This past weekend saw the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. For many across America and the world, this marks the beginning of an uncertain time, when the way forward is not completely clear. But for many artists, writers, and activists, it’s also a call to action.
Against the backdrop of the #J20 art strike, free museum programming on January 20, and millions of people joining the Women’s March on Washington and solidarity marches across the world, Gabe Fowler, owner of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn, comics shop Desert Island, decided to devote a special issue of his comics newspaper, Smoke Signal, to women’s voices. Watching the election results tally up in the early hours of November 9, Fowler decided he had to take immediate action. “Gender issues were in front of this whole election,” he told me. Doing an issue of Smoke Signal that focused on women’s voices seemed the best way to respond. “But I am still a man doing an issue on women’s voices — how do I get myself out of the way? Then I thought of having a guest editor for the first time. And if I could have anyone, the dream would be Françoise.” With a little prodding but very little convincing, Françoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker, agreed to compile and edit the collection, with the help of her daughter, author Nadja Spiegelman. As Mouly explains in the forward to the paper, “The proposal felt right, a call to action, irresistible.”
Mouly scrawled the title RESIST! in red sharpie, and Spiegelman put out a call to action and a call for artwork on social media. The pair received over 1,000 submissions — by women and men, young and old, American and international, all expressing a range of emotions regarding with the current President and his proposed cabinet. They narrowed down the submissions to those that could fit in a 40-page newspaper, including the work of lesser-known artists alongside comic legends and New Yorker illustrators such as Alison Bechdel, Roz Chast, Bill Griffith, and Kristen Radtke.
On January 21, a network of volunteers (including, full disclosure, me) began distributing RESIST! at marches throughout the United States; as of January 23, all 60,000 copies are gone. With the time between idea, production, and distribution being so brief, RESIST! exists as both a printed ephemeral object and documentation of a kind of performance, inextricably tied to the zeitgeist of the marches, yet living on to tell the tale and keep the fight alive. As Mouly writes inside, “This paper is a combination of the old-fashion — a give-away tabloid newspaper, once ubiquitous and now all but extinct — and the new — the impressive democratic power of the Internet. … It’s an indication of what’s possible when we work together towards a common cause.”
Below is a small sampling of the diverse and powerful artworks included in RESIST!