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<nettime> Shooting War: Futuristic Web Comic Echoes Reality
Paul D. Miller on Thu, 22 Jun 2006 19:38:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Shooting War: Futuristic Web Comic Echoes Reality

At the risk of actually saying this is a funny comic strip about an
"embedded journalist" in Iraq, well... all I can say is that it's a
solid graphic novel on-line.

The URL for the comic:

and the actual comic:

Paul aka Dj Spooky

a decent article:

Futuristic Web Comic Echoes Reality

By Zack Pelta-Heller, AlterNet
Posted on June 16, 2006, Printed on June 16, 2006

It's the year 2011. John McCain is our unpopular
president, the war in Iraq rages on, gasoline is $10 a
gallon, and Tom Cruise and Mary-Kate Olsen have just
called it quits. When videoblogger Jimmy Burns captures
on camera a suicide bomb blast that rocks a Brooklyn
Starbucks (destroying his apartment above), he's
immediately hired by maverick network Global News and
packed off to Iraq.

That's the eerie world of "Shooting War," an arresting
web comic from author Anthony Lappâ??© and artist Dan
Goldman. Only a half-dozen chapters of "Shooting War"
have been published on SMITH magazine since May 15, yet
this episodic series has already become a prescient
commentary on the future of warring Iraqi factions,
globalization and citizen journalism's struggle against
mainstream media.

"The world of 'Shooting War' is half where I think
things are headed and half satire," Lappâ??© told me by
phone. As executive editor of Guerrilla News Network,
Lappâ??© identifies with Jimmy Burns' dilemma in working
for the ficticious Global News.

"Burns is a vulnerable hero with aspirations of fame and
money, but his politics are grounded," Lappâ??© explained.
"So does he sell out to reach a wider audience?"
According to Lappâ??©, Global News is akin to Al-Jazeera
(and for that matter, political blogs), in that it
prides itself on being uncensored.

"Shooting War" was born out of Lappâ??©'s own experiences
in Iraq. In the fall of 2003, Lappâ??© filmed
"BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire's Edge," a
documentary that recorded the onset of the Iraqi
insurgency. "I was standing in the Sunni Triangle,"
Lappâ??© said, "when it occurred to me that this war is so
surreal because you have teens raised on Play Station 2
who know nothing of Iraqi culture, yet are trying to
create an infrastructure and government." While Lappâ??©
initially conceived "Shooting War" as an animated film,
he realized that developing it as an electronic graphic
novel might be a better way to reach the younger

Like Lappâ??©, illustrator Dan Goldman recognizes his
audience's proclivity for video games, and has even
subtly acknowledged this penchant in the narrative.
During a U.N. press briefing in Chapter 5, a bored NBC
reporter is seen playing a PSP videogame fighting
Iraqis. "We're trying to keep things very meta," Goldman
says with a laugh, "though we want to keep the story
line very realistic. When I'm drawing this, my satirical
bones are definitely twitching."

Goldman already had a couple of graphic novels under his
belt before "Shooting War." Prior to the 2004
presidential election, Goldman co-wrote "Everyman," in
which the last two presidential elections were swindled
through faulty Diebold voter machines. What was uncanny
about "Everyman" -- aside from basically predicting the
outcome of the 2004 election -- was that it featured a
rising third-party candidate with a surprising
resemblance to Barack Obama, even before Obama delivered
his famous address at the Democratic National

Both Lappâ??© and Goldman regard web comics as a sub-genre
with endless potential. "The format of an online graphic
novel is so exciting," Lappâ??© said, "because there's
built-in anticipation of turning to the next screen, the
next panel, the next chapter." "Shooting War" has
already explored some of the new possibilities afforded
by a medium traditionally found in print. A gritty Flash
trailer depicts animated scenes from Chapter 1 set to a
soundtrack Lappâ??© recorded in Iraq, and Lappâ??© and Goldman
have made their series even more interactive by creating
a "2011 Headline Contest" on their blog for fans.

"Technology has changed the way we tell stories," says
Larry Smith, founder and editor of SMITH, the reader-
generated online magazine that presents a new episode of
"Shooting War" each week. "While we didn't invent web
comics, "Shooting War" is an electronic graphic novel
with universal appeal." Smith, along with Lappâ??©,
Goldman, and artist Dean Haspiel, believes web comics
are invaluable for their ability to establish a fan base
and generate early buzz even before sending the graphic
novel to a print publisher.

Haspiel, who's collaborated with Harvey Pekar and
Jonathan Ames, among others, said, "There's an immediate
gratification to web comics, and they cost nothing to
create except time and talent." Haspiel and Goldman
helped found ACT-i-VATE, a virtual studio collective of
12 web comic artists. More and more, web comics are
becoming an essential stepping stone for graphic
novelists to attain the coveted print medium level and
beyond. Recent graphic novel successes like Derek Kirk
Kim's "Same Difference" and Mom's "Cancer" by Brian
Flies both began as serialized web comics and grew by
word of mouth.

Meanwhile, Lappâ??© and Goldman dream of turning "Shooting
War" into a film or TV series. "This is an evolving
storyline," Lappâ??© pointed out. "Iraq could be just one
destination for Jimmy Burns, especially since he's
working for a network that covers terrorism worldwide."

Zack Pelta-Heller is a graduate student at The NewSchool
and a regular contributor to AlterNet.

(c) 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights

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