From the Editor’s Desk: Sometimes you just know. Jon Vankin on HTUI
Sometimes you just know.
In my time on this job, I’ve had hundreds of ideas for comics and graphic novels thrown at me. I’ve gone out and found quite a few more on my own. I’ve even cooked up a few out of my head. The vast majority of them never go anywhere because frankly, they’re not very good (especially that last kind I mentioned). Others are, in fact, very good. But they, for whatever reason, don’t connect with me.
Then there are those rare, few ideas where, the minute you hear about them, you just know.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL IN 60 DAYS OR LESS was one of those ideas.
No one pitched it to me. It wasn’t something I went looking for. And it definitely wasn’t an idea I came up with on my own. It just -- appeared.
At least, that’s what happened from my perspective. I’m sure the book’s young writer/artist, Sarah Glidden, would take a different view. She had already done quite a lot of work on this project before I spotted it. In fact, she had written and drawn two complete comic books chronicling the “Birthright Israel” trip she’d taken the year before I stumbled across her work. And she had published them herself. Estimable accomplishments, indeed.
For me, on the other hand, I was just walking the floor at the 2008 MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) Festival here in New York, when I saw HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL just sitting on a table. I picked up the two comics -- “mini comics,” as they’re called (even though there was more stuff packed between their homemade covers than in most “professionally produced” comic books) -- and I asked Sarah, who happened to be standing behind the table, to tell me a little bit about them. She did, I paid her six bucks (or whatever) for the two comics and walked on.
But in that moment, I just knew.
It wasn’t so much that the books were about Israel, though that’s always been an interest of mine. What connected with me was Sarah’s self-questioning point of view. This wasn’t really a story about “understanding Israel” as much as about understanding yourself. And understanding that for much of your life, whatever your own personal “Israel” happens to be, you’ll never fully understand it.
HOW TO UNDERSTAND ISRAEL IN 60 DAYS OR LESS is one of the most beautiful books I’ve been involved with at Vertigo, and not only because of its insightful, wise-beyond-the-author’s-years theme. The beauty of the book extends from Sarah’s warm watercolors to the remarkable lettering by Clem Robins (his “Sarah Glidden Font” has already fooled a number of people into believing Sarah hand-lettered the book herself). The book could not have happened without Karen Berger’s enthusiastic support of this admittedly unusual project from the day I showed her the mini-comics and I am deeply proud to have been there during the creation of this extraordinary piece of art. So while Sarah would be the first to tell you that, despite the title, you may not come away from the book “understanding Israel,” I can promise you that when you close its covers, you will have, at least, a little better understanding of yourself.