The Cartoon Picayune

Favorite Nonfiction Comics of 2013

The Subscriber Drive has been a big success: thanks for your help! To round things off, I thought I'd look at other people outside The Cartoon Picayune doing excellent nonfiction comics work.

On the macro level, Symbolia has put out a whole year's worth of issues, and brought some excellent work to the tablet while doing it. My favorite issue was probably the one with the theme of Heroines, which had some really beautifully drawn stories that were quite moving. This issue especially was diverse in content and every story was indeed a keeper.

Cartoon Movement is doing a little less this year but still publishing, although former editor Matt Bors has moved over to Medium and started The Nib. He's doing all sorts of stuff over there, including publishing great work like this piece by Josh Neufeld.

This was also a good year for special comics journalism issues and columns from other publications. Both inkt|art and truthout specifically featured female comics journalists.

Mainstream media also continued to publish freelance pieces of nonfiction comics in various forms. Art Hondros had this piece with the Washington Post magazine. Susie Cagle did many combinations of text and art when she was at Grist. Emi Gennis appeared in Bitch magazine. Andy Warner had more excellent explainers at Slate and elsewhere. There are many other examples.

This year there were plenty of great examples of people doing comics about their own lives but with some distance and perspective. Not necessarily journalism but not necessarily autobio either. Two favorites are this piece by Gabby Schulz and this comic by Mike Freiheit.

Predictions for next year: Higher-profile freelance pieces in national publications, new and exciting books, and new ways to post comics online that are intuitive and offer a natural reading experience.

(above art copyright Josh Neufeld)


The Summer 2013 Issue, Hard Work

The new issue is done! The beautiful front and back covers are by Pat Barrett. You can purchase the issue here, as well as subscriptions, and all of the issues.

Here's what's inside. First is "Sex Workers of the World, Unite!" by Andy Warner. (This issue is for mature readers.) It's our first story supported by advertising, and I helped Andy shape it more directly as a hands-on editor. I think it's a great example of why Andy is becoming one of the best comics journalists working today. Here's a page:

The other longer story in this issue by Emi Gennis. Her commitment to research and documentation in her historical pieces is impressive. "Radium Girls" is a tragic and deftly told story about women poisoned by their own workplace. Take a look:

This issue also has a new section with shorter stories called Briefs. The first is mine and it's another piece about Kirk Francis, mobile cookie entrepreneur. "Feeding the Meter" is a quick look at Kirk's business and the proposed regulations that he worries may change it. Finally, newcomer Erik Thurman guides us through the challenges of owning South Korean coffee shops in "Seoul Grind."

Don't forget that the next issue's theme is Small Worlds, and that the deadline for pitches is August 1st. Email me with any questions or ideas you might have.

I'm at CAKE this weekend in Chicago! There's a whole host of comics journalism people at this show. Come find me and Symbolia and The Illustrated Press, we'll all be tabling together.


June/July Events and the Hard Work Launch

The new summer issue, themed Hard Work, is almost done! Here's a sneak peak at Andy Warner's story "Sex Workers of the World, Unite!" Needless to say, this issue is only for mature readers.

Here are four awesome free events in June and July that I'm extremely excited about:

6/4 Hothouse Happy Hour: DC’s Independent Print Scene (SW Washington, DC)
Presented by Washington Project for the Arts. A chance to meet and learn about some of DC's zines, including The Cartoon Picayune!

6/15-16 Chicago Alternative Comics Expo or CAKE (Chicago, IL)
Last year was a blast, and this year is chockablock with comics journalists. The Hard Work issue debuts at this show, and will be available starting this weekend. More details to come soon.

6/21 The Hard Work Issue Release Party (Downtown Washington, DC)
Our first ever release party! Please join me and the rest of the Studio on F (923 F St NW) in celebrating the new issue, the summer solstice, and my birthday! 6-9 pm, free drinks and snacks. Original art on display and comics available for purchase.

7/20 DC Zinefest (Columbia Heights, Washington, DC)
This was a blast last year and I'm thrilled to be invited back for their 3rd show. The organizers do a great job and it's a fun little show at St. Stephen's church.


Spring and Summertime Updates

Perhaps you've noticed that this blog tends to be sparsely populated by new entries in the slow season between issues. For more recent posts that might not be necessarily Cartoon Picayune information but are still written by me and skew to my interests, take a look at my tumblr. I like the faster pace and more whimsical style, but I think The CP still deserves longer, more thought out posts, even if it takes a month a more.

Anyways, there's plenty of spring and summertime news to report.

The fifth issue of The Cartoon Picayune is well underway. There's a theme of Hard Work and there is plenty of it happening in production of the issue. For 2013, I'm shifting the schedule a little so that Issue 5 will be the first Summer issue. You can look forward to at least two excellent, longer stories as the main focus:

Andy Warner, who brought us "The Man Who Built Beirut" in the third issue, is back with our first advertiser-supported feature, ever! His piece examines the political fight around the legal status of sex workers in the city of San Francisco. I've been working closely with Andy on this one, and I'm very excited about it.

