geschrieben von Maqz am
Mittwoch, 07. Oktober 2009
My intention was to tell the story
Er half drei Wochen lang als freiwilliger Rotkreuz Helfer in Biloxi, Mississippi und bloggte seine Erlebnisse aktuell ins Web und verfasste kurze Zeit später das Buch "KATRINA CAME CALLING". Nun erschien im August 09 der Comic A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge. Ein wie wir finden lesenswertes Werk für jeden, dem die ganz persönlichen Geschichten von Betroffenen der Katrina-Katastrophe nicht egal sind. Dazu haben wir den Zeichner interviewt.
Es ist "nur" ein kurzes email-Interview mit den wichtigen Dutzend Fragen zum Projekt. Neufeld befindet sich gerade auf einer Signiertour durch Amerika
Wer in Englisch nicht so fit ist, kann gerne unseren Translator verwenden!
Comic Radio Show: Hi Josh, how do the People react on the tour, when you present your Book about the Katrena-Catastrophe?
Josh Neufeld: I've presented the book in many American cities so far, from New York to Chicago, from Boston to Washington, D.C., and from Austin, TX, to of course New Orleans. In all of those places I've had many interested readers who are very welcoming of the book and its subject matter. They and the media have really embraced this comic book treatment of Hurricane Katrina, and I'm really grateful for that. The people whose opinions mean the most to me -- those from New Orleans or who lived through Katrina -- have been particularly interested and appreciative, and that makes me even happier.
CRS: What was/is your basic intention for drawing/writing a graphic novel about this Incident?
J.N.: I'm a huge admirer of Joe Sacco's books of comics journalism (like PALESTINE and SAFE AREA GORAZDE), as well as a past illustrator for Harvey Pekar and his long-running comic AMERICAN SPLENDOR. (I also admire books like Art Spiegelman's MAUS and Marjane Satrapi's PERSEPOLIS.) So the idea of telling important stories of political/social reality in comics form is nothing strange or new to me.
After Katrina happened, I volunteered with the American Red Cross and ended up working down in the Gulf Coast with hurricane survivors. From there, I eventually decided to tell the Katrina/New Orleans story in comics form. My intention was to tell the story from the ground up, through the voices of a cross-section of real New Orleanians: rich and poor, black and white, male and female, young and old, etc. And also to tell stories of people who had particular experiences: loss of their possessions, dealing with the flooding, and surviving a stay at the Superdome or the Convention Center. So that's what I did with A.D.
CRS: What did the main "Heroes" of your Story say about the book?
J.N.: They have been wonderful in their support of the book. In addition, a number of the characters ("heroes") have made appearances with me at signings and radio interviews.
CRS: Is your book more an accusation or more a documentation?
J.N.: It's a documentary -- and also a correction of the record. One of the book's main characters is Denise, who was abandoned with her family at the New Orleans Convention Center for three days. I came across her story on a radio program which was aired pretty soon after the hurricane. Her experiences were so different than what the media was reporting about what happened at the Convention Center: basically turned it on its head. The stories were that there had been these roving gangs and that they had been raping and killing people, and that they had raped a 13-year-old girl. That they stole people's water. That it was chaos, like a zombie movie or something.
Denise specifically rebutted all of these things. She talked about how the gangbangers were actually a calming presence there. As scary and as crazy as those kids can be, they were organizing groups where they would go out and loot and bring stuff back for people. The gangs there made peace with each other and, in the interest of protecting people, agreed not to battle each other as they would usually have. They made sure that when evacuation buses came, women and children would get on the buses first and there wouldn't be a mad rush or chaos. They took control in the absence of authority. The other stuff about people getting raped and all that, Denise insisted that was all hyperbole and essentially was typical racist fear-mongering.
I felt someone had to tell her side of the story. And it wasn't me "lecturing" about it, but rather someone speaking in her own voice. I do have certain politics, and a belief that comics can speak to political realities and social realities. This is part of my mission as a cartoonist. As far as the politics of Katrina go, I didn't want to editorialize, but to have someone else like Denise do it was perfect.
