Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, artist Neal Adams and Rafael Medoff, a historian and author of fourteen books, screened their motion comics series “They Spoke Out: American Voices Against the Holocaust” for fans. The comics are distributed by Disney Educational Productions and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies (of which Medoff is the director). The newly released DVD features six historical tales of people in the U.S. who tried to bring attention to or halt the Nazi party and its goal of genocide. Along with Adams’ illustrations, the motion comics include photographs and newsreel footage.
Medoff and Adams both explained that the motion comics medium was chosen in part to provide education for children who have grown up in an age of YouTube and may not have the patience to truly absorb information from heavy textbooks. More and more educators are seeing graphic novels and motion comics as a means of making history interesting to students. Adams also wanted to emphasize that “They Spoke Out” is not meant simply to point out the tragedy and horror of the Holocaust, but also to inspire with stories of those who spoke against it despite popular opinion and belief.
“We’re not throwing the Holocaust at you,” said Adams. “We’re offering a way to help American kids experience the Holocaust through these videos, so they can make their own decisions as to how deeply they want to go into further study.”
The legendary comics illustration was first exposed to the horrors of the Holocaust during his childhood in Germany, when his father was in the army of occupation. “One day, the U.S. army of occupation decided — to find out how the films they had taken of the concentration camps would go down with Americans — and they showed them to us.” Adams, only ten years old, was so disturbed by the footage that he didn’t speak for a week afterward.
Medoff said he initially met with Adams to ask for aid in his efforts to help artist Dina Babbitt. Babbitt had been a prisoner of the Auschwitz concentration camp and had been told by Dr. Mengele to draw portraits of other prisoners in exchange for sparing her life and her mother’s. After World War II, Babbitt became an animator and years later was told that her artwork for Mengele was now in the possession of theÂ Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. When she asked to have the artwork back, the museum declined, saying the pieces were part of history.
Medoff joined Babbitt’s efforts to have her art returned to her and then discussed the situation with Neal Adams, one of his favorite artists. “I was a comics fan — Neal had led the courageous and successful fight in the 1970s to convince comic book publishers to return original art to the artists,” Medoff said. “As Neal and I were talking about ways to help publicize Dina’s cause, he said, ‘Let’s do a comic strip about it.’ The strip was called ‘The Last Outrage’ and was published by Marvel. That brought a tremendous amount of attention to Dina’s plight. Then Disney Educational Productions suggested making ‘The Last Outrage’ into a motion comic,’ which led to the ‘They Spoke Out’ series.”
“There were people out there who fought back,” Neal Adams said. “That’s what this series will be about.”