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Comic Artists Turn '9/11 Report' Into Graphic Novel

It's a giant leap from "Jughead" to "The 9/11 Report."

But that didn't stop a pair of veteran comic artists from bridging the gap -- turning the dense, painful breakdown of the horrors of that morning in 2001 into a more digestible form: the graphic novel.

In a bold effort to depict the tragedy of Sept. 11, artists Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colón illustrated simultaneous events side by side on the page, using the timelines of the hijacked planes as laid out in the 9/11 commission's findings, to chilling effect.

"I think we have taken a terribly important document, which I wish every American would read, and done it in a way that makes it far easier for people to grasp," said publisher Thomas LeBien of Hill and Wang, a division of the prestigious Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The 144-page account opens before 8 a.m., with plot ringleader Mohamed Atta and four other terrorists boarding American Airlines Flight 11 at Boston's Logan Airport. Minutes later, in another part of the airport, five others board United Airlines Flight 175.

Around the same time, another five hijackers climb aboard American Airlines Flight 77 in Washington, where two plotters were let through despite setting off metal detectors. And finally, in Newark, four more boarded United Flight 93.

Within 15 minutes, the terror plot that killed about 3,000 people is under way -- and that's just the end of Page 1.

From there, the comic quickly lays out the facts as found in the report of the worst attack on American soil in history.

LeBien says the fast-paced method and layout of the parallel attacks should go a long way in helping people -- particularly younger readers -- grasp what happened.

"If you're 80- or 14-years-old, you look at those timelines and it becomes more immediately clear the catastrophic nature of it all in a more gripping way than you might get from the report itself," he said.

It's not the first time comic artists have depicted events surrounding 9/11. Not long after the attacks, Superman saved lives at Ground Zero and other series put out commemorative issues.

But in this case, LeBien insisted the artists just followed the script laid out by the report and made no effort to politicize the events of the day.

"This is not a political document. It does not present an analysis any more than the commission report did," he said.

The commission report is the publishing imprint's first stab at making graphic adaptations of nonfiction material. The adaptation, due out in September, will be followed soon after by graphic biographies of Malcolm X and Ronald Reagan.

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