Stephanie McMillan is an important voice. She is doing her part to make this a better world through her activism and her comics. And, fortunately for us, those two passions turn into some very compelling work. Her latest collection of comics, “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide,” is published by Seven Stories Press. This book is a 160-page trade paperback priced at $12.71 and is set for release on October 8, 2013. Be sure to visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here and visit Stephanie McMillan here.
The following is an extensive email interview that I hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by. What really motivates our actions? What sort of world do we accept and what sort of world could we aspire to? These are some of the ideas up for discussion in this interview.
“The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” is full of whimsy and wisdom as it follows its characters on a journey to save the planet. It’s all up to a group of friends to figure out if they can smash the capitalist system or just give up and go shopping. What makes Stephanie McMillan’s comic strip such a page-turner is her ability to find the right mix of humor and intelligent discourse.
Stephanie McMillan’s sense of urgency and comedy is irresistible. She has placed a whole new generation with the burden of saving the planet but they’re pretty clueless. There’s Kranti and Bananabelle, who just barely know the struggles from the past. Kranti, an African-American, is quick to join a protest rally and yell, “By any means necessary!” And Bananabelle, intuitively, recognizes that won’t go over well with the “mainstream liberals.”
Then there’s Kranti’s brother, Nikko, and his lover, Javier. They are both at the mercy of the current economic tide. Nikko manages to just get by with his design work. Javier, has let things slip in pursuit of his art and relies on Nikko’s meager income. All four of these unlikely heroes will be stretched to their limits as they try to do the right thing.
Guidance and advice comes from Victoria, a theorist guinea pig; and Bunnista, a trigger-happy rabbit. Each of them, in their own way, have some wisdom to share but they are still working on the ultimate answers. Victoria is uncompromising in her ideals. Bunnista is too eager to blow things up.
As the story unfolds, we find ourselves exploring the available options to make this a better world: everything from community gardening to murder is on the table. What is really compelling about this comic strip is just how far it is willing to go. If Kranti and Bananabelle didn’t appreciate what was meant when someone said, “By any means necessary,” they certainly do by the end of this tale.
One of McMillan’s goals with this particular story is to raise awareness of how corporations are raping the environment, specifically with bio-engineering. She is seeking answers. And the one thing she keeps returning to is the unequivocal need to rid ourselves of global capitalism. But, at every turn, she shows us how futile that effort appears to be. The great contradiction is that we have no choice but to fight the system, a fight that may appear to be too big to win. All life on the planet hangs in the balance. The only sure thing is that we must persist, live to fight another day. It’s a cliffhanger to the story of life that we must all live with.
And just how do you end capitalism? Well, that is an ongoing discussion. This current comics collection makes that clear. The subject is too vital and complex to address in just one book. For instance, McMillan has a guide to the people’s struggle, “Capitalism Must Die,” that will soon come out. For now, “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” provides an educational and entertaining look at what happens when people must confront the system.
“The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” is published by Seven Stories Press. This book is a 160-page trade paperback priced at $12.71 and is set for release on October 8, 2013. Be sure to visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here.
“The Beginning of the American Fall: A Comics Journalist Inside the Occupy Wall Street Movement” does a remarkable job of giving you a sense of the Occupy movement by placing it into proper context. Yes, there is a healthy and vigorous unrest across the globe but what to do about it? At some point, the spirit of protest from the 1960s began to seem like a relic. There was the yuppie backlash of the 1980s. And there was a strident cynicism from Generation X that found Baby Boomers, on the whole, to be self-indulgent navel gazers of the highest order, especially when it came to their politics and activism. They are a tough crowd, those Gen Xers but that harsh critical outlook led to a whole new Do-It-Yourself movement. And from that, arose another generation with strong opinions, Generation Y, or the the Millennials. With social media and gadgetry at their command, this new generation finds itself all the more connected while also all the more self-absorbed.
