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The Road To Wigan Pier
posted December 1, 2011

imageCreator: Joe Sacco
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, mini-comics giveaway, six pages, 2011.
Ordering Numbers: promotion explained here

Here's a treat. The Road To Wigan Pier is an unpublished -- it was apparently rejected by its intended home -- magazine-style short by the great Joe Sacco. Road is part of the Fantagraphics mini-comics promotion by which you get one of a number of minis for orders greater than $50 or, in the case of this title, when you make a holiday purchase related to Mr. Sacco. In terms of content, The Road To Wigan Pier is a six-page review of, no surprise here, George Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier. Sacco focuses on the book's first-half exploration of the plight of lower-class workers and outright destitute in 1930s Lancashire and Yorkshire. Orwell's self-examination that drives the book's second half Sacco mostly folds into his own analysis of the work.

In much the same way that Orwell's bleak volume is leavened by his rich, insightful prose and frequent witticisms (an element the cartoonist seems to relish), Sacco's distressing overview is graced by Sacco's pungent art. There are a pair of lovely images on page three: two mine workers walking home covered in soot in a way that almost obliterates their humanity; a poor family with various expressions of deep neglect finding root in their various facial expressions. The cartoonist obviously admires Orwell's commitment to getting the details right, even if he's on less certain ground dealing with the author's conclusions. If anything, Sacco summarizes the situation in which many of the same issues play out today as an even bleaker set of circumstances. In an historical moment when a cross-section of the population is waking up to the reality of brutal inequalities and the limited set of levers by which that might be expected to change, being reminded of past permutations of those same societal ills may prove hopeful or unbearable. It's hard to say. Either way, these are effective comics. The Road To Wigan Pier never manages the dead-on power inherent in much of Sacco's best work, but it's certainly worth any comics fan's time.