I am a long time lover of comics and more recently consumed by politics. I can’t stop reading the news, I’m on edge, I’ve ‘lost’ friends, family. But at the same time I haven’t felt this passionate about anything in a while.
On January 20th, 2017 the world changed in a big way when Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Writers, singers, scientists, citizens and artists have started a movement. Pen America, recently released a piece called State of Emergency. Here I try to unpack there meanings and bring some context to the text. There are 8 separate comics; I recommend all of them but this week, I am only reviewing 4. | View All Conversations
Rachel Masilamani illustrates her time canvasing in New Mexico in 2004. She mentions that the best canvasing pairs were the teams of mixed gender, age, and ethnicity but that her favorite partner was always Sue, because they were “Indians”. Rachel mentions her Great Great Great Uncle who fought with the union with his pale blue eyes. Though not mentioned directly we can assume Rachel is talking about her Uncle “passing”. In other words, he looked white enough with his ‘pale blue eyes’ to be a part of the union army.
Battleground, though subtle for some readers, is a story of identity and belonging. Whether it be the lady asking Sue and Rachel what First Nation tribe they were a part of, the shouts of ‘GO BACK TO MEXICO’ or the mention of Rachel’s Uncle’s “passing”, prejudice was abound. Does Rachel now have to be great great great again and hide her identity? This comic ends with powerful imagery and words:
“O let America be America again, remembering history will bring everything into focus as your face hits the dashboard. What part of me will you keep when you send me back? Go on and grab it.”
About The Artist
Rachel Masilamani is a Pittsburgh based cartoonist who has been amassing a unique and significant body of work since the dawn of the century. She started off strong, being awarded a Xeric Grant for the first issue her series, RPM Comics, and has continued to craft her finely nuanced, personal comics in small run self-published comics and anthologies like the Indiana Review, Graphic Classics and Aster(ix). She is currently working on a new graphic novel, Nonpartum, which is being published in installments on Mutha Magazine.
© 2017 Article by Rachel McGill Of Lvl41Rogue: Comic Books & News for TBL Journal | The Black Lion is a humble interdisciplinary journal that values your voice. Visit the submissions page to learn more about submitting to the Journal’s sections or to The Wire’s Dream Magazine. | Copyright Policy
Comic image from PEN America ‘Battleground’. Artist bio and bio picture from PEN America.