This bring us back to the recent past and the present. Are people most likely to steer their own lives within relative safety and comfort or do they take notice of the social unrest they see on the news from time to time? That is the question that the author of this book had to pose to herself while still in high school in the early 1980s. Stephanie McMillan picked up a book that would change her life. It was “Fate of the Earth,” by Jonathan Schell which lays out the prospect of nuclear war and how nations are willing to put the planet at risk for the sake of warmongering. This galvanized McMillan into a life of activism. Shortly after that book, she read the newspaper, the Revolutionary Worker. This planted the seed in her mind that the solution to social ills would ultimately come through revolution. Thirty years later, and with plenty of experience in what is possible through protest, McMillan was to finally see in her lifetime a people’s movement on a grand scale.
McMillan sets the stage for us by highlighting some of the key characteristics of 2011, the year that the Occupy movement took hold:
2011 is so recent that it may as well be today and at least the next few years ahead. It’s not a pretty picture, is it? Corporate greed goes unchecked, will continue to go unchecked, and people and the planet suffer for it. When McMillan goes into details about the rise of the Occupy movement, there is a palpable sense of urgency. We are drawn into her concern that the movement she had favored, “Stop the Machine,” was soon to be overshadowed by the rowdy new kid on the block, Occupy. It’s clear these are two very different approaches. Stop is highly organized and has a leadership structure. Occupy is founded on anarchism and relies upon collective decision-making. Will they be able to work together? Or will they work against each other? In a wonderful series of exchanges, McMillan draws for us how a people’s movement finds its way. Her illustrations are funny, irreverent, and quite honest. While she’s a participant in this story, she doesn’t shy away from depicting the inconsistencies, bickering, and mistakes that occur along the way.
McMillan’s main concern is on the eventual work ahead. Throughout this book, we are treated to a treasure trove of insights, facts, and ideas on some of the best options when attempting to do the most good with the energy of mounting social unrest. McMillan boils it down to an unquestionable need to rid ourselves of global capitalism. It is capitalism that is the problem. But just how do you rid yourself of capitalism? Aren’t we all, at heart, hapless consumers? As Pogo, the celebrated comic strip character once said, “We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.”
It is as if a goal is being proposed that is unattainable. Are we seeking to change the world or just a part of it? The answers are not all there but at least we’re asking questions. The very act of questioning is part of the answer! We are not mindless drones. It’s a fundamental impulse to resist oppression. This book proves to be an essential guide in this great new age of change.
“The Beginning of the American Fall” is published by Seven Stories Press. It is a 141-page trade, priced at $12.71 US. Visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here.
The fight is on to keep Cooper Union tuition free as was the explicit understanding of its founder, Peter Cooper. Following in the time honored tradition of a student “take-over,” students at Cooper Union are fighting to maintain a historically tuition-free education at one of the leading institutions of higher learning in the country.
Student Take Over of Office of President of Cooper Union, May 8, 2013
Founded in 1859, Cooper Union has three schools, Art, Architecture, and Engineering. Notable alumni of the Cooper Union School of Art incude Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, Eva Hesse, Alex Katz, and Hans Haacke.
“Discordia: Six Nights in Crisis Athens,” written by Laurie Penny and illustrated by Molly Crabapple, are recent notes from the underground, published in October of 2012, that remain quite relevant to this unfolding story. As much as things seem to move at a breakneck pace, and trends seem to abruptly shift, some truths are here to stay. It was on September 17, 2011, not very long ago at all, that Occupy Wall Street galvanized a new generation of protesters seeking a better world. That spirit of change rippled across an unstable world. In the summer of 2012, the focus fell on Athens, the hotspot of the global financial meltdown. The highly corrupt Greek government was especially hit hard when its debt-addled financial chickens came home to roost. The Greek government’s response to the crisis was a series of severe austerity measures. Riots and chaos followed.
