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Speaking OUT reviewed in Booklist

March 9th, 2015

One of the strengths of young adult literature is its capacity to give every teen a face. This is literally the case with photographer Smith's splendid portfolio of full-page portraits of LGBTQ youth ages 14 to 24. In their wonderful variety, the more than five dozen color images are proof positive that being queer is an exercise in heterogeneity, not homogeneity. Adding to their inherent insight, the photos incorporate the subjects' personal thoughts via handwriting on the final photographic prints (e.g., "Love is bigger than labels and categories. Love is bigger than everything." "In today's world, people are too concerned with labels." "Don't let your mind win the battle over your heart"). In some cases, the photos are also accompanied by thoughtful retrospective commentary from the subjects. Energetically designed, the book includes contact sheets, a six-page insert describing the photographer's process, a foreword by Candace Gingrich, and an afterword by gay teen activist Graeme Taylor. A salutary addition to the growing body of LGBTQ literature.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Rachelle Lee Smith Author's Page

Speaking OUT in School Library Journal

By Kyle Lukoff
School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up—This gorgeously produced photo-essay book takes a unique spin on showcasing LGBTQ youth. The young people in the photographs speak for themselves, some in longer form essays, others by writing, scrawling, or drawing directly onto the images themselves. Their words seem truly their own, not edited or filtered through an adult editorial lens, which allows them to be messy, contradictory, inspiring, well spoken, frustrating, occasionally graphic, and interesting, sometimes all at the same time. The photographs are beautifully presented, and the technique of including the subject's writing upon them is compelling. At times the handwritten notes are difficult to decipher, but that adds another intriguing layer of complexity to the work as a whole. Some of the youth also write more at length in formatted sidebars, reflecting on how their thoughts about their identity have shifted since they were first photographed. Some of the other text inserts, like a positive review from the Huffington Post or the Human Rights Campaign, seem out of place but do not detract too much from the reading experience. Smith includes an impressive array of youth, diverse in age, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. One noticeable lack is that none of the subjects clearly identify as trans women, though trans men were well represented. Overall, this is a stunning and unique addition to the existing literature, with an immediately relevant approach.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Rachelle Lee Smith Author's Page

Organize!- a review in Foreword

By Edward Morris
Foreword Reviews
August 30, 2012

Living in a Politicized World

Love ‘em, hate ‘em, or try to ignore ‘em, politics are a fact of life—and not just in election cycles. In fact, elections may be one of the least significant events in our political lives since they rarely bring about radical change. Besides, there are always people who are too young, too marginalized, or too cynical to vote on the issues that affect them. But they can always take their grievances to the streets, an arena in which the fate of many a nation has been determined.

The world is a tinderbox. America is in economic recession, and China is struggling to reconcile rampant capitalism with rigid state planning and control. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain—the Arab Spring countries—teeter on the slippery debris of unfinished revolutions. Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, and Italy are mired in debt and squeezing their understandably resistant citizens to balance the books. Syria is careening toward civil war or worse. Afghanistan and Pakistan are open wounds. Obviously, politics—the process of living and functioning together—matter greatly.

Six new books have a lot to say about what’s gone wrong and right with governments and social movements and how politics wisely practiced may yet make things better.

Nearly two dozen case studies in political organizing, most of them from Canada, are presented in Organize! Building From the Local for Global Justice, edited by Aziz Choudry, Jill Hanley, and Eric Shragge (PM Press, 978-1-60486-433-5, $24.95). The techniques cited range from simply paying more attention to the voices of the victims of injustice to using art and music to unite people behind a common cause. The two primary themes that emerge from these examples are that movements can be—and often are—co-opted by the very forces they were established to oppose, and that local movements alone are insufficient to hold back the depredations of such global forces as colonialism and capitalism. The implicit conclusion here is that global enemies require a global network of resistance.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Aziz Choudry, Jill Hanley & Eric Shragge's page HERE

Men in Prison reviewed in Foreword Reviews

By Diane Prokop
Foreword Reviews
August 27th, 2014

This thinly veiled fictional autobiography is a powerful polemic on prison life, as well as a beautifully wrought literary gem.

First published in 1931, Men in Prison chronicles Victor Serge’s time spent as a political prisoner in France from 1912 to 1917 and shares his harrowing account of the struggle to remain sane under deplorable conditions. Originally translated from the French by Richard Greeman in 1977, it was recently reissued with a fresh introduction by Greeman, the cofounder of the Praxis Center and Victor Serge Library in Moscow, and a foreword by David Gilbert, who is full of insight about present-day prison systems, since he is currently a prisoner at Auburn Correctional Facility for crimes committed when he was a member of the Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground.

