IN THE THICK OF THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT, Matt Bors sees an opening for comics journalists.
“News outlets are beginning to realize that comics journalism is a serious form of reporting,” Bors tells Comic Riffs, “and it’s particularly helpful with a movement like Occupy.”
As a syndicated editorial cartoonist, Bors has been on the scene at Occupy Portland, recording and occasionally tweeting the city’s protest play-by-play. And as the comics journalism editor at the site Cartoon Movement, he has been coordinating the cartoon contributions of such visual journalists as Stephanie McMillan (DC and elsewhere), Shannon Wheeler (New York), Sharon Rosenzweig (Chicago) and Susie Cagle (Oakland) — who have drawn from the encampments amid skirmishes and, sometimes, official evictions.
Today, their collected effort — “Occupy Sketchbook” — has been posted.
Part of the reason Bors views this as a golden opportunity, he says, is because it’s easier to earn a protestor’s trust with a sketch pad than a news camera.
“Corporate media is met with skepticism by protesters — and with good reason,” Bors tells ‘Riffs. “I’ve found that sitting and talking to people with a sketchbook is a far better way to gain insight than shoving a network camera in their face. That only yields sound bites.
“Susie Cagle’s approach of essentially being an embedded journalist with the movement,” Bors continues, “will no doubt result in great comics and the kind of insight you aren’t going to find on television.”
As a comics reporter, Bors has told Comic Riffs he’s a fan of such veterans as Joe Sacco, David Axe (with whom he created the book “War Is Boring”) and Ted Rall (with whom he traveled to Afghanistan in 2010). But unlike traveling to war zones, the Occupy movement offers a less perilous way for artists to be near a front line.
“The artists for this project [Occupy Sketchbook] were pulled from our group of contributors around the globe, as well other cartoonists I found who were attending events to sketch,” says Bors, who also notes:
“Occupy has become bigger than I think anyone imagined at first.”
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In contrast to comic journalists, McMillan attended twin protests in Washington as a participant.
“When I heard about ‘Stop the Machine,’ it seemed to have more potential than traditional protests, because they declared that they weren’t going to leave until their demands were met,” McMillan tells Comic Riffs of one of the D.C. protests. “It promised a higher level of determination and militancy than the usual actions — so I really wanted to go and be a part of it.
“Meanwhile, during the period before ‘Stop the Machine’ was due to begin, Occupy Wall Street emerged, and many other encampments in its wake,” McMillan continues. “It seemed that the American people were waking up and deciding that they were no longer prepared to silently tolerate the many injustices that those in power have been perpetrating on the people and the planet.”
“I wanted to include, through dialogue and description, the major currents, trends and struggles within the [protests], like the debate around nonviolence, the demand for demands, and the desire for everyone to be heard balanced with the challenges of the consensus model of decision-making.”
McMillan says part of the challenge was condensing so much reporting into relatively few pages.
“I had to leave out a lot of things I would have liked to include or dig into more deeply,” McMillan tells ‘Riffs. “The [Cartoon Movement] pieces are a synthesis and distillation of what I heard and saw.
“I tried to be representative of the various viewpoints to give as complete a picture as possible within the framework provided.”
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TIMELESS SYD HOFF: How a Depression-era cartoonist speaks to the Occupy movement
OCCUPY CARTOONS: A roundup of eye-catching images
FRANK MILLER ON OCCUPY MOVEMENT: These ‘louts, thieves, and rapists’ should join the military