Images of terrified, crying women, curled in fetal position on the couch, shrinking away from grabbing hands or drowning in an ocean with no one to help them fill the pages of RESIST!, a 40-page comic tabloid by female artists that will be distributed on the streets across the United States this weekend, as Donald Trump is sworn into office.
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“RESIST forces that would divide us, RESIST the normalization of fascism,” says the newspaper's website. More than 1000 artists have sent their political art to project's editors, Françoise Mouly and her daughter, writer Nadja Spiegelman.
As the art editor of The New Yorker, Mouly is responsible for some of the most memorable and controversial covers of the magazine. Celebrated cartoonists Alison Bechdel, Lynda Barry, and Roz Chast have joined in, as have other contributors from across the United States, including those who are not professional artists. So has Mouly's husband and Spiegelman's father, the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, the celebrated creator of Maus, a graphic novel about the Holocaust.
“People were excited by this form of expression, everything grew from each other ... It was as if we were publishing in real time,” Mouly tells Haaretz. “By Friday, there are going to be people all over the United States, including the artists, giving away this tabloid.”
Liana Finck, who has contributed to the New Yorker in the past, sent a comic called “Little Nano and the American Dream,” which depicts a helpless, scared little Nano desperately trying to wake up from the nightmarish reality of a egomaniac king. “Welcome to my kingdom, little Nano! You are my guest of honor!” he says. Other cartoons are a call to resist the administration, with images of women marching, raising their fists or discussing the resistance.
“The female artists that sent us their voice, very few people drew Trump. They drew themselves, their mothers, grandmothers, their ovaries," says Nadja Spiegelman, who sees the project as an affirmation, rather than a denunciation. “When women speak out, they are under pressure to speak for other women, but when they gather together, they can finally speak for themselves.”
The paper will be distributed by volunteers, and is published by Gabe Fowler, the owner of the Desert Island comic shop in Brooklyn. Since 2009, Fowler has been publishing and editing Smoke Signal, a quarterly comics and art anthology in a free newspaper format. “After the election, I was personally very upset and shocked. I knew I had to do something and since I was already make a newspaper regularly, I thought, at the very least I can do a special edition of Smoke Signal," he recalls, "and that idea has evolved into the RESIST! project.” When a friend suggested an all-female artists issue, Fowler decided to find a woman to be the guest editor. “My first dream editor was Françoise Mouly, who to my amazement agreed, and that immediately changed everything and started a wildfire,” he says.
Although most of the contributors are American women, women outside of the U.S. as well as male artists are also featured in the issue. Canadian illustrator Ghazaaleh Rastgar drew a woman holding an umbrella to shield herself as penises rain down on her, while Marco Melgrati, an illustrator from Italy, sent in an image of the statue of liberty, her shadow giving a Nazi Salute. Art Spiegelman contributed a drawing of Trump. “To be (sob) continued,” he wrote under his cartoon.
As many American women feel betrayed by the Trump's election despite his misogynistic comments and statements about sexually assaulting women, there is a fear that the criticism will be toned down once he takes office, as part of the reckoning in the media or in deference to the seat of the presidency.
"We see a tendency in the media, a certain kind of attraction to power, to the winner, of not wanting to lose access," says Mouly "I don’t think journalists think that they are normalizing, but there is a kind of implicit rule, for example, when me and Nadja were interviewed about RESIST!, one of the major news organizations also asked the reporter to balance it with an interview about artists doing pro-Trump art.”
Yet RESIST! opted not to following this path, and does not feature pro-Trump artists or calls for reconciliation. “At one point we were discussing things with the women’s march, and they said it is important for them to be bipartisan, and I said, 'Well, it’s important for me not to be bipartisan!'" says Mouly. “We tried to make a it a cry for people who value acceptance, be it physical disability, mental disability, immigrants, different cultures, different backgrounds. Those need to be nurtured at this day and age.”