Men in Prison is tagged as a novel, but in the book’s epigraph, Serge says, “Everything in this book is fictional and everything is true. I have attempted, through literary creation, to bring out the general meaning and human content of personal experience.” If one knows anything about Serge’s life, it will read as if it came from his own diary. It is fiction so unfathomable that it must be truth.

With unflinching honesty and sometimes excruciatingly grim prose, Serge writes about his five-year journey through the French penal system. The prose is layered with searing revelations and demonstrate his talent for parsing out an incarcerated man’s primal fears. He writes of suffering a thousand daily humiliations at the hands of those in charge, which eventually led most to inhabit a dull space into which nothing could penetrate. It is here they found solace. He says, “I am free because nothing more can be done to me.” Serge’s struggle to maintain sanity in the face of a lengthy sentence is one of his most difficult challenges, and he repeatedly, with great psychological insight, probes these existential depths.

Serge writes poetically of simple pleasures that come unexpectedly and are few and far between. “The sky! Above our heads a glittering winter sky, full of constellations, spread out its deep blacks and blues, its profusion of stars, the ripples of light in its shadowy gulfs. Had I ever understood the marvel of a simple starry sky before?”

Men in Prison deserves to sit prominently in the canon of prison novels with the likes of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Serge manages to render an atmospheric perspective on prison life written in the highest literary style.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Victor Serge's Author Page | Back to Richard Greeman's Page

Dead Kennedys on Scanner Zine

By Steve Scanner
Scanner Zine
March 2015

In many ways, it should come as absolutely no surprise that this is the first book to be published about what is arguably the definitive US Punk band. Given the band featured someone as meticulous as Jello Biafra would probably be enough to scare off many so-called ‘music journalists’. When you take into consideration the acrimonious legal battles that have blighted the band since, it’s clear that any attempt to portray a truthful account from any stage of the band’s tenure could be a task of insurmountable contradictions, myth, backstabbing and quite likely legal action. Thankfully, the man that has written this is Alex Ogg who has been responsible for many highly-regarded books about Punk, including The Art Of Punk and No More Heroes.

The book dates back to the very genesis of the band when, in 1978, guitarist East Bay Ray placed an advert for other musicians. The likes of CRIME, NUNS, AVENGERS and NEGATIVE TREND already flew the Punk flag in San Francisco at the time, but the arrival of the DEAD KENNEDYS announced a new twist to a familiar sound. No band before had been as jarring, as acerbic or as sarcastic - and that could be true on not just a local level but a national and international level also.

What follows is an incredibly well researched account of the band’s formative years, through the recording and release of the album in the book’s title and onto December 1980 with the departure of original drummer, Ted, and the June 1981 release of the single, ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’.

Thankfully, Ogg has conducted fresh interviews with all of the band, specifically Biafra and Ray, and just about every other significant party involved. He has represented both parties equally and fairly, but does not refrain from suggesting doubt at various dubious statements (like Ray’s insistence that he wrote, or rewrote, a number of the band’s greatest songs) or emphasising any contradictions. If any doubt is cast over the amount of effort on Ogg’s part to get this as accurate as possible, you only need to read the book’s prequel in which Ogg states the book took ten drafts running to 64,000 words when there were space for but 5,000; he even calculated quote allocations to prove all parties were equally represented.

The resulting narrative makes compulsive and essential reading. It’s laden with facts previously undisclosed and has a continuity that most other biographies (and biographers) can’t even aspire to.

The book is rounded out with a veritable cornucopia of visual material, be it some excellent photography from San Fran’s legendary Mabuhay Garden taken by Ruby Ray, or many images of flyers and promo material created by Winston Smith. The narrative is completed by some extensive notes from Ogg, some soundbite snippets from a bounty of notable names and an essential five-page piece about Winston Smith who was responsible for so many of the band’s infamous graphics; the book would have missed an integral part of the story without kudos being given to Smith.

