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ICC: Global Deterrent or Paper Tiger?

Today we publish our second interactive comic by Dan Archer, 'International Criminal Court: Global Deterrent or Paper Tiger?' Archer's comic explores the ICC, based in The Hague, from a historical and political perspective. The central question: Is the ICC a global deterrent or a paper tiger?

The main thread of Archer's comic reads horizontally, telling the history of the ICC and the central questions it faces. Supplemental information is provided by scrolling through the vertical panels, allowing readers to choose how deep they want to go into the story. Read Dan's blog post today for more on the creation of the comic.


The comic is part of the cooperation between Cartoon Movement and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The LSE is undertaking a six year research project on governance, security and justice in conflict-affected areas. Cartoon Movement supports the academic research with independent journalism in the form of editorial cartoons and comics journalism.

This comic is the starting point for LSE students to debate the various perspectives on the ICC. Based on the input of students, the comic will evolve to include new perspectives that will be added by the artist in the coming months.

Dan made his first interactive comic for us last year, creating a narrative of contrasting testimonies about the the Blackwater shootings in Nisoor Square, Baghdad in 2007, where 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.

Building the ICC Comic

By Dan Archer

This is a column on the creation of the The ICC: Global Deterrent or Paper Tiger?


All of my online comics start with a challenge - to use the tools available to an online reader to navigate through a piece in way that they couldn't in print. With the first interactive comic I did for Cartoon Movement, the Nisoor Square shootings, this was to represent space in a way that allowed various contrasting testimonies to be represented simultaneously. The map of Nisoor square, Baghdad, was a good canvas to ground the action in, and elements' movements around the said canvas was controlled by the timeline. Having focused on physical space as the foundation of that piece, I wanted to flip things to focus on time instead. What I mean by this is to look at the traditional framework of a historical timeline - linear, chronological and one-way - and make it more malleable.
When you tell a story, rare is the occasion when you can get from beginning to end without pausing at various points to add additional, tangential information. This not only enriches the listener's experience, but adds context and important supplementary detail. Without such tangents, stories run the risk of sounding like a causal shopping list of event: x happened, then y happened after it, then z, etc. My goal was to let the user control where they chose to seek out the supplementary information, as well as forcing them to navigate from panel to panel using the cursors. You'll have noticed I'm not a big fan of only having the scroll bar as the driving wheel for steering through a piece.


Early Prototypes

Looking at different ways of scrolling through a comic, it seemed odd to me that in the transition to a digital platform, comics would be consumed by readers in the same way. I still work in print (despite the apocalyptic technophile naysayers), and appreciate the power of a page turn as one of the most dramatic beats we can use. But there's no reason we should be bound by the same constraints when we switch to a different medium -for the same reason we shouldn't feel locked into the standard book portrait layout. Bearing this in mind, I looked at the most tried and tested (although arguably not celebrated for being compelling) format for showing images in sequence: the slideshow.
Picture 4
The first iteration was a simple hack with a scrollbar, presenting the pictures in a very similar way that Apple does with its coverflow design for iTunes. Credit is due to Finn Rudolph, a developer whose freeware work provided a decent springboard. However, it was largely just an aesthetic improvement that offered little benefit to the reading experience (although multiple older non-comics readers told me it was much easier to follow, interestingly). For the second version, therefore, I introduced the tangential element by way of a small arrow that prompted users to scroll along a vertical axis in addition to a horizontal one. I also added a link to a pop-up window (click on the hand-drawn map of Afghanistan in the link above), but it needed a clearer call to action. Something was missing - a way to ensure users didn't get lost in the dual axis map of panels I'd put together, that also clearly delineated when there was and wasn't additional content for them to dig down into.


The Final Version

Third time was indeed a charm, as I extrapolated the feedback I'd had from the previous two versions and pasted them into a flatter layout that didn't distort the size of the panels (which, after reflection, seemed gimmicky to me anyway). Crucially, I also added a replica numerical mini map at the bottom of the page to give readers a navigational crutch so they could see where the additional content one (as mentioned earlier) as well as work out how far into the story they were. It also allowed me to add a background to tie all the content together thematically. I'm pleased with the fluidity of the scroll, as well as the use of opacity to highlight the central panel (a build on the hierarchical stacked layout from earlier versions). As any good developer knows though, there's never a final version, just more improved betas, so expect a few tweaks in the follow-up that will include videos, hyperlinks and – of course – pop ups.

