Systems, Birds, No Towers

I enjoyed both readings this week. I may be biased because I’ve dabbled in the graphic novel genre before (they’re not comics! They’re literature worthy of any scholar’s criticism!). I am particularly drawn to Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers. I’m not sure if this is because of the size of the strips, the creative use of page space, or simply Spiegelman’s unique style–it is probably a combination of all three.  I noticed that birds are an image often conjred in this graphic novel–and often these images of birds help Spiegelman reveal the systems that dominate our society. Spiegelman reveals these sytems in his writing as well, but I felt these images did a great job of providing visual support to his argument that Americans can’t seem to break free from the systems that have always been in place (as seen in the circa 1900 comics) and become even more imbedded after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The two images I was most drawn to occur on page 2.

The first is of George W. and Dick Cheney riding an eagle, one would assume into battle. Upon closer inspection, we see Dick Cheney is slitting the Eagle’s throat. This works on many levels. The Eagle is the symbol of American freedom, yet as the leaders of American ride the emblematic bird into combat, they also murder the very freedom it represents. Much of Spiegelman’s piece focuses on the ways in which the ruling class used tragic attacks for political advantage in securing America’s interests overseas. For all the words Spiegelman spends describing this, I find that this image succinctly says it all. Upon closer inspection, one can see that the tool used to slit Freedom’s throat is a box cutter–none other than the purported tool used by Sept. 11 hijackers. In this way, Bush and Cheney both serve as metaphors for terrosts in the skies. They’re sabotaging that flying eagle and everything it stands for in the name of freedom and, to an equal extent, revenge on the terrorists that did this to us (or at least the relative, but not quite exact, region where the terrorists who did this to us reside).

On the same page is the frame with the journalist saying “vatch here the burdy.” In the journalist’s hand is a vulture. It is pretty clear that this image is calling the press vultures, but I felt that in the context of the soaring Eagle that appears just above it is a pretty meaningul image. Even as the government creates systems to proclaim freedom even as they take it away, journalism exists as a very powerful system as well. The press is supposed to be fair and balanced, reporting with the nearest to objectivity a person can conjur. In reality, the press just cares about the next big story and is more concerned with profit than truth. Spiegelman’s juxtaposition of these two images makes a strong point: the government is a corrupt system that we all buy into, and the fourth estate (journalism), which is meant to reveal government wrongdoing, is just as systematic and corrupt–yellow journalism, indeed.

If it bleeds, it leads--also if it reeks of corruption, won't make you think, or tells you what you want to hear
If it bleeds, it leads--also if it reeks of corruption, won't make you think, or tells you what you want to hear