What Cartoonists Saw in Isolation: A Portrait of the Pandemic

When the novel coronavirus began to spread across the globe in 2020, Gabe Fowler, the founder of the Comic Arts Brooklyn festival and owner of the Desert Island Comics shop, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had to shutter his store, temporarily severing his ties to the community of artists and fans who had gathered around it for the past fifteen years. Despite this emotional distance, Fowler found a certain commonality: “We were together in our isolation,” he said. Hanging on to his belief in “the power of art to build community across borders,” he put out a call to his many followers on Instagram for illustrated submissions exploring the realities of lockdown.

Collecting and publishing pages of comics on his Instagram page, Fowler provided a nonjudgmental space where artists and amateurs alike—whether they were despondent, hopeful, terrified, or some combination of the three—could put pen to paper and share their intimate realities. In the interest of maintaining a feeling of solidarity, Fowler asked for entries to focus on the wish for a better future; he insisted on a unifying nine-panel grid; and he often removed negative comments when they appeared on the platform. “Rescue Party,” an anthology of some of the hundreds of pages sent by contributors from more than fifty countries in the spring of 2020, will be published by Pantheon in July. The book chronicles a transformative event and how it was experienced across many cultures. Some of its pages are featured below, an ode to art’s power to capture a moment and to trace the contours of its emotional reality.—Françoise Mouly

By Kathiuska (Catalina Vásquez), Medellín, Colombia

By Lucas Gehre, Brasília, Brazil

By Maria Pichel, Barcelona, Spain

By Paterson Hodgson, Toronto, Canada

By Sean Kelly, Brooklyn, New York

By Tana Oshima, New York, New York

By Jo Yeh, New York, New York

By Jolos Carsé, Lima, Peru

By Kaitlin Chan, Hong Kong, China

By Mike Shea-Wright, New York, New York

By Pedro MC Fernandes, Montijo, Portugal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *