• Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Reading Group Gold
The 9/11 Report - Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón; Foreword by Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. HamiltonSee larger image
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The 9/11 Report



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About The Authors

By Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón

Sid Jacobson was the managing editor and editor in chief for Harvey Comics, where he created Richie Rich, and executive editor at Marvel Comics.The artist, Ernie Colón, has worked at Harvey, Marvel, and DC Comics. At DC, he oversaw the production of Green Lantern, Wonder... More

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Reading Group Gold

Supplementary Questions and Exercises for the Class
 
1. In their Foreword to this graphic adaptation, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton say that they hope this work will lead their “fellow citizens to study, reflect—and act.” Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón have expressed similar hopes, too. Having read the book, what actions, if any, have you been inspired to pursue?

2. Before reading this book, what did you know about the attack on the World Trade Center in 1993? Or about the two American embassy bombings in Africa in 1998? Or about the attack on the USS Cole in 2000? Discuss how your knowledge of these events was changed or enhanced by reading this book.

3. This report begins with a chapter entitled “We Have Some Planes...”—referring, of course, to the four commercial aircraft at the center of the 9/11 tragedy. As a class, review the mistakes and oversights—on the part of security officers, intelligence experts, aviation professionals, governmental agencies, and so on—that contributed to these four planes being hijacked.

4. Look at the national flags on page 36. Which flags did you recognize? Which were new to you? Why are these particular flags being displayed? And should “Old Glory,” the U.S. flag, also be shown here? Why or why not? (Note that the locations mapped out on the following page of this book are all within the U.S.)

5. What does the prominent, red-lettered “BLAM!” signify on page 38? And where else in this book did you find such sound-effects lettering? Which of these was the largest, and which was the smallest? (And in both cases, how would you explain the size of the lettering used?) Also, compare the deployment of such lettering in The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation to other works of sequential art that you have read. Did this book, in your view, have more or less sound-effects lettering than a typical graphic novel? Explain.

6. Discuss Mohamed Atta’s alleged trip to Prague. (It’s described briefly in this guide, but you might want to do some extra research into the matter.) When is he thought to have gone there, and for what reason(s)? What evidence has been offered to support the belief that he did in fact make this trip? Does the Commission believe he made this trip? Why or why not? What do you think?

7. Of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, how many were from Saudi Arabia? Why were so many of them Saudis? As a class, paraphrase and dissect the reasons that are given on page 72 for the large number of Saudis.

8. In the lower left panel of page 80, we see one airline pilot saying to another, “Whatever that means.” Explain the relevance and tone of this remark. What triggered the remark, and to whom—or to what—is it directed? Talk about the attitude as well as the thoughtprocess of the pilot who’s saying these words. Where else in this book do we find real or imagined people commenting on (or even talking back to) the report itself? Pinpoint a few other instances of this, and then compose a short paper explaining whether and how you think the graphic-novel format is especially well-suited for this kind of metanarration.

9. “America had suffered surprise attacks before 9/11,” we read in the “Imagination” section of Chapter 11. As a class, come up with a few examples of such surprises. What is it that sets 9/11 apart in this regard, particularly given the theme at hand (i.e., “imagination”)?

10. On page 110, a large map appears beneath all of the panels—and all of the action— presented here. What does the map show? What is being asserted thematically by using this single map as the background?

11. On page 119, there is a detailed list of suggested future actions and strategies called “The Commission Recommends.” How well has the current administration adhered to these tips? Where—and how—could improvement be made? Discuss current events with your classmates when coming up with your answers.

12. “In the years since 9/11,” the Commission notes on page 121, “Americans have been better protected against terrorist attacks. . . . [We’ve been] safer, but not safe.” Yet given “the new terrorism” of this day and age, could the people of this nation (or of any nation, for that matter) be entirely “safe”? Discuss.

13. The final graphic in this graphic adaptation is a report card. Who is being graded here? Who is doing the grading? Where are the marks the highest? Where are they the lowest? And do you think these grades are fair (as in, just or fitting)? What would you, having read this book—and having seen the letter-grade postscript that concludes it— deem the average grade of this report card? Which of the various sub-par markings on this card ought to be brought up to a passing-grade first, in your opinion? Why? Compare your views on this question with those of your fellow students; make a case for the views that you have taken.

14. The late Will Eisner, considered one of the all-time masters of comic book art, wrote a classic “how to” guide called Comics and Sequential Art—it’s aimed at both readers and creators of comics. It this book, he ponders the young literary form known as the graphic novel: “The future for the graphic novel lies in the choice of worthwhile themes and the innovation of exposition. Given the fact that, despite the proliferation of electronic technology, the portable printed page will remain in place for the immediate future, it would seem that the attraction to it of a more sophisticated audience lies in the hands of serious comic book artists and writers who are willing to risk trial and error. . . . The future of this form awaits participants who truly believe that the application of sequential art, with its interweaving of words and pictures, could provide a dimension of communication that contributes—hopefully on a level never before attained—to the body of literature that concerns itself with the examination of the human experience.” How do you think The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation measures up to Eisner’s musings about the graphic novel—its future as well as its characteristics, its audience as well as its purpose? Write a short essay that explains your take on this.

15. Looking back to the beginning of this book, we see that the Commission asserts, near the end of Chapter 1: “The conflict did not begin on 9/11.” When did it begin, then? And where? Try to reflect on the full spectrum of events covered in The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation when formulating your answer.

16. Finally, attempt a short work of graphic continuity or sequential art of your own. Caveman drawings, Egyptian hieroglyphics, classic comic strips, today’s graphic novels— this words-plus-pictures style of communicating has been with us for thousands of years. Put your own personal stamp on this age-old yet ever-fresh form of storytelling; be creative. Feel free to base your work on a fictional or nonfictional story of your choosing, either past or present—or, even better, write your own tale. But keep in mind that, as Ernie Colón has noted in an interview: “The essential [aspect of this form] is the left to right, top to bottom [presentation on the page].” And don’t forget to create a cover! Then share your work with your class.

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