It’s these new, exclusive interviews, Ogg’s directness and his attention to detail that makes this among the best biographies you will ever read. It should certainly be a lesson to all those who write error-laden biographies based only on information already available. Ultimately, the book recounts a vital chapter in US Punk history and delivers its narrative with style, focus and sincerity. Ogg is quick to state in the book’s final chapter that he has no intention of documenting the remainder of the band’s career; should anyone decide to take up that challenge, Ogg has set a stunningly high standard to follow. (06.03.15)

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Alex Ogg's Author Page | Back to Winston Smith's Illustrator Page | Back to Ruby Ray's Artist Page

Three Star Review of Positive Force in Video Librarian

By T. Keogh
Video Librarian

Three stars

Back in the mid-1980s, a bunch of young musicians from the punk rock scene in Washington, D.C., decided to channel their frustrations about society and government—typically aired in loud, brash songs and raucous performances—into concerts action on behalf of the disenfranchised and vulnerable in America. Thus was born Positive Force, a social action coalition of regional bands who wanted to make a difference. This interesting documentary tells their story, now 30 years old and still going strong. While its graying founders remain committed to original principles, the organizations’s energy is constantly repoenished by newcomers to the D.C. music scene. The most interesting parts of director Robin Bell’s film look back on the founding of Positive Force in 1985, followed by the extraordinary decision of its loose-knit membership to buy a house and convert it into a headquarters (which still exists). The originators recall idealistic meetings with free agendas in which musicians hammered out priorities and rallied around plans for fundraisers and street demonstrations addressing the issues of homelessness, hunger, income inequality, Regan-era politics, and much else. Combining archival concert footage featuring bands including Bikini Kill, Fugazi, and Anti-Flag, with interviews with Dave Grohl and other who discuss their history with the collective, this should appeal to punk fans and socially conscious viewers. Extras include bonus live performances and archival documentary shorts. Recommended. Aud: C,P.

Buy the DVD now | Back to Robin Bell's Director Page

A Line in the Tar Sands: A Review on Earth First!

By Sasha
Earth First! Newswire
March 3rd, 2015

So it appears that activists may have defeated the Keystone XL (except for the southern part). This is great news, because it puts a dent in the Alberta tar sands. At the same time, there are more pipelines being built out from the tar sands, and other tar sands mining operations are slated to be opened up soon. The Alberta tar sands is probably the worst ongoing industrial site of extraction in the world—it looks like “no mans land” from World War I, as the cover of the book shows, and in some cases, it is a real war zone. The spread of the toxic practice throughout the world is a direct result of the inability of modern society to shift away from fossil fuels—a crisis that comes from the lack of understanding of the advanced stage of the crisis of climate change. For this reason, it is imperative that people arm themselves with the truth, and the new book, A Line in the Tar Sands (PM Press 2014) will help anybody who wants to learn figure out the keys to unlocking the problems of the tar sands and different strategies and tactics activists have used to achieve some degree of success.

The editors Tony Weis, Toban Black, Stephen D’Arcy, and Joshua Kahn Russell, do a great job of intertwining the different narratives of struggle pertaining to the problem in all its magnitude without allowing the work to get bogged down in a pessimism that stifles direct action. With NASA continuing to warn the world of impending doom, drought imperiling lives from Brazil to California, and all prospects looking bleak, A Line in the Tar Sands provides some hope that cultures of resistance, grassroots activism, and conscious militancy will prevail.

According to the introduction, written by the editors, “Renowned US NASA climate scientist James Hansen has calculated that the tar sands contain twice the amount of CO2 emitted by global oil use in our entire history, and concluded that their continuing exploitation would be a “game-over” scenario for climate change.” All authors in A Line in the Tar Sands make it clear that the tar sands are a pivotal position in the fight against climate change. It needs to be shut down. Other crises are, perhaps, overlooked through this issue-specific work, but the essays do call for global solidarity against capitalism, which lies at the root of a collective crisis.
Much of the analysis that takes place in the first part of the book, called “Tar Sands Expansionism,” provides insight into the workings of corporate-led PR attempts to greenwash and compromise. Angela V Carter explains that the influence of petro-capitalism “leads to long-term institutional inertia, which keeps ruling governments focused on privileging and expanding the oil industry above all else.” In further detail, Randolph Haluza-DeLay calls out the Alberta Enterprise Group, among other industry-funded groups, and notes industry tactics of “the mobilization of identity,” and “to project its inevitability (‘there is no alternative’) and to place the entirety of the discussion on technical grounds, thereby displacing wide-reaching moral questions about Indigenous rights, social justice, and the protection of nature with narrowly defined technological and managerial ‘solutions.’” This splicing of identity politics with functionalism promotes blustering nationalistic claims, such as “the ‘ethical’ superiority of Canadian oil (in contrast to tyrannical regimes elsewhere).”

