• 1.13.10

    Nathan Fox Illustrates Stirs Up Controversy in New York Magazine

    In the latest issue of New York Magazine, the cover story details the dissension that went on behind the scenes of John Edwards' camp during the 2008 presidential election. Titled "Saint Elizabeth and the Ego Monster," the story is an excerpt from the book Game Change by New York Magazine's John Heilemann and Time magazine's Mark Halperin.

    New York Magazine called on Nathan Fox to tell the story in the style of a graphic novel. Fox's images illustrate some of the most appalling moments in the book, revealing the tawdry side of the carefully crafted image of the presidential candidate and his retinue.

    The graphic representations of John Edwards' infidelity and his wife Elizabeth's angry outbursts have raised impassioned responses. Political blog "The Bag" wrote that the illustrations are a "thoroughly soap opera-style demolition of (Ego Monster) John and (Saint) Elizabeth Edwards."

    Jezebel, a blog with a large female audience, commented, "The comic-book art is apt: these characters are drawn in broad strokes and primary colors. Heroes! And villains! And politicians who are - shocker! - not exactly what they seem! Whited sepulchres are always good on a Monday, but there's a lot to be said for shades of gray."

    As soon as Fox read the excerpt, he knew he had a "terrifically inflammatory" piece on his hands. The story left him frustrated with politicians and constantly wondering how much of Game Change was based on fact. When it came to editorial pieces, he always tried to remain as objective as possible, but it would be difficult this time due to the very nature of the piece and his own mixed emotions regarding the content.

    Says Fox, "The whole thing is a suspension of disbelief to begin with... it's a very weird response when something that is simple in tone and strong in emotion gets put out there, and the debate is started. I wanted to simplify it so that anyone looking at the images could track who the characters were and where they're going; and then once you read the piece you would understand where the characters were in context."

    Of the narrative pieces that Fox prepared for New York Magazine, careful editing was done to balance the attention between all of the characters. Specific frames of Elizabeth Edwards or Rielle Hunter were scaled back to prevent placing too much emphasis on one person instead of the whole scandal.

    Furthers Fox, "I would've loved to elaborate the imagery - I took out a lot of lines in the faces that would've aged or emoted a stronger visual in terms of emotion."

    With a topic as controversial as the no-longer private lives of politicians, there were bound to be varied interpretations of Fox's illustrations. What he saw as boiling down to simplicity, others saw as supercharged with vilification or executed with dramatic gusto. Either way, the illustrations do exactly with what they were meant to do - capture the audience's attention, lure the reader into the story, and letting the words fill in the blanks.

    -Helen Shih

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