By: Dave Astor
When cartoonist/columnist Ted Rall traveled to Afghanistan last fall, he was essentially there as a member of the American media. But he was appalled by the way many of these media performed.
Rall, interviewed as his To Afghanistan and Back “graphic travelogue” book began arriving in bookstores last week, was troubled to see that some reporters stayed in warlords’ lodgings. “How can you possibly be objective when you do that?” he asked. “They could have stayed in a lice- and flea-infested guesthouse without running water like I did.”
Other things bothering Rall were more the fault of reporters’ superiors back in the United States. For instance, he saw just-written stories that mentioned civilians being killed by U.S. bombs. When the stories got published, references to civilian casualties were often edited out.
And Rall said American media companies, to save money, drop correspondents into hot spots rather than station them in a country long enough to learn about it.
“They’re talented, but they don’t know the area,” he said. “So the news gets reported without context.”
Memorable But Scary Stay
Rall — who has traveled to Central Asia several times — said he likes the people and stark beauty of the region. He is also fascinated by the way East meets West there, and is challenged by how difficult it can be to deal with Third World conditions. But his three weeks in Afghanistan last November and December were often traumatic. Rall had never been in a war zone before, and there was the constant threat of being hit by U.S. bombs or shot by local men.
“It was one of the most interesting experiences of my life — and one of the most horrible,” he recalled.
One night, Rall was awoken by a loud and insistent pounding on the door. He ignored it. The next day, he learned that a Swedish cameraman who did open his door was shot to death.
This is one of the incidents Rall relates in a 50-page “graphic novel” (it’s factual) within his new NBM-published hardcover. The book’s other 62 pages include editorial cartoons, columns, photos, and stories from and about his trip.
Rall — who filed reports from Afghanistan for The Village Voice in New York and KFI Radio in Los Angeles — draws his cartoons for Universal Press Syndicate. His weekly opinion column goes to Web sites via Universal and to print newspapers via self-syndication.
Next month, Rall’s ninth book will be released. Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists is an NBM paperback spotlighting 21 creators, many of whom do work described by Rall as too offbeat for some dailies but not offbeat enough for some alternative weeklies.
Rall, 38, made headlines this year with his controversial cartoon tweaking some Sept. 11 widows for being too media- and money-hungry. But his client list of 100 or so papers didn’t drop.
“They know I push the envelope,” said the New York-based creator. “They know they’re not going to get weeping Statue of Liberty cartoons from me.”
ET CETERA …
“Zits” reached the 1,000-newspaper mark in less than five years — making it one of the fastest-growing comics in recent decades. It joins about 15 other comics (out of the 225 or so distributed by major syndicates) with at least 1,000 clients. The 1997-launched “Zits,” which stars a teen boy, is by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman of King Features Syndicate.
The letter from a “baffled mom” asking Ann Landers about her daughter’s invitation to a nude slumber party apparently was a hoax. A Newhouse News Service story noted that the letter — which appeared in Landers’ May 16 Creators Syndicate column — was similar to letters that ran in 1996 columns by “Dear Abby” of Universal Press Syndicate and pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton of the New York Times Syndicate, and in a 1995 issue of Ebony magazine.
The New York Times Syndicate is offering Oxford Analytica Global Intelligence Reports, a weekly service discussing world issues. …
“Tom the Dancing Bug” by Ruben Bolling of Universal Press Syndicate won an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies cartoon award. …
Universal is offering a package, by Steve McGarry, about the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament. …
Andrews McMeel Publishing released an expanded edition of Guerrilla Prince, the book about Fidel Castro by Universal columnist Georgie Anne Geyer. …
“Biofile” now includes caricatures by Darren Gygi, who has done work for clients such as the Chicago Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. The celebrity-profile feature is by Scoop Malinowski (firstname.lastname@example.org). …
Cathy Thorne is self-syndicating a comic panel, running in The Toronto Star, called “everyday people” (http://www.everydaypeoplecartoons.com). …
The “Frank & Ernest” comic by Bob Thaves is now available in color every day via United Media’s bulletin board service. …
Knight Ridder/Tribune Graphics won three awards in the 2002 Malofiej contest.