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May 30, 2017

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Somme gets graphic treatment from comic book master

AMIENS, France--Joe Sacco's first impressions of World War I were forged as a schoolboy in Australia, more than four decades ago.

But the Malta-born master of comic book reportage found himself delving much further back in time after taking on his latest project, a massive cartoon mural depicting the first day of the 1916 Battle of the Somme — a project that he says was partially inspired by the 11th Century Bayeux Tapestry.

The author of acclaimed comic strip treatments of contemporary conflicts in Israel/Palestine and Bosnia, Sacco, 53, has long nurtured the idea of doing something about the Great War.

"It all started when I was playing darts with a friend of mine in New York. 'Why don't you do something on the First World War?' he asked. That was 15 years ago."

The same friend later suggested an accordion-style book. "I thought of the Bayeux Tapestry: it is a long corridor of images you can read from left to right.

"And I have been interested in the First World War since I was 10 years old. In Australia it is part of the national psyche."

An epic work of embroidery depicting the Norman conquest of England that culminated in the 1066 Battle of Hastings, the Bayeux Tapestry is nearly 70 meters long (230 feet).

Sacco's mural, which goes on display in a Paris underground station next month, is nearly twice as long, several meters high and every bit as rich in telling detail.

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