Drawing out the Truth at Occupy

When journalist Susie Cagle was arrested at Occupy Oakland, she was busy covering the protests — a press pass hung around her neck, and a sketchbook in her hand. Cagle is a comics journalist, a cartoonist-reporter harnessing the accessibility, symbolism, and visual nature of her art to illuminate this budding movement.

Cagle is not alone. A number of comic journalists have hit the ground at various occupations, documenting the stories and individuals that make up the movement. Unlike their more traditional newspaper-based relatives, comics journalists are unabashedly subjective — they forefront their own vision of the world in every line they draw, reminding us of the fallacy of “objective” reporting. Their word-image combinations bring the occupations to life in ways that speak not only to our intellect, but to our instincts and emotions as well.

A page from Stephanie McMillan’s “American Fall”

The first part of Stephanie McMillan’s Occupy coverage, The Beginning of the American Fall, was posted last week, documenting the merging of the Occupy DC and Stop The Machine protests. Speaking with the Washington Post, McMillan said American Fall was meant to explore “the major currents, trends and struggles within the [protests], like the debate around nonviolence, the demand for demands, and the desire for everyone to be heard balanced with the challenges of the consensus model of decision-making.”

Art by Sharon Rosenzweig

Meanwhile, Sharon Rosenzweig has been lovingly creating comic portraits of people at Occupy Wall Street. She has expanded this project into a call for artists to share their own work at the Occupy Portraits blog. And Shannon Wheeler’s sketches bring a loose energy to illustrating her experience at Occupy Wall Street. Wheeler’s work can be found alongside cartoons from Cagle and Rosenzweig in the Occupy Sketchbook at Cartoon Movement.

In many ways, comics journalism seems a perfect method of covering Occupy. From its very birth, Occupy has been visual and physical — the tents, the endless makeshift posters, the marches. And it has been a space for creativity and alternatives to flourish. While many mainstream reporters and bloggers clamor for a “demand” that they can write about or critique, comic journalists are documenting the faces, the small moments, and the humanity that is, after all, the whole point.

Want to know more about comics journalism? Stay tuned for the next post at Cultural Organizing.

Occupy Wall Street, by Shannon Wheeler