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In Attitude, Ted Rall has
collected together 20 like-minded artists to create a state-of-the-art
introduction to political cartoons.
Probably the best known name among them is Tom Tomorrow, whose work
appears often in the New Yorker and The New York Times as well as
city publications such as the Village Voice. But theres a good chance
that anyone who is somewhat media-savvy will have seen the work of Derf, Ward
Sutton, Bill Brown, Scott Bateman, Rall himself, and several other of the
artists included. Each artist has 5 or
6 pages devoted to his or her work, along with an interview.
All of the artists are irreverent
and make fun of politicians, celebrities, TV, multinational corporations and
people in positions of authority. A
number of cartoons specifically mention the protests against the World Trade
Organization and the way that the press portrayed the protestors as trouble-makers
rather than honorable fighters raising awareness about the excesses of
capitalism. Most of the cartoons are
taken from recent years, some being very recent, concerning terrorism, the war
against terrorism, and civil liberties.
The interviews with the artists
(all conducted by Ted Rall, except the one with him, which is done by Ruben
Bolling) seem like they were conducted by e-mail. They get a little predictable if one is reading the book
methodically from start to finish, although Rall does try to mix it up by
throwing in odd questions such as, Name your least-favorite board game,
Describe your strangest first date, Describe one moment of perfect joy, and
Name your five favorite bands. But
mostly Rall asks artists about what motivates them to do their work and what
their political views are, and mostly they prove to be wise-cracking
alternative types who believe that if the American public really knew some
basic facts about who has the power in society and how they abuse it, it would
Theres little reference to mental
illness here. Rall asks Peter Kuper
about experience of depression, and Kuper gives the memorable reply, Being an
artist and trying to do work from the heart is a short path to insanity. Joe Sharpnack says the greed of the medical
industry really pisses him off. A few
of the cartoons refer to Prozac or antidepressants and suggest that people take
pills as a way of avoiding the real causes of alienation in contemporary
society. But I didnt spot any cartoons
about HMOs, children taking Ritalin, or the treatment of the homeless mentally
ill. Thats odd, since those are rich
areas for satirists to mine for material.
A problem with alternative cartoons
focusing on politics is that they can tend to preach to the converted, and if
they lack a real spark of humor or innovation in their style, even their fans
end up reading them out of a sense of obligation rather than enjoyment. Nearly all of the work here is good, but
its not going to appeal to everyone.
Its likely that the more rewarding parts will be the discovery of
previously unfamiliar artists. For
myself, I will be seeking out more examples of the work of Stephanie McMillan,
whose work has a straightforward outrage mixed with a slyly comical drawing style. This is a nicely produced book, and will be
welcomed by radicals and even liberals with some sense of fun.
© 2002 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College,
Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main
research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested
in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is
keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health
professionals, and the general public.