Killed Cartoons: An anthology of images too hot to print

My friend David Wallis has just published a totally amazing anthology: Killed Cartoons. It’s a collection of dozens of cartoons that were killed by newspaper editors who were worried, as David writes, about offending “advertisers, the publisher’s golf partners, the publisher’s wife, the local police chief or the president of the United States, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, homophobes, gays, pro-choice advocates and anti-abortion protesters, Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Midwest grannies — especially Midwest grannies.” The result is an awesomely comprehensive collection that includes cartoons aimed at lampooning every group you can imagine, going back decades. Better yet, David contacted most of the original artists and wrote a short piece introducing each cartoon, which makes for pretty gripping and often hilarious reading — since cartoonists, as you’d imagine, give awfully juicy quotes and descriptions about the events surrounding each kill.

Obviously, this anthology is particularly well-timed given the worldwide riots over the Danish “Muhammad cartoons”. But what’s mostly interesting is that the book reminds us why images are so uniquely powerful at puncturing egos. As David writes in the intro to the book, excerpted in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The CIA also appreciated the huge influence of little drawings. Declassified documents detailing the 1953 U.S. overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq reveal that something called the “CIA Art Group” produced cartoons to turn public opinion against the democratically elected leader.

Meanwhile, over at the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover placed Alfred E. Neuman under surveillance. According to Britain’s Independent newspaper, after a 1957 spoof in Mad magazine mocked Hoover, two FBI agents turned up at the magazine’s office to “insist that there be no repetition of such misuse of the Director’s name.” More than a decade later, in the Summer of Love, Hoover proposed commissioning cartoons in a memo titled “Disruption of the New Left.”

“Consider the use of cartoons,” he wrote. “Ridicule is one of the most potent weapons which we can use.”

Check out that link to see a sample of five of the cartoons from the book; one of them is above, and the other four take aim at everything from the Catholic church to George W. Bush to Halliburton’s war contracts. You can buy it here, and check out David’s web site to see if the book tour is coming near your town; he’s having an event in New York on March 21st at the Astor Place Barnes and Noble!

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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