Ryan Katz-Rosene further investigates “how a combination of federal and provincial governments, industry, and high-profile apologists has attempted to construct these narratives by co-opting and discursively reframing environmental concerns… as a form of reactionary environmentalism.” The location of reactionary environmentalism within corporate-dominated sector reveals an important side to the debate over the tar sands occurring between radical and mainstream environmental circles, and the authors stand up for Indigenous rights and solidarity with frontline communities.

As Harjap Grewal notes in his essay on nationalism and the energy industry, reactionary environmentalism often opens up to more problematic narratives of nationalism and power; “With the economic recession and a documented rise in white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations through-out the West, any legitimacy given to these polarizing attitudes is extremely worrying.” Harsha Walia adds that the industry promoting the nationalist discourse also subverts it by exploiting migrant labor. “It is painful,” she writes, “and nothing short of cruel irony, to hear stories of migrant workers who have been displaced from their homelands due to Canadian mining companies or Western imperialist land grabs, and who are now forced to work in extractive industries within Canada that are harmful to them, to the land, and to the surrounding communities.” McDonald Stainsby pus it succinctly: “As social justice and climate activists, we simply must discard the same nationalist sentiments that have brought us the problem in the first place.”

In another important article about the Environmental NGOs’ role in sustaining tar sands, Dave Vasey looks to radical solidarity as a crucial underlying narrative: “Popular movements, such as Occupy and Idle No More, have at times articulated explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-colonial goals and concerns, and they have often prioritized the inclusion of those who are most affected by neo-liberalism and neo-colonialism in both their messaging and decision-making.”

Vasey looks to the Vermont community rights movement as a transferable model, writing that “almost thirty Vermont towns became ‘tar sands–free zones,’ passing resolutions against the transport of tar sands through the state in town-hall meetings that are part of a storied, direct democratic tradition dating back hundreds of years.”

But the important article, “Lessons from Direct Action at the White House to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline,” written by Russell, Linda Capato, Matt Leonard, and Rae Breaux, indicates that more-privileged forms of activism may not extend as far as necessary to really attack the root of the problem—“It was humbling to learn that in the cases where some activists attempted to celebrate progress, those dealing with the worst impacts of the tar sands sometimes felt like their struggles were being made invisible.” The following article, “Gulf Coast Resistance and the Southern Leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline” by Cherri Foytlin, Yudith Nieto, Kerry Lemon, and Will Wooten, provides a refreshing look at environmental justice campaigns and allyship. They write, “[W]e are hopeful that the efforts of groups like TEJAS will play a key role in bringing about change in our affected communities and the way the nation regulates these capitalistic corporations that only destroy the gifts our Mother Earth has honoured us all with.”

But for environmental justice campaigns to work, according to an article by the Labor Network for Sustainability, workers must unite. “It is time for American labour to walk the walk. The climate crisis is here and now. To continue business as usual in the face of it is like ignoring the advance of an enemy army.” In their article on the labor movement, Greg Albo and Lilian Yap note that the outlook for the future must “insist that a rupture with the existing paradigm of production and work is needed—‘ways of living’ as the early ecology and socialist movements envisioned.”

Winona LaDuke provides another inspirational article, explaining that “When we destroy the earth, we destroy ourselves. So we must create sustainable energy and food economies for this millennium and for the generations yet to come.” Clayton Thomas-Muller follows LaDuke with a palpable sense of the crisis, “To see the tar sands themselves was devastating; to fly over endless clear-cuts, open pit mines, and smokestacks surrounded by pristine Cree and Dene peoples’ homelands was gut-wrenching.”

Sâkihitowin Awâsis provides an important and timely opportunity to make amends: “Anti-colonial campaigning against tar sands pipelines is very much rooted in Indigenous epistemologies and responsibilities to restore healthy relationships.” For this to take place, a proactive engagement of settler populations is necessary: “It is important to not act defensively when called out for colonial behaviour, whether intentional or not; it is the impacts that count. Anti-colonial efforts cannot try to justify the behaviour or undermine people’s experiences. Instead, look for actions with decolonizing potential.”

There is a lot to work through in A Line in the Tar Sands, but the inclusion of Native voices and anticapitalist prospects provides a breath of fresh air. While the sectarian conflicts on the left and in environmental groups often feel oppressive, leading to a sense of desperation and uselessness, this anthology promotes a return to the grassroots, getting hands dirty, and bringing the power to the power. We do this work because it is liberating, it is envigorating and joyful, and most of all, because we must.

