Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Everybody is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations

Here's how this works. I read a book or two and tell you about them and try not to get too long-winded. This time, a review of Everybody is Stupid Except for Me and Other Astute Observations (Fantagraphics, 2009)

You know it's bad when crazy pinko leftwingers like me have become so inured by the increasingly rabid, neanderthal bellowing of the disaffected right that when somebody can articulate libertarian viewpoints coherently and persuasively that my response is one of shock. You mean there might be a genuine point of view held by the right that isn't scaremongering distortion? Holy crap, I hope they never let this guy near a microphone.

Anyway, Peter Bagge has been doing a spectacular short comics (none more than four pages) for Reason magazine for ten years now, tackling everything from monorails to Christian "rock" to high-priced sports arenas to Amtrak to Ron Paul's campaign. Admittedly, Bagge's artwork is really tough to love - nobody in any field of illustration looks quite so ugly as an aging, bloviating windbag standing with his trophy wife on the steps of some capitol building, as depicted by Bagge - but if you can finish this book and think of a better political cartoonist in the country, good luck to you. Given the space to detail his arguments and research, and deliver them in a concise, clear, entertaining way, Bagge's work in this field is never less than fascinating.

And here's the real acid test: I like downtown businesses, and going to see basketball games, and at least in theory I like Amtrak, but after Bagge's demolition of the government boondoggery pulling strings behind them, I'm left scratching my head wondering how to respond. Well, heck, maybe high-speed rail isn't such a good idea. I have to agree with Reason's editor-in-chief, who notes in his introduction that regardless of whether you agree with him, Bagge makes you think.

Fantagraphics' collection of this material, which is grouped by theme rather than chronology, is pretty impressive, although I think it suffers a little for the lack of credits beyond the copyright dates in each piece. It's not clear whether this is a complete set of the Reason strips, either. But these are design quibbles; it's a very nice package, and Bagge's work is both hilarious and thoughtful, so this comes highly recommended.

1 comment:

d. merrill said...

I thought his Amtrak strip was a bunch of cherry-picking nonsense- of COURSE Amtrak sucks. Their budget is like, a HUNDREDTH of what is spent to subsidize air travel! - but 99% of the time he's dead on target. Even the Amtrak strip was entertaining as heck.