by Paul Buhle
Crude Behavior - A fundamental tale told by kidd millennium: story by Ron Callari, illustrations by Jon A. Donohoe. A Kindle Book from Robot Comics 2009, 79pp, color, $4.95 Kindle.
Fortune Cookies - Boston: Fortune Cookies, 2010. 48pp, $4.50 c/o Susan Rice, 82 Brooking, Medford, MA 02155.
(Swans - March 22, 2010) Radical comics are picking up steam -- on the Web, in print (sometimes old-style comic format, sometimes not), and in that new format, pay-on-Web (i.e., Kindle books). Artists and scriptwriters, younger and older, are adapting to the changing political landscape after the amazing Obama election and the disappointing Obama letdown.
Crude Behavior started out as an ongoing editorial cartoon about the Bush regime, then steadily broadened out, mostly on the Web. Not to be surprised, it was a New Zealand online wire service that found readers especially eager to see social criticism new-style.
Or old-style (in true postmod fashion). Comic strips' granddaddy was the Yellow Kid, born in the very last years of the nineteenth century, and giving the Yellow Press its name. That Kid had a nightgown on, this Kidd (Millennium) wears a diaper, logically enough since born at the dawn of the 21st. The story develops itself through swipes or quotes from Superman, Charlie Brown, Wily Coyote, Tom 'n Jerry, Donald Duck, and Scrooge McDuck, and so many more yesteryear favorites. In living color, like their originals (however, on Kindle you'll find them in 16 shades of grey).
Of course, they occupy a rather different conceptual space here, along with politicians of both parties, David Letterman, Jay Leno, and oodles more. The fast-buckness of George Dubya and Saddam look awfully similar, though one has the guns.
One especially nice splash (i.e., full) page drawing has US oil companies as the seven dwarves, sleeping Snow White as Mesopotamia, with oil wells and the ancient city of Baghdad in the background. We end with a similar Obama, but we the readers obviously don't have much to smile about.
Fortune Cookies is retro to Underground Comix days, except for the slick cover, and in a heartwarming way brings back the hippie/radical youth of one particular artist. Nick Thorkelson, the first of the u.g. artists in Madison, Wisconsin, c.1968, since then an artist for Dollars and Sense magazine (and for many anthologies) follows his 1971, later on in the book riffing in assorted one-pagers on life and aging. Susan Rice and Leonard Rifas (himself the inventor of Edu-Comics, the first of the environment-educational series) look back on their own pasts, on the road and elsewhere. It's a nice mix, with the need to travel and the possibilities of self-discovery always close at hand.
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About the Author
Paul Buhle retired from college teaching to produce radical comics fulltime. His latest include Studs Terkel's Working, A Graphic Adaptation [reviewed in these pages], The Beats, A People's History of the American Empire (aka an adaptation of Howard Zinn's classic) and a pictorial biography of his childhood hero, The Art of Harvey Kurtzman. Buhle is working on his ninth comic book. (back)