Bradley Manning trial to be recreated in comic-book form

Graphic artist Clark Stoeckley in courtroom to record ongoing trial of WikiLeaks soldier

• See pictures from the novel-in-progress

A comic of the Bradley Manning trial, produced live from the courtroom, is being created by artist and WikiLeaks activist Clark Stoeckley and will be published in the autumn.

Stoeckley, who drives a truck carrying the WikiLeaks logo to court in Fort Meade each day, said: "It [the truck] definitely turns heads. My feeling is that if they allow the Fox News truck on base they have to allow me here too, right?" He is meticulously recording every detail of Manning's trial from inside the courtroom, drawing and writing down events as they happen.

Bradley Manning supporters
Back to front: Bradley Manning supporters in court … Illustration: Clark Stoeckley Photograph: Clark Clark Stoeckley/PR

Since the trial of the US soldier for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified digital files began on 3 June, Stoeckley has already drawn images of Manning at the defence table, and of Adrian Lamo, the former computer hacker who turned Manning in. He has also sketched observers in the courtroom wearing T-shirts bearing the word "truth", which they have been told by court officials to wear inside out.

The comic, The United States vs PFC Bradley Manning: A Graphic Account from Inside the Courtroom, will include drawings of events that illustrate the matters under discussion in the courtroom – for example, the war in Afghanistan – and text from the trial transcript.

"No other sketch artists are coming to the trial here in Fort Meade regularly. I'm here all the time," said Stoeckley. "I want to record every single witness and create a visual record of what's going on so that people can put faces to transcripts. I'm trying to capture the atmosphere in the courtroom and the characters who are part of the story … I'm doing this in a style that's never been used in courtroom sketch art."

Bradley Manning trial
Everyone towers over him … Illustration: Clark Stoeckley Photograph: Clark Stoeckley /PR

Manning, said Stoeckley, "is the smallest person in the trial, everyone towers over him". Producing a sample page showing Manning at a pre-trial motion hearing on 28 February, Stoeckly said: "I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralised, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare … As I hoped, others were just as troubled, if not more troubled, than me by what they saw."

Images of President Barack Obama and the Guantánamo Bay detention centre illustrate comments by Manning about the US prison in Cuba, in which the soldier said: "We found ourselves holding an increasing number of individuals indefinitely who we knew to be innocent, low-level foot soldiers that did not have useful intelligences."

Manning also said: "I also recall that in early 2009, Barack Obama stated that he would close Guantánamo, and that the facility compromised our standing over all, and diminished our moral authority." The comic will be published in October by New York-based independent publisher OR Books, which will assemble Stoeckley's graphic spreads at the end of the trial and "very quickly" produce the book as a print-on-demand paperback and ebook. Readers who pre-order the content will be sent Stoeckley's summaries of the trial electronically each week.

"In the course of the trial, Private Manning insists that his release of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs to WikiLeaks was an act of conscience, justified by the urgent need to reveal to the world the atrocities committed by the US military in the ostensible cause of freedom. At the prosecution table, military lawyers for the American government seek to set an example and discourage future whistleblowers by locking away Manning for decades, possibly the rest of his life," said OR Books.

"Stoeckley's vivid sketches from inside the court and beyond, together with carefully selected transcripts of the proceedings, trace the arguments as they move back and forth between the defence and the prosecution. His rendering of the trial provides both a vital record and a uniquely compelling read."

OR Books founder Colin Robinson said: "We're very pleased to be publishing this vital record of the Bradley Manning trial, drawn with great panache by Clark Stoeckley. Because of its unusual comic-book form, and the speed with which we can bring it to publication, we're anticipating a very wide audience. We hope it builds widespread support for Manning, one of the most important whistleblowers of our time."

OR Books, which describes itself as a publisher that "embraces progressive change in politics, culture and the way we do business", is also the home of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's book, Cypherpunks: Freedom and the Future of the Internet.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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