Dan Archer is a comic journalist and was a 2010-11 John S.Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He's created non-fiction comics in print and online for American Public Media, Truthout, the Poynter Institute and Alternet among others. For more of his work, visit Find him on twitter @archcomix or check out his interactive prototypes at

Preview: International Criminal Court comic

This Wednesday we'll publish an interactive comic by Dan Archer about the International Criminal Court, the second multimedia comic Dan has done for us. You'll able to read through the history of the court and the debate surrounding its  effectiveness and we'll publish a post from Archer looking into the comic's creation. Here's a look:


Picture 4

SXSW comics journalism

I'm back from the South By Southwest Interactive in Austin and I thought I'd bring you some belated tidbits from the panel I was on: How Comics Journalism Is Saving Your Media.

Sarah Jaffee, an editor at Alternet and our panel's moderator, Storfied the tweets from the panel so you can see how it all went down from people tweeting int he room. Publisher's Weekly also did a write up of our talk you can read here.

One big announcement made in Austin was by Erin Polgreen, who was awarded a grant to launch Symbolia, "a tablet magazine of illustrated journalism that pairs incendiary reportage with beautiful illustrations and comics."

Susie Cagle, who has contributed reporting to Cartoon Movment, presented a short video of her Occupy Oakland coverage.

Cagle was recently awarded the Cartoonist Award from the Society of Prefessional Journalists in Northern California. She penned a great acceptance speech, Even the Cartoonists, that speaks of her difficulty finding acceptance among some of her peers – her non-freelance, non-cartoonist peers – and arresting officers, who don't hold comics in as high regard as we do around here.

My work spans multiple mediums, but my illustrated work tends to define me. Indeed, this award is for the “cartoonist” category — a definition I think most would agree applies to me, but one I think people tend to associate with editorial cartooning and caricature. I consider my work illustrated reportage; I don’t seek to exaggerate with my drawings, but to document.


-Matt Bors

Cartoonists Without Borders

D-sf cartoon movement

Two of Cartoon Movement's own, Jaume Capdevila and Miguel Villalba Sánchez, better known as KAP and Elchicotriste, have recently set up a non-profit organization that aims to use the power of cartoons for social change: Dibujantes Sin Fronteras (Cartoonists Without Borders).

We talk to Miguel about how and why this organisation, also known as D-SF, was created, what they have done so far,  and what's in store for the coming year.


Where and how and why did you get the idea to start D-SF?

In may 2011, Kap and I were invited to participate in an French-Spanish event about editorial cartooning organized by Cartooning for Peace and the Institut Français de Madrid. During a dinner in the presence of the French ambassador, and other colleagues, we decided to create a social platform that would use the skills and connections of  cartoonists as a practical and immediate tool to support good causes. We felt the name 'Dibujantes sin fronteras'(Cartoonists without borders) would perfectly reflect the spirit of our goals, and the international dimension.

Kap and I have both have experience in the creation of associations or events related with comic art and cartoons, including cultural association, online magazine El Web Negre, and the Comic Art week in Tarragona.

The organization was established in November 2011. What have you done so far?

Since its formation, D-SF has been involved in two projects; we are currently running a third one. 

JapanIn November 2011, D-SF was present a a big event for Japan organised in the Congress Palace of Tarragona in the presence of the ambassador of Japan. There we made caricatures for charity, with all the money raised going to the to the victims of the Tsunami.

Another project created by D-SF will be ready this month: a book about the economical crisis with the participation of 45 Catalan cartoonists. All the money made from book sales will go to the  to the Arrels Foundation, an organization that helps homeless people.

D-SF is also currently collaborating with an association of bloggers in Tunisia. These were the people that created the momentum for the Arab Spring (like Wilis from Tunis). This association of artists is named Yakayaka; they have an online magazine released every Saturday at A set of postcards with the work of a number of Tunisian artists will be prepared by D-SF. The presentation of those postcards will be during a big exhibition for freedom of expression that they are preparing for April. The money raised with the sale of these post cards will go to the victims of the Tunisian revolution.

Cover of the book about the economic crisis, with the work of 45 Catalan cartoonists.
Captura de pantalla 2012-03-05 a las 18.50.38[1]

Right now, the main goal of D-SF is to realize practical projects for different causes around the world, using the power of cartoons, without the delay and bureaucracy that characterizes so many non-profit organizations. We can say that we're a drawing 'guerrilla', because of our independence and ability to take immediate action.

