The Acme Novelty Archive - An Unofficial Chris Ware Database

The Village Voice

The Village Voice


Writing / Essays

August 4th-10th, 1999

Letter Published

As an under-40 non-baby booming cartoonist (31, to be exact) who first contributed to Raw magazine at age 22, I would like to register my rage with your offices for publishing Ted Rall's absurd attack on Art Spiegelman.

The vague anecdotes, anonymous tips, and fragmentary quotes which form the fundament of Mr. Rall's burbly commentary are childish and irresponsible, evincing a journalistic "judgment" bordering on that of the flunking high school troublemaker. Mr. Rall's screed reads like a secret note snortingly passed through the back rows of a classroom, leaving one with the sense of having witnessed a fellow student "jumped" in the hallway, or forcibly disrobed in the locker room.

Aside from the cruel "op-ed" dismantling of Mr. Spiegelman's artwork and erroneous suppositions as to what drives him, it is doubly offensive that the Web page-sporting Mr. Rall would criticize Mr. Spiegelman for being a "self-promoter," and then go on to detail a number of cases in which Mr. Spiegelman provided "gigs" to other cartoonists whose work he respects.

This sort of editorial policy Mr. Rall defines as favoritism, stating with piquant eloquence that real "art directors typically pick comics for their papers or magazines in order to attract certain readers, regardless of whether or not the art director personally likes the cartoons." In Mr. Rall's mind, art directors are nothing more than graphic machinists, trained to formfit publications to the follies of "certain readers," gaily disposing of their own taste and intelligence in the process. (This may, at least, explain why Mr. Rall's own work appears in over 100 newspapers.)

Mr. Spiegelman is thus at fault (one assumes) for recommending artwork with which he esthetically sympathizes‹he should also apparently be faulted for offering support and encouragement to artists who have attempted to bring to comic strips a richer sense of humanity and a wider spectrum of emotion. But perhaps the traditional "cartoon as political comment" should best be left as is; after all, it is much easier to sum up the human soul as a globe-straddling businessman sporting a top hat, a cigar, and a fistful of money. It is also much easier to caricature a man who has struggled with his own artistic frustrations and self-doubt as a bejewelled king receiving subjects in his chamber than as the generous artist he actually is.

Mr. Rall seems to suggest (and I may be wrong here) that human beings are, at base, always out to "get something" from life, and the "work" we do is only secondary to this bloodshot quest for power and recognition. Such a philosophy must certainly be attractive to a politically-minded cartoonist like Mr. Rall‹who wastes valuable time writing prevaricated, hateful diatribes against one who has done him no harm and who offers no competition.

Life is not a competition, and art is not a competition. And you are no competitor to Art, Mr. Rall.

Chris Ware
Chicago, Illinois

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