Thursday, November 18, 2010

Comic Review: 9/11 Heartbreaker

Title:  9/11 Heartbreaker
Author/ Artist:  Craig Staufenberg

This is the first reflection piece on 9/11 that I can recall reading by someone from a generation younger than my own, and in that alone, 9/11 Heartbreaker manages to be an interesting comic. At least I assume that Craig Staufenberg is somewhere in his twenties, given the perspective of the central protagonist.

I was 26 during 9/11, had worked for a few years out of college and didn't have teachers and parents trying to explain or explain away the madness of what people do.  And so part of reading the comic is sorting through the differences in perspective between those of us who think of 9/11 as a "before and after" scenario versus coming to adulthood with 9/11 has an historical fact. 

And looking at the past to inform the present to decide for the future seems to be what Staufenberg's story seems to be about at the core.  The narrator leaps from the concepts of documenting the memories of the remaining population of Japan that survived World War II (and their reluctance to do so), to documenting the memories of young New Yorkers and 9/11, to wondering what became of the memories of the founders and builders of the great cities and towns of the East Coast and the Ozymandias-like fate of their achievements.

While I think the metaphor works, it feels like it could have been more greatly expanded upon.  The attempt to tie the personal past to the larger world seems a bit unfulfilled, and as its not exactly clear who our narrator is, it feels like a missed opportunity.

The comic is brief, really.  Staufenberg has produced the story as a single, 32ish paged comic.  His rendering style is loose and, frankly, somewhat rough, but that doesn't mean he doesn't make the look work in his favor in the style of cartoonist more than an illustrator.  As I see this comic sitting on the shelves in the same section as everything from James Kolchaka to Jeffrey Brown, embracing the limitations and making them work for you is part of what cartooning is about, rather than illustrative art. 

Also stylistically, this is a comic, but not one that uses word bubbles, etc...  Instead, the prose match the flow of the sequential art, and its an interesting way to manage the story, which so very much takes place in the head of the narrator.

As a first effort, 9/11 Heartbreaker is a very interesting read.  I like the core of the concept and genuinely enjoyed the execution once it became clear where the author was headed, but I'd like to see the concept expanded a bit more.  It feels like there's an idea that gels, but you're just seeing the start of it when the story draws to a close.  Perhaps more time, more pages, etc... if Staufenberg allows himself to return to the comic, he can take this to depths and dimensions of his established contemporaries. 

I very much like this first effort, I and I look forward to seeing what we see from this same writer/ artist in the future.

Order a digital copy here

Order a print copy here


J.S. said...

I'm curious to see the book. Pretty interesting, but I have to say, from looking at the few frames that were available to view online, that I don't really see what book gains by being in a comic format (other than turning a fairly short work into a lengthier one). I guess maybe the most obvious answer would be that some people will just really love the art, but from the art I've seen, it just seems relatively uninteresting (and possibly even a distraction) as compared to the more interesting stuff that was contained in the written words. Definitely more than willing to check out the whole book, though, and see if my opinion changes.

Craig said...

Hey there JS,

I can see where you are coming from, though I'm curious whether your opinion changes after checking out the book as I was purposeful and intentional about the art in a way that might not be apparent from a couple of the stills. Feel free to shoot me an email and we can talk about it (

Thanks for your interest!


J.S. said...

I will definitely check it out. An interesting idea, to be sure, and, as I said, I was drawn to the writing, so...