Here’s a look at a piece I did with Sarah Mirk (who edited my book) for Symbolia, the comics journalism magazine for the iPad. It’s titled “Who Needs Monogamy?” and uses interviews Mirk conducted with three people in open relationships for her upcoming book on the subject. I drew the folks. I would highly recommend subscribing to Symbolia as it’s the only outlet currently devoted 100% to comics journalism. If you don’t have an iPad they do a pdf version.
Two weeks ago I wrote about Tim Hamilton’s book advance for the graphic novel Army Of God being seized by Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under suspicion of funding terrorism. Army Of God is both the name of Joseph Kony’s outfit in the Congo and a militant anti-abortion group in the U.S. It was unclear which one Hamilton was suspected of laundering money for, or why a cartoonist’s paycheck would be seized without the slightest research into what it was for.
David Axe writes that the issue has been cleared up. With thousands of Specially Designated Nationals listed as red flags for bank transactions, much of the government’s work is automated.
In fact, banks do much of OFACs work for it, using government-certified software to screen transactions. If a money transfer gets flagged for some reason, the funds can be diverted into a blocked account at the originating bank that only the feds can access. Thats apparently what happened to us.
Whats not clear yet is why OFAC and the OFAC-approved software believe we are laundering money or which terror group is allegedly benefiting.
I wrote at the time, “Comics wouldn’t be a great way to fund terrorism. They don’t pay very well. But now we know no one fighting terrorism knows how to use Google, which sure makes me feel safe.” It turns out they at least have a Google alert on their name. The day following my post, Treasury spokesman John Sullivan got in touch and spoke with Axe.
In the past banks have encountered false positives of names or identifiers of Specially Designated Nationals, Sullivan says. In most cases the bank will complete its review, confirm the false positive and complete the processing of the payment in a prompt manner.
Not in our case. The block on our funds was still in place weeks later. A couple federal agents not OFAC employees got in touch with me, expressing their alarm over the block on our funds and volunteering to pull whatever levers they could to expedite some kind of resolution. Whether through their action or the banks processes, sometime around the new year the funds were released. I havent heard a full explanation yet for what went wrong and how it got resolved.
Reporter David Axe and artist Tim Hamilton send word that a payment for their comic, “Army Of God,” which I edited this year for Cartoon Movement, has been flagged by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The graphic novel is being published next year by PublicAffairs and Hamilton says his book advance has been seized by the government. You see, the title of the book is the name of a terrorist organization.
“Hamiltons money was seized early in December, 2012 when his agent attempted to wire the advance payment for the extra chapters that the artist illustrated for the graphic collection,” a press release sent out by the Axe and Hamilton states. Hamilton’s agent (who, full disclosure, is also my agent) called the bank and found the Federal Reserve wire fraud unit was holding it under suspicion of laundering money for terrorism. That could mean Joseph Kony’s cult-like militia the book is titled after, or, quite possibly, the fanatical anti-abortion group in America who has bombed abortion clinics. “The Federal banking authority, who monitor every wire: foreign and domestic, apparently seized the funds due to the title of the book,” they say. As of now the money has not been released, despite attempts made by Hamilton and his agent, who are currently working with lawyers to figure it out.
OFAC hasn’t responded to my request for comment yet, but their answering machine urged me to visit the U.S. Treasury’s website. Comics wouldn’t be a great way to fund terrorism. They don’t pay very well. But now we know no one fighting terrorism knows how to use Google, which sure makes me feel safe.
UPDATE: The money has been released to Hamilton. More here.
Dan Archer has an interesting Kickstarter going to produce comics journalism on human trafficking in Nepal. With a few days left and he needs help going over the top, so throw a few dollars his way if you like this type of work.
Symbolia magazine launched today a regular (and beautiful looking) comics journalism publication founded by Erin Polgreen. Featuring good reads from the likes of Susie Cagle, Sarah Glidden, and others, this gets my full endorsement. And with Cartoon Movement’s comic journalism on indefinite hiatus, Symbolia is carrying the torch for serious, non-fiction reportage comics.
It’s available online by subscription only in two forms:
Check out this new comic on Cartoon Movement by Angela Watercutter and Wendy MacNaughton, who reported on the prisons struggling arts program. There are no cameras allowed inside, but they didnt say anything about sketchbooks.
