Graphic Novels Take a Huge Step Forward: The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

Unless you have fond memories of the now-defunct Harvey Comics – which chronicled the innocent adventures of “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and “Richie Rich” among others – the names Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon may not mean anything to you. But respectively, these two comic book creators (Jacobson was editor in Chief at Harvey and Colon drew RR and Casper) have over 50 years of experience at Harvey Comics alone, not to mention their efforts with other book publishers including Marvel Comics (home of the X-Men) and DC Comics (home of Super-Man).

So the comic book industry in particular, and the book publishing industry in general raised an eye-brow when Jacobson and Colon recently wrote and illustrated a 144-page condensation of the 600-page federal report released by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

9/11. Heavy subject matter to be sure and not the typical illustrated adventures you think of when you crack open a graphic novel or comic book. In this tome you won’t find any high-flying super-heroes, no spandex clad, muscle-bound defenders of peace and justice, no silicone-enhanced females bursting out of the skimpiest of costumes.

Which brings me to the title of this article and the subject of this paper. I’ve written other articles on comic books; graphic novels and their creators (check the AC article archive). And it’s noteworthy that Jacobson and Colon have tackled this project (a “sequel” – documenting the impact of the WTC bombings on the American public is already in the works).The medium of graphic novels and comic books will benefit greatly by this worthwhile effort.

The United States just may be the only country where comic books and graphic novels are not quite given the respect they deserve. Look at other countries – Japan is a great example, France is another – and the medium of illustrated, multi-panel stories is revered by the public. Travel throughout Europe and you’ll find that most individuals don’t even blink at the thought of reading a graphic novel on the subway or train. For that reason, the illustrated National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States is expected to be well-received overseas.

In North America the verdict is still out, although the book has garnered healthy reviews across the board, including glowing praise from the 9/11 Commission itself. (the 9/11 illustrated novel contains a forward by 2 members of the commission). Jacobson and Colon began their 9/11 project nearly 18 months ago, after Colon learned that the commission’s report was in the public domain and that several movie producers were considering basing films on it (NewsRama.com – Daily Comic Book News, 25 August).

Commented Colon:

“…I was reading an article in The New York Times that said that Ron Howard and his partner [Brian Grazer] were contemplating doing a film based on the 9/11 Commission Report. One of the reasons they were contemplating it was because it was very feasible since it was public domain. Coincidentally, I had just tried to read the report and found it very difficult because I couldn’t keep track of all the names, places and events. Sid Jacobson and I are in the business of clarifying things, so I called him up, he thought it was a great idea and we took off from there…”

The rest as they say is history. Using many techniques familiar to readers of comic books and graphic novels such as sans-serif captions and dramatic bold-faced sound effects, Jacobson and Colon harnessed the same tricks of the trade in illustrating and writing the adventures of Spiderman and the Green Lantern in the hope their effort will attract new readers to the report who may have been overwhelmed the first time they attempted to read it.

Interesting enough, neither Jacobson nor Colon refers to their effort as a “Graphic Novel” rather they call their work an example of “graphic journalism”.

Currently the book can be purchased through a range of Internet outlets such as Yahoo and Borders. And for those who can’t wait, www.slate.com is serializing the book on-line in weekly installments.

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