Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Political & Social Cartoons

A few years back, I discovered a book called Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists, edited by Ted Rall. Rall is himself a rather noted political & social cartoonist, whose cartoons regularly appear in over 150 U.S. newspapers. He also is the author or editor of about a dozen books available on the URSUS & MaineCat catalogs, including two updated editions of Attitude.

Attitude features works by cartoon artists not commonly found in the majority of American newspapers. These cartoons are found predominantly in the alternative weeklies of the U.S.'s largest cities. The reason these artists are not regularly featured in most newspapers is that their perspectives typically go well beyond the Peanuts, Cathy, Family Circus, & Ziggy brand of drawing & social commentary. With all respect to the comics featured in most local papers, the typical Family Circus or Ziggy strip seems like it could have been (or was!) written back in 1971, with only an occasional reference to modern culture like American Idol or George Bush to let you know they weren't written in 1971.

Admittedly, the world views of the artists featured in Attitude & its follow-ups are left-leaning on the political & social-consciousness spectrum. Without blatantly giving away or advocating my own political beliefs, let's just say that I don't always agree or disagree with everything I hear on the O'Reilly Factor or on The Daily Show.

Because we live in a seemingly strongly politically & culturally divided country, I think that often fear of offending keeps many people from saying anything (other than discussing American Idol or other trivialities, though we all know Simon Cowell is more Republican than Paula Abdul; note: this is an unsubstantiated generalization -- & probably a pretty bad & way too complicated "joke"). Well, I say, say something at least. Even disagreement with someone is progress -- silence stagnates & insulates democracy.

With that in mind, I'd like to recommend a few links to the online works of a few of the cartoonists featured in Attitude & Attitude 2. [I have not looked at Attitude 3 yet because Bangor Public Library's copy has been checked out since it came in new].

I do advise, though, that some of these may feature words, opinions, or images you may find objectionable. I offer the same warning if you plan to watch an episode of Two & a Half Men, Law & Order, Hannity & Colmes, &/or The Colbert Report. Or, if you read an editorial from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Bangor Daily News. Or, if you give a look to any of the dozen or so "how the Bush Administration got it right" or "how the Bush Administration got it wrong" books available for checkout at your local library.

Ted Rall:

Andy Singer:

Tom Tomorrow:

Jen Sorensen:

Ruben Bolling: Here's a link to a typical Bolling perspective, this one about public libraries:

Keith Knight:

Mikhaela B. Reid: Reid provides a quote in Attitude 2 which explains the clarity & directness political & social cartoons can have. She says, "As much as I love to read long editorials & articles ... they really never had the same effect on me [as cartoons] ... I appreciated the articles & editorials on an intellectual level ... but they didn't make me care on the same level [as with political or social cartoons]." I agree. Very often, for me, a one panel comic provides more depth to a perspective than a thousand word George Will or David Brooks editorial.

The above are just seven of the 42 artists profiled in the first two books. Contact me if you'd like to know who the others in these books are or if you'd like links to their web sites. And, once again, each of these books are available for checkout either the URSUS or MaineCat.

Because ultimately what I'm getting at here is that a picture can be worth a thousand words, it might seem odd that I haven't included any of the comics of any of the Attitude artists. I have not included any so as to avoid any potential copyright infringement & just to be fair to artist's whose work I respect.

The cartoon below is by an unpublished artist, my son. He made this on Microsoft Paint when he was four years old. To date, he hasn't published this, so I suppose I'm pretty safe in sharing it with you. I'm not sure what his political or social stance here is. Maybe it's a commentary on multiculturalism, about how people of all colors should just accept our differences & stand together through dark times. But, I may be reading more into than need be. I still think it's pretty neat though. Better than I could do.

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Bangor Public Library

Bangor Public Library
Bangor Public Library,
145 Harlow Street,
Bangor ME 04401