The authors of A Line in the Tar Sands share a vision that will not be realized easily, but if the victories of Rojava, the Greek left, and elsewhere are any indication, a better world is possible.

It is equal parts understanding the problem, combining narratives, and fighting the power.

Buy A Line in the Tar Sands now | Buy A Line in the Tar Sands e-Book now | Back to Joshua Kahn's Editor Page | Back to Stephen D’Arcy's Editor Page| Back to Tony Weis's Editor Page | Back to Toban Black's Editor Page

World War 3 Illustrated: prescient outrage from the dawn of the Piketty apocalypse

By Cory Doctorow
February 26th, 2015

The Reagan era kicked off a project to dismantle social mobility and equitable justice began. This trenchant, angry, gorgeous graphic zine launched in response.

World War 3 Illustrated: 1979–2014, a 300+ page, hardcover volume financed by an oversubscribed Kickstarter collects and thematically groups the very best of more than 30 years of visually stunning, blood-boiling graphic outrage and calls-to-arms. World War 3 has featured some of comix's greatest underground talents, from Peter Bagge and Art Spiegelman to Sue Coe and Sabrina Jones, not to mention Fly, Spain Rodriguez, and many more, and their work for WW3 was always their rawest, most unrestrained material.

I got my copy through the kickstarter, and have only gotten to it now because it is so huge and deliciously well-made that it had to wait until I could sit down with it at the office -- at 3lbs, it was too heavy to contemplate reading on the road or even on the bus. But I had a couple hours free yesterday and I dived into this, and when I came up for air, I wanted to burn something down.

It's hard to recall, from this remove, how hard-fought the slide into corporatist dystopia has been. We didn't just wake up one morning with the expectation that only the richest would be able to avoid penury in their old age, that bank czars would launder billions for drug-lords and get off scot-free while the poor were packed into prison in unprecedented numbers on bullshit drug charges, that the war on terror would see Americans torturing their "enemies" in "black sites" abroad and in Chicago, that we would submit to total surveillance, to the elimination of due process, to the checkpoints for people driving while brown and legalized theft in the guise of civil forfeiture, impunity for rapists and no-knock SWAT murders as part of daily life.

But at every turn, people have fought. Brave, crazy, hopeless or crazed with hope, they fought. And World War 3 was there, its artists shouting out every time the authoritarian state palmed another card, sometimes getting arrested themselves. World War 3 is a genuinely radical publication, and it is also radicalizing. Reading it should make you furious, and hopeful, and determined to do something.

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century marks the Reagan years as a turning point: the moment at which the scattered fortunes of two world wars reconverged into great masses of extreme wealth, exerting terrible, constant gravity on policy, dismantling anything that stood in the way of the creation of multi-generational dynasties of the feudal hyper-rich whose interests were first and foremost in government priorities. Since then -- through the whole WW3 era -- we've seen the dismantling of tenant protections, labor protections, progressive taxation, public schools and public health. Even the justice system and the prisons have been privatized. There is no more moving record of this period than the one you'll find in these pages.


Also of note is Bill Ayers's introduction, which contains all the fire and passion of his other graphic novel work, and will send you to the barricades.

Buy WW3 Illustrated now | Buy WW3 Illustrated e-Book now | Back to Peter Kuper's Author Page | Back to Seth Tobocman's Author Page

World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014 on Now Read This!

Now Read This!
August 27th, 2014

Since the 1980s and proceeding ever more unchecked into the 21st century, nations and human society have been plagued with horrors and disasters exacerbated if not actually caused by a world-wide proliferation of lying, greedy, venal, demented and just plain stupid bosses and governments.

These paragons have finally succeeded in elevating politicians of every stripe to that phylum of generally useless tools and pimples on the butt of humanity once only occupied by ambulance-chasing lawyers, lifestyle coaches and management consultants.

Since then so many apparently entitled and greedy archetypes like bankers, astrologers, wedding planners, doorstep evangelists, CEOs, celebrity gossip columnists, newspaper editors, the shamelessly privileged and all types of psychics have joined their rarefied ranks, and I’m thinking I probably need to either grow my own provably unadulterated coffee or further refine my critical parameters…

The century before ours wasn’t much better, but it did spawn a global awareness of the sheer symbolic power of art to promote debate, action and change. Politically charged, culturally aware imagery has been used over and over again by the underdogs – and, to be honest, the more savvy oppressors – in countless intellectual clashes as irresistible Weapons of Mass Deliberation…

This is a book that should make you angry and inspired. That is its point and purpose…

Created in response to Ronald Reagan’s presidency – possibly the only thing non-Americans can be thankful to the mad, bible-thumping bastard for – World War 3 Illustrated was founded in 1979 by Pratt Institute art students Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman in the wake of a rising tide of political conservatism, religious fundamentalism and unchecked capitalist autocracy.

