From issues of identity to politics, a new series by Illustrated PEN, entitled State of Emergency, captures the current concerns under the new administration and promotes free speech through cartoons.
As the website notes, “the Illustrated PEN aspires to be at the intersection of literature, journalism, and visual storytelling, where images and words come together in an ever-emerging and essential creative form.” Using graphic narratives, comics journalism, and illustrated reporting, the branch of PEN America defends and promotes the larger message that everyone has a right to free expression.
State of Emergency — a series developed by Antonio Aiello — takes that mission further by providing a space for cartoon creators to not only exercise their First Amendment rights, but also to tackle tough contemporary topics. The goal of the project: “to help amplify the voices and stories of the communities most at risk in this new and hostile reality.”
In light of the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, uncertainty and doubt has plagued Americans unsure of what the future will hold for them. State of Emergency is the visualization of those feelings, and in many ways, a means for both the creator and audiences to articulate their emotions and cope with indeterminate situations. “Seemingly overnight, we stepped back decades of hard-fought progress on issues of racism, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, nationalism, and so much more,” writes Aiello. “At this point, we are a nation so deeply divided, we can’t even agree on what is real or fake news. We are in a state of emergency.”
Collecting an array of commissioned works from a variety of cartoonists, the series tackles timely issues like racism, personal identity, and nationalism. “Our hope is that the stories created for this series will help empower and inspire people to stand up and speak out and to begin to repair what has been so thoroughly broken.”
Check out the collection of cartoons here.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!