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Healing Images

Healing Images
Healing Images

Artists of costumed characters who routinely save the world were left staring at a blank page after September 11. The fictional exploits of superheroes like Batman and Spiderman suddenly seemed irrelevant in comparison to the deeds of real-life people, while the doomsday scenarios typically explored by the medium had become all too realistic. Joe Quesada, the editor in chief of Marvel Comics, felt that in response to such a horrific event, art seemed pointless.

But the initial feelings of Quesada and other comic book artists didn't last long, and while other entertainment mediums shied away from September 11 as a theme, comics tackled it head on. Publishers such as Alternative Comics, Dark Horse, DC Comics, and Oni Press came out with special editions in tribute to the heroes of lower Manhattan.

Following the commercial success of a 64-page tribute volume titled "Heroes" -- all proceeds went to charity -- Marvel produced a follow up book called "Moment of Silence." The new work was comprised of four separate stories, each devoted to one individual's experience on September 11. The stories were told in silent pictures with no text. The first section of "Moment of Silence" recounted the experience of Anthony Savas, a building inspector for the Port Authority, and the father of a Marvel employee. Savas chose to remain in the building to assist with the evacuation. On September 30, his body was recovered in the ruins of the towers.

Though famous for using cartoons to depict tragic events, Art Spiegelman also felt that art was irrelevant immediately following September 11. That day, when the Pulitzer Prize winning author returned home after fleeing lower Manhattan, he received an answering machine message instructing him to draft a cover for the next issue of THE NEW YORKER magazine. At the time, Spiegelman had "no thoughts of working on a magazine," but began drawing as if it was "a nervous tick." At one point, the author of MAUS considered submitting an empty black page, but he soon abandoned the idea, deciding that it would be an expression of "total defeat," as if to say "an image isn't able to move in this territory." To Spiegelman's surprise, the magazine cover he later settled on -- a black-on-black depiction of the towers -- became extremely useful to thousands of New Yorkers during that first week of recovery.

To learn more about comic books published in reaction to September 11, read an article in TIME MAGAZINE, or visit the website of the New York City Comic Book Museum, which held an exhibit earlier this year with original art from "Moment of Silence" and other tribute books.

Click here to read the complete text of Rafael Pi Roman's interview with Art Spiegelman.

To find out more about Art Spiegelman's celebrated NEW YORKER cover, read an essay by the artist himself published on THE NEW YORKER website.

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Coming Together to Heal
Coming Together to Heal
Last fall, Marianna Koval and her colleagues at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Coalition organized an effort to plant 25,000 daffodil bulbs in the shape of two towers on the Brooklyn waterfront. A tribute to those lost on September 11, the memorial garden was part of a citywide undertaking that turned into the largest volunteer horticulture project in New York history.

Photo of childrens drawing
Celebrating Diversity
Art therapist Marygrace Berberian was in the World Trade Center when the first plane hit. While dealing with her own trauma, she recognized the need to help students throughout the region express their fears... and their hopes. She asked her students to draw self-portraits for a cityscape art installation in lower Manhattan. The voices of these young New Yorkers are heartfelt and inspirational, and their work is now available for the general public to see in the lobby of the Equitable building.

Measuring the Impact
Measuring the Impact

Late last year, representatives from seven consulting firms put aside their work -- and egos -- to participate in a pro bono effort to gauge the economic impact of September 11. In six weeks, the group generated a 156-page study, measuring the extent of the damage, and identifying priorities for the city's response. The report became more than just an invaluable resource; it symbolized how a group of New Yorkers came together, pooled their talents, and aided in the recovery process.

Thirteen WNET New York