The magazine quickly became a beacon and rallying point for artistic activists: a collective collaboration galvanising and powerfully polemical, covering a vast procession of issues the political Powers-That-Be and increasingly law-immune Corporate Hegemonies would prefer were never aired or exposed.

Always championing the ever-diminishing rights of the individual over the juggernaut of rapacious commercial expansion and global monetary domination, the magazine brought – and still brings – together creative freedom-fighters who oppose the insidious wave of creeping everyday injustices through art, information and – most effectively of all – opposing views and dissenting opinions.

Now the smart, informed publishing people of PM Press have released a spectacular and sumptuous hardback retrospective of World War 3 Illustrated; re-presenting some of the graphic gadfly’s greatest moments in a stunning collection no self-aware seditionist could afford to miss at a time when individual freedoms and planetary wellbeing have never been more endangered…

One crucial word of clarification: the Third World War hasn’t been declared and has no recognised Theatre of Operations. It’s an ongoing series of perpetual localised skirmishes intended to replace individuality with homogeneity, freedom with conformity, humanity with faceless consumerism and intellect, spontaneity and self-esteem with a slavish devotion to money and oligarchic, board-sanctioned options from a menu of consumerist choices designed to keep the merchant-machine running…

Stuffed with spot-art and themed chapters fronted by double-page Chapter Icons from Kuper, Scott Cunningham, Sabrina Jones, Tobocman, Susan Willmarth, Kevin C. Pyle, Rebecca Migdal, Sandy Jimenez, Ethan Heitner, Nicole Schulman, Christopher Cardinale and Hilary Allison, this grand bible of creative resistance opens with the rousing and informative ‘Introduction: In Cahoots!’ by veteran activist, educator and reformer Bill Ayers before the parade of artistic action gets underway.

Starting World War 3 reveals the way it all began in the essay ‘Manifesto’, by Tobocman & Kuper, before the early forays are revisited in ‘Old Pals’ by Peter Bagge, whilst “Dr. Froydo Baggins” diagnoses the scatological power structure of modern society in ‘Top Feces’ by Isabella Bannerman & Robert Desmond, and Chuck Sperry’s terrifying collage ‘Bud’ is followed by Tobocman’sstate of disunion revelation in ‘The World is Being Ripped’. The chapter is closed by ‘Dove vs. Technology (back cover #8)’ by Aki Fujiyoshi.

Theocracy unbound is the subject of In God We Trust? opening with ‘Rapture’ – Kuper’s terrifying visualisation of an actual speech by Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell – after which Erik Drooker moodily relates his ‘First Encounter’ with The Lord and Mike Diana explains how ‘Jesus is Suffering for You’…

Ryan Inzana describes his liberating escape from ‘One Nation Under Fear’ before ‘Pope Exposed (back cover #5)’ by David Shannon leads to the pantomimic revelation of ‘Jesus in Hell’ by James Romberger, and Isabelle Dervaux ends things on a blasphemous high note with ‘Walking on Water’.

The war on women is highlighted in Herstories, opening with Isabella Bannerman’s gripping ‘Herstories (cover #16)’ from 1992. This is followed by the evocative ‘Women’s Rights’ by Paula Hewitt Amram and the harrowing ‘Walking Down the Street’ by Sabrina Jones and a truly disturbing glimpse into the pressures on young girls to have sex in ‘K-9’s First Time’ by K-9 & Fly before Jones scores again with ‘Saudi Woman (back cover #14)’ to close the chapter.
Gentrification and the New York Elite’s attempts to forcibly relocate its poor by Fiscal Ethnic Cleansing are spotlighted in Captive City,beginning with the trenchant ‘Ave A’ by Anton Van Dalen and Tobocman’s ‘Why Are Apartments Expensive?’

Drooker then imaginatively shares some cold, harsh facts and statistics in ‘Shelter from the Storm’, whilst Steve Brodner plays Devil’s Advocate in ‘The Pound’ and Mac McGill interprets ‘Memories’ with apocalyptic panache.

