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Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History

3.25 of 5 stars 3.25  ·  rating details  ·  231 ratings  ·  48 reviews
By the late 1960s, America felt like it was teetering on the edge of a vast transformation. Helping push it over that edge was a brigade of young radicals, the Students for a Democratic Society, who were fighting the establishment for peace abroad and equality at home. In Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History, the famed graphic novelist Harvey Pekar, the gif ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 27th 2009 by Hill and Wang (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jodi Mae
Finally, a comprehensive picture of college student politics through-out the US during this era of dissent. Instead of focusing on the more sensationalized view of SDS as violent, spoiled rich kid bomb makers; this book explores the many different factions and off-shoots of SDS through interviewing it's self-proclaimed members and describing what SDS was like for them at the particular college they attended. The stories portray many colleges and universities throughout the United States; and eac ...more
The approach of this book was promising. An overview of the national SDS starts the book, followed by vignettes of various chapters throughout the nation written (and sometimes drawn) by the participants. However, the narration for the overview was very unfocused, seemingly jumping forward and backwards without much logic. Also, the entire scene was swimming with acronyms, and after a while everything is lost in a sea of PLPs, SNCCs, LIDs and SDSs.

In a certain way, the confused and turbulent nar
The story of the SDS is told (poorly) in a series of comics by various artists. The problems is that most comics are primarily a narration script at the top, limited dialogue, and some not really very interesting pictures. As a result, the history is lost. It would have been better as a straight textual book, or as a more vivid graphic history. Maybe I'm just spoiled by manga, but it shouldn't have been so easy to make an exciting era look so boring.
Nat Smith
hating on teh Weathermen/Weather Underground. Not that they are free of critique, but that they get a slight mention and are viewed only as disruptors, disingenuous and unaware of their politics of identity.
Further, as a comic, too little information in some places adn too much in others. Inconsistent and storytelling that becomes boring and almost irrelevant, which is unfortuante because an analysis and understanding of SDS is very important.
Paul Mirek
In between shifts at the Olive Garden in college, I managed to write a paper for my Cold War class on the representations of 1960s student movements in newspapers versus film from the era. I only wish I'd had this collection on my desk as a secondary source (although my literature review would likely have been even more cluttered then). Unlike those original sources, these strips have the added "advantage" of looking back over almost five decades, as well as substantial input from people who wer ...more
A great history of SDS from the idealism of the Port Huron statement to the tragedy of the Weathermen. The graphic novel form is a great way for young readers to learn about activism and the 60's.
Interesting story, but with lulls. Also this has the teeny-tiny hand written text that drives my grandma eyes nuts and that always makes me remove one star.
If you make it to page 9 (and it's a struggle to get that far) you'll find this bubble of wooden dialog spoken by a young man: "United Frontism is a slanderous charge. We're not supporting these groups but merely stating our position procedurally."

Same page, in the panel below, is this bubble spoken by a young woman: "I went over the SDS's Port Huron Statement in detail and now find myself enthusiastic to the point of effervescing."

If you find this to be realistic (and effervescent) dialog, you
I thought this would be like Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World, which is a graphic novel so smart and fun and bad-ass it made you feel NOT ashamed to be reading a graphic novel (which is how I do feel because lets be honest here, why are adult reading fucking comic books? Of course I have all types of constant shame anyways so for me that's not an issue, but I can see how it would be for someone who still has self-respect or whatever.) Whereas you could defend t ...more
Skut L
I am a huge fan of Mr. Pekar(RIP) in general, and as such had high expectations for this work. I think it would've been better had the ethnographies been fleshed out more, while the statements from Rubenstein at the end illustrate aptly some of the issues faced and caused by the resurgence of SDS.

My main complaint is that it was unfocused and even sloppy at times. On the other hand, having come up in a radical subculture myself, I can also see how this relates to the way in which movements, fac
At the time the events--the student political protests of the 1960s--chronicled in this comic/graphic tome were taking place I was blissfully unaware of any of it and probably had my own head in a comic book of some sort, likely ogling Veronica in a bikini in Archie or marveling (pun intended) at a face-off between Silver Surfer and Dr. Doom. I was probably chewing Bazooka Bubble Gum and reading the bad puns on the wrapper.

So I've come full circle with this interesting, entertaining and informat
The use of the graphic novel style was very confusing at times. I had to read this book for a class and getting through this was definitely rough. I felt that SDS and other groups were not fully explained and unless you had background knowledge on the topic you would be a little lost. I feel that the idea of the book itself is great and that we should talk about SDS and it's come back but I think there could have been a better way to portray the history and stories of SDS from the 1960s
A look at SDS through the memories of many of its members and brought to life in a series of graphic short memoirs, this is a multifaceted view of a complex organization in a tumultuous time. SDS created a radically new organizational structure and became the focal point for thousands of young people seeking to transform the most powerful nation in the world. Internal struggle and external opposition led to the break-up of SDS just when it's support was reaching a phenomenal level. These stories ...more
I should probably start reading some regular books, and not just these graphic novels, but i do think this graphic novel is pretty educational. It's not like a history book or anything, it's just the story of the SDS, really left-wing student movement who were against the war and capitalism.
I read this book because there was some controversy about President Obama being connected to the SDS, and I asked my stepfather if he could explain what the SDS was, but he just handed me this book. I liked
Strong premise but poor execution - the first third of the book read like the scattered meeting minutes of the SDS in the early years. The style abruptly changed to individual oral histories. I actually enjoyed the personal stories much more, but they still felt disjointed, and at times it was unclear when and where events were taking place.

