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Modern Thinking

It’s been a good week for alumni of The Panelists; first, we posted Charles Hatfield’s very nice review of Battling Boy on Monday, and now Craig Fischer hits it out of the park with a piece you could call twenty-six short essays on Dave Berg. Dave Berg, of course, is the cartoonist behind Mad magazine’s time-defying “The Lighter Side of…” feature, and Fischer’s article examines him from multiple angles, in fact one angle each for every letter of the alphabet:

Happiness

The characters in a typical “Lighter Side” strip believe themselves to be normal and well-adjusted, with personalities and behaviors that remind me of Eric Wilson’s description of Americans in his book Against Happiness (2008): “They tilt their heads to the side, feign amusement, and nod knowingly. They clinch their eyes in looks of concern. They blink a lot, bewildered. They murmur truisms about overcoming adversity. They say that they love their parents and puppies and all babies. They devour bestsellers about the wisdom of children or coaches. They can be smarmy war-mongering conservatives or passive-aggressive peace-loving liberals. They can be Christians hiding their meanness or New Agers hungry for power. They adore the Lifetime channel. They are happy campers. They want God to bless the world. They want us to ask them about their children. They believe that a hug is an ideal gift; one size fits all. They think that kind words make good echoes. They join Book-of-the-Month clubs and identify with sympathetic characters. They sign their e-mails with chirpy icons. They swear by the power of prayer. They swear by the power of positive thinking. They dream of having Norman Vincent Peale as a dinner guest. They would eat Jell-O and Cool Whip. They would eat turkey too and make an endless Thanksgiving.”

And they are, of course, all hypocrites. “The Lighter Side” was a central reason why teenagers love MAD: teens realize that all adults are two-faced, and saw that fundamental truth in Berg’s cartoons.

Elsewhere:

—Talk. The latest guest on Inkstuds is Jim Woodring. Alex Deuben has an interesting report from a panel featuring Jules Feiffer and Darwyn Cooke at NYCC. Michelle Pauli interviews Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, the creative team behind the relaunched Asterix series. And talking to the New York Times about books, J.J. Abrams elaborates on his enthusiasm for Chris Ware (and Mo Willems).

—Criticism. Ware gets the academic treatment as Paul Williams at Comics Forum compares his work to literary modernism. Rob Clough briefly reviews three independent adventure comics.

—News. The CBLDF blog reports on a Kickstarter-funded anti-military comic book being refused by multiple UK printers. I missed this Jonathan Guyer piece on “blasphemous” cartoons in Egypt.

—Misc. J.J. Sedelmaier shares a huge gallery of Mad paperback images. Herb Trimpe on 9/11. And finally, I didn’t realize this Osamu Tezuka documentary was online. It’s well worth watching. (via)


2 Responses to Modern Thinking

  1. patrick ford says:

    I’m practically climbing the walls with curiosity about those Feiffer pages people keep talking about.

  2. Jaz says:

    The “blurb sticker” from BUILDING STORIES is the only J.J. Abrams “work” I’ve ever gone near.

    [Unless you count an episode of FELICITY once...]

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