[T]he chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, released a garishly illustrated and luridly written document that is ostensibly dedicated to “helping the American people understand” that Iran’s fundamentalist regime and its nuclear ambitions pose a strategic threat to the United States.
–"Wanted: Scarier Intelligence," New York Times
Since my personal comics collecting focuses on renditions of war, genocide and political dysfunction, when I heard comic artists had translated the 9/11 Commission Report, I could hardly wait to get over to Big Brain Comics to find a copy. A comic's selective powers — of focus, abstraction, personal narrative, detached commentary and expanding or compressing time — help the reader grasp big themes and complex events.
And then right on its heels, the House Intelligence Committee releases a report the Times calls "garishly illustrated and luridly written." A excellent addition, I thought.
Though I've only previewed the 9/11 report, which you can do here, I'm still planning to buy the book. But the House Committee Report — "Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States" — is a big disappointment.
Garishly illustrated? I guess the Times meant a PowerPoint bar chart on Iranian fuel sources and this map showing Iranian missile ranges. The most exciting graphic to me was seeing Rep. Rush Holt's signature on the cover letter. (The N.J. Democrat is the ranking member on the House Select Committee and a former college mate. Holt, whose credentials as a physicist are at least as old as Mark Kennedy's CPA registration, really has the kind of training we need more of in Washington.)
Compare that with this sequence from the 9/11 report.
But then, as a former creator of comics for the military-industrial complex, I have high standards. One of my past jobs was writing and creative directing "executive summaries" for the top decision-makers who would review the massive proposals for major weapon systems. As with the 9/11 report, the trick was to compress thousands of pages of classified technical detail into 24 pages of clear, concise and memorable sales pitch. That could best be done in a highly integrated format of words and images.
My employer, the Pentagon and, I imagine, our competitors, employed teams of writers. editors, illustrators and designers for this purpose. I guess the House report illustrates that one more area of intelligence has slipped under the Bush Administration.
For more of my war-oriented graphic novel recommendations, see this post.