Investigating how hand-drawn comics has come of age as a serious medium for engaging history, Disaster Drawn explores the ways graphic narratives, by diverse artists, document the disasters of war.
Like her subjects in their interpretations and experiences of mass murder and war, with "Disaster Drawn" Hillary Chute becomes a compelling witness to the most killing century in history. But she doesn t simply witness; she sees. And makes us see: the art, the artistry, and the artist. She shows us Goya, George Grosz, Jules Feiffer, R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman on the Holocaust, Joe Sacco on wars in the Middle East and Balkans, and (new to me) Keiji Nakazawa on the atomic bombing of his hometown, Hiroshima, one morning as he was about to enter his schoolhouse at the age of six. In an instant he was protected by a falling wall while the mother of a friend of his, standing a few feet away, became a blackened cinder. We receive Chute s testimony as if it were the first time we knew any of this. Her chosen illustrations don t merely accompany her text; they illuminate it. She has the power to move as well as to propel us to fresh thinking about images and their effect on us. Comics, particularly autobiographical comics, deal with time and space in a way that written literature has difficulty doing unless we are dealing with Proust and Joyce.
AN INSIGHT ON EVERY PAGE. IT’S FRIGHTENING, IT’S POWERFUL, IT’S ESSENTIAL is what would be said of "Disaster Drawn" if it were advertised on a billboard. Engaging both literature and history in the unexpected medium of comics, Chute draws her own verbal pictures so effectively she becomes as much an artist as those she is writing about. Her accounts of graphic novels depicting the Holocaust and Hiroshima become so painful it s necessary to look away at times not only from the images but her words. When Sacco goes to cover the slaughter in the Balkans he is as representational as a photographer, yet he is even more intense and painful because his visual reports contain his consciousness and sensibility so that one feels not only the horror of what he is depicting but also his own horror. Violence, suffering, endurance bring their own catharsis as with all great tragedy. Sophocles would have smiled at Chute. In "Disaster Drawn," Hillary Chute not only sees; she becomes a seer. She presents, finally, in her own words, the undimmed force of the hand-drawn image. --Peter Davis, Academy Award-winning filmmaker of "Hearts and Minds" and author of "Girl of My Dreams""