Note: To see Joe Sacco’s cartoon, please see issue 111, July/ August 2002.
Born in Malta in 1960, Joe Sacco spent part of his childhood in Australia, moved with his family to Los Angeles in 1972, and then went to the University of Oregon for a journalism degree. Along the way he began reading—then drawing—comics.
Sacco debuted as a comics artists with the book series Yahoo (Fantagraphics), which included engaging autobiographical tales of his life as a rock group roadie in Europe. Sacco later journeyed through the Middle East and his work took on a more journalistic feel. Palestine, first serialized by Fantagraphics in 1993, is a vivid depiction of life in the Occupied Territories. Powerfully melding reportage and cartooning, it garnered Sacco an American Book Award in 1996. Sacco’s magnum opus, Safe Area Gorazde (see "Art Behind the Lines," Utne Reader #99) continued in this vein, with moving first-hand accounts of interethnic strife during the Bosnian War.
While pursuing a story, Sacco undertakes numerous roles sequentially, mirroring the form of comics. First he’s a researcher, digging up background material. Then he’s a journalist in the field, traveling, taking photos, hanging out with people at the grassroots, slowly discovering a story. Finally he returns home to his drawing board: painstakingly putting the pieces together, writing the story, and illustrating it in detail.
Sacco lives in New York City, and spends some time working in Portland, Oregon.