September 5, 2015

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SPX Spotlight 2015/Graphic Nonfiction: Andy Warner Looks at the Syrian Crisis

It's another entry in Panel Patter's SPX SPOTLIGHT series! We've been highlighting creators, publishers, and comics related to SPX since the site opened in 2008, but 2015 marks our fifth year of extensive coverage that is unlike what you'll find elsewhere! It's a great way to create your own personal guide for the show onSeptember 19th and 20th, 2015, in Bethesda, Maryland. Don't miss it! You can find all our SPX SPOTLIGHT posts here.

Graphic Nonfiction returns after a few weeks off to return to one of my favorite creators working in nonfiction comics today, Andy Warner. Andy will be at SPX this year, with his print versions of several of his online nonfiction comics as well as copies of the great Irene anthology (reviewed here). I've spoken at length before about Andy's skills at working with true stories (here's all our reviews on Warner), and he never misses a beat. Want something deadly serious about climate change? Andy's got you covered. Prefer to discuss the need for sticky notes? He'll do that, too.

Warner knows how to strike a balance between using pictures to depict the action and when you need to get a little more in-depth with text. That sounds like common sense, but if you overdo the words, it's not a comic anymore. On the other hand, if you don't give enough information, only those already in the know will get what's going on. Warner's probably the model when it comes to getting this right.

This is also true in his fiction, where he frequently applies the same techniques, though swapping text boxes for dialogue when appropriate. His characters move and talk like real people, feeling like someone we already know. I love his nonfiction work best, but his work in Irene is also very enjoyable, and the depth of detail, panel structure, and everything else you'll find in his true stories show up in Warner's creative imagination as well.

For Andy's spotlight, I've chosen a very topical comic. I'm sure most Panel Patter readers are aware of the refugee crisis going in in Europe right now, as many of the nations of the European Union* show their blatant racism and bigotry by refusing to give shelter to those most in need. (After all, they're Not One of Us.) Warner wrote about the Syria crisis in April, discussing how well things were going in the country before war broke out, and that it's the children and their educational gap that is at great risk. Since he wrote the comic, it's only gotten worse, but this is a great starting point, as Warner outlines the nature of the crisis and its effects.

Here's a sample from the comic. Look at the eyes, and how he blows up one section of the panel to create a close-up in another panel. That's Warner at work:



You can read the entire comic here.

If you can't make SPX, Andy's website, which features many of his comics, is here. I also encourage you to find out more about the Syrian situation.

*My understanding is that Germany, Italy, and a few others are well above their suggested quote,and that is great. Unfortunately, England, France, and others are not. More details here, at the New York Times, complete with a great graphic! Single-panel comics, everybody!