Assistant opinion editor Tyler Fleming
Rafah is a city on the southern end of the Gaza Strip, right on the border with Egypt. In 1956, the Israeli military killed 111 innocent civilians in its conquest of the region.
I first learned about Rafah early in high school when I read a graphic novel called “Footnotes in Gaza,” by journalist Joe Sacco. The book’s images and use of quotes captured my attention, and I was captivated the entire night until I finished it.
In the book, Sacco focused on one story, which had become only a footnote in the greater Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Reading about such a tragic and politically complex event was hard for me then, and even now. However, through the use of comic book-style images and writing, I was able to see the story in a different way. Instead of words on a page, I saw hand-drawn images that captured the emotion of the events as they unfolded in the book.
Graphic novels and comic books like that one have been a primary source of information in my life. I grew up reading newspaper comics — or as my grandfather use to call them, “the funny papers” — in my local newspaper and in books my parents would buy me.
I remember my mom and grandfather asking on Sundays for the comics section of The Greensboro News & Record before they would even ask for the news. However, after a while, I began to feel comics were kids’ stuff, or something that was not fit for true literary pursuit. I just read what my English teachers and some of my more well-read friends said was “good” and never questioned the almighty traditional Western canon.
That mindset was a mistake.
While comic books and graphic novels have their differences, they still share a similar presentation, and both have the ability to achieve literary greatness.
These works to me are a special art form, one that uses images and short sentences to create fabulous stories in a simple way.
They possess the slow, laid-back nature I love about written works but with the gripping images I love about film. Then add the brilliant writing that people like Sacco and others have achieved in their works, and it is an incredible reading experience.
Living in Chapel Hill gives you plenty of opportunities to become a casual comic reader. Go to Chapel Hill Comics on Franklin Street, read one of The Daily Tar Heel’s great editorial cartoons or read a free series online.
It can be the new Howard the Duck series that Marvel just released or an online satirical political cartoon like the ones drawn by Matt Bors. Eventually, you will find series, artists and writers you find funny and thought-provoking; they may even become some of your favorite literary works. I even consider one comic series, The Manhattan Projects, by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra, one of my favorite written works of all time.
So go find a comic that looks interesting. Turn off Netflix for a few hours, and read something new.