Friday, September 08, 2006

9/11 Anthologies - Five Years Later

In the aftermath of 9/11, the comics world came together in an unprecedented outpouring of grief and creativity, to support, in their own way, the healing of the nation. Hundreds of artists were asked to create short pieces in response to the tragedy, with little or no other editorial restrictions. The result was four anthologies (plus a couple one-off issues), each with very separate and distinct styles, all of which contain some incredible and inspiring personal expressions.

At the time, I remember feeling intimidated by these books. Like everyone, I was already getting an unhealthy overdose of 9/11 just by being in New York City. It was all anyone could talk about, and the TV stations were completely obsessed. The idea of escaping into comics appealed, but not these comics. These books only took you further into the nightmare.

Now, five years later, I finally feel ready to revisit these tributes. I have selected some of my favorite pages and panels, and present them here as an online memorial of sorts, but I encourage everyone to seek out, or revisit, these collections.

1) Heroes (64 pages, full color)
This magazine-sized collection of pinups was published by Marvel Comics in December 2001. Meant to pay tribute to the many civil servants who risked their lives, the collection features a lot of drawings of Marvel characters, as well as NY firefighters and policemen. While well-intentioned, many of these images seem a little cheesey in hindsight, but like most anthologies, there are some gems hidden among the soot.

Frank Miller's drawing of Captain America not only brought back fond memories of his classic Dark Knight style, it also captured the iconic status of the character perhaps more than any other single image I've ever seen.

This chilling image by Frank Quitely is an homage to the famous painting, "Christina's World" by Andrew Wyeth.

Igor Kordey and Chris Chuckrey's speculative drawing about the passenger revolt on Flight 93 is at once inspiring and terrifying.

Of the many images of firefighters in this collection, this one by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer is the most memorable for its sheer attitude. Dorkin's firefighters aren't overcome with grief or rushing fearlessly into burning buildings. They're staring helplessly, and they're pissed off about it.

"The Song of the Lost" may just be the single most beautiful thing Neil Gaiman has ever written (click on the image to read it). Along with Jae Lee and Jose Villarrubia's haunting painting, this is by far the highlight of the anthology.

One other highlight worth noting is Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's contribution, which falls somewhere between a poem and a short essay, equating the tragedy to Picasso's famous "Guernica" painting.

COMING SOON: I'll take a similar look at the highlights from DC's two volume 9-11: Artists Respond anthologies.

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