Palestine is an interesting book, a work of comic-journalism (as the author Joe Sacco identifies himself), in that while exploring and existing in the muddy, unclear politics of the Palestine, Israel, and resettlement zones.
While Sacco the character plays out a fact-finding mission
Sacco the artist uses a variety of techniques to inspire sympathy for the people he lives with, those without a place in their homeland.
Abstracting, as explained above by Scott McCloud,comics theorist, is only one such technique, but it is crucial. Sacco turns to abstraction time and again for the natives that he comes in contact with; however his own character remains constantly abstract no matter the setting.
This is a planned and very powerful rhetorical move. McCloud writes that “when you look at a photo or realistic drawing of a face, you see it as the face of another. But when you enter the world of the cartoon, you see yourself “(p.36). So, by rendering himself-our touchstone in this journey-to a cartoon, Sacco forces us to explore the world ourselves.
It’s a very Robert Crumb face. This style is also a stylistic choice, as Sacco shows himself quite capable as drawing in a variety of styles.
So then, why the Crumb references? McCloud writes that “in R. Crumb’s world, the curves of innocence are betrayed by the neurotic quill-lines of modern adulthood and left painfully out of place” (p.126).
This both separates Sacco/us from the environment, both strengthening our connection to him and emphasizing the harshness/realness of the world of the Middle East.
Conversely, the neuroticism of the world is often and effectively exaggerated.
So what’s the result?
By investing ourselves in Sacco’s character, by seeing and experiencing vicariously through him, we develop sympathy for those he (we) lives with. This is of course, his goal. By avoiding making any statement of the rightness of either side, Sacco’s personal journey, which we follow along on, encourages it’s readers to at least become at least critical of the usual presentation of the average Palestinian.