Nicole Schulman then reveals why ‘You Can’t Go Home, Again?’ whilst Tobocman declares ‘War in the Neighorhood’ and Jeff Lewis wistfully bemoans how ‘I Was Raised on the Lower East Side’ to suspend the ongoing class war… until next time…

Autobiology focuses on differences of opinion such as the divisive nature of sneakers in ‘Skips’ by Sandy Jimenez, ineffectual relationships in Bannerman’s ‘No Visible Evidence’ and parenting in Scott Cunningham’s ‘Alien Metaphor’, after which Drooker relates a chilling anecdote in ‘The Fall’ and Kuper details how he was called as an expert witness in Mike Diana’s comics obscenity trial in the ‘Sunshine State’…

The misrule of Law comes under excoriating scrutiny in Under Arrest, opening with ‘Police State America’ by Tobocman, detailing how a black woman in New York was gunned down by a SWAT Team for incurring rent arrears, whilst Drooker’s ‘Coup d’Etat of the Spirit’ movingly recalls a friend who got on the wrong side of a police action…

‘Yard In!’, by Mumia Abu-Jamal & Gregory Benton, wryly pinpoints one of the many cruel insanities endured by Death Row inmates before Drooker’s ‘Prison Issue (cover #24)’ leads to Kevin C. Pyle’s revelatory expose of the mean-spirited “Diesel Therapy” used to break prisoners’ spirits ‘On the Road’. Benton then returns to offer a shred of comfort in ‘#AM-8335’.

Sperry opens the chilling Biohazard section with a bleak confrontation of ‘My Mother, My Mother’ before Pyle produces the most horrifying piece in this collection with his documentary detailing of the grotesque criminal acts of the United States Public Health Service which began a near-forty year long, generational study of syphilis by deliberately withholding antibiotic treatments from the African American community of Macon County, Alabama in the shocking tale entitled ‘Pink Medicine’…

Encroaching environmental catastrophe is the meat of Green House, Blue Planet, beginning with Tobocman’s captivating ‘What You Need to Know’, whilst Rebecca Migdal’s ‘The Food Chain (cover #41)’ precedes ‘Someday in the Future’ by Susan Willmarth, revealing how corporate misuse of the drug Diclofenac led to the near extinction of India’s vulture population and the almost complete destruction of the subcontinent’s food chain.

Drooker’s forbidding illustration ‘Moloch’, then leads to ‘Needle Factory’, a bleak cutting whimsy from Felipe Galindo, after which Sue Coe presents a series of ghastly images created in response to the monstrous Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2006 – ‘Murder in the Gulf’, ‘BP Burns Turtles’ and ‘Sold!’

At least Drooker is there to wrap it up with a hope-filled dream of ‘The Jungle’…

We Y New York opens with the ‘9/11 Release Poster’ by Kuper & Sperry, and an autobiographical reverie in ‘9-11-01’ by Fly, before Ward Sutton briefly interjects a sardonic aside with the ‘Fear News Network’ whilst counterculture pioneer and seasoned campaigner Spain Rodriguez tellingly dissects all stripes of ‘Faith-Based Terrorism’ and Mac McGill offers up another evocative expression of architectural Armageddon in ‘IX XI MMI’…

A discussion of Global Economy and the New World Empire begins with a strident lesson from Nichole Schulman in ‘Fossil Fuel’, whilst Kuper examines the concepts of war for oil in ‘Bombs Away’ and Tom Tomorrow lampoons government rhetoric and corporate Thinkspeak in ‘Are You a Real American?’ after which Chuck Sperry creates a visual icon for the new century in ‘Bush Hates Me’ and Tom Tomorrow hilariously peeks in on ‘Bush Dreams’.

The fertile soil is further ploughed by Sabrina Jones with the cruelly poetic ‘Chronicle of the New Crusade’, and Art Spiegelman doles out a strong dose of satire in his oil-mainlining Uncle Sam pastiche ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves, America!’, which is followed by Kuper’s infamous and controversial ‘Richie Bush in Hell’s Bells’ parody.

By brilliantly employing Harvey Comics’ Richie Rich character, the artist engendered the disapproval of US Customs who subsequently seized copies of this strip when it was reprinted in Slovenian magazine Stripburger…

This chapter closes with ‘Talking Liberties (cover #34)’ by Mirko Ilic and a montage of various works and public events in ‘WW3 Arts in Action’.

