Author Tags: Art, Graphic Novel, History, Illustration, Music, Politics, Publishing

In 2011, David Lester's 300-page graphic novel "The Listener" was published by Arbeiter Ring Publishers of Winnipeg. Seven years in the making, it quickly went into a second printing. [See review below.] It was a finalist for a Book of the Year Award sponsored by the US magazine ForeWord Reviews in the graphic novel category. ForeWord primarily caters to librarians and booksellers and focuses on small and independent publishers. The awards were announced at the annual American Library Association conference.

Other finalists were:
1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (The Porcupine's Quill)
2. Anne Steelyard, The Garden of Emptiness by Barbara Hambly (Penny-Farthing Press)
3. Jim Henson's Tale of Sand by Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl (Archaia Entertainment)
4. Lost Trail by Donn Fendler, with Lynn Plourde (Down East Books)
5. Rust by Royden Lepp (Archaia Entertainment)

Also: On two nights in a row, an unconventional, graphic-novel styled educational book won two of the country's top awards for history. On May 29, 2017, in Ottawa, the Canadian Historical Association's Public History Prize went to the collaboratively created Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle! edited by the Graphic History Collective with Paul Buhle (Between the Lines $9.95). The previous night, in Toronto, the publishers were awarded the $10,000 Wilson Prize, sponsored by the Wilson Institute for Canadian History (McMaster University). The first award presented to the book's editors, the Graphic History Collective, "recognizes work that achieves high standards of original research, scholarship, and presentation; brings an innovative public history contribution to its audience; and serves as a model for future work, advancing the field of public history in Canada." The Wilson Prize goes annually to the best book that "succeeds in making Canadian historical scholarship accessible to a wide and transnational audience". B.C. contributors include Kara Sievewright, Sam Bradd, Robin Folvik, David Lester, Mark Leier, Tania Willard, Dale McCartney, and Ron Verzuh. Visit graphichistorycollective.com


Graphic novelist David Lester, born in Vancouver in 1958, is a professional graphic designer and a musician whose band, Mecca Normal, a venerable guitar and voice duo with Jean Smith, has garnered international acclaim, including a four-star CD review in Rolling Stone, and fans throughout Europe and North America. The duo has been featured at the 'Experience Music Project' Museum in Seattle. Lester's drawings have been reproduced in publications in Canada, the U.S. and England.

Lester is the publisher of Get-to-the-Point Publishing, an imprint that has produced 20 titles since 1993 including Bud Osborn's Keys to the Kingdoms, winner of the City of Vancouver Book Prize. His own chapbooks include Afternoon Descends to Night (illustrations), The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism and I've Fallen in Love With You (written with Wendy Atkinson). The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism has been widely reviewed in such diverse places as New Internationalist (UK); Magnet Magazine; Impose (New York); Razzorcake, Rockpile; Briar Patch; Chart; Vice; Alternative Press and Punk Planet. An interview with David Lester discussing his book with C.S. Soong, host of KPFA's "Against the Grain," can be heard via www.arbeiterring.com/new/gruesome.html

In December, 2006, a revised second edition of David Lester's book, "The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism" was published. All author royalties have been donated to the Canadian Centre For The Victims of Torture, raising over $2,000.

In 2010, David Lester's poster of Paul Robeson was included in Celebrate People's History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution (The Feminist Press, $24.95). Edited by Josh MacPhee. The book celebrates acts of resistance and great events in an often hidden history of human and civil rights struggles from the perspective of some of the most interesting and socially engaged artists working today.

David Lester and Alan Twigg began working together to produce the quarterly newspaper BC BookWorld in 1988, and that professional arrangement continues.

Mecca Normal guitarist David Lester's poster of Malachi Ritscher (18 x 28") is to be included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial (March 7 to May 25) in New York City. The exhibition also includes a recording from a live set performed by underground rock duo Mecca Normal, and both sides of the cover of the Mecca Normal 7? record that includes the song "Malachi" about war protester Malachi Ritscher. These artifacts are all part of Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher, an exhibit curated by Chicago's Marc Fischer about American activist and music documentarian Malachi Ritscher (1954 - 2006) who self-immolated on a freeway median outside of Chicago to protest the war in Iraq. Ritscher made a video of this action that was not widely seen.



