June 4, 2002







Get Your Dark Humor On

Some argue that the go-go '90s were fallow years for dark humor. If that's the case, September 11 and the ensuing War on Terrorism were a monsoon and a huge bag of fertilizer.

In the freewheeling world of Internet entertainment, nobody has done dark humor as well as David Rees, the author of the profane and hilarious online comic strip "Get Your War On." The unemployed 29-year-old Brooklyn resident has created an ongoing chronicle of the tension, fear and confusion felt by Americans recovering from the shock of terrorism and waiting for the next attack.

Using a few pieces of clip art of 1980s-era office workers in white shirts and ties, the protagonists of "Get Your War On" jabber on the phone with each other, every sentence rife with the vulgarities that express their fear and disbelief. Example: "Ha! A fucking white kid joined the Taliban! What the fuck is that? He must have listened to a lot of Marilyn Manson." In another strip, the same character speaks into his phone, "You know who I've come to like in all this? John Ashcroft. That guy just gives me a good feeling!" After his phone-buddy reacts with stunned silence, he responds, "Good God, these are some powerful antidepressants I'm taking!"

Rees first made his name among Internet addicts with his comic series titled "My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable," which he later published as a book. Like "Get Your War On," his other series are also comprised of crudely-manipulated clip art, with absurd, profanity-ridden dialogue. But the success of "Get Your War On" has generated more than $2,000 in donations from appreciative readers, which is probably less than they'd be spending on Prozac.

Defiant cartoonist evokes ire of 9/11 widows

Reprinted with permission of UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE.

Four weeks after September 11, Aaron McGruder, author of the widely published daily cartoon The Boondocks, began running a series of strips in which the main character Huey Freeman accuses Ronald Reagan and both Presidents Bush of creating Osama bin Laden and funding the Taliban.

In those hypersensitive days of fear, several newspapers - including all those in the New York metropolitan area - chose not to run the overtly political strips.

But the controversy surrounding The Boondocks was barely a blip compared to the tussle surrounding Ted Rall's March 27 offering. In a strip titled "Terror Widows," the leftie political cartoonist mocked the survivors of the attacks who he believed had been exploiting their new found prominence in pursuit of their own personal fame and fortune.

Rall - a 1996 Pulitzer Prize finalist whose cartoons appear in more than 100 newspapers nationwide - harped on the media ubiquity of the terror widows, plus the piles of money many made since the attacks. He also mocked broadcast news for milking the grief of terror survivors for stories during the Winter Olympics and other events.

Numerous newspapers and websites, including those of New York Times, pulled the comic after an ensuing criticism, especially from the widows themselves.

Rall defiantly defended his work, noting how the widow of Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer tried to trademark the words "Let's roll," the last words her late husband spoke to her as he and his fellow passengers decided to overpower their hijackers.

Quadrennial presidential poser Alan Keyes, host of the MSNBC talk show Alan Keyes is Making Sense, blasted Rall and noted that "governmental action may be necessary."

Rall responded by superimposing Keyes' comments over pictures of Nazi Germany in a strip. You can take the cartoonist out of the paper, but you can't take the paper from the cartoonist.

Eric Meyerson

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