Joe Sacco to speak on “Comics and Journalism”

Joe Sacco - Comics and Journalism poster

Joe Sacco, a Portland, Oregon-based journalist and acclaimed graphic novelist will speak on the subject of Comics and Journalism on the evening of April 24. The talk, which begins at 5pm in the Richard White Lecture Hall on Duke’s East Campus, is free and open to the public.

Sacco received his bachelor of arts degree in journalism at the University of Oregon in 1981. Two years later, he returned to Malta, where his first professional cartooning work was published. After relocating back to Portland, he co-edited and co-published the monthly comics newspaper Portland Permanent Press from 1985 to 1986; PPP lasted 15 issues, and included early work by such cartoonists as John Callahan and J.R. Williams. In 1986, Sacco moved to the Los Angeles area, where he worked on staff for Fantagraphics Books, editing the news section for the trade publication The Comics Journal and creating the satirical comic magazine Centrifugal Bumble-Puppy.

From 1988 to 1992, Sacco criss-crossed the globe; in late 1991 and early 1992, he spent two months in Israel and the occupied territories, traveling and taking notes. When he finally returned again to Portland in mid-1992, it was with the intention of communicating what he had witnessed and heard during his Mid-Eastern jaunt — to combine the techniques of eyewitness reportage with the medium of comics storytelling to explore this complex, emotionally weighted situation. Palestine, the first issue of which was released in January, 1993, was the result.

In the years subsequent to the release of Palestine, Sacco has gained widespread praise for the depth of his research, the sensitivity of his handling of a delicate subject, as well as for the craft exhibited in his dynamic, sophisticated layouts and bold narrative. Palestine set new standards for the use of the comic book as a documentary medium.

In 1998, Sacco was commissioned by Details magazine to cover the Bosnian War Crime Trials in the Hague, Netherlands. His six-page story was hailed as one of the best pieces of journalism in the magazine’s history, and the magazine promptly commissioned a second strip from Sacco. The second time around, Sacco was sent on tour with R.L. Burnside, one of the elder statesmen of the great living Mississippi bluesmen, for the May 2000 cover-dated issue.

In 2000, Sacco finished a 240-page exploration of a small Muslim enclave in Bosnia, titled Safe Area Gorazde: The War In Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995) and based upon Sacco’s recent travels to the war-torn region. The book received the most attention of any of Sacco’s books to date, with major coverage from TIME magazine, The New York Times, NPR, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, and dozens of other publications.

In April of 2001, Sacco received a Guggenheim Fellowship to help pursue his work. In 2003 he followed up Safe Area Gorazde with The Fixer, another work of graphic journalism set in Bosnia.

Sacco’s most recent major work is a book about the southern Gaza Strip — both journalistic and historical — called Footnotes in Gaza, which received the 2010 Ridenhour Book Prize.

Due in June 2012, his latest major work is entitled Journalism.