I love about art, how there’s room for everyone; from the light and fluffy to the serious and heady. 

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The Senior Senator from Arizona. (by Billy Ogawa)
Billy Ogawa is drawing not-so-flattering portraits of all 100 US senators.