Archive for September, 2004

September 30, 2004

Spiegelman Redux

In 1999 I wrote a piece for The Village Voice urging a reconsideration of cartoonist Art Spiegelman, best known for his 1980s graphic novel “Maus” and subsequent cover artwork for The New Yorker magazine. That piece also bemoaned Spiegelman’s outsized ego and influence in the comics and editorial communities given the paucity of his creative output and his singularly unpleasant, ungenerous personality.

Five years later, Spiegelman’s influence has rightly waned. Upon discovering (after 9/11, when he seems to have discovered politics) that The New Yorker’s editorial viewpoint skewed somewhat to the right of The Progressive’s, Spiegelman sort of quit the long ossified magazine. His cartooning output has been limited to a monthly comic strip, “In the Shadow of No Towers,” that appears in The Forward, heir to the venerable Jewish weekly of a century ago. And he no longer pulls quite as many strings in the magazine world, where he once ordered artists whose work or disposition he found disagreeable blackballed; many such strings have been broken by as recession-ravaged glossies folded during the early part of the new decade.

American readers are now suffering something of an attempted Spiegelman comeback in the form of his new booklet “In the Shadow of No Towers” (42 pages for $20!). Spiegelman, in drawing INSONT, gushes the New York Times Book Review, “has now surpassed the dean of the underground school, Robert Crumb.”

Quelle insulte!

I’ve been waiting for someone else to say it, but as far as I know no one else has. So I will: “In the Shadow of No Towers” is the greatest publishing scam since the Hitler diaries. The cover is recycled from Spiegelman’s New Yorker cover after 9/11: a stupid-beyond-words gray-out of the World Trade Center on a black background. The last half of the booklet’s 42 pages—printed, like a child’s tome, as a board book in an absurd attempt to make it seem substantial, as if it were a real book worthy of discussion, even purchase—is composed entirely of classic turn of the century Sunday comics. Which, it hardly need to be noted, Spiegelman did not draw. The book’s only original content is its introduction. So here we are, 14 years since “Maus,” and Spiegelman has written an essay. Which is fine, but why should anybody care?

The reprinted cartoons from the Forward are the mystery meat in this Brit-thin sandwich. I’ve been scouring the Web for the most likely places where criticism might be found: the comments section for the title on Amazon, the always cranky posters to the Comics Journal. But here too Spiegelman remains a sacred cow. Some are disappointed at the padded content of the book, but one wonders why they would want any more given the quality of what’s there. INSONT’s Forward cartoons suck. They suck so hard that it’s nearly impossible to quantify their suckiness; they suck worse than most of the sucky sample comics aspiring teenagers send to professional cartoonists by email. They suck worse than most daily comic strips, which is saying something, and they suck worse than almost anything printed in an alternative paper. They are drawn like shit—and coming from me, that’s saying something—and the jokes are impossibly stupid. Not one, but two “gags” about shoes falling from the sky, one set of Texas-style cowboy boots (get it?). But don’t trust me, just go to a bookstore and look at the thing, for truly it is a thing of wonder that a major publisher has the audacity to try to foist an object of such suckosity, even on the American public.

Even people who support Bush don’t deserve this.

And yet, The New York Times Book Review, along with most other august institutions of the literary world, dares to compare him to Duke Ellington. “Shaken out of his complacency by Sept. 11, Spiegelman ‘made a vow that morning to return to making comix,’ he writes.” Some gave blood, others enlisted, I went to Afghanistan. Spiegelman hit the drawing board. Step aside, firefighters, and meet the real hero.

“‘I remember my father trying to describe what the smoke in Auschwitz smelled like,” he writes in one panel. “The closest he got was to tell me it was…’indescribable.’ That’s exactly what the air in Lower Manhattan smelled like after September 11.” How do you know, Art? I wasn’t at Auschwitz and neither were you but I’m willing to bet good money that it didn’t smell like 9/11, which smelled like burning flesh mixed with that electrical burning scent you get from model trains. No charred wiring in the Reich’s machinery of death. More to the point, 9/11 killed 0.05% of the Holocaust death poll. Oh, and there was nothing personal about 9/11 to Art Spiegelman, save that he’s a millionaire who lives in the tony Tribeca neighborhood near where the Towers fell. He may suffer increased risk of lung cancer down the road from sucking up all of that EPA-approved residue but as a two pack a day smoker, one doubts that it will make much difference to him. To top it all off, this neurotic nut, writes: “‘I finally understand why some Jews didn’t leave Berlin right after Kristallnacht!” Because, you know, living in Tribeca is like being a Jew in Nazi-era Berlin. Get it?

Lots of people write shitty books. Others write padded excuses for a book. But it’s something of an event when such a preposterous pile of pretentious bullshit is widely lauded for its genius. Perhaps it’s appropriate for a time when George W. Bush can be compared to Winston Churchill.

September 30, 2004

Spiegelman Redux

In 1999 I wrote a piece for The Village Voice urging a reconsideration of cartoonist Art Spiegelman, best known for his 1980s graphic novel “Maus” and subsequent cover artwork for The New Yorker magazine. That piece also bemoaned Spiegelman’s outsized ego and influence in the comics and editorial communities given the paucity of his creative output and his singularly unpleasant, ungenerous personality.

Five years later, Spiegelman’s influence has rightly waned. Upon discovering (after 9/11, when he seems to have discovered politics) that The New Yorker’s editorial viewpoint skewed somewhat to the right of The Progressive’s, Spiegelman sort of quit the long ossified magazine. His cartooning output has been limited to a monthly comic strip, “In the Shadow of No Towers,” that appears in The Forward, heir to the venerable Jewish weekly of a century ago. And he no longer pulls quite as many strings in the magazine world, where he once ordered artists whose work or disposition he found disagreeable blackballed; many such strings have been broken by as recession-ravaged glossies folded during the early part of the new decade.

American readers are now suffering something of an attempted Spiegelman comeback in the form of his new booklet “In the Shadow of No Towers” (42 pages for $20!). Spiegelman, in drawing INSONT, gushes the New York Times Book Review, “has now surpassed the dean of the underground school, Robert Crumb.”

Quelle insulte!

I’ve been waiting for someone else to say it, but as far as I know no one else has. So I will: “In the Shadow of No Towers” is the greatest publishing scam since the Hitler diaries. The cover is recycled from Spiegelman’s New Yorker cover after 9/11: a stupid-beyond-words gray-out of the World Trade Center on a black background. The last half of the booklet’s 42 pages—printed, like a child’s tome, as a board book in an absurd attempt to make it seem substantial, as if it were a real book worthy of discussion, even purchase—is composed entirely of classic turn of the century Sunday comics. Which, it hardly need to be noted, Spiegelman did not draw. The book’s only original content is its introduction. So here we are, 14 years since “Maus,” and Spiegelman has written an essay. Which is fine, but why should anybody care?

The reprinted cartoons from the Forward are the mystery meat in this Brit-thin sandwich. I’ve been scouring the Web for the most likely places where criticism might be found: the comments section for the title on Amazon, the always cranky posters to the Comics Journal. But here too Spiegelman remains a sacred cow. Some are disappointed at the padded content of the book, but one wonders why they would want any more given the quality of what’s there. INSONT’s Forward cartoons suck. They suck so hard that it’s nearly impossible to quantify their suckiness; they suck worse than most of the sucky sample comics aspiring teenagers send to professional cartoonists by email. They suck worse than most daily comic strips, which is saying something, and they suck worse than almost anything printed in an alternative paper. They are drawn like shit—and coming from me, that’s saying something—and the jokes are impossibly stupid. Not one, but two “gags” about shoes falling from the sky, one set of Texas-style cowboy boots (get it?). But don’t trust me, just go to a bookstore and look at the thing, for truly it is a thing of wonder that a major publisher has the audacity to try to foist an object of such suckosity, even on the American public.

