From his early work with short-lived local magazine the Portland Permanent Press, to his formative travels after college, including following Portland rock band the Miracle Workers around Europe, making their posters and selling their merch, to his status as a vanguard of comics journalism with genre classics such as Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, Joe Sacco has made a name for himself. His art is pitch-perfect (see pages 12 and 13 of The Fixer shown above) and his uncanny ability recreate situations, both ones he’s been in, and ones he’s only heard about is nothing short of remarkable. In a few black and white panels, he captures the phoniness of LA at the beginning of the ’90s, the continuing hardship of life in Palestine, and the horrors of Bosnian war zones. All of these pieces are united by Sacco’s wry humor and his observational presence in the frame, at first a caricature among caricatures, but later the lone cartoon in well-rendered slices of life. He gives big-issue stories a human face, whether he’s talking to a family whose olive trees were chopped down by Israelis or getting begged by local girls from an ethnically cleansed war zone to bring them back some American jeans.
In addition to our Portland Monthly Q&A in anticipation of his newest piece of comics journalism, Footnotes in Gaza, here’s our web-exclusive retrospective slideshow from some of Sacco’s most notable works.
This article appeared in the December 2009 issue of Portland Monthly.