Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World

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9781844675258: Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World

The stories of the hard-rock miners’ shooting wars, young Elizabeth Gurly Flynn (the “Rebel Girl” of contemporary sheet music), the first sit-down strikes and Free Speech fights, Emma Goldman and the struggle for birth control access, the Pageant for Paterson orchestrated in Madison Square Garden, bohemian radicals John Reed and Louise Bryant, field-hand revolts and lumber workers’ strikes, wartime witch hunts, government prosecutions and mob lynching, Mexican-American uprisings in Baja, and Mexican peasant revolts led by Wobblies, hilarious and sentimental songs created and later revived—all are here, and much, much more.

The IWW, which has been organizing workers since 1905, is often cited yet elusive to scholars because of its eclectic and controversial cultural and social character. Wobblies! presents the IWW whole, scripted and drawn by old-time and younger Wobbly and IWW-inspired artists.

Contributors include Carlos Cortez (former editor of the Industrial Worker), Harvey Pekar (author of American Splendor), Peter Kuper (MAD’s Spy vs. Spy), Sue Coe, Seth Tobocman, Chris Cardinale, Ryan Inzana, Spain Rodriques, Trina Robbins, Sharon Rudahl, and the circle of artists for World War 3 Illustrated.

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Imagine being a workers' rights activist at the time of the Industrial Revolution. As shown in Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, you had to have resolve as steely as anything produced on the factory floor. It's slightly ironic, then, to have these heroic, life-and-death tales of class warfare captured in the ephemeral medium of a comic book. Created as a collaboration between historians and graphic novelists, it is an engaging, informative, and sometimes uneven look at a time of violent social upheaval. The editors of this collection assume that their readers are at least somewhat familiar with the history of the Wobblies--this is not a children's primer. Many entries are similar, filled with pedantic text, but two in particular are superb, harnessing the potential power of the graphic novel form to great emotional effect. "Strike! (Lawrence 1912)," by Seth Tobocman, tells of ruling-class cruelty against striking workers with a ghostly grace born from its wood-cut graphical style. Nicole Schulman's "Mourn Not the Dead" strikes the right balance between storytelling and artistry, bringing the terrible reality of the Cook County Prison--where Wobblies died from mistreatment behind bars--to unforgettable reality. These entries alone fulfill the promise of a book that seeks to make the often overlooked history of the Wobblies relevant again. --Jennifer Buckendorff

About the Author:

Paul Buhle,formerly a senior lecturer at Brown University, produces radical comics. He founded the SDS Journal Radical America and the archive Oral History of the American Left and, with Mari Jo Buhle, is coeditor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left. He lives in Madison.

Nicole Schulman is an artist and activist on the editorial board of World War 3 Illustrated, to which she frequently contributes work. Her comics and illustrations have appeared in publications such as the New York Times, and are in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. She lives in New York City.

Harvey Pekar is a comic book writer and author of the autobiographical American Splendor series, which was adapted into an Academy Award nominated film. Pekar is also a prolific jazz and book critic. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

Retired cartoonist and current comics historian Trina Robbins has been writing graphic novels, comics, and books for over 30 years. Her subjects have ranged from Wonder Woman and The Powerpuff Girls to her own teenage superheroine, GoGirl!, and from women cartoonists and superheroines to women who kill. She lives in a moldering 103 year-old house in San Francisco with her cats, shoes, and dust bunnies.

Spain Rodriguez is one of the most well-known artists in the comix underground. He (along with Robert Crumb) was one of the original members of Zap Comics and has a reputation as an outstanding political artist. He is the author of several other graphic novels, including the highly acclaimed Nightmare Alley. His work is prominently featured in BLAB!, an annual comic anthology that has also featured Charles Burns, Mark Mothersbaugh, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware.

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