Thursday, June 14, 2007

Mixed Emotions over comic Exit Wounds

Maybe her title is a bit over the top, but by all accounts the new graphic novel by Rutu Modan, an Israeli who now lives in the north of England, is bloody good.

Now this 40 year-old cartoonist has been commissioned to do a self-revealing strip online for the New York Times, called "Mixed Emotions". Excerpts from Exit Wounds, published this week, already are posted on the webpage of New York Magazine. The setting is gritty Tel Aviv, a metropolis where "terror and love brush against each other every day", according to the blurb. Hmmmm. Suicide bombers and family loss are an undeniable reality here, yet most urbanites survive by keeping ourselves in a bubble and not contemplating the possibilities that we personally will be caught up in "the situation" until it happens. This blase attitude is captured well by Modan, along with some of the incidental sexist and class-conscious quirks of Israelis in their biggest burg.

It's definitely not a masterpiece on a par with Maus, Art Spiegelman's influential 1980s take on the Holocaust and individual survival;
but Modan is compelling on her own terms. Minimalistic Tin-Tin style figures make the interplay between a lovelorn army girl and a cab driver questing for a lost father the overriding concern. Modan's publishers, Drawn & Quarterly, are promoting the comic widely outside Israel, where she says nitpickers would insist the drawings be flipped and, anyhow, comic readership is sparse. After all, Israel is "the only country in the world where Superman was a flop," Ms Modan explained.
The inspiration, according to an interview on Newsarama, was the devastating documentary film about bus No.17, by director David Ofek.

It is about a terror attack in a bus, and one of the bodies is so much destroyed that it can't be identified. Well actually, that happens a lot in bomb attacks—what is less ordinary is the fact that no one comes to claim the body. It seems to be the body of someone nobody misses. The director is trying to find the identity, so he publishes an ad in the newspaper, asking if anyone knows someone who suddenly disappeared. I remember one man shows up there who did not know where his son was for a long period (in the end, it turns out that it wasn't him after all). That made me think, there can be certain cases we would prefer to think someone is dead than to believe he just doesn't want any contact with us.

Formerly, Modan was part of the Israeli comic collective Actus Tragicus, along with artists Itzik Rennert, Mira Friedmann, Batia Kolton and Yirmi Pinkus. Their output ran on Top Shelf comics, and includes Jetlag, Happy End, and The Actus Box. With a commission for half a dozen graphic blogs in the NY Times, Modan is bound to get her 15 minutes of fame in the Big Apple. Mazel Tov.

1 comment:

red bull said...

I think I prefer Tin-Tin, thanks!
Red Bull