Don’t say you weren’t told. WARNING! Graphic Content: Political Cartoons, Comix and the Uncensored Artistic Mind has well over 350 controversial illustrations by artists from around the world and throughout history. They deal with extremes of political, cultural, sexual, racial, and, yes, religious issues. It’s also an ebook, enhanced with plenty of video and audio clips. Most challenging – and most rewarding – is the lengthy and lively text, which is as insightful and inspirational as it is inflammatory.
Mohammad Saba’aneh: Freedom of Expression, 2011
The rabble-rousing author goes by the name of Mr. Fish. And as an angry young writer-cartoonist himself, Fish is also foul. In fact, he just might be America’s gutsiest, most uncompromising graphic commentator, one with a keen sense of design. He’s also an unapologetic, equal-opportunity offender: he’s as tough on Obama as he was on Dubya. He’s been published by The Atlantic and Harper’s, Huffington Post and MSNBC.com, and beyond. You can see his collected work in Go Fish: How to Win Contempt and Influence People. And his reputation has made him the subject of a documentary-in-progress.
Fish’s immediate public reaction to the recent deaths at the French satire magazine, which I wrote about last week, was that “anyone incapable of interpreting the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris today as anything but a cruel and meaningless act of mass murder deserves neither my respect nor deference.” You can read his full response here. And he’s been following up with cartoons such as the one below.
His book references performance artists, singer-songwriters, and novelists, but its primary focus is on bold, radical, and innovative images: from painters such as da Vinci, Goya, and Picasso to piss photographer Andres Serrano; from muralists in ancient Pompeii to street propagandists Shepard Fairey and Banksy; from early cartoonists Daumier and Nast to today’s Robert Crumb and Alison Bechdel. See the illustrations below for further examples.
Of course, Fish deals critically with those notorious Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad that ran ten years ago, concluding that the subsequent rioting, boycotts, and fatwa “were a testament to the unique ability of pictures, even mediocre ones, to communicate at an intensity far exceeding that of the written or spoken word.” One of Fish’s own art takes at the time was to reconfigure Kurt Westergaard’s caricature of the prophet sporting a bomb-turban as a connect-the-dots game, a sort of do-it-yourself defiant blasphemy kit.
Fish also objects to instances of left wing, PC-style attempts at censorship, such as when The Nation staff objected to a David Levine caricature of Henry Kissinger gleefully screwing the world, rendered as a prone, naked, globe-headed woman. They interpreted it as a rape joke with sexist imagery. He counters with a quote from Christopher Hitchens: “How depressing that so many Nation colleagues should confuse the use of a stereotype, even as an artistic satire, with the reinforcement of a stereotype.” This month’s accusations that Charlie Hebdo is anti-Semitic – see this site for much-needed context – brings the relevance of WARNING! into crystal clear focus.
Illustration is one of the most versatile forms of design and graphic design work, allowing visual artists and creatives to work in nearly any field. Looking to learn more? Explore 9 creative resources for illustrators.
The book also contains commentaries from comics evangelist Art Spiegelman, investigative satirist Paul Krassner, activist-philosopher Noam Chomsky, and others. Each add their perspectives on the vital necessity of free modes of expression.
WARNING! Graphic Content is a profound analysis and loving appreciation of unrestricted visual communication: its past, present, and future. It’s also a lively, entertaining, and ultimately indispensable read.
Lauren Rolwing: Freedom of Expression, 2010
Turhan Selcuk, 1943 – 2003
Dooa Eladl, 2011 – 2013
Garry Trudeau: Sketchbook, c. 1983
Robert Crumb: sketchbook, 1961
unknown artist/date and Jon Gnagy video, c. 1955
unknown, 1907 and Dr. Seuss, 1942
Arthur Szyk: Il Duce, 1942
Tomi Ungerer: Kiss for Peace, 1967
unknown: Death to World Capitalism, c. 1917
Britt Spencer: War All the Time, 2010
German propaganda poster, c. 1941
unknown: Franklin Roosevelt’s Message to Young People, 1942
Guy Denning: Occupy Wall Street sketches, 2011
Tim O’Brien, 2011
James Gillray, 1792
Auguste Rodin: Psyche, c. 1900 and The Embrace, c. 1880
David Levine: Henry Kissinger, 1984
Jack Cole: “Well, there’s history repeating itself,” 1958
Signe Wilkinson and her influences
The creator of the comic strip Cul de Sac, Richard Thompson is not only a talented cartoonist, but is renowned as an artist, as well, with talents that extend beyond cartoons. With The Art of Richard Thompson, admire the beauty and inspiration of Thompson’s work, and get an inside look at the extent of his skills from his closest peers, including Bill Watterson and others. Each of the six sections of this cartoon art book begins with an introductory conversation between Thompson and one of his well-known peers, and presents Thompson’s caricatures, illustration work, and another of his creations, Richard’s Poor Almanack. With copious illustrations, get a good look at the art of Richard Thompson and admire the diversity of his body of work.