|"Shooting War" on sale now|
Such is the set up for "Shooting War," an original graphic novel from Anthony Lappe, Executive Editor of Guerrilla News Network, and artist Dan Goldman. Having already gained a following as a Webcomic on Smithmag.net, Lappe and Goldman have revised and expanded the story for a new full-color 192-page hardcover graphic novel in stores now from Grand Central Publishing in the U.S. and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK. CBR News had a chance to sit down with the creators in New York City to discuss the project and the "big ideas" behind it.
Though "Shooting War" has now appeared in two incarnations on the Web and now in print, it began life as still something else. "The original back-story to 'Shooting War' is that I was actually writing it as a screenplay," Anthony Lappe told CBR News. "I had a drunken night out with Jeff Newelt, who is now the creative consultant on 'Shooting War.' He's just a real big comics guy. So anyway, he was like, 'Dude, that would make a great comic!' So literally I was like, wow, that's a cool idea."
|"Shooting War" page 1|
Finding an artist for "Shooting War" took a bit more work. "I posted a thing on Craigslist, and I got a lot of responses from great artists," Lappe explained. "But they were really kind of very traditional comic-booky-type things, and I really wanted to do something different. And I really wanted to do something kind of hyper-realistic and in some ways inspired by this music video called 'Mosh' that my company Guerrilla News Network did. It was a mix of animation and green-screen shots, that sort of thing. Dan sent me a response to the Craigslist thing, I looked at his stuff online and was like, 'This is exactly what I was looking for in an artist.'"
Goldman's art in "Shooting War" includes several images that combine photography with illustration, and the use of photos is significantly increased in print version from its original Web format. When asked how he decides which images should be photo-only, or pure illustration, or a combination of the two, Goldman admits he can't really say. "It'
s kind of intuitive -- and that's also may be a cop-out answer," Goldman laughed. "When you start working, you just know what feels right. Like, some machinery that I went crazy drawing, and it was a big pain in the ass to work on, to render all those mechanicals. But I felt that was important. And there were other things where I think that--it's just to help the mood, to bring in elements that kind of create a mood or emotion, where it doesn't need to be meticulously rendered."
|"Shooting War" page 2|
"'Homicide Bombing' is a term used by Fox News and the right-wing news outlets to illustrate that they're committing suicide, but the primary goal is homicide," the writer said. "It was a kind of reference to place Global News within that genre of conservative news reporting. I don't necessarily disagree, actually, with the term. I think it's basically technically correct."
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"Shooting War" also examines the relationship between traditional, mainstream media and blogging culture. In the book, Jimmy Burns's video blog--material intended to subvert--is co-opted by Global News, a major broadcaster, because he happens to accidentally film a terrorist attack on Starbucks. Lappe sees the real-life efforts of news companies to incorporate "citizen journalism" into their coverage as a cost-cutting strategy, rather than an acknowledgment of the value of non-standard journalism.
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"But I do think, in the same way that sites like DailyKOS and other blogging sites have become very important political players online, in the text world that is. I think there's going to be a similar thing that's going to happen with news and video."
Lappe sees the emergence of newer and cheaper technology leading to regular people staging real competition for network television, which may lead to a shift in tone and format at big media companies.
|Art from "Shooting War"|
"I have a lot of respect for war correspondents," the writer continued. "A lot of people complain about mainstream news outlets, but the fact is, these guys are out there risking their lives, and doing great reporting."
That said, "Shooting War" does not shy from satirizing the usual suspects of corporate culture. Both Goldman and Lappe enjoy the various digs at Starbucks and other emblems of globalization strategically placed throughout the book. Several scenes, for example, take place in the W Hotel Baghdad. Goldman remembers seeing the first script that described this location. "I was cracking up when he told me that," the artist said.
|Art from "Shooting War"|
Other changes were driven by modifications to the original plot, as even powerful lines like "There are no civilians in Baghdad" were cut in favor of stronger material. "A major plot point happens" in the scene where this line originally appeared," Lappe said. "That scene totally changes, and it's the pivotal plot point of the book. So that line just didn't work."
Goldman agreed, though also said, "it was a great line."
Having just finished a promotional tour in the UK and now settling in for signings across the United States, CBR News asked the creators--who are both American--how this book rooted in American media and culture was received overseas. "Response has been amazing [in the UK]," Lappe said. "I think, first off, the war is so much more unpopular there. I think they're also very excited to see Americans doing savvy political humor and satire. I think they had looked at the anti-war movement as just Cindy Sheehan and a bunch of raggedy protestors."
|Art from "Shooting War"|
Have the creators run into any unsympathetic readers, possibly from the right-wing mainstream media? "I've gotten shit from the hardcore lefty people on GNN for profiting from war," Lappe laughed. "Which is just, you know, the most absurd thing I've ever heard. So, that's really it, just from the hard-core left snipers on my Website. I compare them to the grumpy old men on the Muppets, basically. They sit on GNN for like eighty hours a day, just to complain."
The original "Shooting War" Webcomic, along with the details of the creators' signing tour, can be found at www.shootingwar.com.