The Bold Outlines Of a Plot

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By Bravetta Hassell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 16, 2006

If the mood on the plane that crashed into the side of the Pentagon, American Airlines Flight 77, could have been a color, it would have been a soft, translucent tan, according to a comic book about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Yes, that's right, a comic about the attacks is set for publication late next month.

Industry veterans Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón have collaborated to produce "The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation," which is being published by Hill and Wang, the nonfiction imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The book condenses the nearly 600-page federal report released by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to fewer than 150 pages, and the creators say they hope their book will help attract young readers and others who might be overwhelmed by the original document. With sans-serif captions, artist renderings, charts and sound-describing words such as "Whooom!" and "R-rrumble," the adaptation recounts the attacks with parallel timelines of the four hijacked planes.

But can a topic as massive and sobering as Sept. 11 be dealt with effectively in the pages of a comic book?

When a first draft of the book, two-thirds complete, came across his desk, Hill and Wang Publisher Thomas LeBien says he was "absolutely struck with it potentially being a wonderful idea."

Jacobson and Colón worked hard to "make sure we were both honest and respectful," LeBien says.

Adds Jacobson -- emphasizing that he used "99 percent" of the commission's words in the adaptation: "We very possibly fell into some comic book tricks, but it truly didn't bother us, and for the most part, it shouldn't bother people."

And the illustrations?

When it came to the faces of officials such as Vice President Cheney or of the 19 hijackers, he worked from photographs.

"I do research and draw off the pictures," he says.

The two are well established in the graphic world. Jacobson, 76, the creator of "Richie Rich" series, used to be editor in chief of Harvey Comics. Colón, 75, who drew "Richie Rich" and "Casper" for 25 years, also worked for Harvey before a short stint as an editor at DC Comics -- the home of characters such as Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Superman and the Flash. He also illustrated for Marvel Comics, where Spider-Man and the X-Men were created.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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