Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists edited by Ted Rall
Any book with “new” in the title will age really badly: it’s just inherent. If what it’s trying to do is present something fresh and immediate, that will just be less compelling fifteen years later. No one can do anything about that effect.
So it’s a pretty quixotic thing to read Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists in 2021, since it’s a book from 2006 about a world that was fast-moving at that point and has only sped up since then. Attitude 3 was the last of the series — the first Attitude profiled new political cartoonists and the second one new “alternative” cartoonists” (primarily those of the weekly newspapers that flourished in the ’90s, I think), and all of them were edited by Ted Rall, at a moment in his career when he seemed to be working more as a connector than he looks to be doing now.
(Parenthetically, Rall – as the sourest, most uncompromising and most ideologically leftist cartoonist in the US – now looks like an odd person to do something this broad and inclusive, but, again, fifteen years can change people and worlds and industries. Early-Aughts Rall is not the same person he is today; none of us are.)
So Attitude 3 interviews and profiles twenty-one relatively prominent webcartoonists of the time, mostly focusing on political/personal cartoons – things closer to the editorial end of the world, or gag-a-day in some cases, rather than the kind of webcomics that are basically long serialized stories formatted as comic-book pages presented in electronic form. Some of them will be familiar
, some of them will be lost to the mists of time. (Well, they were for me; you might be intimately familiar with every single one of these and know exactly what they’ve all done in the fifteen years since. If so, you are creepy and I am unobtrusively moving away from you.)
Cartoonists I recognize/follow/enjoy include Richard Stevens of Diesel Sweeties, Matt Bors (more recently of The Nib), Dorothy Gambrell of Cat and Girl, Nicholas Gurewitch of Perry Bible Fellowship, and Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics. A couple of others – Mark Fiore in particular – are names I’ve seen since then. But the majority of the book was made up of cartoons and creators I’d never seen before and hadn’t heard of: my guess is that some of them are still going, in their own corners of the Internet, and some have moved on to other art-adjacent things, and most have moved on to work that’s nothing like making pictures on the WWW.
Each cartoonist has five or six pages, including a decent selection of cartoons in black-and-white – this is an issue for some, since most were in color on the ‘net, for obvious reasons – and the interview with Rall. It’s all professional and well-done and informative, but it does feel like a moment frozen in amber this many years later.
I think we’re at the wrong time to look at a book like this again. One the one hand, it’s too long for most of these people to still be doing the same work, though a few are. On the other, they were all very young then (mostly mid-twenties) and so now are mostly in the middle of their careers – so it’s too early for this to be useful as parallax to evaluate anything like their whole oeuvre.
Still, it’s a moderately heroic book, trying to gather a vast, massively-distributed world and get it between two covers for posterity. It is a serious accomplishment, and it will be there for that re-evaluation in another thirty years or so, if any of us are there to look at it again.
Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.