There’s a new Chicago magazine launching Monday called Symbolia. The first issue of the digital publication is free to preview. I’d like to go to the launch, to meet some of the people behind the venture.
They have an explanation of why they’ve chosen the comic format. What most interested me in their approach is its complete embrace of subjectivity, arguing that it leads to greater empathy.
A preview double-issue is available online. There’s a lot there to like, especially the black and white panels relating to a reporter’s experience traveling through the only stable part of Iraq, the Kurdish north.
The comic style has a habit of evoking metaphors, that make sense of things far beyond their original scope. There’s a river in the Congo where many unique species have evolved, because strong currents keep micro-ecosystems separate from each other. A full page is dedicated to picture of the river, with a few different fish in each section, both proximate and separate.
It reminded me of a city. The flow of the river was like the flow of people and goods that make a city feel alive. The evolution of the species evokes the neighborhoods and micro-environments within the neighborhoods and buildings, each with their own culture, traditions, and definitions of fitness.
There were some aspects I didn’t like.
Though I read the pdf version and the publication was designed for the iPad. The literal text didn’t have room to breathe. Text and background images were often low contrast, also challenging readability.
The text is short, squished around the visuals. The choice of stories has been, aptly, compared to NPR. Like NPR, the content is timely and interesting, bite sized. The illustrations read like NPR’s ambient sounds. The comic representation of the people being interviewed correspond to hearing the voice of experts being interviewed in an NPR story.
It didn’t take long to make it through the double issue. Symbolia doesn’t feel like a magazine. An ‘issue’ reads like a collection of three interesting comics. A $12 subscription buys eighteen interesting comics, delivered three-a-month for six months.
Objective < Subjective < Inclusive
On leaving, like most news, the ‘what can I do about it?’ question is unaddressed. While Symbolia has embraced the subjective point of view, the next opportunity of a modern news outlet, involvement, isn’t explored. This is expected, but it is a desirable next step after embracing a subjective point of view.