In the two decades since Joe Sacco invented comics reportage as a genre, his work has fuelled a revolution in respect. Together with Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust memoir, Maus (1986), Sacco’s war-zone masterpieces, including Palestine (collected in one volume in 2001), Safe Area Goražde (2000) and Footnotes in Gaza (2009), prised open doors. His example can now be discerned in graphic novels around the world, such as Zahra’s Paradise (2011) by Amir and Khalil, set after disputed elections in Iran, and Magdy El Shafee’s Metro: A Story of Cairo (2008), on the corruption that spurred the Cairo Spring. Mubarak’s doomed regime was sufficiently alarmed to put the cartoonist on trial.
Yet in comics journalism Sacco is still in a class of his own. A Maltese-American with a journalism degree from Oregon, a robust moral compass and a hapless cartoon persona, he draws on underground comix and New Journalism, with influences from Brueghel to Orwell to Robert Crumb and Hunter S