“The Cartoon Picayune” has hit its stride with its latest issue and is poised to become a leading voice in comics journalism. These things take time and I’m sure that has not been lost on its editor, Josh Kramer. He began by himself, covering local stories in Vermont and New Hampshire. And now he has contributors from around the world. This is a unique anthology that lives up to spirit of what used to be called literary journalism. And we have reached a point now that finds comics journalism to be more readily accepted and understood. It is a subset of comics that has been steadily developing over the years and The Cartoon Picayune can be relied upon to add to this tradition. Issue Five features two full length stories and two brief stories, each exploring the theme of work.
“Sex Workers of the World, Unite!” by Andy Warner, proves to be an excellent work of reportage. It explores the struggle of sex workers to be treated as legitimate workers. Warner’s cartoony style adds some heart to a complex story. A subject that involves a fair amount of facts, arguments and counter-arguments is made more accessible by Warner’s careful presentation. He never forgets he has individuals who have specific points to make. Here is a prime example of how the comics medium can provide clarity and express issues in a distinctively vivid manner.
“The Radium Girls,” by Emi Gennis, takes you back to the 1920s and the tragic case of factory workers needlessly exposed to radiation. The Radium Dial Company opened up a plant in 1922 in Ottawa, Illinois. It seemed like a great job for unskilled young women. They applied glow-in-dark radium to the numerals in pocket watches. To maintain a fine point on their brushes, they were instructed to regularly put their brushes in their mouths. Little did they know they were daily ingesting radiation that would kill them. Gennis does an impressive job of bringing out the giddy joie de vivre of these poor girls. Each face is rendered tenderly and you gain an sense of each doomed soul.
“Feeding the Meter,” by Josh Kramer is a look at the world of food trucks in the Washington D.C. area. There are 150 of them. And, if competition wasn’t enough of a challenge, new city regulations will really tighten things up. Kramer provides a compelling little reporter seen through the eyes of one enterprising food truck owner and operator.
“Seoul Grind,” by Erik Thurman, considers the expansion of coffee shops in Seoul, Korea. It’s a delightful little report on what it takes to jump in on the Korean coffee boom.
Cover art is by Pat Barrett. Visit him at his website here.