Cross-posted at Cartoon Movement
This Fall, Cartoon Movement is publishing journalism that showcases comics’ ability to document events and inform on complicated issues in unique ways. Our pieces will take readers inside a prison, to the streets of Porto Alegre, and into the complicated world of NGOs in Haiti.
Later this month, writer Angela Watercutter and artist Wendy MacNaughton will take us inside a famed penitentiary in “New Folsom Prison Blues,” for a look at their struggling arts program providing a reprieve for those who live behind its walls. “This is a haven,” an inmate says. “People are eager to leave some stuff behind.”
The long-delayed second chapter to our Haiti project will also be published in the next month. Haiti is famously run by NGOs, and in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake the country has grown even more reliant on them. In “Understanding NGOs in Haiti” journalist Robenson Geffrard and artist Chevelin Pierre will examine how the history of Haiti has shaped its current state and why so much money given to the country never makes it into the hands of the Haitian people.
Finally, Augusto Paim is back with another piece from Brazil. In his first comic for Cartoon Movement, he explored the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Now, working with artist Bruno Ortiz, he looks at a day in the life of a single homeless man in Porto Alegre, Jorge, who they accompanied to document his daily routine in a city where thousands like him sleep on the streets every night.
Reporter and cartoonist Susie Cagle has been hired by Grist, the online environmental news outlet, as a full time reporter. Cagle has become a prominent comics journalist over the last few years (I’ve edited her work for Cartoon Movement) and this job will include filing stories as comics. I can’t stress enough what a huge development this is not just for Cagle, but for comics journalism and comics in general. It’s always been an uphill climb for those of us working in this field to justify ourselves as more than a novelty and on equal footing with those who write for a living. And there’s not a lot of good news. We’re pretty far into the internet age not to have any real staff editorial cartoonists, for example. Hopefully Cagle’s job at Grist can help normalize the idea that comics are things people like to read and that editors can spend money on.
I’ll be speaking about comics journalism with Ryan Schill, who I edited at Cartoon Movement, this Saturday in Atlanta at GSU’s Modern Media Conference. My panel is at 11am on Saturday.
Cross-posted at Cartoon Movement
The student movement that exploded in Quebec this spring and summer was one of the most significant but hardly reported examples of the popular protests sweeping the globe over the last few years. Today Cartoon Movement publishes “Quebec’s Not-So-Quiet Revolution,” a ten page piece of comics journalism by political cartoonist and writer Ted Rall analyzing this highly organized popular movement that mainstream outlets have been eager to ignore.
Rall recently visited Montreal, where he met with organizers of the movement, which continues to expand beyond its initial concern over tuition hikes, as it prepared for a major demonstration. After the passage of the draconian Bill 78, emergency legislation that essentially outlaws large protests, hundreds of thousands took to the streets on a daily basis, and continue to hold regular large protests months later.
“A stone’s throw from the U.S. is one of the biggest unreported stories around, a militant protest movement that has allied college students, the unemployed, labor, anarchists, advocates of Quebecois independence and others disenchanted with the provincial government in particular and capitalism in general,” said Rall. “I appreciate the chance that Cartoon Movement gives me and other cartoonists to raise awareness of news that most outlets refuse to touch.”
At Cartoon Movement we’ve been publishing Army Of God all year, the book length work of comics journalism from David Axe and Tim Hamilton. Each chapter has focused on a different aspect of the conflict with the LRA in the Congo and, with the latest chapter, the entire book is now available online.
There’s a great essay on The Awl on truth in auto-bio comics, which is a huge can of worms and I applaud Kim O’Connor for opening it. A lot of non-fiction work in comics contain Sedaris-level bullshitting without many people really thinking it’s a problem. In fact, I think standards for fact-checking a lot of comic memoirs is below that of prose memoirs. (Often it seems to not exist at all.)
You have creators like Craig Thompson admitting to inventing scenes wholesale that they never witnessed and then you have someone like Alison Bechdel, who is a relentless diarist and documentarian of her own life, clearly being rigorous.
As someone whose humor is fact-checked, I’m used to feeling a certain level of obligation to the reader. Even though I’m having an anthropomorphic uterus fight congressmen, I still have to characterize the news item correctlyand I use quotes to signal when something was said in the real world. You have more play with memoir, but it shouldn’t be setting off BS alarms while reading. And yet much of it does.