Drawn To Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle (Between The Lines, 2016). An anthology that Lester contributed a 12-page comic called The Battle of Ballantyne Pier.

The Listener (Arbeiter Ring Publishers) 2011. ISBN: 978-1894037488. Available from Amazon:The Listener:
The Listener

Author website:The Listener / bio / sneak peek / films:
The Listener / bio / sneak peek / films

Celebrate People's History!: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution (The Feminist Press, $24.95, 2010). Edited by Josh MacPhee. Contains poster of Paul Robeson by David Lester. ISBN: 9781558616776

The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2005, second edition 2006) ISBN: 1-894037-20-0; ISBN13: 9781894037204. Available from Amazon:The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism:The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism

Afternoon Descends to Night (SMARTEN UP! & Get To The Point, chapbook)

I've Fallen In Love With You (SMARTEN UP! & Get To The Point, chapbook)

I Talk so Fast That My Words Lose Context & Meaning (SMARTEN UP! & Get To The Point, chapbook)

DESIGN & ARTWORK published in:

Drippytown Comics
Warburger (Slovinia)
Stereoscomic (France)
The Best of Zines
Canadian Forum
Canadian Fiction
Broken Pencil
Writer's Block
Vancouver Review
Geist Magazine
The Leveller (London)
Time Out (London)
Cultural Correspondence (NYC)
Latin America Newsletters (London) Resurgence (London)
Ten illustrations for Rebel Moon by Montreal poet Norman Nawrocki (1996) AK Press, San Francisco


* Book covers * letterhead * posters * brochures * catalogues * CD covers * business cards * buttons * t-shirts * logos. CLIENTS INCLUDE: Anvil Press, Bluefield, Touchstone, Pink Ink, Playwrights Theatre Festival, Blizzard, Firehall Arts Centre, Tamanhous, New Star, Pulp Press, Crown, Harbour, New Society, Caitlin. OF SPECIAL NOTE: Zines (Booth-Clibborn Editions) design work featured in two page spread. * West Coast Music Award nomination for album cover design. * Paul Robeson poster (Celebrate Peoples' History Series, Chicago). * Inspired Agitators poster series featured in Punk Planet Magazine. Poster art in punk graphics anthology, Fucked Up Photocopied (Gingko Press).


* BC BookWorld * Vancouver Sun * Musqueam News * V Magazine * Vancouver Magazine * Latin America Newsletters * Georgia Straight * North Shore Weekly * Open Road * West Ender * People's Law School * Canadian Forestry Association


Change Is How You Act shown at 25 Years of BC Animation Festival (Pacific Cinematheque) 1999

[BCBW 2017] "Art" "Publishing" "Politics" "Music"

The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring, 2004, 2006)

"Lester breaks down the system's more despicable traits into easy-to-read factoids that are certain to appal and inspire."--Alternative Press Magazine (Cleveland, OH)

"Lester's pocket-sized book is a handy argument-enhancer, packed with hundreds of quick facts in crafty presentation, all of them reliably sourced. Get the book, win arguments."--The Republic (Vancouver, BC)

"As soon as I saw the striking cover of this book, I was driven to read it. This book is inspiring."--NEXUS, Camosun College's Student Newspaper (Victoria, BC)

"This is the kind of book everybody should have in his or her possession. Thanks, Mr. Lester, for laying the facts on the line. But even more so, thanks for the resource."--Indie Workshop.com (Clive, IA)

"This book sucks." -- The Peak (Simon Fraser U, Burnaby, BC)

"It's actually a quite entertaining... thanks to David Lester, now you too can use facts to back up your political arguments. And because all of the royalties go to the Canadian Centre for the Victims of Torture, I can say 'go out and buy this book' and not feel the least bit guilty." -- Impose Magazine, (New York)

