Mike’s Place: A True Story
of Love, Blues, and
Terror in Tel Aviv
Authors: Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem
Artist: Koren Shadmi
Release Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: First Second
Genre(s): Biographical, Historical
It’s no secret that I love historical graphic novels. I find the idea of being able to bring tense, emotional moments in history to the comic book medium absolutely fascinating. Mike’s Place – from filmmakers Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem – is no exception.
The graphic novel is about the titular Mike’s Place – a sports bar in Tel Aviv. In 2003, Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem were working on a documentary about the bar and it’s unique ability to serve as a gathering place for people of all races and religions. As the publisher’s summary says, “There’s a rule at Mike’s Place: never, ever talk politics or religion.” In their documentary they were trying to show another side of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Then on April 30th, tragedy struck. Mike’s Place became the target of suicide bombers in an attack that would kill three and injure many more including Jack Baxter. Undeterred, the team would go on to complete their documentary as they work through their pain and anguish.
It seems like an almost unusual story for a graphic novel but the medium really works well with any story if you let it. The visuals provided by artist Koren Shadmi are stunning and capture things perfectly. The book gives faces to the names and a raw emotion to the event as a whole that are lost in Wikipedia pages and news stories that are more easily available. The authors follow not only themselves and the tight-knit family of Mike’s Place workers but the suicide bombers themselves as they prepare for their deadly plans.
Knowing what was coming in the story didn’t detract from the enormity of that moment when the bombing finally happened. When the time came I was still shocked, still devastated.
And I think that’s the real value in books like these.
Mike’s Place makes a senseless act of violence something more. In a classroom studying the various Middle Eastern conflicts you’ll read textbooks and articles but stories like these would go a long way in supplementing them.
I highly recommend this book for people who enjoy historical graphic novels as much as I do. It’s a perfect compliment to books like March, The Silence of Our Friends, I Remember Beirut, and others. Just be prepared for a very emotional read.