War: The Human Cost – hard-hitting, heartbreaking tales from the frontlines….

Published On September 23, 2011 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

War: The Human Cost

Edited, designed and produced by Sean Duffield

Various Artists (listed fully in the comments)

“When we talk about war, we’re really talking about peace” – That’s a quote from George W. Bush, noted peace-monger, in the introduction to War: The Human Cost by Sean Duffield, a book that categorically disproves that terrible idea.

War: The Human Cost is a not-for-profit, humanist, pro-peace and anti-war anthology that tells us the truth; that when we talk about war we’re really talking about death, suffering, persecution, injustice, and every type of horror imaginable.

But although it’s very much anti-war and pro-peace it doesn’t simply do the equivalent of scream “no more war, no more war” for 260 pages. It’s smarter than that, and its strips speak intelligently across a wide variety of subjects; war, peace, human rights abuses, conflict, asylum and refugees, the arms trade, politics, corporate greed and much more.

We’ve already highlighted a few strips in our previews across the week, and hope they’ve given you a taste of the quality and import of the book. They certainly come thick and fast – 76 pieces by 67 different artists and most of them are merely a few pages long. The book is full of a multitude of different styles, and there’s a really high hit rate here. There are pieces that shout loudly about the world’s injustices, we have quieter, more reflective strips, autobiography, satire, dark humour, factual works and everything in between. The only real problem is one of compassion fatigue (I know, horrible phrase), and it’s probably worth taking the book in stages.

(Zatchula by Bill Donovan, just the first of many examples of artwork by those that have been there, and experienced all aspects of war.)

Most importantly War: The Human Cost has an international voice, with many of the artists recounting their experiences in war zones around the world to great effect, their proximity, the knowledge that this is no mere reporting from afar, but an authentic voice from those who were there gives a weight to the work.

It’s certainly not a book to go through strip by strip and analyse them all. That’s doing War, and the work put in by Duffield and his assembled artists, a grand disservice. Hopefully, the previews of the work we’ve been running all week will have given you a taste of this important work. But here’s a few more……

(Ulli Lust’s The Battalion Of The Virgin Mary. Hideously shocking, heartbreakingly true.)

Ulli Lust is, just like us, thankful that we live in a place where these terrible, unimaginable things don’t happen as routine, but Lust’s The Battalion Of The Virgin Mary is a heartbreakingly tale of the plight of child soldiers in Uganda and the nightmarish world they live in. In two parts, it educates and horrifies with the brutal recruitment and the subsequent impossible choices these children are given and just leaves you numb with shock, revulsion and horror that these atrocities continue.

(Two examples from Mazen Kerbaj’s Diary In A Warzone)

Sometimes the work is even closer to the terrible events of the world, such as Mazen Kerbaj’s Diary In A Warzone where Kerbaj rails against the continued bombardment of Lebanon by the Israelis, and he does so with a political carttonist’s eye – raw emotion obvious but channelled through black humour, anger and a terrible sadness at his inability to do more.

Whilst Alejando Alvarez’s Camp X-Ray reminds us that we’re just as guilty in our first world luxury of allowing terrible injustice and brutal, illegal torture to continue in our names. Brutal, hard-hitting work, stark monotone artwork and a reminder of recent shameful examples of powerful men ignoring the freedoms they profess to uphold:

(Section from Alejandro Alverez’s Camp X-Ray)

War: The Human Cost is home to many alternative artists, some we’ve possibly introduced you to on the FPI blog, others that may be completely new to you. But there’s also some very famous names adorning the pages, with classic underground cartoonists and established political cartoonists represented well.

A selection of Steve Bell’s ever thought provoking cartoons are included, veteren of this sort of political anthology Peter Kuper is here and Spain Rodriguez has two strips, the first an extract from his collaboration with Justin Wertham Dies Irae, the second his solo work Faith Based Terrorism looks around the world and through history to give us examples of the attrocities committed in the name of religion.

And as always with comic non-fiction like this, there are things to be learnt. For instance, I never knew that Cuba became an American colony as late as 1898, thanks to the hysterical influence of a warmongering media spreading propaganda and disinformation (plus ca change). That’s from Remember The Maine by Mack White, just two pages long but a great case of succinct, informative, compact cartooning.

Similarly Sean Duffield’s tale of the Hero-Rats used in Mozambique to sniff out and identify land-mines was new to me, as was the World War Two tale of the Eidelweiss Pirates of Nazi Germany, a resistance movement I knew nothing of until reading of it and more in the strip Flower Power by Greg Baldino and Noelle Barby:

(Section from Flower Power/Blumenkraft by Baldino and Barby, telling the story of the Eidelweiss Pirates of WWII)

And then there’s the out and out diatribe with documentary evidence, which, seeing as we’re looking at the Bush family dynasty in Marcel Ruijters’ Bush-Nazi Connection, is pretty understandable. And Ruijters certainly makes a good case for it – tracking the money from Hitler to Thyssen to Prescott Sheldon Bush, George senior’s daddy.

