Resist! was originally going to be a single issue, given away for free this past January at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. The issue was distributed across the country, and featured some of the best cartoonists in the country next to students, teenagers and people who had never been published before. The result was a democratic outpouring of passion and principles that led editors Françoise Mouly (art editor of The New Yorker) and Nadja Spiegelman (writer of I'm Supposed to Protect You from All This) to think that this was the beginning of something.
The second issue of Resist! was released on July 4, celebrating Independence Day and the First Amendment. The new issue has a different format and a different feel, which, as editors Mouly and Spiegelman explained in an interview with CBR, was dictated by the submissions they were getting. The mother-daughter team took the time out to explain the publication’s goals, what’s changed in this second issue and their thoughts about making a third one.
CBR: I have a copy of the first issue of Resist!. My understanding was that it was going to be a one-time project. What changed?
Françoise Mouly: At the time, yes. Because at the time it was a way not to drown. We were just thrashing through the deep currents of the results of the election and struggling for how to find one’s footing. Once we had this project, gifted by Gabe Fowler, that gave us a deadline and a goal. We knew what we wanted to have when we would would wake up on the morning of January 21. It wasn’t a rope to hang ourselves, it was something that we had made. The first day of a new world with Trump as President, we just wanted to be master of our destinies that way. Instead of being the victim and mourn what was lost, that we could celebrate what we had found. So in a way, we lived for that moment. We kept upping the ante because at first it was just going to be in Washington,. Then it was going to be Washington and New York, and then as we got more support, it was Des Moines and Portland and LA and San Francisco, and it became possible to have it in multiple cities.
Nadja Spiegelman: I think the only thing we could see was Jan. 21. The end date when we would be holding this publication. And then when we were in DC at the Women’s March, handing out the thing that we had made we realized that we didn’t have an end product, we had a starting point. We had the beginning of something. The beginning of something because of the enormous momentum and energy that was behind it.
Was there a difference in the work submitted for the second issue as opposed to the first issue?
Spiegelman: I think in the first issue you see a lot of women linking arms, and in the second issue you see a lot of women making fists. The second issue is a lot angrier than the first.
Mouly: That’s a beautiful way to say it. For the first issue, nobody knew the strength of the millions of people that would be out in the streets that day. You went because you wanted to be there. It became clear that it was literally millions of people throughout the world. It attracted people that may have been hesitant and it solidified the commitment of the people that wanted to do something and build on this. To not let it go.
It wasn’t just that moment of protest. It is the occasion to build. To take things back in our hands. The art images as Nadja said express feelings of anger. It is not obvious for women to find a polite way or a societally approved way to express their anger.
Spiegelman: I think with both the first issue and the second issue we didn’t know what we were making until we were making it. In part because it’s so dependent on the collective voice and the collective outpouring of what we’re receiving through our open call. We left that really broad -- “resist”. It doesn’t have to be about Trump. It can be about the environment, it can be about Black Lives Matter, it can be about anything political that you want to send us.
It was in making the second issue that we saw these submissions coming in that were much angrier than the first. I think at first we had a desire to temper that, but we need to be angry. We need to make it not just about women, but about all of these struggles and we need to embrace that. So when these images started coming in that were angry that’s when we were like, OK, the second theme is going to have to be “grab back.” This is what’s happening now and we need to give it a place to exist.
I was going to say that the first issue had this very small d democratic feeling with many voices that didn’t shout over each other. How much of what we see is work you solicited and how much is from the open submission?
Mouly: That’s a really good point. There is now looking back a Resist! aesthetic and a Resist! approach and a Resist! unbridled energy. It does mix together, very seamlessly, professional artists, cartoonists who are at the top of their game whether it be Cathy Malkasian or Roz Chast or Lynda Barry or Dan Clowes or Art Speigelman, with 13-year-old kids who have never been published before and art students in Germany -- and it all feels right. It’s not like the professional artists are the ones that dominate, and neither is it that the more unskilled is a dominant voice. It’s small d democratic. This is something that has always been interesting to me from RAW on, to capture what’s there as opposed to pre-imagine and then find the artists that will fit the house style.