And only a cursory mention of the Weathermen? That seems off. Sure, I get that they were fringe splinter group, but a dismissive mention of them in the begin
Butch Lazorchak
Not that illuminating. A little disjointed. I did like the vignettes at the end better than the SDS history, but even they felt a little vaporous.
The book that put the final knife in the back of the idea that the '60s were cool for me. Good Christ, it's like reading a script for 'The Phantom Menace', with it's rules for senatorial debate and whatnot. It's not exactly journalism, because it's not objective. It's repetitive as hell because some editor out there was asleep at the wheel. And when you consider that all of those thousands of manhours were for nothing...really amounting to nothing in the's just a bunch of sad wasted ene ...more
James Carmichael
Enjoyable, anecdotal, personal stories of SDSers from the early and late 1960s. Very nice if you already know a little bit about the period and the student movement; maybe not very illuminating if you don't really, as it doesn't provide MUCH context about the larger events to which these students' stories connected. But clearly a personal expression of personal stories, and the aesthetic (several artists, everyone telling their own stories, no one story being more important than the others) nice ...more
I read this some time ago. Bought copy of my own at Printer's Row, but I lost it, and read a public library copy. I was a fan of Pekar before reading this.
I enjoyed this trip down memory lane so to speak. Many of the present day follow-ups were specially good to read. The text takes the ideas of the youthful New Left seriously, because most history written nowadays says, "they're all very silly, silly idealists and consequently insignificant.".
Dec 15, 2013 Brent rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history readers and Harvey Pekar fans
Recommended to Brent by: the late Harvey Pekar and Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
It was interesting to be reading this as individuals from this generation remained a hot-button issue issue in 2008 presidential election contest. For Harvey Pekar completists, as well as the history-minded, this is thought-provoking comic art. Kudos to artist Gary Dumm. The latter two-thirds of the book are individual memoirs in comic art; I came back at a second swath and read those. It's a great amalgam.
I really wanted to like this graphic novel. I was curious to learn more about SDS, but this book was not the way to do it. There wasn't much of a story in the first part, it just felt like the authors were throwing facts at me (and in no particular order). The shorter, more personal narratives were a little better, but still not satisfying. If you want to learn more about SDS I would suggest reading something else.
This book is basically a history of the SDS via several personal accounts of those who were there. The basic story is interesting initially, but each new account starts to feel like a rehash of the prior ones Another gripe is that the more serious moments seem muddled by unintentionally light artwork. Overall, it has it's upside, but it isn't on par with Harvey Pekar's more personal works.
I loved Wobblies and Paul and Harvey did a great job on this tome...I will be speaking in Philly on April 27 (at Robin's Bookstore) to promote this very cool book. Of course I'm not biased at all - irrespective of the fact that Next Left Notes got a plug from Harvey in the section on new SDS. Now I can argue with my pal Dan Gross (mentioned in Wobblies) over who looks better as a cartoon.
I was utterly disappointed! I find this topic so interesting so I was excited to see Harvey Pekar tackling it. I was looking for a chronological history ... instead I got a bunch of personal anecdotes (some good stories and a lot of boring ones) that didn't connect coherently and didn't follow a linear timeline. It seemed like this book lacked an overall editor for the whole book.
comicbookresources listed this as one of two of Harvey Pekar's works to avoid. I wish I had read that article before I read this book. it's overly verbose and Gary Dumm's artwork is very static. He doesn't draw women or black people well. It was a great relief when other illustrator told their story.

I need to find a nice non-graphic novel version of this historical group.
This was horrible. Way too preachy, especially for something that completely lacked a plot or story. It was depressing, too, b/c while I think Pekar was trying to show the importance of the SDS movement, he unintentionally painted them as a bunch of middle class white kids acting like twats. Maybe you'd like this if you're of that generation and feeling solipsistic.
Some of the stories in this collection really struck me, but others fell flat. I liked the mix of personal and "big picture" story-telling and I got a better sense of what SDS was all about, but the book doesn't seem to hold together very well for me, its message fractured. Perhaps this is typical of historical graphic novels, but it felt thin and left me wanting more.
I'm not fond of the art of Gary Dumm whose art composed the bulk of the book, and Harvey Pekar's writing here is not the the intimate and revealing Pekar we've come to love through American Splendor, but as for history it is good history and good to know.

And check it out, I have two pages of art in this book, one on Kent State and the other on the Weathermen.
Doesn't explain very much about what SDS was about and what their goals were about. I would recommend this book for people who KNEW what SDS was about already so that they could explore the history behind it in more depth. But even then, I think this only scratches the surface of the story and wouldn't recommend this book to anybody.
Ancient History? Actually a fun book if you were there, and maybe a fun book if you want to know what it was like. The stories seemed real to me. Of course the people really in SDS were a small number. There may have only been 20 of us who were really active, but we still shut down the campus, because we had a large support base.
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Harvey Lawrence Pekar was an American underground comic book writer best known for his autobiographical American Splendor series.

In 2003, the series inspired a critically acclaimed film adaptation of the same name.

More about Harvey Pekar...
American Splendor: The Life and Times of Harvey Pekar The Best American Comics 2006 The Quitter Best Of American Splendor Our Cancer Year

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