Monday, September 1, 2008

Comics Never Forgot

By Chris Buchner

Seven years ago, the unthinkable happened. On September 11, 2001, the largest terrorist attack ever to be set upon the United States was enacted. Four planes were hijacked, one sent crashing into the Pentagon and another being stopped by its frightened passengers before it could even reach its target. The other two found theirs, however, and the World Trade Center in New York City was no more.

People, emergency crews and civilians alike, came from all over the country to help in the rescue effort that grew increasingly fleeting in its success as the hours and days passed. When all was said and done, over 3,000 people lost their lives in the city that day, not even counting the victims on all four planes and the Pentagon.

In the days that followed, you could see a change. There was a disbelief that it ever happened, that it was nothing more than a big-budget movie. People in general were a lot nicer to each other than they ever were before. There was a feeling of togetherness that had unfortunately become strange in these modern times. As the reality set in, the coping began and in time things were for the most part back to the way they were before that day. But, no matter the person or how they were affected, no matter their race or religion, a silent promise was made: we would never forget.

As they had done with countless events in the past, from relief efforts to war efforts, the comic industry stepped up once again to do their part to help out the victims and families of the tragedy. And they did so with far deeper hearts than ever before, because this was no war. This was no national disaster. This was a purposeful act of aggression on innocent civilians just going about their daily lives.

Leading the charge was Marvel Comics and Editor in Chief Joe Quesada, who immediately after the attacks assembled a large collection of creators to do what they did best. The result was Heroes, a magazine-sized 64-page publication containing pin-ups and prose of various lengths honoring the men and women without powers who rushed to the aid of others in need, as well as the innocent victims of the day. The book, with a cover by Alex Ross, was released just over a month later, an impressive feat where publishing can take three months or more before a product ever sees release. The book sold out within the first day of its release, sparking three additional printings with most of the proceeds going to the Twin Towers Fund. Amongst the talent featured were Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Walter Simonson, Paul Dini, Todd McFarlane, Kurt Busiek, Fabian Nicieza, Frank Miller, Mike Deodato Jr., George Perez, Kevin Smith, Dale Keown, Adam Kubert, Salvador Larroca, Neal Adams and more.


January and February saw the release of additional tribute benefit books. 9-11: Emergency Relief was the product of Jeff Mason by Alternative Press. He too assembled a cavalcade of creators and had them deliver comic versions of their own personal experiences on that day. Proceeds from the book were used to benefit the American Red Cross in its efforts to deliver aid to the victims and their families. Originally intended to be just under 100 pages, the project continued to grow and swell to well over 200. The book featured the talents of Phil Hester, Nick Abadzis, Gail Simone, Scott Morse, James Kuhoric, Will Eisner, Michael Avon Oeming, Steve Ellis, Tom Beland and others. Frank Cho provided the cover.

Other publishers teamed up for a combined effort in the books 9-11: Artists Respond and 9-11: September 11th, 2001. Artists Respond was produced in cooperation by Chaos! Comics, Dark Horse Comics and Image Comics, with additional input from Oni Press, Top Shelf and others with a cover by the New Yorker’s Eric Drooker. 9-11: September 11th, 2001 was a production of DC Comics and also featured a cover by Alex Ross. These two volumes contained both moving stories and personal accounts about that day, with DC’s edition split up into chapters containing stories with similar themes. Both books, their paper supplier, printer and distributor all donated their share of money from their publication towards the World Trade Center Relief Fund, Survivors Fund of the National Capital Region, The September 11th Fund, and the Twin Towers Fund.

A smaller effort was done by Joe Linsner, creator of the character Dawn. As a native New Yorker, he decided to put down the experiences of himself and two friends he was with the day of the tragedy. The standard sized black and white issue was released through his own and raised money towards the American Red Cross.

Marvel, not to be left out, came out with two more tribute books. The first was A Moment of Silence, advertised on the back cover of Heroes. Featuring a cover by Quesada and Ross, four wordless stories inspired by true events that came out of the attacks by creative teams including Kevin Smith, Igor Kordey, Quesada, John Romita Jr., Marvel President Bill Jemas, Mark Bagley, Brian Michael Bendis and Chuck Austen. The book also featured an introduction by then-mayor Rudolph Giuliani and additional contributions by Joe Jusko, Chris Sotomayor, Norm Rapmund, Scott Hanna and others.

Their last salvo came from their hero most synonymous with New York City, Spider-Man. The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2 #36, known as The Black Issue for its all-black cover, showed how the inhabitants of the Marvel Universe coped with the tragedy, hero and villain alike symbolizing the spirit of togetherness demonstrated that day and the weeks that followed. Done by the regular creative team at the time of J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr., proceeds from both books also went towards the Twin Towers Fund.

There was no competition, there was no bottom line. These companies came together in their own ways out of a labor of love to do what they could to help those in need. If nothing else, that was the spirit that befell all the American people that day, and a reminder that despite the best attempts to divide us, the worst you can do is unite us.

All gave some, some gave all. Never forget, September 11, 2001.

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