FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Che Guevara Meets Trashman

Like many of my contemporaries, I grew up on comic books.  From the mainstream graphic fiction starring Billy Batson and Archie to the alternative realities of the Zap Comix universe and the Freak Brothers, those stories with pictures entertained me and enhanced my world.  Nowadays, comic-styled tales and interpretations of classic novels claim a popular space in libraries and bookstores across much of the world.  Many of the graphic novels are geared towards a youthful audience and deal with teen angst, vampires and such.  Others are designed to convince the reader of a certain point of view and are often published by an organization or group with a particular point of view.  Then there are those that stand alone.

The recently released Che: a Graphic Biography stands among the latter.  Drawn by one of the most political of all the underground comix artists from the 1960s and 1970s–Spain Rodriguez–Che is the story of the revolutionary Che Guevara.  Spain’s detailed drawing and direct storytelling is more than an introduction to Che Guevara.  It is a classic of the graphic genre.  In the past, Spain used his radical passion and artistic skills to tell the story of the Spanish anarchist military hero Buenaventura Durruti.  He created one of the most interesting characters and scenario in comix fiction in his Trashman series and drew some of the most intricately beautiful singular panels that ever appeared in the Zap Comix series.  The writer of the text in Che is Paul Buhle, a longtime radical, a founding member of the defunct journal Radical America and a writer who has at least two other radical comix to his credit: the 2007 release Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History and Wobblies.

Che is drawn in a manner quite similar to the Trashman comics.  Quasi-proletarian in its styling, the story is told in a shorthand that emphasizes landmark moments in Guevara’s personal and political life.  The reader follows the journey told in Che’s Motorcycle Diaries and watches as Spain points to incidents and people that educated Che to the ways of the capitalist world and moved his worldview towards revolution.  From there, the reader is taken to Mexico where Che begins a commitment to the Cuban revolution.  Key moments in that revolution and Che’s role in it are drawn and told.  From there Che goes to Africa and then to Bolivia where he meets his end at the hands of the CIA.

Spain was always the most politically radical of the underground comix artists.  His work never shied from putting his belief in the need for revolution and freedom on the page.  There’s a panel in (the first?) Trashman comic that features a billboard in the dystopian future inhabited by Trashman and the humans he fights for and against.  The message on the billboard reads –in a clear reference to the behavior modification theories of B.F. Skinner made popular among some in the power elites in his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity–“Beyond Freedom and Dignity Lies Fascism.”  That message, delivered in the offhanded manner that it was yet in the context of the proletarian counterculture superhero Trashman fighting those who would use their money and power to control us all in their pursuit of profit, has remained with me as much as Marx’s admonition to lose our chains.

Che was not a superhero.  He was a man.  Despite the current fascination with his image and its use by many around the world, that is the most important lesson of his life.  He worked constantly to change himself into the new man he hoped to create in the world, but he existed still as a human being like the rest of us.  Spain’s comic biography of him reminds the reader of that fact.  Simultaneously, it reminds us that we too are capable of creating similar change in ourselves and the among our fellow humans.

Comics like Spain’s Che are more than pictures.  They are more than the words put sparingly on the page.  They are a medium designed to help their readers imagine a world defined by the ink lines of the artist in an effort to bring the story alive.  In the case of Che Guevara, the dynamism of the story is more than enough to turn those lines from two dimensions into three.  Combined with Spain’s comparably dynamic artistic style, the contradictory force that was Che Guevara is truly brought alive in this work.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
Fred Gardner
Exploiting Styron’s Ghost
Dean Baker
Fact-Checking the Fact-Checker on Medicare-for-All
Weekend Edition
August 10, 2018
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Militarizing Space: Starship Troopers, Same As It Ever Was
Andrew Levine
No Attack on Iran, Yet
Melvin Goodman
The CIA’s Double Standard Revisited
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Grifter’s Lament
Aidan O'Brien
In Italy, There are 12,000 American Soldiers and 500,000 African Refugees: Connect the Dots 
Robert Fantina
Pity the Democrats and Republicans
Ishmael Reed
Am I More Nordic Than Members of the Alt Right?
Kristine Mattis
Dying of Consumption While Guzzling Snake Oil: a Realist’s Perspective on the Environmental Crisis
James Munson
The Upside of Defeat
Brian Cloughley
Pentagon Spending Funds the Politicians
Pavel Kozhevnikov
Cold War in the Sauna: Notes From a Russian American
Marilyn Garson
If the Gaza Blockade is Bad, Does That Make Hamas Good?
Sean Posey
Declinism Rising: An Interview with Morris Berman  
Jack Dresser
America’s Secret War on Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Use and Misuse of Charity: the Luck of the Draw in a Predatory System
Louis Proyect
In the Spirit of the Departed Munsees
Binoy Kampmark
Banning Alex Jones and Infowars
Mundher Al Adhami
On the Iraqi Protests, Now in Their Second Month 
Jeff Mackler
Nicaragua: Dynamics of an Interrupted Revolution
Robert Hunziker
Peter Wadhams, Professor Emeritus, Ocean Physics
David Macaray
Missouri Stands Tall on the Labor Front
Thomas Knapp
I Didn’t Join Facebook to “Feel Safe”
John Carroll Md
Are Haitian Doctors Burned Out?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail