Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #245: Attitude Featuring Andy Singer "No Exit"

I spent three years picking on editorial cartoons at my other blog -- Editorial Explanations, still available in mothballs, though the references are as old as three-year-old news -- and I still look at them, though not in the quantity I used to. (For EE, my goal was to see every editorial cartoon published that day, and comment on the egregious ones.)

And so recently I realized I had a random book of editorial cartoons on my shelf, with the ungainly title Attitude Featuring Andy Singer "No Exit". It was an offshoot of the Ted Rall-edited series of Attitude anthologies from the early aughts -- there were three of them in all -- and declared itself to be the first of its own series of books featuring individual cartoonists. At least two more books in that series followed, featuring the work of Neil Swaab and then Stephanie McMillan, but the series seems to have petered out quickly.

Two things to note, then: first, that Singer comes from Rall's end of the political spectrum, and can be expected to fall somewhere in the liberal-to-leftist zone. (There are loud, tendentious arguments online about both of those terms -- even within the left side of the political spectrum, or maybe especially within the left side -- so I won't define either of them.) Second, this book is from 2004, pretty much the point when lefties were at their most angry and upset. They made slightly fewer jokes about killing the President when it was their turn, and their irrational anger didn't immediately turn into racism the way righties do these days, but otherwise it was a similar affect: loud and raw-nerve and striking out randomly.

Singer doesn't have many anti-war cartoons here, for whatever reason, but he makes up for it with anti-car and anti-consumerism work. (I believe this was meant to be a career retrospective, rather than a collection of current cartoons, which could explain the lack of focus on the two useless and wasteful wars raging at the time.) Singer has the fervor of a true believer, and the equally fervent desire to always to the perfect thing, which leads to a few cartoons where his characters bemoan the fact that they have to make choices about least-bad consumer goods. This is Singer at his whiniest, and is an excellent tonic for those of us who have been vaguely sliding leftward over the past decade: there's no way anyone wants to be associated with such prima donna whiners.

But most of Singer's cartooning is stronger than that: he has a very easy-to-read, cartoony style, full of bullet-headed men and their scowling eyes, and his lines are dark and straight and true. He's on-message most of the time, but his message is so all-encompassing that he gets a lot of good gags out of it. And Singer was still working in the old editorial cartoon mold at this point -- bold images, few words -- rather than the wordier lefty style that's grown up since then, driven by Rall and Jen Sorensen. Make no mistake, he's very leftist -- many of the cartoons here seem to argue against capitalism entirely -- but he's also incisive and smart, and can both write funny and draw funny.

If you, too, want to smash the hegemonic militaristic state and usher in a new world of collectivism and happiness, Andy Singer is your man. This appears to still be his only solo cartoon book, so it's still the one to look for.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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