"A package of hard numbers encased in simple statements is all it takes in David Lester's The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism to make a powerful agit-prop tool out of a small book. Like an unrelenting Michael Moore in print, the type is crudely designed to make the numbers jump out. Readers may end up seething at the corporations and sickened by celebrity-economics after grazing this little book....Whether it is billions spent on birthdays, weddings, and bombs, or lives lost to poverty, poor medical care and low education scores, these are the statistics of a world where equality has been forgotten in the celebration of excess." --New Internationalist (England) Rated: 4 out of 5 stars

"After having this next to my toilet for a few days I realized this book of numbers is written by a fucking idiot." -- Vice Magazine (New York)

"If only every household in North America had a copy of this book on its living room coffee table." -- Wonka Vision (Philadelphia, PA)

"Charming in its clarity and understated simplicity of style, and adorned with pleasing and poignant artwork." " Briar Patch (Regina, SK)

Afternoon Descends To Night (Get To The Point, 1998)

from Broken Pencil
A curious, bittersweet chapbook by David Lester of Mecca Normal. Afternoon Descends to Night adopts the look of the exclusive literary project, but instead uses a vital combination of drawings and prose bits to break-down literary pretensions. "What is your dream?" a crewcut demon figure asks a woman. "To be like everyone else," she replies in a typically atypical sequence that looks like it was smudged over the page with the kind of accidental precision that turns the mundane into the sublime. Very fine reading. Check out the fiction section of this issue for some of Lester's new work.

[Hal Niedzviecki, Broken Pencil]

I Talk So Fast That My Words Lose Context & Meaning (2001)

from Broken Pencil
David Lester - the "guitar" half of the Mecca Normal duo - gives us a beautifully presented collection of his surprising, subtle drawings. These are semi-surreal pencil sketches usually accompanied by a single line of text - a punch line that, despite the overall anti-capitalist tone, is more Far Side than No Logo. In Lester's drawings, people look at each other, but never seem to see each other. Two smiling men sit across from each other. "Actually," one of them says, "I like crap." This is a provocative collection that explores the mental environment of mass culture without becoming preachy.

[Hal Niedzviecki, Broken Pencil]

The Tortoise (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point, 2006)

from Broken Pencil
Four graphic stories bound together by love and staples, The Tortoise is a fun and freaky collection of tales from B.C.-based artist David Lester (from the rock band Mecca Normal). There's a good degree of political rhetoric running through these frames, with characters spewing out stats about poverty, war and other social issues on the day. Lester's drawings are both sharp and stilted, with vaguely modernistic flare. Without the restraints of a narrative, Lester is able to mix things up and draft dialogue that reflects his own personal beliefs and agendas. It works because he keeps things brief, not drawn out or heavy-handed. The reader doesn't have to invest a lot in picking up this publication and the discourse is clean and easy-tofollow. Admittedly, it's kinda tough to reach any firm conclusions from this work and the reader is able to infer to his or her heart's desire, reading and re-reading until the common themes ooze upwards out of the subtext. And on a more superficial level, The Tortoise has a really handsome beige cover that is soothing, both to the eye and to the touch.

[Cameron Gordon, Broken Pencil]

The Listener Arbeiter Ring $19.95)

from Kristin Bomba
Weighing in at a meticulous 312 pages of original art, David Lester's The Listener Arbeiter Ring $19.95) is a graphic novel that manages to combine the rise of Hitler with a contemporary woman's search for meaning in the great art of Europe.

The Listener, on its historical and political level, revisits how Adolf Hitler was one of the original spin doctors, turning his party's narrow electoral victory in the state of Lippe, in 1933, into an alleged "massive victory" that enabled him to be appointed chancellor of Germany, by President Hindenburg, just two weeks later.

On an intimate and personal level, Louise - the listener of the title - takes a sabbatical tour of the museums of Europe, trying to overcome guilt and sadness after a young activist, inspired by one of Louise's sculptures, fell to his death while hanging a protest banner off the Woodward's W tower in Vancouver. She receives letters blaming her for the death of the activist.

