`This book shows just what can be done'

2 comic-book veterans break new ground by turning the 9/11 commission report into graphic format

September 17, 2006|By Alex Chun | Alex Chun,Los Angeles Times

Children's comic-book veterans Sid Jacobson and Ernie Col?n - age 76 and 75, respectively - seem a most unlikely duo to make it big in the graphic-book medium, a field dominated by manga, superheroes and the avant-garde. After toiling in near anonymity for more than 50 years, the longtime friends have burst into the media spotlight with their recently published graphic adaptation of The 9/11 Commission Report.

Released to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation condenses the original 567-page report down to 131 comic-book pages. Reviews of the book have been mostly favorable.

"I think the comic-book format has been wrongly stigmatized," said Jacobson, who lives in Los Angeles. "This book shows just what can be done with the graphic medium, and just how successful that medium can be."

So far, early sales are proving Jacobson's point. The book boasted an initial print run of 60,000 copies, and has gone back for additional printings of 20,000. And like its original source material, which was published two years ago, the adaptation has made the New York Times best-seller list, debuting at No. 6 in the paperback nonfiction category.

For Jacobson and Col?n, the recent spate of media attention is unprecedented. Since the early 1950s, when they first met at New York's Harvey Comics, Jacobson and Col?n had been primarily known in comic-book circles for their work together on titles featuring Richie Rich (a character Jacobson co-created) and Casper the Friendly Ghost.

Given the nature of the book, Jacobson and Col?n bypassed comic-book publishers in favor of garnering a better deal with one of the major New York publishing houses. Their gamble paid off. According to Jacobson, they quickly received an offer from Hill and Wang, which was looking to start a line of graphic nonfiction titles.

Jacobson and Col?n note that the chairman and vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, put their stamp of approval on the adaptation by penning the foreword.

Hamilton, who currently serves as the president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said he had reservations when he first heard about the adaptation. But after looking at the pages, he quickly came to the realization that it was professionally done and faithfully followed the report. "It also opens the report up to a whole new audience that doesn't read much anymore."

As a follow-up to the adaptation, Jacobson and Col?n are ramping up for another graphic nonfiction book for Hill and Wang tentatively titled After 9/11: A Graphic History of the War on Terror.

"The book will be based on news reports, and we hope to have it done within the next year," Jacobson said. "It's the next step in what I like to call graphic journalism - reporting with words and pictures."

Alex Chun wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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