This story appears in the July/August 2016 issue of Playboy. Subscribe

Portrait of the artist.

I first met Molly Crabapple, the sexy goth girl next door—she’d be as comfortable in the Playboy of yore as she is in this feature—at an alt-comix festival in lower Manhattan about eight years ago. At the time, she was drawing an erotic fin-de-siècle-styled comic book about a Jewish fire-eating burlesque queen named Scarlett O’Herring. Molly, who had actually worked as a fire-eating burlesque queen herself while a struggling art student, soon figured out that comix was a sucker’s game: One usually gets paid far less for making lots of illustrations on a page than for drawing just one. “Comix required a work ethic I didn’t have,” she tells me.

Living across from Zuccotti Park when it was ground zero for the Occupy movement radicalized her—though if the personal is political, she always had a heightened political awareness—and Molly reinvented herself (she’s done a lot of that) as an artist-reporter engagé. She’s an accomplished writer (her jazzy memoir, Drawing Blood, proves that), but her journalistic drawings return art to its Goya-like function of announcing, “I saw this.” The age of Photoshop and Instagram has outed the camera as a slicker liar than any presidential candidate, but a drawing is personal, so you can decide to trust it. As Molly puts it, “You take a photo, but you make a picture.”

Even documenting recent trips to Guantánamo, Turkey, Dubai, Syria and Gaza, her sensuous devouring eye leads to pictures that are simultaneously earnest and smart-assed, serious and playful. Her art proclaims, to paraphrase what her hero Emma Goldman insisted a century ago, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution!”

Toppled statue of Hafez al-Assad in Raqqa. Pen, ink and dye on Arches paper, 12x16 inches, 2016.

{{asset:06:zoom:caption:Illustration for the “In Court of Purity” (from index on Censorship). Pen, ink and dye on Arches paper 16x12 inches, 2015.}}

Israeli soldiers confiscate my friend’s ID in Hebron, Occupied West Bank. Pen, ink and dye on Archers paper, 12x16 inches, 2016

Son of a militia sniper in Tripoli, Lebanon. Pen, ink and dye on Archers paper, 16x12 inches, 2016.

Israeli soldiers guard settlers in the old city of Hebron, Occupied West Bank. Pen, ink and dye on Archers paper, 12x16 inches, 2016.