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ANDREW ARNOLD

Andrew Arnold, who operated a comics blog for Time.com, has taken a buyout package and has discontinued his Time.comix online feature. In bidding his readers farewell, Arnold said when he started the column five years ago, “comix and graphic novels were just barely beginning to get serious attention. ... My philosophy ... [was] to offer supportive reviews of books that I found interesting. There seemed little point in telling a comix-averse audience not to read comix. The perfect Time.comix review would be a brief guide to how to appreciate art works whose context and language would be unknown to a large number of the general readership.” But since that inauspicious beginning, he continued, “graphic novels have gone from a publishing backwater to being the only book category displaying any growth at all. ... Now virtually all the major print and online media that cover books have at least some sort of graphic novel coverage, if not dedicated critics.” While he doesn’t say that his mission has been accomplished, it’s clear that Arnold doesn’t believe cartooning needs the boost it needed when he started. True, the void he leaves behind will scarcely become a black hole, sucking comics into it to disappear forevermore. Comics, in other words, will thrive just fine without Arnold’s attention. If you want to contact Arnold (provided, he cautions, that your purpose “doesn’t involve penis extensions or real estate in Africa”), try aacomix@gmail.com.

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

AMERICA GONE WILD

Here's a tome you shouldn’t pass by: America Gone Wild: Cartoons by Ted Rall (168 9x9-inch pages in paperback; Andrews McMeel, $12.95), as iconoclastic an aggregation as you’ll ever encounter. Nearly every cartoon is accompanied by a short annotation from Rall, either giving the visual assault another bounce or describing the inspirational occasion. Rall isn’t easy. He’s not easy on those he targets, and while his point-of-view generally is well known, sometimes a specific cartoon is not easy to understand: he is so caustic, his vitriol so undiluted, that some of his cartoons are simply screams of sarcastic rage, their conclusions and the logic thereof lost in the mounting decibels. Not a bad thing but not easy to comprehend. Apart from the cartoons, rendered in Rall’s customary blockhead manner, the book supplies a great bonus in Rall’s essays rehearsing the incidents of abuse he endured as a result of some of his uncompromising vignettes. Here’s the history of the “Terror Widows” cartoon that portrayed the widows of the victims of 9/11 as money-grubbing opportunists. He revisited aspects of the subject a couple of times with “Return of the Terror Widow” and “Terror Whores.” Likewise, we have the episode of the attack on the New York Fire Department and, later, on Pat Tillman’s benighted patriotism.

Rall may be, as Cartoon.com says, “the most controversial cartoonist in America,” but he doesn’t set out to be controversial. The implication of the accolade, Rall writes, “is that we political cartoonists sit at our drafting tables cackling with glee as we drool over the piles of hate mail that will undoubtedly result from our latest attack on some societal sacred cow. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m controversial because I’m willing to make people angry in the pursuit of an important point. But controversy isn’t my purpose. Pissing people off is acceptable collateral damage. How could I draw a political cartoon if I worried that it might cause someone offense? It is true that, more often than not, howls of affronted anger tend to confirm in my mind that I was right to draw a cartoon. Curses and death threats reveal their authors for what they are. I don’t care when those who advocate torture call me names. Why would I want torture aficionados as fans? As a person who expresses opinions for a living, I’m defined by my enemies.”

    Here are a few of Rall’s. Rall

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

BACK ON THE SHELVES

In Marshall, Missouri, the Public Library put Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Craig Thompson’s Blankets back on the shelves. Last October, the Library had removed the two award-winning graphic novels from circulation because a hysterical clutch of “concerned parents” had objected to those aspects of the books that had sexual content, saying they would corrupt adolescent readers, who, naturally, never have anything remotely approaching “sex” on their minds. The Library’s action, however, was only temporary: the final disposition of the books would depend upon the acquisitions policy that the board moved to formulate in the wake of the protest. Observers in the comics industry awaited the outcome with trepidation: if the books were to be permanently banned from this town’s public library, the action could reverberate throughout the industry, stunting growth and development of the art form in much the same way that Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent did in the mid-1950s. (See my review of this landmark tome on my website, in the Hindsight section.)

The policy that the Library’s board adopted, while not detailed in Rachel Harper’s report in the Marshall Democrat-News, permitted -- even demanded -- that the books be made available to Library patrons. Board member Katye Elsa said: “There’s no way we can remove those [books] from the Library from [the policy] we’ve adopted.” Another board member agreed: “From what we have written, they need to stay.” After approving the new policy by a vote of seven to one, the board also voted to move Blankets from the teen section of the Library to the adult section, where Fun Home has always been shelved.

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