As an antidote, Louise re-explores famous and favorite paintings and sculptures throughout Europe. The politics behind these works of art swim

in her mind. Along the way, she meets various people who affect her life.
In Austria, she meets Tomas, a man interested in the people behind the works of art, specifically destructive people who were artists or poets (Hitler was a painter; Stalin and Mao were poets). Tomas and Louise visit a concentration camp where Louise struggles to absorb the atmosphere, but she feels unable to comprehend the magnitude of what occurred there. As they journey through Europe, they discuss how they became artists, and what inspires them.

They discuss the nature of the art (Do people see what they're meant to see, learn what they're meant to learn, or see what they already understand?) and the possible obligations of artists to the world. Of particular note is a story about Orson Welles who was once asked to run for the senate and declined, whereupon Joseph McCarthy won that election.

The rise of hitler is told through the
memories of an older couple that Louise meets, Marie and Rudolph. In flashback scenes, Marie and Rudolph recall working for a newspaper in the conservative state of Lippe, in Germany, in the 1930s.

Louise listens as the couple recall joining the DNVP (German National People's Party), hoping for the return of the monarchy in Germany. The world slowly begins to change around them, and the Nazi party grows, along with attacks on Jewish people.

A crisis in the federal government is approaching as Hindenburg dithers in selecting a new chancellor of Germany. The top picks are DNVP's Alfred Hugenberg (who owns the paper where Marie and Rudolph work) and Adolf Hitler.

Along comes the state election in Lippe. Prior to this election call in Lippe, the Nazi Party was losing its appeal. Hitler's stubborn desire to hold all the power in his hands or none at all was hurting the party. But Hugenberg chose to strike a deal with Hitler, under the guise of national unity, hoping for a position of power in a Hitler-led government.

This compromise of principles by Hugenberg has disastrous consequences almost immediately. First, Marie and Rudolph's newspaper is ordered by Hugenberg to cease attacks on the Nazi Party. Hitler's party is in deep financial trouble and the Lippe election fight may be his last. The Nazi party throws everything they have into the campaign. His stormtroopers arrive from across Germany, converging on Lippe. DNVP campaign posters are covered over with Nazi posters. Local rallies are manipulated and members of the opposition are brutally attacked at their own rallies.

Newspapers backed by the Nazis spread their propaganda while the DNVP silences its own papers and reporters, shuts down its rallies, and allows the Nazis to dominate the campaign without protest.

The Orson Welles anecdote, as previously mentioned, now takes on greater significance to the reader.
The Nazis won the Lippe election in January of 1933 with only 39% of the vote. They had increased their vote count by only 4,000 votes from a preceding federal vote that was held in Lippe only three months earlier, in November.

After Hitler was subsequently appointed to serve as chancellor, other political parties were banned. The DNVP was dissolved, opposition leaders were found dead, citizens suspected of being Jewish or communist were beaten, and persecution of the Jews was escalated. That narrow victory in Lippe became an annual celebration in which Hitler skillfully presented himself as Germany's hero.

Marie and rudy express their regrets for not having done more, and Louise returns home with their memories and a special gift.

Back home, Louise is even more lost than before, and slips back into her previous lifestyle, returning to the man she had broken up with.

After several months, a man named Walter appears. He's an acquaintance of the Cambodian-born activist named Vann, who plunged to his death near the outset of the story.

This time Louise listens as Walter tells her the life story of Vann, a Cambodian doctor who survived genocide under the Pol Pot regime. Vann lost his parents and was never able to overcome his survivor's guilt. Because the Pol Pot regime particularily targeted artists for execution, Vann took a great interest in art, wondering what made artists so dangerous that so many had had to die.

Rather than blaming Louise for Vann's death, Walter has come to tell her that Vann was inspired by her work. Walter reassures Louise that Vann was solely responsible for his own death. Louise is moved by the story and takes solace from Walter's absolution of her culpability.

As far-right-wing activities are again coming to the fore in Germany, at the outset of the 21st century, including anti-Semitic activity and violent confrontations, Louise is inspired to create a new sculpture that is the culmination of all she has learned on her journey through Europe, and all her "listenings."

