August 4, 2018

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Graphic Nonfiction: Steve Teare on the Criminalizing of Sleep

Welcome to another edition of Graphic Nonfiction, where we pick out an example of a creator talking about real life by merging words and pictures.

Today's example is from a Nib article from a few months ago. Philadephia-area creator Steve Teare took a look at how America criminalizes sleeping in public places "for public safety," but in reality is trying to find a way to keep the many thousands of displaced people out of eyesight. (This is especially true when there's a very public event. I will never forget "liberal" Pittsburgh, PA moving its displaced people out of the city--literally--during the All-Star Game in 2006.)

You can read the full article here, but I've included a few examples, as always:

Here you can see a humorous take on a serious issue. While the Moon is smiling here, and the bars aren't even drawn with a straight line, there's nothing funny about how America is treating its most vulnerable people. This is a great use of satire.


In this image, Teare uses his drawings to show the evils of those who would deny people rest. This is a good way to merge text with images to get the point across, and Teare doesn't overdo the visuals--they aren't torture spikes, for example--they're just normal ones that act as cruelly as anything in a Corman horror film.

In these final two examples, we see how the comedic visuals can really prove a point. Teare isn't saying Paul Bunyan and his female friend are putting houses together for people in Denver. Instead, he's using an image of construction to emphasize the text's summary of a law that benefits both the city and the people who live there. The second isn't a reboot of a Rob Liefeld character; it's designed to show how hard it is to fight the laws put in place to hide the displaced. Again, this is a really strong use of visuals to back up the text.

I included this final image to talk about Teare's art style. From what I can see, he uses a graphite pencil for the linework, then adds color as needed, in this case, working from a two-color scheme. There's no black ink here that I can discern--it's all working over the pencils. While I'm not a fan of that for a superhero comic book, it works really well here.

Teare's article is heartbreaking and enraging and it should make you upset and want to do more. I encourage you to read the entire thing here. Then I encourage you to see how your own city is treating their own displaced. If it's anything like Portland, you'll be disgusted. If a comic like this can change a few minds and get us to work harder, then it's exactly what graphic nonfiction should be.