On the evening of July 2nd, a few blocks down from the Occupy National Gathering, comic artists from World War 3 Illustrated and Occupy Comix gathered at the Independence Library to present their work to the public.
The presentation began with Rebeca Migdal’s spirited animations on a film projector, full of symbolic and surreal images, from the corporate publishing industry to the the labor struggles of Belize.
Artists Terry Marshall and John Kim each told the story of how they started "Occupy Comix: Stories of the 99%." The two artists had collaborated for about ten years before Occupy Comix, emphasizing the radical possibilities of culture. For example, in ’07, they organized the first solar-powered hip-hop concert at the world social forum. Terry explained, “When we first heard about plans for Occupy Walls Street in 2011, like a lot of folks, we thought, ‘this is not going to work, but you know, whatever.’ I did go back every day to check in though, to see what would happen. And the rest is history.”
Terry and John both asked themselves what they could do to contribute to the 99% movement. As both historians of social movements and comic enthusiasts, they came up with the idea of a comic as a key way to give the narrative of Occupy to new audiences, and as a way of giving the movement a developing myth by which to understand itself.
John Kim appealed to the Occupiers in the audience, “ Your conviction to strategy is really important. How people perceive you is crucial. How can we develop an even greater mythology? What kind of message will come out of this gathering?”
Later, Terry pointed out that Occupy Comix are in every comics shop in NYC. “Basically, if we had a musical product, we couldn't just walk into a CD store and drop off our CDs. But see, that's something about the nature of comics. I can just walk into any comics shop, and drop off our work. And the right people find it from there. It's just how it works.”
They both said with great pride that their first issue of Occupy Comix had art work on the back by Peter Kuper from World War 3 Illustrated. World War 3 was one of their great inspirations in social justice comic book art.
Prefacing the more recent story of Occupy Comic, Seth Tobocman gave a spirited history of World War 3. He and Peter Kuper started their artist group back in 1980, as a serious anti-establishment project, not controlled by any company.
Tobocman’s latest work, in the new issue # 43, is representative of how a simple graphic narrative can give the sense of inspiration and experience inherent in social movements. Called "Occupy The City," his piece draws the reader into the OWS experience through the eyes of the artist, self-reflectively shown with his long hair, gazing earnestly on his surroundings. In straightforward and factual frames, the reader watches the first occupiers start with a simple protest, and mushroom into an example of direct democracy/resistance which would capture the hearts and minds of millions.
Other World War 3 artists shared their work also: Carlo Quispe on resistance to homophobic censorship, and Rebecca Migdal in praise of historic whistle-blowers for conscience, up to Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
The title of the evening was "Continuity," and a common theme through the presentations was this historic role of cartoonists and poster-makers in the course of democratic movements, World War 3 Illustrated and Occupy Comix representing a powerful new incarnation of a rich tradition.