Journalist Laurie Penny saw an opportunity to document firshand a significant hisotrical event and invited illustrator, Molly Crabapple, to join her. Much like a teaming up of Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman, Penny and Crabapple immersed themselves in the subject at hand prepared to report back on what they found: the violence, the drugs, the sex, and the intimate thoughts of a lost generation. It is a remarkable undertaking with impressive results. And you need to read this 140-page ebook. You can find it here and you can also seek out more information on the publisher, Random House Vintage Digital, over here.
Molly Crabapple and Laurie Penny find themselves in Greece right after the elections and the narrow defeat of the leftist coalition, SYRIZA. That coalition was seen as the best hope for dealing with the crisis. Instead, an ineffectual government makes matters worse. The rise of a facist party, Golden Dawn, having gained seven percent of the seats in parliament, signals even more dire times ahead. There is no doubt that Golden Dawn is neo-Nazi. Reporting from the bloody streets of Nikaia, Penny finds numerous murders of immigrants directly linked to Golen Dawn. After she uploads some video footage of the violence, she gets a chilling response back in Greek: “Don’t cry. Soon the time for hunting Pakistanis will begin in earnest.”
Penny does a great job of sharing her personal observations. Make no mistake, this has gotten personal for both Penny and Crabapple. This is subjective reporting getting to the heart of the action in the spirit of gonzo journalism. We are brought intimately close to Greek citizens of various walks of life. The prevailing fear is that Golden Dawn is, as the saying goes, “winning the hearts and minds of its countrymen.” Despair hangs heavy over those who would resist. We sympathize as we take in conversations and take in a view of Athens amid dark highrises, due to an ordered cutback on electricity. The haze from the shallow bowl of pollution is only releived by the Aegean Sea twinkling in the distance.
What lies ahead is a desire to fight on. If the left is not getting through to the masses, then the left must learn to more actively engage. If the general public has concluded that the Occupy movement was a flash in the pan, Penny is hear to tell you that this is not true. In the last year, Penny reports, there’s been a systematic global police crackdown. In North America alone, there have been 7,500 protesters arrested. But the protesters are not done yet. Penny sums it up with a line from the Bible, from Jeremiah: “The harvest is past. The summer is ended, and we are not saved.” It is not meant to be read as defeat but as a fact that the struggle continues.
And if you should think that all of this is not your problem, the coda to this book is very apt. Penny describes what happened once she and Crabapple had returned to New York City. It was on September 17, 2012, the first year anniversay of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. This is what happened, the text read round the world: There is Molly Crabapple, neo-Victorian cartoonist simply standing on a street corner when she decides to take a snapshot of the NYPD’s tidy work at pushing back protesters. For this, Crabapple is plasticuffed and sent to jail. She manages to Tweet: “Arrested.” Housed in a cell with other women who had been picked off the street for doing the same thing, Molly Crabapple is jailed for twelve hours. When simply taking a photo lands you in jail, you really have to wonder where we’re headed.
Be sure to pick up your digital copy of “Discordia” and, if you happen to be in New York, you’ll want to view a special art show of Molly Crabapple’s work related to Occupy and beyond entitled, “Shell Game” at Smart Clothes Gallery. You can read more about it here.
Welcome the new kid on the block, Black Mask Studios. Spring is in the air and it’s time we got this party started. What began as a comics anthology to help support the Occupy movement as become a whole new vision in comics!
Ladies and gents, this is Black Mask: The Spring Colleciton:
12 REASONS TO DIE by Ghostface Killa
LIBERATOR by Matt Miner & Juel Gomez
BALLISTIC by Adam Egypt Mortimer & Darick Robertson
Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Check it out, “Occupy Comics,” is a win-win must-have comic all the way from its gorgeous cover art by Mike Allred, to page after page of stellar professional talent, like Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, Dean Haspiel, and Molly Crabapple. (Oh, btw, someone was kind enough to remind us about “Discordia” and we will have a review of this Crabapple project shortly.) Hmmm, I would add here that you don’t want to think for a moment that Occupy is fading out because it is not. For instance, for some insight, view here.
“Occupy Comics” is 40 pages, a 3 issue run, priced at $3.50 with a street date, appropriately enough of May 1, yeah, May Day.