Closer to home the beautifully drawn War Criminals written by Sean Duffield and art by Cliodhna makes a case for reclassifying everyone’s least favourite middle-east peace envoy:

(War Criminals by Sean Duffield and Cliodhna)

This seems an ideal time to mention Sean Duffield. His work is present several times through his book, whether as writer, artist, or both. It’s passionate and heartfelt yet manages to present so many different emotional tones and styles – his informative, near comedic Hero Rats, the passionate crusading tone of the informative text pieces throughout, the bitter diatribe of War Criminals, the horrific brutality and ongoing hope in Liberation In Liberia, a multitude of styles and themes.

(Liberation In Liberia by Sean Duffield)

Duffield’s work in bringing War: The Human Cost to print is to be lauded, it’s a work that shouldn’t be overlooked, something important.

But special mention has to go to Caging The Snow Lion, a full colour strip written by Duffield and drawn by Laurence Elwick that describes the story of Palden Gyatso, which we’ve already covered in a preview earlier this week. The story itself is moving, emotive; of the monk whose unshakable faith and the belief that he ought to do whatever was right, regardless of the personal cost. This adaptation of Gyatso’s moved me to tears of sadness, frustration and anger by the end.

The 13 pages contain so much, with the terrible treatment of Tibet at the hands of the Chinese encapsulated in one man’s unbelievably strong resistance. It’s an inspirational piece of work. The final words by Gyatso are profound and important, and could just as easily apply to any warzone, any conflict:

I imagine Duffield will think his work successful if we don’t just put this book down and tut a little. Your actions may seem small, may feel insignificant, but they can make a difference, even if it’s just a simple as saying loudly next time, “not in my name”.

Indeed, just by buying War: the Human Cost you’re contributing to Campaign Against Arms Trade. But by the end you may well feel that this isn’t enough and you’ll be looking to see what else you can do. And that means Sean Duffield has accomplished what he set  out to do.

The book also includes a compilation CD on some diverse anti-war music. Artists include: Michael Franti & Spearhead, The Levellers, DJ Spooky, Sly & Robbie, Big Youth & Twilight Circus, Zion Train, Blue King Brown, The Black Seeds and more.

War: The Human Cost, which includes this CD is available to buy at the Paper Tiger website.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

2 Responses to War: The Human Cost – hard-hitting, heartbreaking tales from the frontlines….

  1. Richard says:

    I avoided listing the contributors at the top of the review as I normally would.

    There are simply too many of them and it meant the review simply started too far down.

    I trust the contributors involved understand – I wanted readers to get straight into what makes the book so important.

    Contributers: Vince Packard, Peter Kuper, Ian Pyper, Sean Duffield, Aleksander Zograf, Eric Theriault, Justin Wertham, Spain Rodriquez, Dan Gonzalez, Steve Bell, Abu Mahjoob, Ciaran Cross, Pier Gajewski, Oliver Schulze, Dr Parsons, Jimi Gherkin, Debra-Lyn Williams, Pete Clack, Dan Archer, Ben Naylor, Andy Vine, Sean Michael Wilson, Lee O’Connor, Lawrence Elwick, Bill Donovan, Hannes Pasqualini, Alejandro Alverez, Nicole Schulman, Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, Ulli Lust, Chelovek & Paulo Cunho, Paul O’Connell, Dan Hansen, Nelson Evergreen, Mazen Kerbaj, Christopher Rainbow, Selina Locke, INJ Culbard, Paul Stapleton, Deborah Valentine, Joel Andreas, Peter S Conrad, Mack White, Marcel Ruijters, Daniel Locke, Nate Higley, Al Frank, Louis Price, Inko, Laura O Callaghan White, Ben Jennings, Jonathan Vankin, Steve Mannion, Grag Baldino, Noelle Barby, Simon Crook, Cliodhna Lyons, Latuff, Iain Laurie, Jen Sorensen, Stephanie McMillan, AR Teest, Colin Upton, Bryan Kent Ward, Andy Vine.

  2. I completely agree with your review of this book, it really is a stunning collection. It put me in mind of the sort of thing Alan Moore tried many years ago with ‘Brought to Light – a secret history of the CIA’ and illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz. The stories, as you say, range in both style and content becoming more than just a collection of anti-war messages. My particular favourite is Ben Naylor’s ‘An AK-47 Tale’, a short history of what is probably the world’s most infamous weapon. I had no idea that this gun appeared on all those national flags! I also enjoyed the accompanying CD even though it isn’t the sort of music I would normally choose to listen to. Stylistically not quite as wide-ranging as the book but a nice addition all the same.