Even people who support Bush don’t deserve this.

And yet, The New York Times Book Review, along with most other august institutions of the literary world, dares to compare him to Duke Ellington. “Shaken out of his complacency by Sept. 11, Spiegelman ‘made a vow that morning to return to making comix,’ he writes.” Some gave blood, others enlisted, I went to Afghanistan. Spiegelman hit the drawing board. Step aside, firefighters, and meet the real hero.

“‘I remember my father trying to describe what the smoke in Auschwitz smelled like,” he writes in one panel. “The closest he got was to tell me it was…’indescribable.’ That’s exactly what the air in Lower Manhattan smelled like after September 11.” How do you know, Art? I wasn’t at Auschwitz and neither were you but I’m willing to bet good money that it didn’t smell like 9/11, which smelled like burning flesh mixed with that electrical burning scent you get from model trains. No charred wiring in the Reich’s machinery of death. More to the point, 9/11 killed 0.05% of the Holocaust death poll. Oh, and there was nothing personal about 9/11 to Art Spiegelman, save that he’s a millionaire who lives in the tony Tribeca neighborhood near where the Towers fell. He may suffer increased risk of lung cancer down the road from sucking up all of that EPA-approved residue but as a two pack a day smoker, one doubts that it will make much difference to him. To top it all off, this neurotic nut, writes: “‘I finally understand why some Jews didn’t leave Berlin right after Kristallnacht!” Because, you know, living in Tribeca is like being a Jew in Nazi-era Berlin. Get it?

Lots of people write shitty books. Others write padded excuses for a book. But it’s something of an event when such a preposterous pile of pretentious bullshit is widely lauded for its genius. Perhaps it’s appropriate for a time when George W. Bush can be compared to Winston Churchill.

September 30, 2004

Fall Book Tour – Current Information

Things are falling into place for my late October book tour. Here are the dates and locations we have so far; additional dates may be added in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and/or San Diego. If you live in a city not listed but would like to bring me to your town, feel free to email me and I’ll fill you in. (Generally speaking, towns where my work appears in the local newspaper get first priority. Other places can still work, but then it’s necessary to find a college or similar organization to front an honorarium and travel expenses.)

At all of these venues I’ll be talking and answering questions as well as signing books, including some out-of-print and hard-to-find titles. At certain ones there will also be more a multimedia approach, including showing slides.

October 15

Time TBA

Friday Harbor/San Juan Islands

Fairgrounds

Will include slide presentation

October 16

12 noon

Elliott Bay Books

101 South Main Street

Seattle, Washington 98104

(206) 624-6600

October 17

Danger Room Comics

201 West 4th Street

Olympia, Washington 98501

2:00 pm: I will be interviewed and take questions and answers from the audience in the banquet room at Plenty (200 4th Avenue West, corner of 4th & Columbia, across the street from Danger Room).

3:30 – 5:00 pm: I will be signing and sketching at Danger Room Comics

October 19

8 pm

Reading Frenzy

1800 E. Burnside

Portland, Oregon 97205

They, not I, call it the “Ted Rall Book Release Extravaganza”!

Ted Rall, Jefferson Smith, and a special guest from City Hall!

Join Reading Frenzy for an evening of civic engagement and political activism with cartoonist/commentator Ted Rall, author of Wake Up, You’re Liberal! (Soft Skull, 2004) and Generalissimo El Busho (NBM, 2004). Ted will be joined by Jefferson Smith of The Oregon Bus Project, and one of our favorite public officials (TBA)! Speakers will be followed by a lively Q&A session, and book signing. A few of our favorite local community organizations as well as some of Portland’s finest political cartoonists, such as Kevin Moore and Scott Bateman, will be on hand to display and discuss their work.

