Ernie Colón and Sid Jacobson, the comic-book vets behind The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

Interviews with a point.
Sept. 10 2006 11:50 PM

The Trouble With Drawing Dick Cheney

Ernie Colón and Sid Jacobson, the comic-book vets behind The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.

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Jacobson:The Secret Garden is something I did at the Harvey magazine.

Slate: So, you've adapted books to graphic form before. How is it different to work with a nonfiction text?

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Colón: I'm still practicing the same craft as when I did Casper or the superheroes, in that I'm doing a graphic narrative. But doing nonfiction presented different challenges. The research was very difficult. I'm crossing my fingers and telling you that Google and I are like that.

Slate: What was it like for you to draw so many characters who—unlike Spider-Man—we are all so familiar with photographs of?

Colón: The ones that were most difficult were the ones that ordinarily would be easiest to caricature. The easier they were to caricature, the more effort I took to not caricature them. For example, Dick Cheney has a mouth formation that looks like a sneer. I drew him that way at first because it was recognizable. My wife looked over my shoulder and said, "He looks villainous!" And so I changed it so it looked less like I was making a statement. I didn't want to do that to anybody.

Slate: As you put this together, did you find that there were conventions from more traditional comics that were particularly useful in telling this story?

Jacobson: Well, I think the timeline [which follows the four planes on the morning of Sept. 11] was a great trick of ours. That took the most work, but it made a potent point.

Colón: That was Sid's idea. It was a terrific idea because precisely the problems that I was having with the book, the timeline really solved for me.

Slate:You can see so clearly how information wasn't communicated that morning. What obstacles did you face as you put this together?

Colón: What we tried to avoid was any hint of our own political opinions. That was absolutely imperative for us.

Slate:I was going to ask about that. When you talk about the transition from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration, you have an image of President Bush alongside a text box that says, "President Bush said he felt sure President Clinton mentioned terrorism but he did not remember much being said about al Qaida." And then you have an image of President Clinton alongside a quotation bubble in which he says, "I think you'll find that by far your greatest threat is Bin Laden and the al Qaida." I felt like that privileged Clinton's memory of the transition over Bush's, because you see Clinton saying this thing he claims to have said. Was that intentional?