Grab Back this Independence Day with RESIST!

Credit: RESIST! 

Credit: RESIST! 

Tomorrow Americans will celebrate Independence Day with the usual suspects of barbecues, beer, and fireworks. But it’s also a time to reflect on what makes America “great.” In light of the current disarray of the country, what makes the United States the “land of the free and the home of the brave?”

With the epidemic known as “Fake News” and never-ending attacks on the Press threatening our constitutional right to free speech, the courage to defend liberty has never been so important. It’s a call to arms that both Françoise Mouly, the art director of The New Yorker, and her daughter, writer Nadja Spiegelman, have taken up with aplomb.

Disillusioned by the country’s political climate, which saw an orange cloud descend upon Washington, the mother-daughter duo decided to take action. How? With a kick-ass grassroots movement and publication, aptly named RESIST!  

The free print publication of political comics and graphics, edited and produced by Françoise and Nadja, was distributed at the Women’s March earlier this year. It came to fruition through the collective power of women wanting to voice their feelings and concerns for America. Through an open-call on the internet, using various social media platforms, Françoise and Nadja invited people to submit their work. “What followed,” says Françoise, “was an outpouring of interest and support of artists sending thousands of images that were beautiful, and funny, and sassy, and angry.”

It’s been several months since the release of the first issue, and since then a lot has happened. Within the first 100 days of the presidency alone there was enough news updates and controversies to drown us all. With this in mind, RESIST! shows no signs of fading into the background. Instead, the publication has set it sights on making sure that they are heard loud and clear. And what better way than by distributing Volume 2 on the most patriotic day in the nation's calendar? A day that celebrates the claiming of America’s autonomy and governance. As promoted on their website, this issue “is intended as an Independence Day celebration of our First Amendment, our diverse country, and of our resilience.”  

Credit: RESIST! 

Credit: RESIST! 

While the first issue was formatted like a tabloid newspaper (it was specifically made to be given out at the Women’s March to be held up as a poster), Françoise and Nadja wanted to make the second issue more intimate. They settled on the smaller sized format of a comic book, which also means that it has a lot more pages and can therefore include longer stories.

Although having worked as the art editor of The New Yorker, Françoise’s belief in the democratic power of print and art, specifically cartoons and comics, was truly reaffirmed through this project. Alongside established cartoonists and illustrators the publication is brimming with fresh new talent. Françoise was surprised at just how interesting the contributions were from non-professional cartoonists. “There were a lot of people with contributions where it was the first time doing drawing, published drawing, comic or doing a story about their grandmother,” says Françoise. “The back cover is by a woman who until now had worked as an executive secretary but decided that she wanted to try her hand at art and enrolled in art school. This was the first piece she did.”

RESIST! is not only a record of a resistance but a symbol of freedom, the very concept on which America was founded. It’s a beacon of hope in these uncertain times, one that has stirred the desire for freedom in people all over the world (with contributions from Florida to Germany). It is the modern day Mother of Exiles.

Yes, these are unquestionably testing times for America but as publications such as RESIST! show, that doesn’t mean you sit back and hope for the best. Throughout history it’s been the will of the people that has affected change. We have to fight harder for what we see as right and just. We can’t remain silent over matters that affect all American citizens, including those still to come. We need to make our voices heard.

Lady Liberty would surely agree.

Credit: RESIST! 

Credit: RESIST! 

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On RESIST!’s conception

Françoise Mouly: It started right after Trump’s election when we were at our most despondent, and we were offered the opportunity to be the editors of a publication that would mostly be women, and comics, and cartoons. And for me who has been a publisher and editor all my life it just seemed like it was the one plank that I could hold onto in this ocean of despair – the idea of making something, I didn’t know what it would be, but at least to gather together voices far and wide.

We put together the publication within the first week of January so it was given out at the Women’s March. The day after we came back from Washington, Nadja sat me down, got me a cup of coffee and said, ‘Ok, we’re going to keep going. We have to do another one.’ I said ‘No! No!’ [laughs]. I felt like I hadn’t breathed [for the duration of the project]. It was [a feeling of] ‘just let me just get this out then I can go back to normal living,’ but there was something exhilarating about the amount of need- how much this answered the need.

Nadja Spiegelman: It’s a combination of the democratic power of the Internet and the print publication, because we put out the open-call for submissions on our website and received submissions from all over the country, all over the world. [In addition], my mother's the art editor of The New Yorker and has written comics her whole life. [She] actively solicited her network of artists and contacts, combining some of the biggest names in comics with an 18 year old student in Germany who has never been published before, and 13 year olds, and accountants, and copywriters, and people who are picking up a pen for the first time– and all of that then gets printed into this dynamic and exciting [project]. [The] first one was in the form of a tabloid newspaper and this one is in the form of a comic book.  

 

On working together

N: We are both hard workers and are often on the same wavelength, and I think that it’s also endlessly exciting for us to work together because we learn so much from each other. I learned so much about design, page layout, what it means to be an editor, how you curate a piece– this flow of images that begins to have a real style. By the second issue we were looking at things saying things like, ‘Oh that’s very RESIST!’

F: I learned so much. I mean, I am really grateful to the entire project. I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much if I hadn’t done it with Nadja, and I think vice-versa. We exchanged information in ways that are really sustaining to me. There is a tendency with someone over 61 to say, ‘I’ve done whatever I could in the world, you take it. I apologize, I’m sorry, this is what we’re leaving you, we failed you, hopefully you’ll do better than what we accomplished.’ Because really what a blow. To be giving you young adults Donald Trump– the greatest achievement of the baby boomers. So in one way I am eager for my generation to just clear the stage- enough of us already! I can’t wait for the new generation to do better than us. With this [project] there is this extraordinary thing of a return to the values that I had when I was a kid, because there is a connection to the underground comics and the underground press.  

Credit: RESIST! 

Credit: RESIST! 

On making a free publication

N: I wanted it to be free because that felt really radically different from everything that was going on. From the commercialization of t-shirts that would say something political to the only way of protesting being through one’s consumer choices, such as deleting Uber from one’s phone, to making something that fell outside of those structures - outside of the entrenched capitalism of our society - and just have something of real generosity, of being free and therefore entirely dependent on a real network of supporters and people who believed in it in order to exist, and the kind of community that that creates behind it. That felt important.  

F: It was Nadja who insisted that this should be a free giveaway because everything is free on the Internet but it’s in order to make you buy the next pair of sneakers or lifestyle enhancement product [with the idea] that it’s going to change your life.  

N: This issue is 96 pages and it’s supporter funded- there are no ads. We are building a grassroots network of independent bookstores and comic book shops, and clothing stores and cafes throughout the country, who are each ordering boxes and then will distribute them in their shops. We currently have it in 38 states and 130 distribution points. It's complicated to make something that's free. We live in such a capitalistic society that it’s difficult, it falls outside of all the traditional distribution structures. But that also means it’s dependent on there being a real collective energy and desire to make it to have it.

 

On the beauty of print

N: There is something so good with images in this moment that to have them be [in] print, to stop that flow for a moment - to stop the river so you can actually see the molecules and have it be something that someone can hold, that sits on their coffee table in their home, that they can revisit - there’s an intimacy to that. There’s also just the fact of creating a record. A record of the resistance, a record for history, for all of these voices that are raising up in opposition, it feels important. Also, the way it gets distributed, it gets handed person to person from hand to hand, it goes into physical locations and therefore creates community.

F: It’s what is exciting for us. It is kind of a new medium in the sense that it takes full advantage of the communication back and forth between us and artists that the Internet avoids, and it’s still curated by us. It’s not just some bulletin board were anyone can post. So it’s not dominated by a couple of trolls or pranksters. But a magazine that’s produced has a way of being a record of its time, and because it is printed it gives you a chance to reflect. It’s not just one hit after the other. It wouldn't have been worth it if it had only been a print publication without the Internet component, without the multiplying effect. If it was only the artists I already knew then I would've been less willing to drop everything else I was doing to find out what I already knew. But here I was discovering so many different new voices that was exciting. Also, it wouldn't have been quite as worth it if we had put all this on our website and then next week there would be something else.

N: We are working very quickly for what it is, and the fact that it takes us a few months from start to finish, between soliciting thousands of commissions, curating them and then printing them at a printer in Long Island and then distributing them ourselves by sending box after box to different places. But it still slows down. As mom said it gives you a moment to reflect. To step back from the minute-by-minute news updates, the tweets, and reflect on the larger issues of the country’s diversity, of the environment, of what it feels to be an American right now. That’s something that is really lacking because we have a President who is so good at trolling the media and making it jump and twitch every single day with a new story. To be able to take that space back and just think about the last four months is really important. 

 

On RESIST! as a global network of contributors

N: We never considered limiting it to the US– that was the beauty of having it be on the Internet was that absolutely anybody could submit to it. Also, I live in Paris and Françoise is French. I think we both have a sense of how large America is internationally and how closely people follow American politics from abroad, and what it means when the US pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord, and that things that happen in America don’t just stay in America in terms of their reach.

F: Part of the decision that we made early on was also to do with the publication that was focused on women - almost right away we said yes - but it also has to include men. So, we put a “man’s cave” section in the back. And we encourage women in the broader sense, and women and minorities– anybody who feels disenfranchised by Trump being elected is most welcome. That’s our motto. Strangely enough, we haven’t received anything from Trump supporters, but I would be very curious if they wanted to send work...I don’t think they are into doing comics. 

PCredit: RESIST!Credit: RESIST! 

PCredit: RESIST!Credit: RESIST! 

On grassroots movements

F: I grew up as a kid in 1968 in Paris and that was my coming of age. I was out in the street protesting every week in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and the point of rally was a publication called Charlie Hebdo, which was really important for my generation. Not the one that became famous recently, but the root publication [which] was political comics and cartoons. That being said, after I came to the US, in New York you didn’t have as many demonstrations of the streets- you had to go to Washington! So yeah, we had done that. For the first George Bush who wanted to nuke Tehran to the first and second Gulf War, and after 9/11 when everybody else was wearing a flag I was wearing a peace sign. So I have not had any second salt. I’m very European that way in terms of broadcasting things that really matter to me.

N: I would say my political coming-of-age was during the Bush years. It felt really personal because my high school was very close to the Twin Towers, and it felt like the war being waged on Afghanistan and later on Iraq, was specifically out of vengeance for what had happened to us and our high school on some level.  We were just in a war zone so the idea of sending bombs onto other schools [abroad] seemed so profoundly wrong. So my friends and I became very politically active. Everybody went to go and protest all the time. But, one of my favorite moments was when I had made a stencil with my best friend that we were going to use to spray paint sort of anti-army messages outside the army recruitment center that was near my school. And my mom drove us in the middle of the night in her Volvo as our getaway car.

F: I was very proud of her.  

 

Sum up RESIST! in three words:

N: Invigorating.

F: Sassy.

N: Diverse. 

 

RESIST! is out now in selected bookshops and retailers across the US. You can also order the publication online at www.resistsubmissions.com.

WORDS & INTERVIEW: EMILY FREEDMAN