Postcards for Tunisia.Postcards

New Cartoonists

Over the last few weeks, more cartoonists have joined our ranks. The newest members hail from Venzuela, Portugal, Nicaragua and Brazil:

Daniel Garcia

Daniel is a 27-year old illustrator from Portugal. His illustrations appear in Portugal and in Spain,  in Diário de Notícias and Diário de Notícias (among others).

Edgar Vargas Avila

Edgar is the second cartoonist from Venezuela to join Cartoon Movement; his illustrative work has a very distinct and recognizable style.

Pedro X. Molina

Pedro X. Molina is a cartoonist & illustrator from Nicaragua. His cartoons are published in the national daily El Nuevo Diario. He is the creator and editor of the weekly humor supplement “El Alacran” that is published on Sundays in this same newspaper. His work has also been pulbished in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, El Universal etc. Visit his personal website here.


Daniel Clós Cesar

Daniel is a cartoonist from Brazil, check his personal blog here.


Get Kony

By David Axe

I crossed paths with the San Diego-based aid group Invisible Children in October 2010 in Dungu, a town in eastern Congo. I was there reporting on the Lord's Resistance Army rebel group. Invisible Children's Adam Finck was there for the LRA, too. The aid group had scored some big corporate grants that it was using to buy radios for isolated Congolese communities. The idea being: when the LRA attacked, the villagers could radio for help.

I had just come from meeting some of the LRA's victims, including a 13-year-old girl whose father was murdered by the LRA right in front of her–a story we are telling in a future chapter of Army Of God. The rebels kidnapped the girl and her brother and raped her repeatedly They would have forced her to kill for the group, too, but luckily the Ugandan army raided the encampment and freed her. Other people have suffered even worse. The LRA likes to mark some of its victims by cutting off their lips.

Over beers at the U.N. compound in Dungu, Adam and I talked about Joseph Kony, the LRA's firebrand leader who for two decades has enslaved and brainwashed children while cutting a bloody swath across northern Uganda, Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic, raping or killing tens of thousands and displacing millions. Long uprooted from its Ugandan homeland, Kony and the LRA no longer have any clear political aims. They killed as a way of life, evading repeated attempts to round them up by the armies of a dozen nations.

Neither Adam nor I is what you could call a militarist. He's an unarmed volunteer advocating the protection of vulnerable children. I'm a war correspondent who's seen more than enough death and destruction for one lifetime. But we agreed: Kony needs killing. More to the point, he can be killed. In many conflicts, killing any one man has little effect. Even the Afghanistan war continued after Osama Bin Laden's May 2011 killing by U.S. Navy SEALs. But unlike Bin Laden, Kony has no local support, no grassroots politics and only a few hundred foot soldiers. Killing Kony would most likely destroy the LRA and save potentially thousands of lives.

So I was not surprised when, last week, Invisible Children launched a major social media campaign, Kony 2012, aimed at raising awareness of Kony and his crimes, and advocating for a sustained U.S. military role in the hunt for the LRA leader. U.S. Special Forces deployed to Central Africa last year to assist the Ugandans, Congolese, Sudanese and Central Africans in their various campaigns against Kony.

The Kony 2012 campaign is not perfect. The headlining video oversimplifies some of the realities of Kony's disposition and the LRA's crimes. Some critics have pointed out that Invisible Children typically invests just a third of its millions of dollars in direct assistance to vulnerable children; most of the rest is spent on staff, travel and videos. Still others warn that sustained military action against Kony could come at a high cost: Americans and African civilians killed, potentially billions of dollars spent with no guarantee of success, possible political blowback from a the U.S. military presence.

I appreciate the criticism of Invisible Children, but I stand by the words Finck and I exchanged that night two years ago. Kony is a monster. Capturing or killing him will not be easy, but it is possible -- and it can be achieved without sparking a wider war. Violence is rarely the answer to the world's problems. But sometimes it is.

Support Invisible Children. Get Kony. Save lives.

David Axe is a freelance war correspondent. His most recent book is From A to B: How Logistics Fuels American Power and Prosperity. He blogs at

#Kony2012 – Hashtag you can believe in

By Brian Conley

There has been quite a lot of controversy, discussion, and even outright arguing about the #Kony2012 campaign. Discussion has flared across the internet, and of course here at the South By Southwest festival, where the internet comes to party. 

