Parecomic: A Documentary Graphic

So yourself and Carl Thompson are taking on the life and times of the “market abolitionist” Michael Albert, is it the first time that you have written a graphic-novel biography?

SEAN: Oh, its about the hundredth time now! Well, not exactly. I have done 4 other biography types books, mostly on Japanese historical figures. So Parecomic is my fifth such in that style. And I’m writing my own autobio book too, called ‘One upon a time in Morningside’. It’s Carl’s first time though, i think, and no doubt a bit of a task for him to achieve. But he’s doing well so far.

For those of us that don’t know, could you tell us a little more about Mr. Albert?

Michael Albert is a US left wing activist who’s been struggling against injustice and inequality since right back to 1965 when he was Noam Chomsky’s student at MIT. Noam Chomsky is also in the book and he will write the introduction. Chomsky is probably the most well known and respected left winger in the world (the English speaking world anyway!). But Michael is known and respected in his own right. The PARECOMIC book is about his life’s struggle as an activist and the model that he and some others have created a model called PARECON – participatory economics. Its a model for an alternative system of organising our economies and societies on non-capitalist lines. Thats the key thing underlaying the whole book – to present this well worked out system, for the readers consideration, to does so in an interesting narrative with appealing visuals.

Was it coincidence you wrote about such a prolific figure during such turbulent financial times, or was it a conscious decision?

SEAN: Both actually – I’ve done a few documentary/social issue type books before also, and enjoyed them. So far I’ve done one on Iraq, on Palestine, on corruption, the Tohoku disaster, and I’m doing another one with the group ‘Norwegian People’s Aid’ now. It’s good to do these kind of ‘non-comic book’ types books. Its one example of the greater range of stories and issues that can be done in comics, beyond superheroes. etc. That the 99%/ occupy movement and Arab Spring have all developed to such a height recently is a coincidence, or fate if such a force exist. But one that certainly lends wind to our sails and relevance to our cause.

You are known for writing very memorable and unique narratives; was it difficult telling someone-else’s (life) story?

SEAN: I think I’m more known for having a charming Scottish accent, but thanks for the compliment anyway! If my stories are memorable that is more a question of the nature of the comic book medium – the mix of words and images seems to be easier for our minds to take in, to process cognitively, than just text alone. And it appears to be easier to recall. As to unique – my stuff is not unique I think, but it is unusual because most comics are still superheroes, fantasy or sci-fi, etc. But there is a growing range of comic books on history, biography, social studies, real life, personal drama – anything!

As to telling someone-else’s life story – the thing about it is that you almost forget its a real person and start to think of it as your own story, in way. I mean there is a process of stepping back from or suspension of the thought ‘this actually happened to so-and-so’ and instead a channeling of your thoughts into the actual process of creating your version here. You are thinking ‘What bits do I want to show, and which to miss?’, ‘How can I make this flow well?’, and ‘How to show the subtle emotions involved in this scene?’, etc. That process of distancing from some element of the power of the subject and just getting on with it is necessary, it seems. It like the Beatles being in awe of 50′s rock n rollers like Little Richard – but if they had stayed in awe, like dumb animals caught in the glare of the glory of these rock stars, they would not have had the ability to come up with their own music. Some element of suspending the amazement or admiration or respect needs to be there in order to allow you to do YOUR thing, here and now.

In this case of Michael he is working with me closely, giving me his ideas on how things should be shown, or who said what and where, etc. But then always noting that this is my call, my take on it, and respecting my points. He also has not tried to make him self out to be a saint or cover up any problematic points. There’s a lot of interplay between his personal life and the politics and society around him. Then, of course, thats just the script side – moving onto the artwork side, Carl has another set of challenges to deal with in trying to make the story come alive visually on paper and ink. But, basically, a book like this can be a very enjoyable thing to do, something that feels worth getting up in the morning for. It gives you the satisfaction of seeing something good come to fruition. Its creativity, man!

You’re using a Kickstarter Fundraiser to get the project off of the ground, how does that work?

SEAN: Simply: people see projects they like on the Kickstarter site and decide to support them. The money is only a PLEDGE at first, it does not get taken out of your account now, its taken out about 2 or 3 months later, if the total target money is made (and nothing is taken out if the target is not reached). To pledge you just select an amount from the choices on the right side of each projects page, and it processes it via amazon.

If people donate, can they expect to see their name on the finished product?

SEAN: Yes – and we actually do appreciate the support. In a way I already feel its successful because of the good support we’ve received from both left wing and comic book folk.

Michael Albert has had a very busy life; spanning from anti-Vietnam war protesting, to setting up Z Magazine and even writing a memoir. How much of his career will the book encompass.

SEAN: Pretty much it all! We start in 1965 and go right up to the present day. Although the actual events are only one aspect, we also discuss the ideas associated, from the development of the anti war movement, civil rights, the woman’s movement, the weatherpeople, the black panthers to the establishment of alternative media like South End Press and Znet. And especially the PARECON ideas that Michael is most known for – that is, participatory economics.

Has Michael had a chance to see the project? What were his thoughts?

SEAN: He has been closely involved, right from the beginning. We’ve been in contact almost every week over the last year or so, going into lots of details.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, why do you think people should donate to get this project going and how can they do so?

The occupy movements 99% movements show that many people are tired of the same old capitalist monetarist system and would like to consider alternatives. The Parecomic book is, in a way, a comic with a conscience – a comic book for the 99%. Actually the PARECOMIC kickstarter drive is going pretty well so far, we are bang on target and have passed the $1500 pledged mark already. But if we don’t make the FULL $8000 target in the 60 days time limit then it’s ALL lost (that is kickstarter’s rules) – so, dear readers, please consider supporting the book.

For more information about how to support this project, click here [ link ]

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