In Resist!, what Nadja and I thrive on is that Dan Clowes will send us a superb submission and that we can put it next to something by an 18-year-old art student who’s never been published before. That’s electrically exciting. When you’re at the head of a publication, you have a certain kind of power because normally you decide and you chose and you shape, but here I think Nadja and I are getting excited by how much this is shaping us and shaping itself.
Spiegelman: It starts when we’re going through submissions -- oh, that’s very Resist! and that’s very Resist!. But we don’t know what that is until we’re looking at it. To answer your question specifically about how much is solicited and how much of it is open call, it’s hard to say because some of the people we solicited [for this issue] are people we got through open calls the first time around. A lot of it comes through the open call. That’s the only way that the publication can exist, with this energy of people working on things and sending them in and giving their work away without monetary compensation for the sake of this project.
When we announced that we were doing a second issue we both definitely were holding our breaths. There had been so much energy between the election and the inauguration, that it really wasn’t clear if that energy was going to continue or not. But we announced the second open call and we got even more submissions than the first time around. So the energy is still there. People sending things in are the lifeblood of where this publication is coming from.
Mouly: If it had veered to being only the artists that we solicit, that would be the end of it. The driving force is hundreds of people out there that we didn’t know, that didn’t even know they were cartoonists. That’s some of the most exciting work. How democratic the medium is. Words and pictures and the ability to put it on the internet and put it in a free print publication. We were somewhat surprised by the quantity of unsolicited open call submissions, especially because we did relatively little solicitation. We basically said, submissions are open, and we were getting dozens of drawings every single day. Another thing that’s very heartening is that the way the artists are supportive of each other. A lot of the spreading the word is people sending the link to each other and they let people know about it. Social media has a ways of being limiting so that you are saying what you already know to your friends which quickly becomes very circular and cuts you off from actual media. It just becomes a tightening up of circles. Here it becomes the other way around. It really put together a number of people that didn’t know each other but now feel like they’re part of a community.
Spiegelman: A good idea has its own steam behind it. And it’s easy to spread the word about a good idea. That’s part of why Resist! works because there’s a desire to do things like this. There’s a desire to pick up a pen and make something.
Mouly: Speaking of good ideas, one of the things that really had to be figured out between Resist! 1 and Resist! 2 was how we would get it out. Resist! 1 came to us structured by Gabe. It was going to be a free giveaway and it was going to be given away at the march. We expanded on this original idea by getting more money and more contributions, by designing the website and pre-selling supporters copies and so we printed more. For Resist! 2 the easy solution, especially because we wanted to switch the format to something smaller, would have been to put a $7.99 price on it. Then there would have been a methodology for getting it out because the store would have made two bucks or three bucks and we would have gotten three dollars back and each person handling it would have made a tiny profit. It’s 96 pages, it would have been cheap for what it is.
I have to give her credit: Nadja thought, yes, we can do it that way, but there would be something even more magical if we can make it free yet again. That seemed much harder. The problem with it being free is how to get it to people? We can’t stand on the street corner and hand out 20,000 copies. Gabe warned us it’s not that easy to get rid of 10,000 copies of a free publication. We did. We have people helping to stuff envelopes and Diamond putting something in place where they will be moving boxes to comic book stores and bookstores. There’s a large network now of Resist! supporters helping to get the publication out. We chose July 4 because it worked well with building the world that we want to live in and build the America that we want to live in and celebrating the First Amendment and Independence Day.
