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Becoming a Comics Journalist: Joe Sacco’s Visit to Special Collections and University Archives

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Joe Sacco is a comics journalist whose work is based on intensive on-the-scene research and interviews, close observation, and dramatic graphic representation.  Many of his books deal with war and conflict. One U.S. publisher, Macmillan, has called him “the world’s greatest cartoon reporter.”

Sacco is shown in these photos signing copies of his book Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995, in the Special Collections and University Archives classroom. The students in this Freshman Seminar, “From Gothic Script to Graphic Novel,” taught by James Fox and Marilyn Reaves, were assigned this book for a reading and drawing project. Sacco graciously agreed to come down from Portland to meet with the class and answer their many questions about wartime journalism, publishing, creativity, drawing, his career path, his involvement with the people and places in his books. He is an eloquent speaker and deep thinker; it was a lively and inspiring interchange.

Sacco has won several major book awards for his work:

Palestine: American Book Award (1996)

Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995: Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel (2001)

Footnotes in Gaza: A Graphic Novel: Oregon Book Award (2012)

These and other books by Joe Sacco are held in Special Collections and University Archives. Journalism, published this year, is a collection of shorter pieces on conflicts around the world. His most recent book, with Chris Hedges, entitled Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, examines poverty in several regions of America. It was a pleasure having him visit the University of Oregon Library.

–Marilyn Reaves, Assistant to the Director

Inspirational class

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

poem about an egg James Fox, Head of Special Collections and University Archives, and Marilyn Reeves, Assistant to the Head, teach a Freshman Seminar each year, From Gothic Script to Graphic Novel (LIB 199):  “The book is both a physical object and a transmitter of culture. We will examine the history and art of the book, from handwritten manuscript to graphic novel.  Students will have hands-on practice in writing historical scripts, making a book, designing a decorated initial on parchment, setting type and printing, and creating their own graphic sequences. A bookbinder, calligrapher, fine-press printer, book collector, and graphic novelist will give students an opportunity to view the book from many perspectives and deepen their understanding of its evolution.” This year Joe Sacco, noted comics author and journalist, was a guest lecturer.  Sacco won the 1996 American Book Award for Palestine, and acclaim for Safe Area Goražde.

In addition to being enthralled by the eminent graphic novelist, the students in this class have way too much hands-on fun, learning calligraphy, binding their own book, and researching medieval manuscripts. The subject of a recent class was egg tempera, a technique used from ancient Egypt times through to the invention of oil painting in the 1500s. Egg tempera is very durable, fast drying, and perfect for detailed work. Basically, you mix pigment, water and egg white.

After learning how to concoct and apply egg tempera a student named Mary felt compelled to acknowledge the experience in this lovely combination of calligraphy and poesy on the class whiteboard. Thanks, Mary!