Everyone has a dark side--it's that frightening part of our personalities that drives
you to root for something to blow up and hurt James Bond. It's what makes us "root
for the bad guy" at Mel Gibson films. It's what drove us to watch with rapt attention
on September 11, as the Civilized World crumbled before our eyes.
This, happily, is not the part of us that forces us onward through "9-11," a graphic
novel that tells nearly fifty stories by respected creators from the comic-book industry
about the terrorist attacks and their implications. "9-11" is, with rare exception
like Ashley Wood's obscenity-laden two page monologue, a labor of profound love.
Here, comics legend Will Eisner--who literally invented the concept of "sequential
art," the name by which the academic community now refers to comics--joins virtually
ever major creator in the comics industry in donating his time, money, energy and
artwork to charities benefiting the victims of the September 11 terror attacks.
Marvel Comics lead the pack, their magazine-format "Heroes" book being the first
released (in late October) and best-promoted of all benefit books. The first week
in January, they followed up with "Moment of Silence," another comics-for-charity
project to which Hollywood director and comics guru Kevin Smith contributed a story.
"9-11" was released on January 9 by Alternative Comics, a small, independent publisher.
It contains mostly works done by small-press of self-published comics creators who
are not under contract to a major publisher. Contributors include Phil Hester of
DC Comics' best-selling "Green Arrow," Michael Avon Oeming of "Powers" and "Bluntman
and Chronic" fame, Eisner and "Bone" scribe Jeff Smith. Sixty-two stories featuring
more than 75 creators are collected in the 200-page book, which costs [price]. All
profits from the sale of "9-11" go to the American Red Cross.
Especially notable in the "9-11" tribute book are several pieces by non-legends,
who have been largely overlooked even in the comics press due to names like Harvey
Pekar, Will Eisner and Tony Millionaire being attached to the project. A. David Lewis'
11-page "Alabaster Cities" details his exploits on the morning of September 11, which
are refreshingly non-dynamic. Rather than depicting himself running out the door
to help, as is the temptation when writing a story about your personal reaction to
great tragedy, Lewis and many other creators in the book simply paint a picture of
desperate phone calls, frantic e-mails and great personal reflection and fear. Despite
a medical condition that precludes him from Armed Services duty, Lewis confesses
to ever-so-briefly worrying about being drafted on September 11--a thought that surely
crossed the mind of every young male in the country in the hours following the attacks
John "Bean" Hastings has a short but poignant story about the importance of art and
popular culture in troubled times--it's clear that he put a lot of himself in a small
amount of pages, and the result is stellar. Keith Knight's indictment of middle America's
closedminded attacks against Arab-Americans and Danny Donovan's disappointment that
the heroes of comic books and movies weren't there to save us when it was truly needed,
hit home in witty and well-thought-out stories designed to make readers take a break
from the seemingly endless pages of grieving and think about their own attitudes.
All in all, "9-11" is a beautiful book, put together by truly talented people and
well-executed; it can do no person harm to buy a copy. Or two--the money, after all,
is going to charity.