I have to admit I was a little resistant to this week’s reading, not to do to the form of the graphic novel, but because of the subject matter regarding 9/11. Like many others, I have trauma fatigue and-still one administration later-remain a little nauseous from the transformation of tragedy into an excuse for fear-mongering and little American flags. That said, I feel that the two texts, read together, accomplish something that would have been impossible singularly-they act as foils to one another. Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman’s Shooting War attempts to personalize a war on foreign soil to the American reader; whereas Art Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers depersonalizes terrorism in the United States. To that end, the styles of illustrations complement each. As other have noted in their blogs, Shooting War blended graphic design, photography, and drawings to create a blended reality (not quite a comic strip, not quite a computer generated image, not quite a hand-sketch). Conversely, In the Shadow of No Towers withdraws from reality, adopting nostalgic forms from the comic strip tradition. The former defamiliarizes, whereas the later one soothes and orients [the implied American reader].
As complements, In the Shadow of No Towers and Shooting War represents responses to trauma-one first-hand, over a short period of time, the second abstracted and extended over time. As Jimmy Burns states in the beginning of Shooting War, “But that asshole was right about a couple things. Not all the dime store Hegel, but the part about my stupid blog. It wasn’t changing shit… I did need action. I couldn’t shake the rush. It was like noting I had ever felt.” Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman underscore the adrenaline-rush call-to-action that many experience after a trauma-the knee jerk reaction to do something. In the Shadow of No Towers, however, parodies that response-extended over years of tangerine-coded threat levels-to which there is no clear resolution. In one of his strips, one of his characters admits, “…maybe I really want the world to end, to vindicate the fears I felt back on 9/11! May it’s just my little world that ended… But then I glance at the news and there’s absolutely no doubt… THE SKY IS FALLING!!!” (9). Rather than contend with the fact that his world pre-9/11 held a false sense of security, he must (and like many others) go to the other extreme of alarmism instead of realizing that he lives in the same world no more or less safe. Moreover, In the Shadow of No Towers concludes with “Bringing Up Father,” a comic strip that emphasizes Americans desire for a clear resolution to (even fictional) problems. It seems that Americans can’t get over that sometimes there is nothing that can be done-that in fact, as the old axiom goes, “Motion should not be confused with action.” In fact, Shooting War seems to demonstrate this self-deception. Rather than take ownership over the emotional payoffs of being the center of a media blitz, Jimmy Burns demurs, “I’m a magnet for death; mayhem.”