Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Plot by Will Eisner

Will Eisner was a giant among comics creators, and this is a project he cared deeply about, worked intermittently on, and completed a mere month before he died in early 2005. Unfortunately, it wasn't a great idea to begin with, and it doesn't work all that well as comics.

The Plot is the history of a book, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a hateful work of propaganda put together by reactionary Russians over a century ago to convince the Tsar of the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. The conspiracy, of course, doesn't and never did exist, and the Protocols was itself plagiarized from an earlier polemic against Napoleon III.

Eisner dramatizes the creation of the Protocols, and then spends most of the book in quick vignettes of various people, generation after generation, again and again proving that the Protocols is a plagiarized fake. This grows tedious -- nearly as tedious as the dozen or so pages that simply exist to show the ways the Protocols plagiarized Maurice Joly's The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu.

There are essentially two problems: 1) the story as Eisner has assembled it is not terribly interesting, and is very repetitive. 2) It's talky and research-driven and doesn't work as comics. I'm not saying an interesting book couldn't be written about the history of the Protocols -- it probably could -- but The Plot, unfortunately, isn't that book. Eisner doesn't delve into the reasons why anti-Semites exist, or why people keep wanting to believe what the Protocols say is true -- his characters keep thinking that this time, once the Protocols is seriously debunked, everything will be fine.

This is just for Eisner completists, I think, and possibly for scholars of certain unsavory bits of literary history.


Note 1: This is essentially the last of the comics collections I had piled up to be read, so, from this point, I'll be reading through the other stuff on that pile, which is very various and has been lying around for quite some time. I doubt anyone actually cares.

Note 2: I'm retiring the "Just Read" tag for books I've read; it's redundant and possibly confusing. (My brother told me that he always reads them as an imperative rather than a statement of fact -- and, much of the time, I'm often not urging people to read these books.) So it'll just be boring ol' title and author from now on.

1 comment:

James Nicoll said...

One of the odder consequences of the Protocols was the Japanese Fugu Plan, launched by a small group of Japanese who thought that the Jews were clearly far too able for the Japanese Empire not to have any.

They may have been influenced by the fact that a large loan from a Jew enable Japan to afford to win the Russo-Japanese War.

Since the Jews were also apparently dangerous, the idea was to settle them in Manchuria, then a puppet state of the Japanese Empire. Political and logistical issues (Not wanting to piss off their Nazi allies and being as far from Europe as it was possible to get and still be in the Old World) prevented the plan from coming to much.

I think the activities of Chiune Sugihara (Who as vice-consul of the Japanese Consulate in Lithuania enabled a lot of Jews to escape from Europe by violating orders and writing a large number of visas for them) were unrelated.

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