Friday, December 31, 2021

31 Days Of CCS, #31: Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen has two entries here. The big one is the art job he did for The Good Fight, written by Ted Staunton. It is an unfortunately timely book set in 1933 Toronto, at a time when Nazis were starting to take hold. Toronto is known now as one of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in the world, but this era showed how fraught that status was, and still is, to an extent. As such, the cast is very Toronto: a Jewish kid named Sid and an Italian kid named Plug, whose families live together, try to hustle their way into helping their families during the Depression. 

The essence of this book is a shifting idea of ethical behavior in the face of poverty, systematic white supremacy, and police corruption. Sid and Plug start the book hooking up with Tommy as part of a pickpocketing trio. Tommy is Jewish but pretends he's Irish, because it's better to identity with more traditionally Anglo-Saxon ethnicities than staying true to your own identity--especially as a grifter. His patter, his swagger, and his braggadocio were things that Sid and Plug were dazzled by, even as they slowly started to understand that he would (and later did) sell them out at a moment's notice. 

When Sid and Plug were pinched and ended up at the police station, they were quickly wisened up about how the world really worked. The cops couldn't care less about some teen yeggs. What they were after (and had been watching the boys over) was the identities of labor leaders, so they could crush them. They not only couldn't care less about the ethnic minorities who were banding together in order to get better working conditions, they were happy to let the burgeoning Nazi presence in Toronto take care of their job for them. 

The book's climax was the real-world Riot at Christie Pits. It putatively started as related to a hotly-contested softball game but led to what was supposed to be a massacre of Jews, Italians, and other minorities as the cops stood by and did nothing. Instead, the marginalized groups fought back and the pro-labor Mayor was able to use this to help get control over the police, and labor gained a number of concessions. In the 21st century, this is all somehow next verse, same as the first, as various forces continue to work against labor and the general voice and betterment of marginalized peoples. 

Of course, this is all framed through the eyes of the kids in order to bring it within the purview of YA fiction. This is where Rosen steps in so ably. He has a spare but expressive cartoony style that maximizes the expressions of his characters while keeping a foot in naturalism. The color palette is admirably restrained, emphasizing Rosen's line art instead of dominating it. The characters, especially the antagonists, are on the exaggerated side at times, although Plug, Sid, and Plug's sister Rosie are well-realized. It felt like Rosie was a character Staunton wanted to do more with but couldn't quite figure out how, and her status is somewhere between central character and a side character who adds a bit of color. This amounts to Rosen's PhD in comics in some ways, as it's his first full-length book after doing a lot of minis. His style is no-frills, but it told the story ably and aptly. 

Rosen also included Wrestle Club!, a fun zine where he invented an all-women's wrestling federation. He alternated between profiles and short comics involving the wrestlers, and it's a delight. The federation (the All Girls Fight League or AGFL) is a bit like Japanese feds like Stardom where most of the fighters are pretty young (and mostly teenagers), and Rosen really keys in on how each character's gimmick is informed by their personality. This seems like a perfect future YA project; I hope Rosen pursues it. 

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