Comics

My Perfect Panel: Learning To Not Quit Smoking

It's hard not to root for Joe Sacco when he's just learning to smoke for the first time in the pages of Safe Area Gorazde. Really hard, even as a non-smoker. In the short, 5-page chapter "Drina", readers find themselves awash in a cultural milieu around the cigarette brand that's named for a local river, and that becomes a pop-cultural flashpoint for the entire war.

Disarmingly simple, driven by the cartooned environment, Sacco makes a profound statement about the cigarette, the territory and the war itself. The Drina is originally a river separating the Bosnian and Serbian territories. With the outbreak of war, bodies were floated downstream towards Gorazde from the other Bosnian towns Visegrad and Foca. The river itself soon became a cesspool of blood and corpses as Visegrad and Foca were ethnically cleansed.

The cigarette brand named for the river, too became emotionally-charged during wartime. Bosnian soldiers and teachers were paid in Drinas, as were nurses. The head surgical nurse in Gorazde, the only medically trained person seeing to thousands of Muslims, tells her own bitter tale. By the end of it her throwaway comment, 'Thank God for these cigarettes', begins to take on the form of a sutra.

The core of Sacco's story however, lies in his juxtaposition of two radically different images. It is this juxtaposition that simultaneously depicts the disturbing complexity of, and the impossibility of depicting the war. With nurses drawing smoke from Drinas and corpses lazily floating on the Drina in sight of passersby, Sacco evolves a hidden cultural complexity. The river that carries the dead is a signature for the defeat of the pop-cultural act of smoking. Here is a war, arising from deep schisms within a single culture, the roots of which we cannot understand. No matter how universal the act of smoking might be.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

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Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

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