As a filmmaker, media trainer, and father, I have a conflicted amalgam of emotions about the campaign. Kony2012 is a beautiful piece of media, though I worry it exploits the founder's son in a way I wouldn't feel comfortable using my own daughter, and certainly it undermines the agency of Ugandans as implementers of change in their lives.

In 2005 I went to Iraq to assist average Iraqis to become visible to the international community, and particularly to Americans. That trip spawned Alive in Baghdad, a weekly news and documentary program, produced by Iraqi filmmakers, that ran for three years. It also provided the inspiration to launch Small World News Network, resulting in enabling the creation and publication of hundreds of stories by dozens of citizens in conflict and post-conflict states, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, India, and Mexico.

I have seen the influence and impact of Invisible Children for years. It is undeniable that, as a piece of filmmaking, the #StopKony2012 video is slicker than anything my colleagues have ever produced. It has also been viewed many times more than our entire collection of videos. It is hard to measure the impact of training journalists and getting their content seen on the internet.

However, the videos produced by the Community Correspondents of the IndiaUnheard program I developed in 2010 have created dozens of impacts in just two years. This impact was created by enabling rural Indian communities to take an active role in telling their own stories. They were not voiceless, only unheard, and now they are seen for the first time by viewers all over India and the world.

The individuals behind Invisible Children have been working to stop Joseph Kony for eight years. YouTube has existed for 6 of those, and has been a massive driver of internet traffic for at least the last few. When will Invisible Children begin to help Ugandans to join the social media revolution, and tell their own stories?

It is undeniable that Invisible Children has affected great change through the establishment of schools and the creation of the LRA early warning system. However, neither schools nor radio antennas have put an end to the LRA. Apparently this is the impetus for Kony2012.

Now that Invisible Children has placed so much focus on arresting Kony, its worth asking, what happens if they succeed?

Invisible Children has been very successful at telling the stories of Ugandans affected by war. If success is measured by viewership, their model is far more successful than Small World News. Small World News focuses first on developing the capacity of local people to tell their own stories. Since Invisible Children has focused so much effort on telling stories *for* Ugandans, I am left wondering how Ugandans will advocate for themselves in the world of 2013 without Joseph Kony. 

If Invisible Children can leverage the incredible infrastructure and networks they have established in Uganda, and around the world, there may yet be an opportunity. It remains to be seen whether the very real criticism of Ugandans and others can be paired with the very real success of Invisible Children. If the issues can be sorted out, I have hope that 2013 can be the year we all work harder to support the agency of Ugandans. Though it may take the international community to remove Kony, it will take more than hashtags to change the realities that enabled Kony to last this long.

Brian Conley is the founder of Small World News, which provides tools to to those living in under-represented communities to produce media and tell stories about their lives. 

Comics journalism takes on Kony in 'Army of God'

The "Kony 2012" campaign launched by Invisible Children has brought worldwide attention to Joseph Kony and the LRA--as well as sparking a fierce debate over the role of Internet activism, humanitarian groups, and western interventionism.

Last month Cartoon Movement began publishing Army Of God by David Axe and Tim Hamilton, a book-length work of comics journalism about Kony's LRA and people working to stop him. Today we publish another chapter, reconstructing a first-hand account of the LRA raid on the town of Duru in 2008, where Kony's soldiers abducted more children.

Published monthly, each chapter in Army Of God focuses on a different person affected by the LRA, with extensive endnotes and a short essay examining each chapter's theme; child soldiers, rape, and the humanitarian and military efforts to stop it.

Today on our blog, David Axe writes about his meeting with Invisible Children's Adam Finck while reporting from Congo in 2010, and his ultimate support for their project, in Get Kony.

Brian Conley, who has established grassroots news outlets in conflict zones, writes from South By Southwest, where two panels focused on Kony 2012 and who exactly it empowers. “It undermines the agency of Ugandans as implementers of change in their lives,” Conley writes in Hashtag You Can Believe In. “I am left wondering how Ugandans will advocate for themselves in the world of 2013 without Kony.”

Matt Bors Wins 2012 Herblock Award


Our comics journalism editor Matt Bors has been named the winner of the 2012 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning.

According to the Herblock Foundation 'Bors' passion for the causes he believes in and his strong, independent voice shine through his work. His commitment to comics journalism, which included traveling to Haiti to bring attention to the plight of its people, is admirable and courageous. His cartoons are hard hitting yet humorous.'