British Columbia

Cartoonist draws inspiration from global conflicts

Joe Sacco has produced multiple graphic novels and comic books illustrating war zones and political crises.

'It's easier to look at violence when you are looking at drawings,' says artist Joe Sacco

An excerpt from Joe Sacco's 2012 graphic novel, Journalism. Titled 'The Hague', this image depicts the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. (Joe Sacco/CBC)

Every picture tells a story and Joe Sacco's political comics tell the difficult stories photojournalists can't always capture.

Sacco is an award-winning graphic artist, known for journalistic comic books like Palestine, Footnotes in Gaza, Journalism and The Fixer. His art illustrates the realities of warfare, structural violence and international crises. 

'We are attracted to images, and of course photojournalism is really important in getting stories across...but I think drawings are easier to look at in a way," Sacco told CBC's The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

Filling in the blanks

According to Sacco, drawings provide a filter that can make it easier to look at violent images. They can also fill in the blanks in scenarios where reporters do not have access.

"You can take people to places that a camera cannot go..inside an interrogation room, or back into the past to explain someone's story," he explained.

Sacco studied journalism at the University of Oregon but found that working in that field disinterested him. So he went back to drawing, a passion of his since childhood.

An expanding medium

"I studied journalism because I never thought that I would make a living drawing," said Sacco, who is now an acclaimed graphic novelist in what he says might be the only print medium that is expanding.

Sacco explained he selects his subject matter based on whether or not it hits him in the gut.

"It has to be something that I think will really matter to me and sustain my interest in the long-haul."

Sacco is currently working on a graphic book set in Canada's Northwest Territories. It will focus on the Indigenous people in that area and issues around resource extraction.

He's in Vancouver to speak about his work Wednesday evening at an event sponsored by Simon Fraser University.

With files from CBC's The Early Edition.

For the complete interview with Joe Sacco, click on the audio labelled, Joe Sacco, award-winning graphic artist.