October 20

7:30 pm

Modern Times

888 Valencia Street

San Francisco, California

October 22-25: Los Angeles-area appearance

October 26: Possible Las Vegas appearance

September 30, 2004

Fall Book Tour – Current Information

Things are falling into place for my late October book tour. Here are the dates and locations we have so far; additional dates may be added in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and/or San Diego. If you live in a city not listed but would like to bring me to your town, feel free to email me and I’ll fill you in. (Generally speaking, towns where my work appears in the local newspaper get first priority. Other places can still work, but then it’s necessary to find a college or similar organization to front an honorarium and travel expenses.)

At all of these venues I’ll be talking and answering questions as well as signing books, including some out-of-print and hard-to-find titles. At certain ones there will also be more a multimedia approach, including showing slides.

October 15

Time TBA

Friday Harbor/San Juan Islands

Fairgrounds

Will include slide presentation

October 16

12 noon

Elliott Bay Books

101 South Main Street

Seattle, Washington 98104

(206) 624-6600

October 17

Danger Room Comics

201 West 4th Street

Olympia, Washington 98501

2:00 pm: I will be interviewed and take questions and answers from the audience in the banquet room at Plenty (200 4th Avenue West, corner of 4th & Columbia, across the street from Danger Room).

3:30 – 5:00 pm: I will be signing and sketching at Danger Room Comics

October 19

8 pm

Reading Frenzy

1800 E. Burnside

Portland, Oregon 97205

They, not I, call it the “Ted Rall Book Release Extravaganza”!

Ted Rall, Jefferson Smith, and a special guest from City Hall!

Join Reading Frenzy for an evening of civic engagement and political activism with cartoonist/commentator Ted Rall, author of Wake Up, You’re Liberal! (Soft Skull, 2004) and Generalissimo El Busho (NBM, 2004). Ted will be joined by Jefferson Smith of The Oregon Bus Project, and one of our favorite public officials (TBA)! Speakers will be followed by a lively Q&A session, and book signing. A few of our favorite local community organizations as well as some of Portland’s finest political cartoonists, such as Kevin Moore and Scott Bateman, will be on hand to display and discuss their work.

October 20

7:30 pm

Modern Times

888 Valencia Street

San Francisco, California

October 22-25: Los Angeles-area appearance

October 26: Possible Las Vegas appearance

September 29, 2004

Panel Time

Saturday evening’s SPX panel will take place at 6 pm.

September 29, 2004

Panel Time

Saturday evening’s SPX panel will take place at 6 pm.

September 29, 2004

Correction

NY Press, a right-wing weekly paper, continues its jihad. In this week’s issue, an anonymous writer spits:

And yet, even after all these years, Ted Rall still wants to work with us. At an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies conference in June, Rall ran into one of the New York Press bigwigs and inquired about the possibility of running his column with us.

Actually, the New York Press bigwig (he’s their publisher) asked me about running my column with them. I responded by pointing out that Jeff Koyen’s pro-Bush politics would prevent such a thing, the publisher insisted that no, he could be convinced, and that was that.

Not that it much matters. Nobody reads the pathelogically lying Press anymore; most media observers are amazed that it continues to limp along. Who finances this money loser, anyway?

September 29, 2004

Correction

NY Press, a right-wing weekly paper, continues its jihad. In this week’s issue, an anonymous writer spits:

And yet, even after all these years, Ted Rall still wants to work with us. At an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies conference in June, Rall ran into one of the New York Press bigwigs and inquired about the possibility of running his column with us.

Actually, the New York Press bigwig (he’s their publisher) asked me about running my column with them. I responded by pointing out that Jeff Koyen’s pro-Bush politics would prevent such a thing, the publisher insisted that no, he could be convinced, and that was that.

Not that it much matters. Nobody reads the pathelogically lying Press anymore; most media observers are amazed that it continues to limp along. Who finances this money loser, anyway?

