9-11 Artists Respond Vol. 1 and 2  

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

9-11: Artists Respond, Volume 1 and 9-11: September 11, 2001 (Stories to Remember, Volume 2)

Graphic novels, 2002, from the library.

You should know

Sorry about missing last week. The move to New York was hectic, and the process of getting internet access continues to be hectic. But to make it up to you, I'll be posting not just one entry for today, not just two entries for this and last week, but three entries today. So enjoy.

I hadn’t planned for this particular review to come up this week; it was legitimately next on my list. Still, it seems appropriate.

Am I masochistic or something? When I’m upset or worried, I’m drawn to things that will just make me feel worse. And it doesn’t put things in perspective for me, no. It just makes me feel guilty for feeling bad in the first place.

Anyway, it had been a stressful week, and while I was in the library I thought it might be a good time to expand my graphic novel literacy. The 9-11 volumes caught my eye, so I grabbed both to take them home.

I don’t know anyone who was killed. I don’t even know that many people who did know people, and most of them are journalism professors. Maybe by the time I’m established, I’ll have a big enough circle of connections that I’ll know someone touched by tragedy. Better yet, maybe there won’t be anymore tragedies.

But you’re not here to read my thoughts on politics or philosophy. You’re here because you want to know what I think of the books.


Block yourself plenty of time. I’m a pretty hungry reader, sitting down and taking in as much as I can. I had to put the first volume aside after 45 minutes. I could have gotten further, I think, but I would have felt guilty ruining a library book with tears.

The first volume featured the work of more independent artists, while the second made more use of established DC characters. Both volumes were a mix of single-page pinups and multi-page plotted stories.

I preferred the second volume in this respect, because it marked each story at its conclusion; the first volume did not, and sometimes it was difficult to tell if a story was ending or if the artist was just switching directions.

The reactions are understandably raw, but looking at them five years later, both the violent patriotism and the blame-America-first guilt made me feel a bit uncomfortable. And I have to admit to feeling a bit manipulated: turns out I’m a sucker for “Why isn’t mommy/daddy coming home?” stories.


Know what you’re getting into
These volumes dig up the initial feelings of the autumn of 2001, and you might not want that. Also, reactions across the board are covered, so if you feel especially strongly in one direction or the other, be prepared to face the other side feeling just as raw.

But if you can handle all that, if you know what you’re getting into ahead of time and feel prepared, and if you want to remember in a way that’s heartfelt but not exploitative, I very strongly recommend these books.

The rest of the internet

Slate has the Illustrated 9-11 report up.
The Authentic History Center lists the comics and graphic novels that responded to September 11. Some are shown in their entirety.
Rich Watson at A View From the Cheap Seats reviews these and other 9/11 graphic novels.
Marc at Unattended Baggage reviews both volumes, including scans of panels he thought stood out.

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