Thursday, May 30, 2024

What Cartoonists Saw in Isolation: A Portrait of the Pandemic

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When the novel coronavirus began to spread across the globe in 2020, Gabe Fowler, the founder of the Comic Arts Brooklyn festival and owner of the Desert Island Comics shop, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had to shutter his store, temporarily severing his ties to the community of artists and fans who had gathered around it for the past fifteen years. Despite this emotional distance, Fowler found a certain commonality: “We were together in our isolation,” he said. Hanging on to his belief in “the power of art to build community across borders,” he put out a call to his many followers on Instagram for illustrated submissions exploring the realities of lockdown.

Collecting and publishing pages of comics on his Instagram page, Fowler provided a nonjudgmental space where artists and amateurs alike—whether they were despondent, hopeful, terrified, or some combination of the three—could put pen to paper and share their intimate realities. In the interest of maintaining a feeling of solidarity, Fowler asked for entries to focus on the wish for a better future; he insisted on a unifying nine-panel grid; and he often removed negative comments when they appeared on the platform. “Rescue Party,” an anthology of some of the hundreds of pages sent by contributors from more than fifty countries in the spring of 2020, will be published by Pantheon in July. The book chronicles a transformative event and how it was experienced across many cultures. Some of its pages are featured below, an ode to art’s power to capture a moment and to trace the contours of its emotional reality.—Françoise Mouly

A comic strip about complicated emotions during a pandemic.

By Kathiuska (Catalina Vásquez), Medellín, Colombia

A comic strip about sailing through fog.

By Lucas Gehre, Brasília, Brazil

A comic strip about going for a walk outside during lockdown.

By Maria Pichel, Barcelona, Spain

A comic strip about life in the city during a pandemic.

By Paterson Hodgson, Toronto, Canada

A comic strip in which a dog character thinks about life before a pandemic lockdown.

By Sean Kelly, Brooklyn, New York

A comic strip about silence sounds and memory during lockdown.

By Tana Oshima, New York, New York

A comic strip about caring for a houseplant.

By Jo Yeh, New York, New York

A comic strip about hugs in the future.

By Jolos Carsé, Lima, Peru

A comic strip anticipating various activities after lockdown.

By Kaitlin Chan, Hong Kong, China

A comic strip about anticipating being in the same space as someone else.

By Mike Shea-Wright, New York, New York

A comic strip in which a person imagines leaving negativity behind.

By Pedro MC Fernandes, Montijo, Portugal

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