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Comic Relief - Calgarian among artists aiding the American Red Cross - FFWD, February 2002

Ian Doig


Some would argue that superhero comics have become a lot more sophisticted in recent years. Others might counter "who cares?" The superheroes do tend to overshadow other comic work. An evolving niche for some artists is as chroniclers of our time - part investigative journalist, part artist, they are grounded in reality.

9-11: Emergency Relief, an anthology published by Alternative Comics and benefiting the American Red Cross, gives a cross-section of comic talent one assignment: show-and-tell us about the impact of the terrorist attacks on September 11. Notable names her include Will Eisner (The Spirit), Harvey Pekar (American Splendour) and Ted Rall (2024).

For Calgary contributor Sam Hester - artist by day, flight attendant by night - it is her first published work. Although she has been drawing autobiographical comics for some time, she admits she had no idea there was a place for such storytelling in a realm dominated by capes and tights. For the last five years Hester has produced a strip entitled "the drawing book" which she posts on her web site, www.thedrawingbook.com.

"It's just about what goes on with me," she says. "I didn't think people would want to read about that beyond friends of mine who saw it."

While attending a San Diego comic convention last summer, she met comic editor Jeff Mason, and they discussed publishing her work. Before anying took shape, the attacks happened, and soon after, Mason asked her to contribute to the 9-11 charity project. Taking her usual approach, Hester chronicled her feelings and contrasted them with the reactions of those around her.

"You have to be really tasteful about it," she says. "I did write in my story what one person said - 'What does America expect with the foreign policy that they've had?' I wanted to have that opinion represented, but not necessarily as my own - it's nothing as simple as that."

She agrees that looking in on the tragedy as a Canadian, her perspective contrasts with other, mainly American, contributors.

"Things hit home for people when it happens to them personally. A lot of contributors wrote 'now I understand what fear is.' Now when people talk about tragedies or crises, they can understand that. I don't know more than they do, but I didn't want to write about that, but about what was going on afterwards and the people I talked to and what it made me think about."

Although Hester's story accurately captures her feelings at the time, her thoughts about the tragedy have evolved. "One thing I've been wondering about a lot, since that's my job, is what would I have done had I been on one of those airplanes? I didn't think about drawing that then. It might have been too close to home."

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