I present to you New World Quarter, a graphic novel published in 2015, two years after the initial Quarter Rat publication folded. While the publication in name ceased to exist, its spirit lives on in various representations, including this one.
The content was written in 2014 and reflected the French Quarter at the time. Much of what you’ll find inside will be familiar, although the settings and circumstances may seem like a far off memory. No longer can we walk inside of a local bar and socialize with our friends, neighbors or random tourists; buy shots at 3 a.m.; or see live music at our favorite venue. Five years ago seems like a decade ago compared to how quickly the world is changing at the moment. Hell, five months ago seems like five years ago.
The French Quarter scenery, however, has remained relatively the same. It was, and still is, the inspiration for the illustrations and dialogue, although some things are missing. Many of our favorite local dives are either gone or on their way out. Johnny White’s, a French Quarter institution for 50 years, is gone. We don’t dwell on such losses, although its absence adds to the melancholy we refer to as “the blues.”
But the French Quarter is more than 300 years old. What started as a small riverfront settlement of about 100 log huts is now a thriving riverfront neighborhood of exquisite buildings containing a deep culture with origins that precede America. The neighborhood doesn’t even look the same as it did; two fires in the late 18th century destroyed the vast majority of its original buildings.
Businesses and buildings come and go, although efforts are made to preserve them. But inanimate objects don’t make the French Quarter, the people do.
The government-induced, COVID-19 pandemic-influenced severe economic downturn is closing small businesses and forcing some of its longtime workers, the characters whose presences are vital to the character of the French Quarter, to relocate elsewhere and maybe never to return. The pandemic didn’t cause this; it just accelerated it.
What’s still consistent in New World Quarter is the Vieux Carre Commission, which still exerts its authority over property owners in order to preserve the historic look of the Quarter, except now their public meetings are held remotely and its building inspectors are wearing masks.
The themes expressed in New World Quarter fall within the fringe realm of conspiracy theories. They’re zany and, in many ways, meant to poke fun at themselves. Yet the authoritarianism we come to associate with these ideas smells eerily familiar to us, given our current situation. Hopefully they stay confined only to the pages of a graphic novel. –Editor