Like the first issue, “Occupy Comics” #2 is an anthology of short works by various artists and writers whom the Occupy movement has touched in one way or another. The comics are universally personal, and tell “slice of life” stories ranging from half a page to four pages or so. There are also a few pinups, including one from Molly Crabapple, the breakout artist of the movement.
As might be expected, the indie comics world is well-represented here, with a lack of big creators — other than, of course, the well-publicized marquee appearance of Alan Moore. Joshua Dysart, perhaps best known for his work on “Swamp Thing” and “The Unknown Soldier” for Vertigo, contributes a few pages of text on the major players in the world of financial government. But Moore is clearly the draw here, and so readers may be disappointed to find that his contribution is limited to parts three and four of the essay “Buster Brown at the Barricades,” which is being serialized across the run of “Occupy Comics.” The essay is an enlightening look at comics as counter-culture, but feels only tangentially related to the Occupy movement, as it only covers the middle part of the 20th century, from the pulps through the Silver Age. No doubt Moore should be commended for lending his personal brand to an upstart project such as this, but it would have been nice to see him engage with either the subject or the format a bit more.
As for the actual comics, despite being printed on slick paper, they have the feel of an indie comics anthology that one might find hand-photocopied and stapled together in a local coffee shop. The level of professionalism varies, in both the writing and the art, but each vignette has the honesty and forthrightness of a personal story.
The most tightly-built of the comics, “The One Percent Solution” by Mark Sable and Megan Hutchison, packs a particularly hefty dose of ironic symbolism into only four pages. In contrast, the moving “Single Family Home” by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, and Joe Ruff has a simple, straightforward style that makes its tale of foreclosure into a blank slate onto which can be projected every family that has gone through that personal tragedy.
It’s no accident that these two stories cover the opposite ends of the financial spectrum — in the lingo of the Occupiers, the 1% on one hand and the 99% on the other. The wealthy day trader of “The One Percent Solution” has nothing better to do with his time and money than blowing up cows with a rocket launcher, and his story is told with a layer of pop-culture detachment; the struggling married couple of “Single Family Home” get into a bitter fight over the cost of a small birthday present for their daughter, and there’s no room in their lives for a rich boy’s post-modernism.
Ultimately, the wide net it casts is the strength of “Occupy Comics” #2. The dry text about government officials and comics history is interesting, in a skip-it-the-first-time-and-go-back-to-read-it-later kind of way. But the clear goal, and the achievement, of this issue is to put faces on all the stories of the Occupy movement. Even the pin-ups focus on people and faces. As a visual medium, comics have a visceral immediacy that prose can’t touch– it’s one thing to say that Gideon looked defeated and ashamed, and another thing entirely to see his face when the police knock on the door of his foreclosed home. Thus the more abstract story “New Thumbs” by Si Spurrier and Smudge, despite its professional quality, is less impactful, since it lacks a really human character for the reader to relate to.
Overall, though, “Occupy Comics” #2 is quite an achievement. From its crowd-funded roots via Kickstarter, to the level of involvement from comics creators both indie and pro, to its appearance on the shelves of local comic shops despite a lack of major-publisher backing, “Occupy Comics” has clearly touched a nerve in at least part of the comics community. For that alone it’s worth checking out, but be sure to stay for the stories of the real people who would otherwise be voiceless.