Louise is more comfortable expressing and explaining herself through drawing than talk, and I'm much the same with the written word. She is more of a listener, an observer, absorbing everything around her, and I found I could easily relate to her. I could sympathize with the way she runs from her guilt, even as it chases her every step of the way, until she is finally able to absorb Vann's actions and create her masterpiece.

The stereotypical artist is a "beautiful soul" putting passionate feelings to canvas, print, stone, or song. It's not often that artists are presented as mass murderers or power hungry dictators. But one of Hitler's greatest regrets is that he was never able to build a museum to house his personal collection of art.

It's depressing to think that someone who enjoys expression and creation could so love destruction. I prefer to write Hitler off as nothing more than a delusional, paranoid psychopath, someone who saw himself as Germany's new Siegfried, the Motherland's hero come to destroy the Nibelungs, the Jews.

But it's impossible to deny his artistic "flair," or the way in which he and his party so skillfully maneuvered a victory. Lester inserts several images and quotations of the
propaganda used by the Nazis. The xenophobia is rampant. The vitriol is truly horrific and saddening. Such propaganda ignited an entire nation and motivated the murder of millions.
For anyone interested in serious questioning of the role of art in society, The Listener is rich with quotations on the subject and Lester uses many excellent quotes as chapter headings. At first I thought, hey, real people don't talk like that. But people who live deeply in art probably do. Artists aren't exactly "normal." So The Listener reveals that when you live and breathe art on a daily basis, it becomes a central part of your life even outside its most practical uses.

So The Listener is a good story for people familiar with artists and art movements. Lester deftly slips these things, their history, their impact, into conversations between his characters, and ingrains them into their lives. As for Lester's art, it sweeps across the pages, changing as if it is alive with his thoughts.

This is far from a traditional comic book. It doubles as an intriguing read for anyone with an abiding interest in the psychology of Hitler and the propaganda machine that was the Nazi Party. The Listener is not something you can flip through in an afternoon. I spent hours going through the book, taking notes, forming thoughts.

Much of the dialogue from Hitler (and other Nazi party leaders) contains direct quotes from his speeches and writings. Lester details what is historical fact and what is his own making in the back of the book, which also includes an excellent timeline of the rise and fall of the Nazi

Another nice inclusion is a collection of small biographies of several Nazi or pro-Nazi animators, filmmakers, and cartoonists, detailing their specific involvement in the Nazi propaganda machine, and their lives after the fall of the Third Reich. 9781894037488

A longer version of Kristin Bomba's review appeared in ComicAttack.net

THE LISTENER goes to high school
Press Release (2013)

In 2013, THE LISTENER was taught in two high schools in Alberta, Including Eastglen High School in Edmonton after it was selected for a research project called "Engaging Teachers with Canadian Literature for Social Justice" funded by The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The other high school introduced THE LISTENER alongside the graphic novels Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Stitches by David Small.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). It is a federal research funding agency that promotes and supports postsecondary-based research and training in the humanities and social sciences. By focusing on developing Talent, generating Insights and forging Connections across campuses and communities, SSHRC strategically supports world-leading initiatives that reflect a commitment to ensuring a better future for Canada and the world. Created by an act of Canada's Parliament in 1977, SSHRC reports to Parliament through the Minister of Industry.

THE LISTENER: Promoting Social Justice
Press Release (2013)

The Listener graphic novel was presented by educator Karen Jacobson at a conference, October 24th, 2013, at the University of Alberta (Edmonton) in a session called Promoting Social Justice and Belonging in the Classroom with Canadian Literature. It was all part of The Association For Canadian Studies & The Canadian Ethnic Studies Association 4th Joint Annual Conference: Transforming Citizenship: Ethnicity, Transnationalism & Belonging in Canada.

Not only Buddhist monks self-immolate
Article (2014)

Anti-war activist Malachi Ritscher, a Chicago musician, died in 2006 after setting himself on fire to protest the war in Iraq.