Emi Gennis, Editor of a Hic & Hoc  anthology about unsolved mysteries and a tremendous cartoonist herself, brings us a tragic and richly rendered tale about the so-called "Radium Girls," female factory workers in the early twentieth century poisoned by unsafe working conditions. Emi's process on this is fascinating, and she has generously explained it on her blog, in addition to creating this GIF showing the evolution of a page:

I'm happy to report that I'll once again be tabling at TCAF in Toronto, May 11 and 12, with comics wunderkind Pat Barrett. Then, in June, I'll debut Issue 5, the Hard Work issue, at CAKE in Chicago on the 15 and 16. I'll be joined at that table with Chicago's finest in comics journalism: Erin Polgreen and Joyce Rice of Symbolia and Darryl Holliday and Erik Rodriguez of The Illustrated Press (and the last two issues of The CP).

I would be remiss to not mention that you can now buy Symbolia's first Issue, "We Don't Belong" on iPad or as a PDF. Also, if you are in Chicago, you must check out The Illustrated Press exhibit at the Harold Washington Library.(I can't wait to see it!) Here also is a great interview with CP contributor Jess Ruliffson about her ongoing projects.

Finally, since this is the first year with a Summer issue, it is only fitting to be the first year with a Winter issue also. Issue 6 will be out in November. The theme is Small Worlds, and the deadline is August 1st.

More soon. If you've been paying attention, you know that I owe you one more Q+A, which I hope to post shortly.


Updates from the Golden State

That's right, plenty of news from California!

First is Comic-Con. I'm pleased to note that Andy Warner, author of Issue 3's "The Man Who Built Beirut," will be representing The Cartoon Picayune on the Publishers Weekly panel concerning comics as journalism this Sunday. Thanks to Calvin Reid for moderating and putting it together, there are some great people on it.

Also, copies of The Cartoon Picayune are now in three shops over there, including two new ones. Pick up a copy at...

Mission: Comics & Art in San Francisco

Fantastic Comics in Berkeley

and Secret Headquarters in Los Angeles.

That's it for now! Always feel free to tell me which shops you'd like to carry the CP and I'll do my best to get it there.


Notes and Bibliography for The Man Who Built Beirut

Andy Warner's The Man Who Built Beirut is a long, complicated story. Here are the companion notes and book/article sources to provide some additional context and information.


Page 4, Panel 4: A vital aspect of the Taif Accord not mentioned here is the disarmament of all militias, save one. Hezbollah was allowed to retain its arms to continue to fight Israeli occupation in southern Lebanon. They were widely expected to disarm following Israeli withdrawal in 2000, but refused to do so.

Page 5, Panel 5: While Solidere is technically a private company, it was granted the power of eminent domain by the Lebanese government, making it an odd hybrid of public-private.

Page 5, Panel 6: In some cases property compensation was worth as little as 15% of market value. The “Stop Solidere” image is from the St. Georges Hotel campaign, which began in 2004.

Page 6, Panels 3-5 (above): The main bone of contention was a plan, backed by Syria, to extend Lahoud’s constitutionally mandated single six-year term. Although the previous president, Elias Hrawi had done the same thing, Lahoud was Hariri’s political enemy, and Hariri objected. His opposition to Syrian rule in Lebanon has been vastly overblown in many media accounts.

Page 7: Panels 4-7: These bombings, all in Christian neighborhoods were generally taken to be attempts to stoke sectarian tensions in a time of crisis. Their perpetrators remain unknown.

Page 9, Panel 1: Saad Hariri’s ascension to Prime Minister took place in 2009. Fouad Siniora had held the position from 2005 to 2009, heading the first government after the Syrian withdrawal.

Page 9, Panel 3: The shift from suspicion of Syria to accusation of Hezbollah was sudden and based on Captain Wissam Eid’s analysis of the cell phone networks active at the time of Hariri’s assassination. Captain Eid (as detailed on page 10, panel 12) was himself killed on January 25th, 2008.

Page 10, Panels 1-12: Many of these politicians and journalists were vocally anti-Syrian, but by no means all of them. George Hawi had a complex and changing relationship with Damascus, Elias Murr was staunchly pro-Assad, and Francois Elias Hajj was a supporter of Michel Aoun’s currently pro-Syrian Free Patriotic Movement.

Page 10: Panel 7: Bound by narrative considerations, I gave the July War much less space in this story than it deserved. It is as much responsible for the political and social climate of Lebanon today as Hariri’s assassination was.

