This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue issue #14, June 2002.
Like everyone else, I was numbed by the horrific events of 11 of September 2001. I watched the unreal, endlessly looped footage on the TV from half a world away for two days straight. I listened to the reports, the false rumours, the first-hand accounts and discussions on talk radio as everyone tried to make sense of the situation. I discussed the events and speculated on the future with other comic professionals by e-mail for weeks.
It really did seem that the world had changed forever in those few moments. Of course, it has changed for the victims of the tragedy, for their family and friends. And it has also had an effect of the rest of us, if only on some subconscious level. But who would have thought, six months on, life could appear to be so normal again?
At the time, like many of my fellow cartoonists, I wondered if there would even be a future for comic strips after the attacks; after all, what we do seemed so trivial in comparison to what we all had witnessed.
But the comics community found a way of expressing its grief and helping those worst affected by quickly producing and publishing several different fund-raising books – Marvel Comics was very speedily into production with a comic book-sized publication containing original full-page illustrations entitled Heroes (and following up much later with a comic proper, Moment Of Silence).
After Heroes came three similarly sized volumes, all called 9-11 (being the American numerical date of the attacks – month first – and also the US phone number for the emergency services), one from Alternative Comics and the others being a two-volume collaborative effort between DC Comics and a number of other smaller publishers. These books each contain many different interpretations of the events by well-known and not-so well-known creators, generally between one and three pages long. Many of the stories’ contents are predictably similar for obvious reasons, but there are lots of interesting subtle variations, the occasional unique viewpoint and a delightfully wide range of art styles and illustrative techniques.
9-11 Emergency Relief from Alternative Comics was the first to appear after Marvel’s Heroes book, including big names like Will Eisner, Peter Kuper and Jeff Smith alongside the young talents of James Kochalka, Scott Morse and Graham Annable, but it was Dean Haspiel’s story which touched me most, because I have been on his roof from where he watched the Twin Towers collapse.
9-11 Artists Respond was put together by publishers Dark Horse, Image, Chaos Comics and unspecified others. This is probably my favourite of the three, with contributions from Dave McKean, Dave Gibbons, Dave Cooper, Roger Langridge, Mike Mignola, Al Davidson and Dylan Horrocks. A six-page full colour strip by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie conclude the book in majestic style, but Bryan Talbot’s short piece sticks in my mind the most for his paraphrasing of a Woody Alan quote.
9-11 The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers & Artists Tell Stories to Remember is not only the longest title of the three (and probably longer than any other book in the history of publishing), it also contains work by the most well-known and current mainstream creators – Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Chris Bachalo, Sergio Aragones and a cover by Alex Ross to name a few. Despite the presence of superhero stories sitting a little uncomfortably among its pages and that this book is unnecessarily divided into six sections, it is still a worthy collection.
At the time, I personally did not think I had the creative energy to produce anything worthwhile to contribute to these books; I didn’t think that I had any kind of unique perspective that would enable me to add anything new to the ongoing discussion (and after reading them, I still don’t). So I decided against attempting to create a strip concerned with the attacks or their effects, and instead donated some artwork to one of the many online auctions that raised further funds for the various causes.
All three books are good value and even more so when you consider that the bulk of the proceeds go to aid the victims of the disaster. All I can do now is encourage you to seek out all these volumes, if you don’t own them already.