In 2014, Jean Smith and David Lester were invited by Democracy Now to discuss his legacy. They were interviewed about the death of their friend Malachi Ritscher for the War & Peace Report segment of Democracy Now, as part of an independent, global news hour from New York.

A twenty-minute interview with the two Vancouver authors was broadcast to 1,305 affiliated radio and tv stations around the world.

Before he committed suicide to protest the U.S. war in Iraq, Malachi Ritscher posted a message online that read, in part: "If I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country. I will not participate in your charade -- my conscience will not allow me to be a part of your crusade. There might be some who say 'it's a coward's way out', that opinion is so idiotic that it requires no response. From my point of view, I am opening a new door."

Soon after Ritscher burned himself to death - and recorded the event for a video that has never been seen by the public - Lester created a poster commemorating Malachi Ritscher for his series on progressive social agitators such as Emma Goldman and Phil Ochs.malachi-poster-by-david-lester-web

Smith and Lester also wrote and recorded a song called "Malachi" two years ago under the aegis of their indie music group Mecca Normal, founded thirty years ago.

Jean Smith's artwork for the duo's 7" single "Malachi" was included in a recent Whitney exhibit in New York along with the poster. That Whitney exhibit in New York is now being shown at the Audible Gallery in the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.

Smith and Lester both knew Ritscher. He recorded one of their concerts as Mecca Normal when they were touring in the eastern U.S. The War & Peace Report consequently included performances of two songs by Mecca Normal, including "Malachi."

Mecca Normal have just released their 13th album, Empathy for the Evil.


Since founding Mecca Normal, both Smith and Lester have forged separate paths as authors.

Smith, Jean Mecca Normal
Jean Smith

Born in Vancouver in 1959, Jean Smith is the author of two novels I Can Hear Me Fine (Get To The Point Editions, 1993) and The Ghost of Understanding (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998). She has received two awards from the Canada Council for the Arts as a professional writer of creative fiction (2000, 2007) and a grant from the B.C. Arts Council (2000) to complete her third and fourth novels. Smith was named one of the "Top 50 Writers in Vancouver" (Vancouver Magazine), one of the "Top Ten People Who Matter" (San Francisco Weekly) and "one of Canada's best-kept secrets in the arts" by the Globe & Mail. Other literary works include:

- Two Stories (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point) fiction, 2006
- Glasspool Freighters (Slow Toe Press) poems by Jean Smith & Matthew Wascovich, 2005
- Family Swan (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point) poems, 2001
- Hot Pink (Smarten Up!) fiction,1987
- The Squishing (Smarten Up!) fiction, 1986

Lester, David Mecca Normal
David Lester

Born in Vancouver in 1958, David Lester has long worked as the designer for B.C. BookWorld. In 2011, his 300-page graphic novel The Listener was published by Arbeiter Ring Publishers of Winnipeg. Seven years in the making, it quickly went into a second printing. It was a finalist for a Book of the Year Award sponsored by the US magazine ForeWord Reviews in the graphic novel category. Preceding literary works include:

- Celebrate People's History!: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution (The Feminist Press, $24.95, 2010). Edited by Josh MacPhee. Contains poster of Paul Robeson by David Lester. ISBN: 9781558616776
- The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring Publishing, 2005, second edition 2006) ISBN: 1-894037-20-0; ISBN13: 9781894037204.
- Afternoon Descends to Night (SMARTEN UP! & Get To The Point, chapbook)
- I've Fallen In Love With You (SMARTEN UP! & Get To The Point, chapbook)
- I Talk so Fast That My Words Lose Context & Meaning (SMARTEN UP! & Get To The Point, chapbook)



February, 2014

David Lester poster and Jean Smith 7" record cover art in 2014 Whitney Biennial,
March 7 to May 25, New York City

Malachi (18 x 28" poster) by Mecca Normal guitarist David Lester is included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. The exhibition also includes a recording from a live set performed by underground rock duo Mecca Normal, and both sides of the cover of the Mecca Normal 7? record that includes the song Malachi about war protester Malachi Ritscher. The painting on the record cover is called Discovering Utopia by Mecca Normal vocalist Jean Smith.

