Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Weltschmerz! Controversy? Q2.

Several posts ago I started interviewing Gareth Lind, creater of the edgy political satire strip, Weltschmerz. His new book, "Weltschmerz Attack of the Same-Sex Sleeper Cells" is available now. You can order the book, and read the strip at Lind's blog/archive at http://weltschmerz.ca/blog/. Here's question 2 in our interview. (You can click the image above for a larger view)

Scott Mooney: I generally avoid dealing with politics in my own work because I’m always insecure about my understanding of the issues. I can’t help but feel it takes a lot of courage to make a stand with your art. Do you ever get paranoid about how people will react to your work?

Gareth Lind: I figure artists deal best with subject matter they know. I've always been into politics; I'd follow the issues whether I was a cartoonist or not. I've been active in peace groups and other social change organizations. So it comes natural to me. A lot of my best cartoons arise when I'm angry at some idiot for bringing in policies that will fuck up the world even more than it is.

Because I'm printed in alternative papers, I can be pretty out-there without getting any reaction. So, I don't get paranoid. In fact, I wish I'd get more response. Sometimes I'm surprised about what I can get away with (short of the ultimate taboo, portraying Mohammed). I've drawn ex-Ontario Premier Mike Harris gnawing away at the dismembered leg of a squeegie person and pissing on the grave of a Walkerton victim. Not a peep.

Occasionally I'm worried readers will think I'm off the mark, or they won't get a cartoon. I don't always know how much an issue is common knowledge and how much I should explain in the cartoon. I fear being too preachy or didactic. Yet, without some back story, some issues I can't deal with. I bounce my cartoons off a friend sometimes. He may say, "this is obvious; you telegraph the punchline too much," or he'll say, "whaaa?" When the humour relies on some knowledge of political events, hitting it right can be tricky. I may err on the side of too much explanation.

Sometimes I fear I'm too cavalier about an issue that is actually quite serious. For instance, I'm starting a series of cartoons (this Thursday is the first) that will riff on Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. I just make fun of it; I don't come down really hard on it, so some readers may think I'm not critical enough. On the other hand, one character is a terrorist, whom I treat as someone just doing his job (just because it's funny, and that's doing my job). We'll see if anyone reacts either way.

You'd think I'd get angry emails. I don't.