This may be shallow but I was first influenced in a liberal direction by Gary Trudeau’s comic strip “Doonesbury“. I was around 12 at the time, and it forced me to read the paper to get some of its humor. I also loved Bloom County,a comic strip by Berkely Breathed, but it was always better as an incisive commentary on pop culture while it’s political commentary always seemed soft to me. When I went to college, I bought an issue of the Comics Journal with an interview of Jules Feiffer, and that interview was my first real exposure to radical leftist thought. After reading his interview, I checked out from the library “Jules Feiffer’s America“, a collection of Feiffer’s cartoons from the Eisenhower era to the Reagan era, and it really influenced the way I saw politics.
The Comics Journal interview, conducted by magazine founder Gary Groth, touched on the range of Jules Feiffer’s life: his early work under famed comic book artist Will Eisner; his books, plays and screenplays; and especially his editorial cartoons for the Village Voice. His cartoons at first seemed like they are quick scrawls on paper, but they show real drawing skill: his characters are finely delineated and show individuality and personality. The Feiffer cartoons are done in a fine thin line during the 1960s and 1970s, but as the 1980s roll in, it looks like the cartoons are done in marker. His cartoon characters are lonely, neurotic people, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the problems of society. The villains of the cartoon are the demagogues, politicians, and national leaders. Feiffer’s cartoons aren’t laugh out loud funny. They are more introspective, like the musings of a sensitive philosopher, pondering the state of the world and the apparent contradictions of racism, poverty, and the monopoly of power within a few hands.