Christian Gossett, the author of the Image Comics title The Red Star, sent CBR the following editorial this week in reaction to the Attacks on America September 11th. What follows is a passionate response and a call to arms to comic creators all over and we share it with you in its entirety.
The Weight of the Sins of Our Ignorance
By Christian Gossett
To Readers of The Red Star and all Comics all over the world,
There are plenty of opinions flying around about what happened 10 days ago, a lot of them wise and a lot of them ignorant; and until now, as a citizen of the world and as a comics professional, I felt it more important to listen than to speak. So if you'll be my guest, I urge you to get comfy. This one goes on for awhile.
On August 16, 1968, I was born in New York City. My father lived most of his life there, and my Ma's from Jersey. They fell in love in Greenwich Village. When we left for LA in the early 70's, the Twin Towers were a construction site one could see if they looked out of the windows of the plane. Even though out west we lived in North Hollywood, our apartment was always a loud slice of New York. It seemed like everyone my parents knew were from 'back east'. You should have seen all the New Yorkers in LA before they'd assimilated. They were a fun crowd. They'd wander around the beaches, blinded by the sunlight, listening for familiar accents so they could talk to someone that would understand them. To this day a New York accent means 'Mom and Dad' to me.
My mother's and father's families are all still in New York. 'Back East Faces' as New Yorkers from my parent's generation say. I'm very thankful that they're all safe. I don't have any personal sad stories to live with, and for this I am incredibly grateful. Providence and Divinity bless those who have suffered such losses. I would say 'God', but the way that name is being thrown around these days, I want to be sure that what I am communicating is the Power of Life itself, the Silent Grace that inspires us, that is powerful and eternal beyond regional definitions, traditions or loyalties.
And yet since we are all connected in this world more than we know, there is no escape from the sorrow.
"Ask not for whom the Bell Tolls, it tolls for thee."
Manhattan is not an island unto itself. It is a cradle where the futures of the world are born. New York is a temple of the International. 62 nations lost citizens in the attack. It was built by the hands of poor immigrants from all over the world. You've all seen photographs, the famous prints from the 1930's of the construction workers, the dirty-faced angels floating on a girder a thousand feet above New York, eating their box lunches as they take a break from constructing the City of Tomorrow.
There are Italians and Jews and Irish and Germans and Poles and god knows what else in those photographs. That's New York: People from all over this planet, up to their eyebrows in muck, building a better future for the generations that follow.
That's New York to this very day.
To attack New York is to attack those dreams. The dreams of those who came from all over the world in the hopes that they might build a better life 'beyond the golden door'. Did all of those dreams come true in this last century? C'mon, this is real life we're talking. Even the dreams that come true only do so to certain degrees.
But dreams coming true or not, If you were to read about how many millions of people were thankful that they'd made it to New York, for the better futures they were able to give to their families, you'd be reading until the day you died and you'd never cover them all.
It's time to read a few of those stories. And dammit all, it's time that more of them were written. As far as comics, you're going to see a lot more writers finding the courage to work stories of meaning into their books. I hope so. In fact, I challenge my contemporaries to find that kind of strength. To do their homework, as Team Red Star and a few other creators have done, and read about the kind of world, the kinds of circumstances, that collide into catastrophes like what has just happened. Let us follow the examples of Will Eisner for his dedication and brilliance in elevating the form. Let us salute Joe Sacco for walking the streets of Bosnia, and bringing it's lessons home. To Alan Moore, whose incredible political critique "Brought to Light" has never been matched for it's ferocious attack of those who abuse the highest offices of power.
To others whose sense of justice and community have driven them, and who have worked in the selfless cause of making comics that are more than simple adventure, Thank You.
To the rest of the industry I say spare us your tired and meaningless rehashings of heroes who have no cause, performing adventures that have no meaning, who fly no banner other than trying to sell themselves as action films. Do not merely dress yourselves in the flag these next few months, but also be worthy of carrying it onward.
Tell stories worth telling.
I want to thank Team Red Star, for this last year. They are my co-workers and my beloved friends and in a time when so many have lost so much, I want to let them know that they are the greatest part of my life, and thank them in this open forum for who they are.
When each and every one of us could have chosen to work elsewhere for two or three times the money, we persevered and worked toward giving our readers a look into a world that many other comics did not dare to perceive.
And I want to thank each and every one of you that read and supported The Red Star, because together, we've shaped a story that has to do with such issues. Afghanistan? The story of a highly mechanized force attempting to wage war in the jagged teeth of Afghanistan's ancient terrain is something you've already been introduced to; and as history tells the story once more on the canvas of reality, it will all seem strangely familiar. The readers of The Red Star were already learning about Afghanistan, and questioning the lessons to be learned there before it became a topic that others realized they should know. Yes, of course our tale is told in fable form, but if I may quote from our pages,
"This is a Real story…It's a bloody, brutal, real story… the fantasy is just a disguise."
In a time when the comics market is packed with stupidity and irrelevance, when the shelves of the retailers are laden with characters and stories that promote 'cool' over 'conscience', Team Red Star formed itself to study the history of the 20th Century and tell as many people as we could about what we'd found. You're damned right we're proud.
We learned that the history of Russia, the 'Other Superpower' of the last 60 years or so, was directly linked to that of the United States. It was our humble belief that in describing the fall of that superpower, we might, in some small way, be able to teach the citizens of our country about the very real dangers that face our nation, and others. By promoting understanding, by promoting thought about Russia, we hoped to show that no borders can undo the fact that we are all connected as human beings.
To further promote such knowledge in the belief that all artists have a unique responsibility to humankind, I urge all of you to search the net, the libraries, to find the hard truth that is out there, bearing down on us. The 21st century is going to get harder before it gets easier. Be informed. Find the facts and share them with those you love. Not to argue; dammit to hell I've heard too many arguments this week. The point is not to try and prove one point over another, but to be ready for whatever may come. The Cold War has not ever ended. It has merely transformed itself into a new deadly age that all of us are responsible for. That all of us must find a way to survive. Somehow.
Playtime is over, my friends. A long winter is descending, and none of us can remain uninformed. The weight of the sins of our ignorance has become greater than the steel of our towers.