Troy Davis May Be Executed Today

The state of Georgia is about to follow through on another gross potential miscarriage of justice today as it plans to execute Troy Davis. Convicted in 1991 of killing a police officer, Mark McPhail, the majority of the prosecution witnesses have since recanted their depositions, but the conviction has been upheld by the state, which has consistently refused a retrial and yesterday denied a last-ditch effort to obtain clemency for Davis.

As I’ve written about here before, this is not a singular case. There are many such dubious convictions, primarily of minority individuals, who consequently have served long prison terms and face the ultimate punishment for crimes they may well not have committed. The establishment seems to have a blindsided trust in the infallibility of an American justice system, which refuses to consider that it might be at fault, even when presented with evidence that overwhelmingly suggests that they may be about to kill an innocent man. That so many Americans continue passionately to defend the death penalty (some going as far as cheering Republican presidential frontrunner Rick Perry for the number of people he has killed), only makes the situation more chilling.

Please consider the case (Davis’ Wikipedia entry has the basics and there’s more here), but don’t spent too long: join Bishop Desmond Tutu, President Jimmy Carter and thousands of others and go and sign the petition to grant Davis clemency before it’s too late.

UPDATE: Read the New York Times editorial on the execution “A Grievous Wrong.” An excellent summary.

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Commentary on the Danish election. In my reading on this historic election and the uncertainty it promises for Danish politics, I’ve enjoyed the commentary by Anne Knudsen and Rune Lykkeberg (both in Danish).
  • Austin English interviews Warren Craghead. This interview with one of the most original and aesthetically provocative contemporary cartoonists, conducted by a sensitive interviewer, went up on The Comics Journal the week before last, but if you haven’t read it yet, here’s a reminder to do so.
  • Frank Rich and Adam Moss on Ron Suskind’s upcoming book on the Obama administration and its policy failures. A short conversation that whets the appetite for the book and accentuates one’s pessimism about the people presently in the White House. While arguably little more than a puff piece, it involves two smart observers making smart comments.
  • Kolor Klimax!

    Kolor Klimax cover illo by Aapo Rapi

    Helsinki. The comics festival here is just starting up and it’s looking good. In addition to the full program of events, signings and parties, the festival sees the European release tomorrow of KOLOR KLIMAX — Nordic Comics Now, an anthology of Nordic comics edited by me and designed by Frederik Storm with invaluable assistance from Thomas Thorhauge. It is published by Fantagraphics Books under the patronage of the Finnish Comics Society.

    I will be talking about a lot more here and elsewhere, but if you’re in Helsinki do stop by, pick up a copy and meet some of the contributors. Stay tuned for news on other events related to the book and eventually for the American release in the Spring of 2012

    Here’s the text I wrote for the press release:

    KOLOR KLIMAX unites twenty-two Nordic artists to present the best in Nordic comics right now. Focusing on work from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, it offers a wide range of approaches and genres displaying amply the diversity and innovation in comics today.

    Despite their small size and language groups, the Nordic countries have long had a strong comics culture. The per capita readership is remarkably high and distinct national traditions were shaped during the course of the last century, spanning the field from traditional newspaper strips to small press experimentation. And while the mass markets of the last century have declined, today’s Nordic comics are healthy and ever-diversifying embracing everything from the generalist graphic novel to avant-garde cross-pollination with the fine arts.

    KOLOR KLIMAX focuses on personal creation, made independently of the traditional genres. It unites a very diverse field of short stories by the following artists: Mari Ahokoivu (F), Vanessa Baird (N), Mikkel Damsbo & Gitte Broeng (D), Joanna Rubin Dranger (S), Joanna Hellgren (S), Bendik Kaltenborn (N), Kolbein Karlsson (S), Peter Kielland (D), Johan F. Krarup (D), Tommi Musturi (F), Christopher Nielsen (N), Emelie Östergren (S), Signe Parkins (D), Joakim Pirinen (S), Ville Ranta (F), Aapo Rapi (F), Jenni Rope (F), Mårdøn Smet (D), Rui Tenreiro (Mozambique/N), Thomas Thorhauge (D), and Amanda Vähämäki (F).

    Edited by art historian Ph. D. Matthias Wivel, KOLOR KLIMAX inaugurates a series of Nordic anthologies under the auspices of the Finnish Comics Society’s Nordicomics intiative. It is published in partnership with seminal American small press publisher Fantagraphics Books. By making it available on the American market and, by extension, for worldwide bookstore distribution, it aims to expose an international audience to the best in Nordic comics today.

    Kolor Klimax : Nordic Comics Now, Fantagraphics Books 2011, 256 pages in color, suggested retail price $29.99.

    Be One of a Thousand Ferzats

    The Syrian regime’s disgraceful behavior is current headline news and the brutal beating by Syrian forces of treasured cartoonist Ali Ferzat the week before last is but one of many horrific examples of its efforts to contain the rebellion there.

    In support of Ferzat and his beleaguered profession, as well as freedom of expression everywhere, cartoonists Allan Haverholm and Maria Sputnik have launched a site devoted to publishing cartoons commenting on the assault on Ferzat and on freedom of expression more broadly. Called “One Thousand Ferzats,” it aims to compile a thousand cartoons. They accept original contributions as well as ones initially published elsewhere.