Promised Land? examines the ongoing Israeli- Palestinian Conflict, beginning with ‘Casting Stones’ by Drooker before Kuper bares his heart and soul recounting his many trips to Israel and how the country devolved to a point and state he could no longer recognise in ‘Promised Land’, after which Sabrina Jones shares her own personal experiences of time in the Holy Land in ‘Fear and Firecrackers’.

‘Art Against the Wall’ is an photo-illustrated essay by Eric Drooker describing the construction, impact upon and creative response to Israel’s “Security Wall” by the Palestinians it imprisons and isolates; a subject then expanded upon in cartoon form in Tobocman’s biting ‘The Serpent of State’…

Iniquities affecting the wider world come to the fore in Going Global, beginning with ‘The Quiet Occupation’ by Nicole Schulman, examining through specific, documented case histories, the incredible “Get Out of Jail Free” policy afforded to the American military in South Korea under SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement).

This appalling legislation has, since 1967, afforded absolute immunity to US personnel facing prosecution for crimes against the indigenous population ranging from theft and environmental damage to rape and murder…

The case of a San Salvadoran kid unfairly deported follows in Carlo Quispe’s ‘Pulgarcito de las Americas’, as does Jordan Worley’s provocative ‘Land and Liberty (cover #27)’, before a selection from Kuper’s visual diary of life in Mexico – specifically the brutal suppression of a Teacher’s strike – rounds out the chapter in ‘Oaxaca, Oaxaca’…

The horrendous scandal of New Orleans’ Federal abandonment is covered in After the Flood, commencing with an emphatic if subjective impression of ‘Katrina’ by McGill, after which volunteer worker Christopher Cardinale records his thoughts and interactions with hurricane survivors in ‘Coming Together’, whilst McGill records the fate of ‘Mrs. Spencer’s Home’ and Tobocman details the resilience of the people who returned in ‘Post Katrina 2nd Line’…

Attempting to end on lighter terms, Modern Times features outrageous and unbelievable exposé ‘On the Tea Party Trail’ by Kuper, then pictorialises the fine, independent folk of ‘Madison Wisconsin’ courtesy of Susan Semensky Bietila, before Tobocman & Jessica Wehrle delve in detail into the early moments of the ‘Occupy the City’ movement capped by another photo feature of ‘WW3 Arts in Action’ and Drooker’s sublime ‘May Day’ poster.

To add context to the collection Time Line then traces the history of World War 3 Illustrated through a short history of the planet since 1970, augmented by a stunning cover gallery of key issues of the magazine…

The most disheartening thing about this magnificent book is the realisation that so many of these issues – such as globalisation, one-percentism, women’s rights to equal pay and control of their own bodies, the maltreatment and exploitation of prison inmates, the disenfranchisement of African Americans and so much more – are still as being as keenly contested today as they ever were… although surely that’s only a reason to fight even harder and more creatively?

This is a book that belongs in every library and on every school bookshelf, and it most certainly needs to be in the hands of every person who dreams of a fairer, better world…

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Drawn to New York: A Review

By John Seven
October 16th, 2013

Illustrator Peter Kuper has spent three decades slowly becoming a native New Yorker, and this new art book compiles the story of that metamorphosis through illustrations, comics and paintings that Kuper has done over those 30 years for various publications.

Like New York City itself, Kuper’s is not a clear narrative — or, rather, of course it is, it just doesn’t seem so by the presentation, and that’s what makes the collection so vital.

In trying to capture the city he both loves and hides inside, Kuper offers his work in a format that mirrors its most important quality — chaos.

It’s a chaos that is created from a lot of little voices attempting to harmonize, but not always succeeding, so over the course of the book you find several sweeping silent cartoons that take you on a tour of the city’s denizens, as well more autobiographical tales, as well as artwork capturing parks, water towers, crowds, city streets, the back seats of taxis, homeless people and buildings.

Kuper’s trademark surrealism offers cartoon scenarios where Donald Trump and Harry Helmsley build a giant wall through the middle of Manhattan, just like Berlin, and create a post apocalyptic absurd adventure, as well as numerous dream scenarios that throw the city into situations where the dreamer must confront his place within it.

Kuper finishes up the collection with work pertaining to 9-11 and how that changed things, including his conceit that New York City wasn’t really part of America.

Kuper’s New York is one filled with raunch and sleaze and weirdness in a more major way than exists now, when the sweeping and sometimes disturbing craziness of the city functioned as an abstract soap opera better than anything you could find on television. For those who never had the adventure of living in that New York, Kuper’s book does an excellent job of relaying that experience through the intensity and dark humor of his art.

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