Welcome back to another installment of Comics to Spite Fascism. We aim to give comic readers great titles turn to in their day-to-day reflections during these times of political upheaval — radical and diverse comics that will empower people to resist, to open a fuller discussion among folks.
They particularly didn’t want poor people with new ideas
This month we bring you a title that may be harder to find but is definitely worth the search, War in the Neighborhood by Seth Tobocman. While it was published by a company called Autonomedia, it is easier to find via Seth’s own website.
What can I say? This truly is a must read. To begin with, for anyone out there who’s ever read A People’s History by the late Howard Zin, this would be right up your alley. It focuses on New York city. This is really working-class history, exploring the internal issues each scene faced and the ways that they dealt with the world around them. Landlords burning down their buildings and the government turning a blind eye; people squatting were sometimes caught in the fires. This is not the story that you hear about New York very often.
As far as for this segment — how can this title help us now? As a longtime activist from Los Angeles, I’ve seen people jump into the movement full of vigor. They have big plans to single-handedly go to save the world. They take too much on, or don’t understand that it’s a long game and burn themselves out. As well as the dynamics of organizing, and the pitfalls that they might face, the back stabbing, the horrid self-interest of many organizers, all these things are subject matters that are discussed in this title.
The lessons for new protesters?
Non-profits are not radical. They sell the movement short many times, creating a store-bought form of resistance.
Police are not your friends. The clashes with the police are a clear depiction of them being hired goons protecting private property, escalating conflicts and militarizing the communities.
There are internal problems that exist in every community: sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and other forms of social ills that are all too common. To anyone joining a movement, remember that good organizers strive to make demonstration spaces safe, but that does not mean they always are.
Lastly, we see that any deals made with the government are not to be taken at face value. The brilliant manner in which our government is run ensures that there are so many different heads that each one has someone to blame and each one is granted denial ability because of it. (Hail Hydra?)
My favorite part of the book is the story of a normal, everyday Joe. He didn’t believe himself a radical, but was radicalized because of the curfew that the state implemented for the ‘Park.’ He wanted to walk his dog at night. Things escalate and before he knows it he’s part of a riot, which succeeds in lifting the curfew. Beginning to feel radical, he has a confrontation with a band of nationalist that are anti-flag burning. In this confrontation he is harmed. He becomes disenchanted with the movement after the way that his circle dealt with the situation and the manner in which they supported him.
As for the art, the art adds to the feel of authenticity. With the charcoal drawings it doesn’t feel polished but it works for this title — as anything else would feel like the author had written and then re-wrote his words, feelings, and rage. As it stands, War in the Neighborhood reads as if it were spawned from a moment of passion, with everything being jotted down before the emotion fled, before the memory faded.
Seth has a whole bunch of other titles that I look forward to checking out. All of them seem to be of a radical persuasion so we might see him again here sooner rather than later. So that’s it for me this week. Until next time, all hands on deck!