Archive for September 26th, 2010

Comics for a Cause: “Borderland” warns kids about human trafficking

Sunday, September 26th, 2010
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ONLY A FEW HOURS LEFT!  This project will only be funded if at least $8,000 is pledged by Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1:45 p.m. EDT — which means 10:45 a.m. PST!!!  Under the kickstarter aegis, they must raise all the money to meet their pledge, or else all the money is returned to donors.  Please donate by clicking here.

Yes, yes, I know.  We’re talking about comics.  Graphic novels.  I considered myself a tough sell when I walked into Stanford’s Institute of Design to hear two kids talk about saving the world through the pages of comic books.  But they sold me … figuratively speaking.

She collected the stories from Eastern Europe

Olga Trusova is a Fulbright Fellow from Stanford University.  The Ukrainian designer and educator spent a year collecting stories told by victims of human trafficking in Eastern Europe. Dan Archer, a comics-journalist from California, a founder of Archcomix.com and a 2010/11 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, currently co-teaches the acclaimed  graphic novel project at Stanford. He turned Olga’s stories into pictures.  (Video is hereBorderland preview site is here.)

I had arrived late from the Mexican festivities nearby, after Olga had already finished her intro.  Dan was talking about this “visually seductive form with a tarnished history.”

He took pen to Bristol board

“It’s a great way of packaging a lot of information … in a form that can capitalize on the energy.”

Dan praised the work of pioneering Joe Sacco, creator of the 1996 American Book Award-winning graphic novel Palestine, and his graphic novel on the Bosnian War, Safe Area Goražde. Then he and Olga talked about thumbnails and storyboarding.

They were both appealing. They were both persuasive.  Dan described the discovery of “how I could tell stories in small bite-size chunks.”

Olga’s reportage ensured that this was  “not just seven stories of strangers,” she said.

“The stories are really harrowing,” says Dan. “Reliving these things, and negotiating how much to show — was the most challenging part of the project.”

Not showing is far more powerful,” he concluded. “The readers have to insert their own agency between the panels to make the story come alive for themselves.”

“There’s a lot of potential for artists who want to create comics for social change,” says Olga.

OK, here’s the proviso (you knew it was coming, didn’t you?):  There is nothing here that is not described more immortally in the story of Jean Valjean.

Sacco: Role model

Sontag spoke here about reading as the education of the emotions:

“Reading should be an education of the heart …   Literature is what keeps us from shriveling into something completely superficial. And it takes us out of ourselves, too. … I really do think it’s necessary if you want to have a full life. It keeps you–well, I don’t want to say honest, but something that’s almost the equivalent. It reminds you of standards: standards of elegance, of feeling, of seriousness, of sarcasm, or whatever. It reminds you that there is more than you, better than you.”

That said, Dan and Olga have made it clear that they want to reach kids who won’t be reading Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, or Charles Dickens anyway.  They want to spread a message to kids who have been victims in Eastern Europe: “You are not alone.” So you’re not compromising any literary principles — this is a different gig altogether.

Now here’s the kicker:  The next two days are critical.  This project will only be funded if at least $8,000 is pledged by Tuesday, Sept. 28, 1:45 p.m. EDT — which means 10:45 a.m. PST!!!  Under the kickstarter aegis, they must raise all the money to meet their pledge, or else all the money is returned to donors.  See here for details.

Look at it this way:  a mere 10 bucks will get you a pdf and a hard copy of the comic.  50 bucks will get you the iphone app version.  If you’re too much of an old fogey to get into this … well, you have kids, don’t you?  Go ahead.  I did.  More about donating here.