Re/Read: Palestine by Joe Sacco


Re/Read is a regular feature by Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery curator Larry Reid examining backlist books you may have missed or are worth another look. As much of the world’s attention turns to developments in the Middle East over two thousand years ago, I engage in my annual ritual of re-reading Joe Sacco’s Palestine.

Shortly after arriving at Fantagraphics Books in 1992 as marketing and promotions director, Kim Thompson handed me blue line proofs of a new project by Joe Sacco. I remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” There was precious little precedent for this type of treatment of geopolitical turmoil. At that time, the mere mention of Israeli-occupied territories as “Palestine” was considered a provocation. Many comic book shops declined to carry the title, and while critical response was positive, sales were tepid. A 1993 trip to Europe with Sacco, where his work was enthusiastically received, renewed my determination to find an audience for this unfolding masterpiece.

Currently in its 13th printing, the collected Palestine remains as relevant and topical today as when it was introduced 25 years ago. That’s both the triumph and tragedy of this amazing work of art. So little has changed since Sacco visited the region in 1991. We see almost daily references to the people, places, and tragic circumstances documented in Sacco’s comix. In this season of joy for so many, here’s hoping the coming year fulfills the promise of Peace on Earth.