These four artifacts are part of Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher -- an exhibit curated by Chicago's Marc Fischer about American activist and music documentarian Malachi Ritscher (1954 - 2006) who self-immolated on a freeway median outside of Chicago to protest the war in Iraq. Ritscher made a video of this action that was not widely seen.

"It was Malachi's intention for the video of his protest, his death, to reach people through mainstream media, to jar them from complacency, to have them raise their voices to end the war. But that wasn't what happened. The video was not released in that way. When we added our song -- and the poster -- to our performances and classroom events, we regarded them as extensions of Malachi's intention. We had created documents about the documentarian whose final statement on war was not heard. We created art and music because Malachi's voice was not heard." -- Jean Smith, from the 2014 Whitney Biennial catalog

David Lester is a visual artist and the guitar player in the rock duo Mecca Normal from Vancouver, Canada.

Jean Smith is a novelist, a painter, and the lyricist/vocalist in Mecca Normal.

Malachi -- the title of David Lester's poster -- includes text about Ritscher's beliefs and a drawing of Ritscher attending an anti-war rally in Chicago. The poster is part of his ongoing Inspired Agitators series of posters which tours in the USA and Canada as an element in a classroom and art gallery event called How Art and Music Can Change the World, co-presented with Jean Smith. Of his poster series, Lester says, "Presenting the ideas and lives of activists and artists this way is a form of social protest." David Lester is giving away the poster as a pdf.

Free poster http://meccanormal.wordpress.com
How Art and Music Can Change the World: classroom and art gallery event http://howartandmusiccanchangetheworld.wordpress.com

Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher will include artifacts from Ritscher's work as a documentarian focused on recording the Chicago music scene, including a Mecca Normal performance at the Empty Bottle. The live set was recorded by Malachi Ritscher on November 11, 2002 while Mecca Normal was on tour with their album The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002). On this occasion, a touring version of How Art and Music Can Change the World was being exhibited upstairs at the Bottle Cap. Malachi visited the art exhibition, which included many of David Lester's Inspired Agitators posters and Jean Smith's paintings depicting politically-charged events.

Malachi -- the Mecca Normal song about Malachi Ritsher's intentions and his death -- was released as a 7" record in 2010 by Olympia, Washington's K Records. An acoustic version of the song and a video by Jean Smith were released on November 3, 2013, the seventh anniversary of Malachi Ritscher's death.

Malachi poster, 7" cover art, Malachi videos and lyrics: http://blackdotmuseum.wordpress.com/malachi-ritscher
Inspired Agitators posters: http://blackdotmuseum.wordpress.com/inspired-agitators
Jean Smith's Discovering Utopia series: http://jeansmithpainter.wordpress.com/discovering-utopia-2010

During July and August of 2014, Public Collectors: Malachi Ritscher will be exhibited at the Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.

Mecca Normal: Empathy for the Evil album released September, 2014 on M'lady's Records. Produced and mixed by KRAMER. http://meccanormal2014.wordpress.com

Mecca Normal Newsletter http://meccanormal.wordpress.com

ARTIST BIOS: Jean Smith and David Lester formed the electric guitar and voice duo Mecca Normal in the early 1980s with the express intention of changing the world. The band has released thirteen albums (K Records, Matador, Kill Rock Stars). Together, Lester and Smith run a small press, a record label and a political art museum.

David Lester is the author of The Listener graphic novel (Arbeiter Ring, 2011), the story of Hitler's rise to power correlates to questions about the power of political art. David Lester lives in Vancouver, Canada.

The Listener graphic novel: http://thelistenergraphicnovel.wordpress.com
Graphic Design: http://davidlesterartmusicdesign.wordpress.com

Jean Smith is the author of two published novels and a two-time recipient of Canada Council for the Arts awards as a writer of creative fiction. Her paintings have been included in two Black Dot Museum of Political Art exhibitions in Olympia, Washington, in 2010 and 2012. Jean Smith lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Paintings: http://jeansmithpainter.wordpress.com
Writing: http://jeansmithwriter.wordpress.com

CONTACT: meccanormal@hotmail.com

ONLINE PRESS RELEASE: http://blackdotmuseum.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/x/

PUBLIC COLLECTORS: Malachi Ritscher:

Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle
Article (2016)

On the afternoon of Tuesday, June 18, 1935, about 5,000 striking longshoremen set off from Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, Canada, on a march to Ballantyne Pier to confront scabs. Singing songs, a procession of World War One veterans joined the marchers.