Spiegelman: We live in such a profoundly capitalist society that the ways in which people chose to protest are often through consumer choices -- like deleting Uber from their phone or not buying from stores that carry the Trump brand. Those are effective because we live a very capitalistic society, but to make something free these days is so radical. It was important to continue that sense of generosity behind this. The sense of community that has to come together in order to make something free. That sense that nobody is trying to make a profit off this. This labor donated by all of these people just to make our voices heard, just to make other people’s voices heard, just to make people feel less alone when they see it. It’s being given away because of that generosity. We can only keep going if the collective energy and the collective will for it is there. We can’t do it just by deciding we’re going to do it because we can’t hand away 20,000 copies on the street by ourselves. To be so tapped into and dependent on a grassroots community that’s formed around it is what makes it so exciting.
In that sense it is an outgrowth of the protests, which were and are grassroots. People making signs and hats. Fighting for public health and public schools. These things which are outside capitalism, in a sense.
Spiegelman: Françoise said earlier that in some ways we’re grateful for Trump because he forces us to reassert our values in a way where otherwise we would take them for granted. That day when Trump’s Muslim ban was put forth and thousands of people rushed to airports just to be there with their homemade signs. That’s the energy we want to capture. That’s what we want to take a snapshot of so that future generations will be able to see that it existed. The reasons that you protest to be with people who are like minded and be seen by others -- those are the same reason we’re making Resist!. To have a community and to be seen.
Mouly: We gave ourselves maybe a month and then we went back into, where are we at now? It’s different than in January because there is protest fatigue. At this point the media in general has the same line on Trump as us. We don’t have much to deliver that is extreme. The difference is that we’re focused on building something as opposed to denouncing something. The fact that it’s all women, the fact that it talks about reproductive rights, about the environment, about Black Lives Matter, that it’s all inclusive, is truly the focus. We’re using the present to build the future. We want to have active participation into the women that will be running for office, into the power structure that will inevitably replace Trump. Getting rid of Trump is only a small step in our goal. Our goal is to not just replace Trump but replace Trump with something that we can be proud of.
For people who are interested besides sending in art, how can they help get the word out and publicize Resist?
Spiegelman: One of the ways people can get involved that we would be really useful to us is if they go to their local comic shops and bookstores and ask them to order Resist! through Diamond. That’s one very concrete way. Or go on our website and pre-order copies. It’s that kind of support that gives us the possibility to keep doing it.
Mouly: We already have over 200 stores who have pre-ordered copies and they’re organized by state so people can find the stores close to them. If you go to this store and order a box then you’ll be listed on the website. Volunteers or stores can organize a release party. The suggestion is if you’re going to get people in the store to celebrate Independence Day, to link it to a local neighborhood project or community group. That is so true to the grassroots nature of it.To organize at the local level and get to meet like-minded people. Not only do you read it and you feel in community with the artists, but you’re also literally using it as a tool to connect with people around you. We’re really looking forward to this because it’s feeding on the energy of what’s happening. This publication will hopefully be a rallying point and rallying cry and a way to feel connected.
Who knows if there is going to be a third one? It probably will be in November as an anniversary to the election, but that’s if the energy of the second one warrants building on it for a third one. We don’t have to. Making two is already pretty impressive.
That’s a part of what’s exciting. We don’t know what it will be. One of the ways we were talking about it is that it’s like being in the dark room and seeing the photo come out of the developer. Little by little you see it take shape and becoming real and by the end you’re like, wow, that is a nice composition.
Spiegelman: We’re able to move pretty much in real time. Each of these issues has taken about two months from when we started and when it’s able to be out on the streets so we’re able to capture the zeitgeist on some level. I hope that the zeitgeist will have continued to evolve between here and Nov. 9.
Mouly: The fact that it’s a real thing is such a balm. In an age of the internet and a news cycle not even every day, but every single hour. It’s a state of alertness that one can’t sustain. But making a publication is a way of holding onto the moment that feels tangible. It’s funny that it’s a free giveaway newspaper. [Laughs] An obsolete medium that doesn’t exist anymore and that provides so much concrete gratification. It’s wonderful.
Resist! Vol. 2 is currently available for order on resistsubmission.com.