    Go check it out, and consider submitting a cartoon.

    Cartoon by Pedro X Molina, originally published in El Nuevo Diario.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • 9/11: The Winners. The Village Voice‘s muck-raking isn’t always that credible, but this panorama of hucksterism and profiteering off the national tragedy makes for compelling if disconcerting reading.
  • Kirby’s 70th. Jack Kirby interviewed on the radio in 1987, with Stan Lee calling in! Great listening for afficionados of Kirby and the Marvel Age.
  • Kirby Crackle. More Kirby! This is the kind of nerdy article examining pertinent minutiae of a given artist’s work that I can’t help but enjoy. Rob Steibel brings a discerning eye to Jack Kirby’s development of his graphic crackle-effect, crucially aided by his sixties inker Joe Sinnott.
  • Happy Labor Day!

    Picks of the Week

    “Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered : a union job, a good affordable education : being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.”

    — Naomi Klein

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • “An Empty Regard,” William Deresiewicz on the American reverence for its troops. I’ve long been mystified by the unquestioned reverence in America for its military personnel. It depersonalizes their (often admirable) efforts and suggests that they are somehow inherently more valuable human beings than everyone else. Deresiewicz addresses the question smartly.
  • Naomi Klein on the UK riots. Often prone to hyperbole and tendentious hypothesizing, Klein remains a great rhetoritician and this eloquent op-ed piece very effectively situates the riots and the pathetic official reaction to them in a valuable perspective.
  • Harold Bloom on his influences. Speaking of great communicators, here’s Bloom on five great works of literary criticism and the decrepit state of literary studies. You can’t argue with him, you just wanna hug him.
  • Questlove on the last fifteen years (or so) in hip hop. One of the subculture’s greatest raconteurs offers some intriguing tidbits from his storybook, such as how Puffy screamed at him and his Roots cohorts for their player hating back in the gay nineties.
  • Nelson George on the Civil Rights struggle on film. Enlightening and pointed survey, offered on the occasion of the opening of The Help this week.
  • Loose Canon

    My contribution to the Hooded Utilitarian’s International Best Comics Poll is now online in the very last post in the two-week marathon poor Robert Stanley Martin has been conducting over there (ah, the never-ending joy of being last in the alphabet). It has been an interesting project, conducted by Robert with composure and diligence, so I figured I’d add a few words to the discussion here.

    Robert has an excellent evaluation of the final list and proposes a number of conclusions one might draw from it. The fascinating thing about comics as an art form right now is that it is such a state of flux, that so much is happening artistically at a time when its popular and cultural stature is also changing radically. I didn’t expect to see this reflected in the final list exactly, which predictably is largely a conservative affair, but it doesn’t reproduce the somewhat stodgy fandom consensus of yesteryear either. Signs of change are creeping in: Watchmen‘s cultural stature has become undeniable; the generation that grew up with Calvin and Hobbes rates it as highly (or higher) than Peanuts, the masterpiece that defined their parents’ generation, Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” is edging in on the Marvel Age, and Jaime Hernandez is slowly but safely situating himself at the heart of the canon.

    The real takeaway from all this, however, is that comics don’t really have a canon. When one looks at the individual contributors’ lists they’re all over the place. Yes, the brief called for ‘favorites’ as well as ‘best,’ prompting many to play loose and fast with their lists and then often apologize that they hadn’t gone for ‘objective’ quality, but is there really a point in making a distinction? It seems to me that beyond a few rock solid classics — Peanuts, Krazy Kat, and perhaps a few other of the top ten — there simply isn’t much of a consensus on what constitutes comics’ greatest works, or even how one might go about conceiving of them in the first place. (Add to this that the list is far from as international in scope as one might have hoped: it’s very predictably Americanocentric and reveals just how spotty the knowledge of other traditions continue to be in America).

    Domingos Isabelinho has an article up that points to the problems of definition and how the orthodox institutional framework by which comics have been understood continues to wield strong influence in a time of redefinition — how do we reconcile in a canon a tradition of children’s literature with one of adult concern, and — beyond that — works of art from throughout human history, from cave paintings to Picasso, that share the formal qualities of comics, but aren’t generally considered as such?

    And the discussion that spun off from Shaenon Garrity’s survey of the sparsity of female creators on the list pointed to a further challenge to the fledgling comics canon: to what extent is it going to be determined by the patriarchal discourse that has governed much of its history, especially since the art form is now attracting more women creators than any time in its history.


    There have been quite a few comparisons between this list and the one put together by the editors and contributing writers to The Comics Journal a decade ago, despite their very different premises (half a dozen informed people of similar taste doing top 100s of exclusively English language works vs. over 200 very different and often rather undisciplined listmakers doing top 10s of anything and everything). It is striking how similar they are, but it’s more interesting to think about where they differ. The “new arrivals” in the top 10 (Watterson, Moore, Hernandez; Kirby doesn’t really count) indicate not just whatever bias one might attribute to the TCJ contributors, but that there is a shift happening in how we perceive comics as a tradition and what its greatest achievements might be. I suspect that a similar list made ten years from now will be more substantially different than are these two lists, because whatever canon was formed for comics in the twentieth century is undergoing the same sea change these years that comics themselves are experiencing. This is a period of redefinition and almost everything is up for debate.