They'd won a war across an ocean and now wanted to win economic freedom at home.

Thousands of onlookers along the march clapped and cheered the men on from apartments, porches, roofs, and up telephone poles. As marchers moved forward, the police chief yelled: "OKAY BOYS, YOU ASKED FOR IT." Police fired tear gas and charged into the crowd with nightsticks raised as the battle began.

Protesters fought back, defending themselves against the onslaught of police tear gas, bullets, and clubs. Demonstrators were chased into alleys, vacant lots and buildings by police. Spectators watching the melee were attacked by police.

Some demonstrators stuffed newspapers into their hats to cushion the blows. The injured staggered around, blood streaming from their wounds. Police on horseback chased marchers over ten city blocks, while tear gas bombs were thrown by police on motorcycles.

The union hall on Hastings street was raided and tear gas was fired through the windows. Inside, the union's women's auxiliary had set up a first aid station to help the injured. Windows got smashed by the errant flying rocks of protesters while police fired tear gas into stores and buildings that displayed signs supporting the strikers.

The battle of Ballantyne Pier raged on for three hours as rain began to fall. The bloody encounter was reported in newspapers across North America. After the battle, the union moved their strike headquarters to the Bow and Arrows Hall (once home to the IWW).

Graphic artist and musician David Lester isn't certain what role his grandfather Frederick Bruno Lester played in the fight as one of the longshoreman, but he knows he was there. After he died in the 1970s, they found a blackjack and brass knuckles in his closet.

"In retrospect, the battle of Ballantyne Pier was not a defeat," says Lester. "It was a victory of workers engaged in the fight for a better world."

Lester, also a guitarist in underground rock duo Mecca Normal and the designer of BC BookWorld, has now contributed a 12-page graphic story about the 1935 waterfront confrontation, The Battle of Ballantyne Pier, to Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle (Between the Lines), an anthology of nine comics outlining Canadian labour struggles.

According to Noam Chomsky, "This evocative collection of the struggles and achievements of labour organizing should inspire us to 'dream of what might be' and to act to bring it about."

Initiated by the Graphic History Collective, the anthology was edited by Paul Buhle, who also wrote the introduction. Contributors to the anthology are Althea Balmes, Sam Bradd, Paul Buhle, Nicole Marie Burton, Sean Carleton, Robin Folvik, Ethan Heitner, Orion Keresztesi, David Lester, Doug Nesbitt, Kara Sievewright, Jo SiMalaya Alcampo, Julia Smith, and Tania Willard.

Sample pages of the book can be viewed here: http://graphichistorycollective.com/drawn-to-change

Lester's previous graphic novel was The Listener (Arbeiter Ring).

In the 1980s, the union hall once known as the Bow and Arrows Hall, once frequently by his grandfather, became a punk rock venue where David Lester went there to see bands. He subsequently formed his political band called Mecca Normal.

NOTE: There is a short film of his Battle of Ballantyne Pier comic: https://youtu.be/CQstlLClIl8


$10,000 Wilson Prize
Article 2017

from BCBW 2017
Drawn To Change: Graphic Histories of Working Class Struggle (Between The Lines, 2016) has won both the Canadian Historical Association's Public History Prize and the $10,000 Wilson Prize, an award that goes to the book that succeeds in making Canadian historical scholarship accessible to a wide and transnational audience. Drawn To Change was edited by Paul Buhle and the Graphic History Collective. B.C. contributors include Kara Sievewright, Sam Bradd, Robin Folvik, David Lester, Mark Leier, Tania Willard, Dale McCartney, and Ron Verzuh.