Joe Sacco’s “Journalism”

Final panel from Joe Sacco’s piece “The Unwanted,” which describes the often hostile reception African asylum-seekers have received in the small island nation of Malta.

Joe Sacco’s reportage is presented in the medium of cartoons.  His images are dazzling and detailed, though the scenes he depicts are more often than not ugly and awful, and his faces are *never* pretty. His most recent book, simply called “Journalism,” collects some of his shorter pieces and takes the reader to Chechnya, Iraq, India, Malta, The Hague, and back to Palestine (the subject of two earlier books).

In the preface to his book Sacco writes, “I chiefly concern myself with those who seldom get a hearing, and I don’t feel it is incumbent on me to balance their voices with the well-crafted apologetics of the powerful. The powerful are generally excellently served by the mainstream media or propaganda organs. The powerful should be quoted, yes, but to measure their pronouncements against the truth, not to obscure it. If I believe power brings out the worst in people, I’ve observed that those on the short end of the stick don’t always acquit themselves well either, and I’ve endeavored to report that.”

I finish a Sacco book feeling a lot better about art than I do about people.

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