September 26, 2004

Ted Rall Book Tour – Week of September 27 – October 3

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 7:30 pm:

I’ll be signing my new books GENERALISSIMO EL BUSHO and WAKE UP, YOU’RE LIBERAL at the Barnes & Noble on Sixth Avenue at West 8th Street in Manhattan, New York City. I’ll give a brief talk and answer questions. Don’t come late; if turnout is low, I leave early.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:30 pm:

I’ll be joining fellow cartoonists Neil Swaab (“Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles”), Mikhaels B. Reid (“The Boiling Point”) and Emily S. Flake (“Lulu Eightball”) to sign copies of ATTITUDE 2: THE NEW SUBVERSIVE ALTERNATIVE CARTOONISTS at Kim’s Mediopolis on Broadway at 113th Streetin Manhattan, New York City. I’ll give a presentation about alternative weekly cartooning, answer questions and then we’ll all sign books. Copies of my other books will also be available for purchase and signing. Plus, Kim’s is the best video and CD store in New York City.

Friday, Oct. 1, noon – 6 pm:

I’ll be sitting at the NBM Publishing table at the Small Press Expo at the Holiday Inn in Bethesda, Maryland. Buy and get your Ted Rall books signed. I’ll also have original artwork and other rarities for sale.

Saturday, Oct. 2, 10 am – 6 pm:

Still at Small Press Expo, Bethesda. I’m also sitting on a panel that evening about political cartooning.

Sunday, Oct. 3, noon – 5 pm:

A big day for yours truly! Not only will the first-ever New York Times Book Review of one of my works be running (on GENERALISSIMO EL BUSHO–let’s hope they like it!), but I’ll be sitting at NBM’s table at New York is Book Country book fair on Fifth Avenue.

Book Tour resumes October 15 in Washingon state! Watch this space.

P.S. It’s not too late to add your city to my book tour! If you have a good venue in a city where my cartoons or columns run in the local newspaper, email me at chet@rall.com.

September 26, 2004

Ted Rall Book Tour – Week of September 27 – October 3

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 7:30 pm:

I’ll be signing my new books GENERALISSIMO EL BUSHO and WAKE UP, YOU’RE LIBERAL at the Barnes & Noble on Sixth Avenue at West 8th Street in Manhattan, New York City. I’ll give a brief talk and answer questions. Don’t come late; if turnout is low, I leave early.

Thursday, Sept. 30, 7:30 pm:

I’ll be joining fellow cartoonists Neil Swaab (“Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles”), Mikhaels B. Reid (“The Boiling Point”) and Emily S. Flake (“Lulu Eightball”) to sign copies of ATTITUDE 2: THE NEW SUBVERSIVE ALTERNATIVE CARTOONISTS at Kim’s Mediopolis on Broadway at 113th Streetin Manhattan, New York City. I’ll give a presentation about alternative weekly cartooning, answer questions and then we’ll all sign books. Copies of my other books will also be available for purchase and signing. Plus, Kim’s is the best video and CD store in New York City.

Friday, Oct. 1, noon – 6 pm:

I’ll be sitting at the NBM Publishing table at the Small Press Expo at the Holiday Inn in Bethesda, Maryland. Buy and get your Ted Rall books signed. I’ll also have original artwork and other rarities for sale.

Saturday, Oct. 2, 10 am – 6 pm:

Still at Small Press Expo, Bethesda. I’m also sitting on a panel that evening about political cartooning.

Sunday, Oct. 3, noon – 5 pm:

A big day for yours truly! Not only will the first-ever New York Times Book Review of one of my works be running (on GENERALISSIMO EL BUSHO–let’s hope they like it!), but I’ll be sitting at NBM’s table at New York is Book Country book fair on Fifth Avenue.

Book Tour resumes October 15 in Washingon state! Watch this space.

P.S. It’s not too late to add your city to my book tour! If you have a good venue in a city where my cartoons or columns run in the local newspaper, email me at chet@rall.com.