Page 11: Panel 3 (above): The crisis was brought about by the government attempt to shut down Hezbollah’s communications network. The ensuing fighting was heavy, resulting in 66 deaths. The Doha agreement guaranteed Hezbollah veto-wielding power, and cemented their dominance in the Lebanese political sphere.

Page 11: Panel 5: I was back in Beirut to work as a guest editor on the excellent Lebanese comics magazine, Samandal. They’re well worth a look.

Page 13, Panels 1-6: This dialogue is a combination of a reconstructed conversation and an email exchange with Fadi. It is not verbatim.

Page 15, Panel 4 (below, right): (L to R) Walid Jumblatt, Samir Geagea, Amin Gemayel, Nabih Berri, Michel Aoun


Blanford, Nicholas. Killing Mr. Lebanon. I.B. Taurus, 2006.
Blanford, Nicholas. “Behind Lebanon’s New Political Crisis.” Time Magazine. 13 January, 2011.
Fisk, Robert. “Who killed Mr Lebanon?: The hunt for Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's assassins.” The Independent. 11 January, 2011.
Fisk, Robert. “Lebanon in limbo: a nation haunted by the murder of Rafiq Hariri.” The Independent. 14 January, 2011.
Fisk, Robert. "How Lebanon can't escape the shadow of Hariri's murder.” The Independent. 12 November, 2010.
Fisk, Robert. “The Arab awakening began not in Tunisia this year, but in Lebanon in 2005.” The Independent. 15 April, 2011.
Gambill, Gary C. "Lebanon’s Constitution and the Current Political Crisis." Mideast Monitor. 11 January, 2011
Hirst, David. Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East. Nation Books, 2010.


Q+A with Andy Warner

Andy Warner is a cartoonist's cartoonist. His drawing chops are impressive, and he approaches his own work with a curious mind that takes him in many different directions. Look around his site, and you'll see horror comics, beautiful screen prints, and large, expertly crafted puppets. Lucky for us, he found himself back in Beirut last summer, and ready to create a fascinating narrative about one of the regions larger-than-life figures. The Man Who Built Beirut is a non-fiction comic, and it has already earned him an Expozine Award nomination and a chance to do work like this for Slate. I'm happy to have the story in Issue 3 and to talk to Andy about it here.

Josh Kramer for The Cartoon Picayune: First of all, congratulations for making it through your second winter in Vermont. I hope you're enjoying mud season. You're preparing to graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies. How do you feel about your comics now versus when you started in 2010?

Andy Warner: I'm much better now than I was in 2010. Creating almost nothing but comics for two years surrounded by other people creating nothing but comics had a great effect on my art.

CP: This piece is a little different from what I've published before in the Cartoon Picayune, and it's not like the majority of the stories that you do as a cartoonist. What lead you to go for this kind of explanatory first-person story and why was it important for you to get the facts right?

A: I was trying to tell the story of my relationship with a place by telling the story of the place. I did this by telling the story of a figure whose death marked both my experience in Beirut and Beirut itself. It was really written to try to come to terms with my own feelings towards the city, so the first-person framing of it felt right. But the events that had an impact on me were political events, and so the story is political by its very nature. I think it's necessary to be as truthful as possible if you're writing about a subject like that.

CP: What kinds of research did you do to prepare for this story, and how long did it take you from start to finish?

A: I did a lot of research, especially in the beginning. I started trying to write it in the summer of 2011, while I was still in Beirut for the second time. I didn't get past the first page, though. I kept hitting road blocks. Lebanese politics are notoriously complex, and there are a lot of competing narratives. So I put it away, and came back to it in the fall. After starting it again, I finished it in about a month and a half, I think.

CP: You ask in your story: "Is Lebanon a lesson, a warning, or an inescapable fate?" So much has changed in the Middle East recently. How would you answer that question now?

A: This is the hardest kind of question, I think. The regional politics are still so heavily in flux that I don't think I'd be able to answer that now, if ever. The forces that have driven the changes you're talking about are still playing out. What will a self-styled moderate Muslim Brotherhood mean in Egyptian politics? How will powerful military establishments deal with an erosion of power? I think Lebanon is really an example of an older political order managing to preserve itself in a moment of real national crisis, but probably to the detriment of the country.

CP: What did you want to leave the reader with on that last page?

A: It's easy to get lost in these things. To go down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out who actually assassinated who, and what it means. But my relationship with Lebanon is more complex than that. More than my relationship, the country itself is more complex than that. I wanted to try to explore those feelings. What the reader gets out of that is their own.

CP: This seems like a pivotal moment... what's next for you after you graduate?

A: I'll be moving back to the Bay Area. Before that, I'll be at MoCCA Fest in the Spring. Hopefully I'll be at APE in the Fall, too. I'm looking forward to it. It's been a few years since I've tabled there, and it's a great show.

Thanks Andy! He retains all rights to all of images in this post. The complete notes and bibliography that accompany the story will be posted here closer to publication.