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ON A MISSION

For some years now, cartoonist/columnist/gadfly Ted Rall has been on a mission. The mission is not so much to displace the traditional editorial cartoon with the more unconventional (not to say off the wall) work of cartoonists who mostly supply alternative weekly newspapers as it is to raise the visibility of the latter group, all, in Rall’s view, worthy of greater circulation than they presently enjoy. To this end, Rall has conspired with NBM Publishing to produce three books that each sample about twenty cartoonists we may never have seen before. The first of these tomes, Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists, was published in 2002; the second, Attitude 2: The New Subversive Alternative Cartoonists, two years later. The third in the series, Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, came out in 2006. Rall also edited individual volumes on Stephanie McMilllan, Neil Swaab, and Andy Singer — all, I think, available at nbmpublishing.com.

Attitude3 Attitude 3 includes the work of several Web cartoonists who can actually draw — D.C. Simpson, Brian McFadden, Matt Bors (lately picked up by United Feature, at Rall’s prompting no doubt), Mark Fiore (online animation), Mark Poutenis, Ben Smith, Thomas K. Dye, and Adam Rust; some who, charitably speaking, don’t draw so much as they diagram  — August J. Pollak, Dorothy Gambrell, Nicholas Gurewitch, Steven L. Cloud, plus Chris Dlugosz and Michael Zole, who make hemispheres and squares talk; M.e. Cohen, who scrawls; David Hellman and Eric Millikin, who smear; and the inevitable clip-art specialists, Robert T. Balder and Ryan North. Their commentary is pointed and often funny; but too many of this breed have invaded a visual medium without a noticeable picture-making skill in evidence.

Rall, a keen observer of pop and well as political culture, introduces the book by noting that cartooning positions at daily newspapers are fast disappearing. And the alternative, the indie weeklies, have reached a saturation point — no more openings for cartoonists there. That leaves the Web. And that’s where Rall looks for this volume. “It’s important to remember,” he says, “that although all of these cartoonists are at least partly defined by their identities as Internet cartoonists, they’re only working online because online is what there is at this particular moment in the development of media. They are cartoonists first, middle, and last,” he finishes, “ — and damned good ones, too.”

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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