Attitude is a collection of comic strips from alt weekly political cartoonists you probably havenít heard of before, featured almost exclusively in regional publications one must seek out to find. Itís also a series of interviews led by one of the most famous alternative political cartoonists, Ted Rall. The first part of the collection makes for interesting reading; the second embodies a remarkably poor interview style without much meaning or direction, for the most part detracting from the cartoons. Moreover, the text and cartoons arenít laid out so image gives way to text in a natural succession: cartoons cited in interviews arenít pictured, and sometimes the bulk of pages is devoted to cartoons, which soon becomes tiresome.
To its credit, Attitude does show the creative and artistic range in American political cartooning today, a range one simply doesnít see in major papers and magazines. True, some of the art isnít all that revolutionary or extraordinary, but others are miniature diamonds in the rough. And unlike webcomic artists, who always have the option of color and the luxury of full control over layout and design, alt weekly cartoonists are forced to make to do with more limited tools and less stability over whether their strip will appear next timeómaking their experiments more exciting and Attitude a study in a form of minimalist expression.
On the other hand, Rallís interviews are a study in nothing more than whatís on his mind at any given moment. The conversations often feel like in-jokes we arenít privy to. While some questions focus specifically on aspects of the artistís work, even more are simply cues for the artist to bring up obvious left-leaning/progressive stances on political issues or cartooning in general. Then there are the entirely irrelevant questions: ďDo you ever litter? Throwing cigarette butts on the ground counts,Ē and ďShould the United States, Mexico and Canada become one country? Has the era of the nation-state come to an end?Ē These arenít charming and irreverentótheyíre annoying. Did I mention the preceding question to the last one is about whether the artists ever got involved in any car wrecks?
Since these interviews lack sense and continuity, they all start to blend together, which may ultimately do a disservice to the cartoonists in this volume. Any sense of individual personality I felt from the samples of cartoons was quickly overridden by the malaise of one poorly conducted interview followed by another. And while it is easy for readers to gain a visual appreciation for these cartoonists, hearing liberal politics espoused again and again without much variation (some, but not enough), makes it much more difficult to gain an appreciation for what these artists are doing as political commentators.
As a sampler of interesting political cartooning, Attitude may be a decent place to start. But donít expect to learn much about your cartoonists. Perhaps it's best they let their art speak for them.