Winton Pawprints 

Winton (c.1995-2012) was our beloved shop cat and still has the last word every month in her regular column.

Summer Heat and Cooling Graphic Content

 - Monday, February 03, 2014
I've been relaxing in this summer heat by catching up with some cooling graphic content. Firstly with my favourite anarcho comic stripper, Ted Rall, and his latest offering - The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt. A series of essays covering the disappointment of the Obama years—the torture, the drones, the bailouts, the cop-outs, and the revolts on both the Tea Party right and the 'Occupy' left—interspersed with Rall's ever sharp cartooning. All summed up in one bleak panel headlined 'At last: America United'. A red neck and a leftie face each other across a decaying and jobless post-GFC urban landscape. Red neck: 'I hate Obama cuz he's a socialist'. Leftie: 'I hate him cuz he isn't'. Much reviled for being un-american (by Fox News and subsidiaries), Rall asks for and gives no quarter. I do love a good polemic.
For a gentler criticism of the state of the nation, I then caught up on some Doonesbury. I've been a bit remiss lately, so there were happily two volumes (Red Rascal's War & Squared Away) that had been released since 2010's hefty 40 year retrospective. The yearly collections have moved to handsome hardcover editions at a very reasonable price, and the progeny of the original boomer characters, Mike, BD and Joanie, are in the ascendency. I was initially resistant to this shift in focus, but Trudeau manages his younger characters with aplomb—there's no ick factor, old-guy-with-no-idea-about-the-younger-generation moments—and the political and social commentary continues flawlessly in this sprawling American saga. My favourite of the storylines is Jeff Redfern's abortive CIA adventure in Afghanistan in which he accidentally shoots down a chopper carrying a USO tour. Rather than accept his dismissal quietly he starts a viral fiction, mythologising himself as Red Rascal (or Sorkh Razil in Dari)—terrifying the Taliban by day, playing video games by night, advising the Afghanis on iPhone apps and alternate crops to poppy. This fanciful version of the American superhero gets a million dollar book contract—while Jeff's father, the once proud Washington Post reporter, Rick Redfern, is having trouble finding things to blog about.

Then, serendipitously, as I was thinking about superheros, a new biography of Alan Moore (writer of the much lauded superhero game changer Watchmen) landed in the shop. I approached Magic Words: The Extraordinary Life of Alan Moore with caution—biographies can be terribly disappointing, especially when they could so easily be an exercise in fanboy love, full of gushing superlatives and odes to the unassailable genius of their object of affection. And Alan Moore definitely inspires such devotion in his fans. However, Lance Parkin has delivered a very considered critical biography—his research is obsessive, but the adjectives are few and far between. And if you're at all interested in the evolution of comics, Alan Moore is a fascinating character. A working class British lad who has lived his whole life in his home town of Northampton, his reinterpretation of the American superhero, and comics in general, is a fantastic example of how those outside of America can infiltrate the dominant culture with an entirely different sensibility. In Moore's case, a left wing hippie Arts Lab eccentric fertilised by the grim Thatcher years and no small dose of British irony turning the bright and optimistic fascist-leaning Marvel and DC universe on its head. For those interested in writing comics, the book has plenty of highly readable information on Moore's process, and also on the evolution of the industry. I've got a list an arms-length to follow up on!