Amid the painful aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, comic book artists and writers were among the first in the artistic community to respond creatively. The many moving stories they drew and wrote prompted both mainstream and alternative comic book publishers to produce anthologies of visually compelling work.

Reality Eclipses Special Effects

In his opening scenes, Will Eisner depicts a meeting led by a man who dismisses all suggestions for movie scripts, calling for “the real thing.” In succeeding frames, the World Trade Center disintegrates, rendering everyone bowed and speechless. Eisner deploys his formidable skills in crafting well-paced, boldly framed scenes to produce a tight, compelling narrative. As the nation comprehended the enormous tragedy wrought by the terrorist attacks of September 11, Eisner, a legendary American comic book and graphic novel creator, was prominent among the many cartoonists who responded early through their art.

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  • Will Eisner (1917–2005). “The Real Thing,” 2001. Published in 9-11: The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember. New York: DC Comics, 2002. Ink and wash drawings with opaque white over graphite underdrawing.Gift of the artist, 2002. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (028.00.00) © Created by Will Eisner, 2001. Work by Will Eisner Studios, Inc. Used with permission. [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-02052]

  • Will Eisner (1917–2005). “The Real Thing,” 2001. Published in 9-11: The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember. New York: DC Comics, 2002. Ink and wash drawings with opaque white over graphite underdrawing.Gift of the artist, 2002. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (029.00.00) © Created by Will Eisner, 2001. Work by Will Eisner Studios, Inc. Used with permission. [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-02053]

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Heroic Passengers

During the September 11 terrorist attacks, passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 overcame their hijackers by sacrificing their own lives in the process. Exactly how they did so remains unknown, but Croatian-born Igor Kordey dramatically envisions their heroism. Three passengers advance toward the viewer, their brightly illuminated figures countering the darkly shadowed terrorists in the foreground. Kordey draws on experience in depicting action-filled comics to infuse this scene with great immediacy.

Igor Kordey (b.1957). Pennsylvania Plane, 2001. Published in Heroes: The World’s Greatest Super Hero Creators Honor the World’s Greatest Heroes 9-11-2001. Washington, DC: Marvel Comics, 2001. Ink, porous point pen, and opaque white over graphite underdrawing. Swann Memorial Fund purchase, 2002. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (030.00.00) TM and © Marvel Entertainment, LLC [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-01867]

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Buildings Embody Humanity

In five sequential images, Mac McGill combines his distinctive, fine-lined ink technique and conception of New York’s World Trade Center towers as humanized forms to comment movingly on the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The second drawing shows both buildings following the assaults, their upper stories enveloped in swirling flames and smoke from which screaming victims’ faces emerge. The towers’ jutting diagonals produce a visually jarring sensation of instability, which adds to the image’s haunting effect.

Mac McGill (b. 1958). IX XI MMI, 2001. Published in World War Three Illustrated, issue no. 32. Sacramento: Mordam Records, 2001. Ink and whiteout with overlays and graphite on paper. Gift of the artist, 2003. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (032.00.00) © Mac McGill [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-01752]

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Why Keep Drawing Comics?

The story’s opening page shows an artist’s hand inking the image of Superman, as the artist Vince objects to doing the work. He and his father, also a comic book artist, discuss Vince’s dissatisfaction with depicting superheroes in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks. On the final page, the father gives tribute to those who perished in the tragedy, but also asserts, “We help our country cope with tragedies like this one. We make people think, we help them laugh again, or maybe we just give them a place to escape for a little while.” Peter Woods and Keith Champagne apply skills gained from years of portraying superheroes to depict this engaging story with dramatic flair.

Peter Woods (b. 1971) and Keith Champagne (b. 1970). For Art’s Sake, 2001. Written by Brian K. Vaughan. Published in 9-11: The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember. New York: DC Comics, 2002. Ink, opaque white, graphite, and overlays. Gift of the artists and DC Comics, 2002. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (033.00.00) © Peter Woods, © Keith Champagne [Digital ID # LC-DIG-ppmsca-01973]

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