The ComixverseLeaving Proof 110 | I’m not a plastic bag review

Leaving Proof 110 | I’m not a plastic bag review
Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 by

Archaia Entertainment’s I’m not a plastic bag: Well-considered, environmentally-aware comics or shallow, cause-of-the-month pablum? Read the full Leaving Proof review to find out.

Key Review Points

Pros:

  • Beautifully painted.
  • Publisher will plant two trees for each tree used in the manufacture of the book.
  • Relates a clear and unambiguous message but not at the cost of aesthetic or entertainment value.

Cons:

  • Hardcover format and price-point may result in a case of “preaching to the choir”.
Publication Details

  • Publisher: Archaia Entertainment (in cooperation with Jeff Corwin Connect, Inc.)
  • Publication Date: April 2012
  • Story and Art by: Rachel Hope Allison
  • Foreword by: Jeff Corwin
  • Format: 88-page full-colour hardcover
  • List Price: $19.95 US (digital review copy provided free-of-charge by the publisher)
Full Review

“Comics for a cause” are a tricky, tricky thing for creative teams and publishers. If they ladle on the advocacy too thickly, the whole enterprise is dismissed as thinly-veiled, agenda-pushing proselytism. If they don’t do enough to make their intent clear, then they are labeled disingenuous and lacking in any real conviction. Additionally, there’s the risk of sending out all sorts of crossed signals once the details and vagaries of production, promotion, and distribution are factored in; one need only to look at the recent film adaptation of The Lorax and its accompanying cross-promotional campaign to see how even the most well-meaning of messages can become confused, contrived, and co-opted in ways that make the messengers look naïve or even hypocritical. And all these concerns must be balanced with the usual issues that go into making comics that provide fair entertainment value for money.

I’m not a plastic bag writer-artist Rachel Hope Allison wisely manages to sidestep most of the issues that can arise from combining exhortation with entertainment by keeping the book’s narrative simple and straightforward. She largely eschews the use of words and lets her beautifully painted art tell a charming fable featuring the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of trash in the North Pacific that is, depending on the applied standard of measurement, either larger than the continental United States in area or twice the size of the state of Hawaii. Despite the occasionally fantastical nature of the book’s comics content, the anti-pollution message it espouses is unambiguous and clear. The book presents more detailed information about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in an illustrated appendix crafted in cooperation with Jeff Corwin Connect, Inc.

According to the book’s product page, Archaia Entertainment will plant two trees for each tree used in the manufacture of I’m not a plastic bag. It’s an admirable attempt at offsetting the environmental impact of comic book production, although I would caution readers against thinking that replacing trees cut for pulp (even at a rate of planting two trees for every one that is cut down) is some sort of panacea for the adverse effects of paper production: paper and pulp mills all over the world release millions of pounds of toluene, methanol, chlorine dioxide, hydrochloric acid, formaldehyde, and other toxic chemicals into the air and water every year. That being said, any attempt by a publisher at mitigating the negative ecological repercussions of its business should be commended and supported by readers.

My one misgiving about the book, and it’s a very minor one that borders on being an insignificant trifle, is that the hardcover format and price-point may result in a case of “preaching to the choir,” with only those readers already inclined to support environmental causes willing to purchase the volume sight unseen. Still, I imagine the environmentally-conscious reader would also have no qualms about buying copies of the book for others or donating copies to schools and libraries.

For some readers, showing support for the environmentally-aware corporate collaboration between Archaia Entertainment and Jeff Corwin Connect, Inc. might be enough motivation for an outright purchase. But those readers looking for a firmer reason to get I’m not a plastic bag should be glad to know that it doesn’t sacrifice aesthetic or entertainment value in delivering its anti-pollution message.

The “I’m not a plastic bag” hardcover is on sale now

Interior Page Previews (Click on images to view in larger size)

   

   

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  • Anonymous

    No, you’re not a plastic bag.  You’re ecohipster fearmongering.  Also, they do realize that the trees used for printing are grown on tree farms, where trees are grown specifically for the purposes of making paper, right?  Ironically, f you want more trees to be planted, use more paper.

    • Zedric Dimalanta

      I think R.H. Allison’s story is sufficiently artfully vague such that it would be hard to honestly and firmly interpret any part of it as deliberate fear-mongering or intentionally alarmist (beyond what one would expect from an “environmental fable,” anyway), and even the public service message-style appendix is fairly even-handed as far as those types of things go. 

      I do agree (and I mention this in the review) that thinking of tree-planting and the use of trees for paper as opposite ends of some sort of zero-sum game is an approach fraught with all sorts of logical flaws, just like many of the well-meaning but scientifically dubitable gestures individuals and public organizations make in an effort to ostensibly show environmental responsibility (things like buying and selling carbon credits, “freeganism,” etc.). That being said, I think any earnest display of environmental awareness in the media sphere ultimately helps if it motivates people to think more thoroughly about the real issues.    

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