CRS: Were there any reactions from the government or the city council of New Orleans?
J.N.: Not so far, though at one of the parties in support of A.D. when I was in New Orleans, one of the guests was a current candidate for mayor who asked me to sign a copy for him. I also recently met a high official with the Louisiana Redevelopment Authority, who told me that people in the state government there certainly know about A.D. and have discussed it amongst themselves.
CRS: Do you think, that the "Hurricane Katrina" is the "forgotten catastrophe" in the U.S. (and worldwide) in contrast to 9/11?
J.N.: I hope not. As far as 9/11 and Katrina, they were both huge historical events which happened to strike a personal chord in me. In some important way, I was more affected by the 9/11 attacks as a New Yorker than I was an American, if that makes any sense. Also, as horrific as the attacks on the World Trade Center were, the physical effects were limited to the relatively small area of "ground zero," while Katrina cut a swatch across thousands and thousands of square miles. Katrina also directly affected far more families than 9/11. The burden of infrastructure recovery and rebuilding is MUCH higher in Louisiana, Mississippi, and the other Gulf Coast states than in New York. And while the attacks of 9/11 were felt as an attack ON our whole country, Katrina laid bare the realities of decades of poverty, discrimination, and government corruption WITHIN our own country.
All of which, of course, are themes in A.D.
CRS: Why has your graphic Novel not been published before 2009?
J.N.: Much of A.D. was published online (on SMITH magazine) in 2007–2008. Then, last autumn I expanded and revised the story, as well as formatted it for hardcover book publication. So the full-length version of A.D. was first published in 2009. That's how long it took to research, write, and draw it!
CRS: Is "A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge" your private project, and will you get the revenues alone?
J.N.: I was paid a small honorarium by SMITH magazine when I initially serialized A.D. on their website. For most of the time in 2007-2008 I worked on the project essentially for free. So when I was awarded a publishing deal with Pantheon last summer, I felt that the advance they paid me made up for the free work I had done in '07-'08. Since the book's publication, I have been taking part in various events which have raised money for a terrific grassroots relief organization in New Orleans called Common Ground Relief. So far we have raised about $1,500 for Common Ground.
CRS: Will there be more stories about New Orleans?
J.N.: I hope that when the paperback edition of A.D. comes out -- scheduled for August of 2010 -- that I can include a little more material about the book's characters and what has gone on with them (and New Orleans) since the hardcover's publication in August 2009.
CRS: Have you planned a German translation?
J.N.: I would love for A.D. to be translated into German. I believe there is interest, but nothing definite so far.
CRS: What are your future plans?
J.N.: My next project is a collaboration with American National Public Radio host Brooke Gladstone. It's a book about the future of media, called THE INFLUENCING MACHINE (scheduled to come out next year from W.W. Norton). I’m incredibly excited to be working with Brooke as she explores issues about how journalism (and books, and TV, etc.) affect -- or reflect -- society, and how they must change with changing technology. Instead of lamenting a golden past, Brooke sees the whole history of media as being filled with these crises, and always being able to adapt. This time we're living in -- with everyone trumpeting the "death of print" -- is no different; it’s just maybe more dramatic in pace.
Brooke wants to tell the story in comic-book panels for a number of reasons, one being that she feels speaking through a comic-book avatar (a la Scott McCloud’s UNDERSTANDING COMICS) is most akin to her radio voice; and also because she feels it is the best way for readers to take in her ideas in a fresh way. As an NPR- and media-junkie, I have as much to learn about this topic as anyone else.
After that, I would like to do another solo comics journalism project. We'll see what the future holds.
CRS: Josh Neufeld, thank you for this Interview!
Josh Neufeld Comics & Stories
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge: smithmag.net/afterthedeluge
online journal: 4-eyez.livejournal.com