New E-Comic Tells Story Of Chicago NATO Protests

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I was recently led via a Facebook link to "Chicago Is My Kind of Town", a new web-comic hosted on Cartoon Movement's site. The featured artist,  Luke Radl, is a freelance artist and designer who also works with the podcast Citizen Radio. He created the 13-page work to help illuminate both the protests and the policing around the Chicago NATO summit protests in May of this year.

The comic loads and reads quite easily online, while detailing a brief narrative of the protests. Pulling from his own experiences in Chicago as well as from interviews, Twitter feeds, news articles, and more, Radl gives image and character to events that many of us were only able to follow in brief flashes through various social media platforms.

What I found most compelling about this comic was Radl's inclusion of hyper-links embedded in the images. Each page contains at least one contextualizing link to support his story. On some pages, this may be a link to an audio interview with someone depicted in the story, or a video link to support part of the narrative. He also includes links to photos, Twitter reports, and pop-up quotes, which provide the reader the option of seeing other perspectives on the events he depicts.

In simplifying the story, Radl also provides what may be the first historic narrative of the protests. And while documentaries and other forms of historic narrative may still come, perhaps the simplicity and succinctness of Chicago Is My Kind Of Town's version of events will remain a firm telling of the events.

Instead of us summarizing the comic, go ahead and check it out

Radl recently published on his blog an apology and acknowledgement that the two interviews he conducted and features at the end of the comic are with white cis-gender* men. "I want to highlight a criticism that I had anticipated, but that was no less devastating," he posted in response to a Twitter message pointing this out. "your #noNATO comic is pretty cool, @kade_ellis wrote. "Sucks that I got to the end and saw your two interviews are with white cis dudes."

Radl, recognizing and admitting to the criticism, responded first by re-tweeting it, and then with an apology. "It's something I was definitely conscious of," he writes, after explaining a bit of the context of seeking the interviews. "I will do better next time."

Artists are in a position of power when putting forward narratives, which comes with a great responsibility in regards to representation and character-roles. Obviously, many white folks and folks of color were represented in Chicago, of varying genders and sexual orientation as well as sub-cultural identities, political affiliations, and more. An artist depicting such a moment has a number of decisions to make regarding who is placed where in an image, who the narrative centers around (if anyone), and why.

Making such discussions part of the public dialogue surrounding a piece of political art is so important. It allows us to shun perfection and promote dialogue and humility.

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