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[B]Graphic novels have earned comics a kind of legitimacy that game makers often covet.[/B] Thanks to Spiegelman's Maus, which put the genre into hands of New York literary hipsters, got Spiegelman a cover art gig for The New Yorker and took home a Pulitzer Prize, to the more 'comicky' work of Miller (The Dark Knight Returns) and Moore (Watchmen), comic books are now a respected avenue of artistic expression. But it's still interesting, especially given the [URL=http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2009/apr/27/playstation-xbox]furor[/URL] over Atomic Games' [URL=http://www.newsweek.com/id/200861][I]Six Days in Fallujah[/I][/URL], to hear about Glenn Fitzpatrick's soon-to-be-released effort [URL=http://www.amazon.com/Arts-Mines-Glenn-Fitzpatrick/dp/0955419565/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266256664&sr=8-1]"Arts and Mines,"[/URL] which is being pressed as the first graphic novel about Iraq written by a soldier who was there.

Fitzpatrick followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps when he signed up for the army at age 18, eager for the life lessons and camaraderie of a military career. But Fitzpatrick got more than he bargained for when he was sent to Iraq as part of Operation Desert Storm, where he served as a tank driver to a team of medics. It took him 20 years to reconcile the horror of his experience during the war, and "Arts and Mines" is both a closure to that period in his life and a new beginning as a professional artist. In an interview with [URL=http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2010/feb/14/glenn-fitzpatrick-arts-and-mines]The Guardian[/URL], the 38-year-old talked about his feelings of disconnection and resentment on returning home, using an anecdote about running into an old friend playing [I]Street Fighter[/I] in a Gravesend arcade.

"I'm like 'I've just come back from something so real and you're on this thing where it's not real.' I was waiting for him to finish this game and I'm thinking, 'We're two worlds apart.' I did become really quite resentful...I came back with the attitude that I'd been woken up and everyone around me was asleep."

"Arts and Mines" has the no-grid layout and almost-scrawled urgency of R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar, and the same sense of black humor is there as well.

"On one page, you'll be going 'Oh my God, this is depressing,' and then you'll be laughing on the next, which is pretty much squaddie humour," Fitzpatrick says.

Unlike [I]Six Days in Fallujah,[/I] "Arts and Mines" will gather none of the outrage that caused [I]Fallujah's[/I] publisher, Konami, to back out, throwing the game (and the studio) into chaos. Part of the reason is that graphic novels are largely individual endeavors, highly personal accounts, while videogames are collaborative, and the aims of the artists who create them are often drowned out by the profit motives of the corporations that fund them, at least in the public view. It's much harder to complain about a soldier's rendering of his own experiences than it is to rail against the rendering of an entire battlefield, even when the impetus for that vision comes from those who were there, as in the case of [I]Six Days[/I].

But that's only part of the story. Movies are every bit as much a corporate product as games, yet films are allowed to explore war from every angle, from personal stories like "Platoon" to epics like "Apocalypse Now" and even humorous revenge fantasies like "Inglorious Basterds." Yet games that try to tackle anything other than the rat-a-tat-tat heroics of the great, 'safe' wars of the last century are squashed before they're even released. Yes, there's still a great double standard in our popular culture when it comes to games. It's a real shame, but it can't last forever. We will get our "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now" some day. Until then, at least there's [URL=http://www.amazon.com/Arts-Mines-Glenn-Fitzpatrick/dp/0955419565/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266256664&sr=8-1]"Arts and Mines."[/URL]

[Image via [URL=http://www.fitzy593.co.uk/index.php?option=com_morfeoshow&task=view&gallery=3&Itemid=58]Glenn Fitzpatrick's website[/URL]]

[URL=http://www.gameculture.com/2010/02/15/breakthroughs-quotarts-and-minesquot%E2%80%94vet-pens-first-graphic-novel-about-gulf-war]read more[/URL]


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