GET YOUR TREACHER ON
Nu-Fan recently spoke with self-described "clip-art-typer-over" and Internet comics nerd extraordinaire Jim Treacher about the definition of cartooning, what the hell a blog is, and why Ted Rall is not punk rock
Okay, so let's talk about the "Get Your War On" parody stuff. How did that come about?
Well, I was sitting around with even more free time than usual because the place where I was working decided to send me home for the day, and for the rest of my life. And I was trying to find some paying work and couldn't, and I was just pacing around the room and worrying and freaking out. And somewhere in there, bumbling around my apartment, I started thinking about David Rees, how he said he basically started doing his stuff--
David Rees, the "Get Your War On" guy.
Right. "I AM THE 'GET YOUR WAR ON' GUY," somebody said he had that on a big sign at a convention. Anyway, before that, he started doing dopey little clip-art things with karate fighters and office workers screaming at each other and putting them on the Web. "My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable." It's just sort of dada stuff, non sequiturs and profanity and shit. The political stuff came later, after the attacks. This just looked like he was having fun. Anyway, he started doing that to amuse himself, basically. And I started thinking about how everybody in his strips is screaming profanities all the time, so I took one of his strips and erased the dialogue and typed some of my own profanities in there. Just because why not. And I showed it to some of my dumb little Internet buddies, and then I thought of another idea, and put that up, and another, and put that up, and a week later I had like 35 of the things. Just the same strip over and over with different vulgarities typed over it.
Did people think it was Rees?
Yeah, a couple people. I guess that's the danger of this kind of stuff. Anybody can cut-and-paste. I've been very careful not to let anybody think it was him doing that stuff, and I give him credit and a link to his page.
Exactly. I like "Get Your War On," by the way. My stuff was meant as, it wasn't meant to be mean. Maybe some of it ended up [that way], but it's a good kind of mean. Don Rickles mean. [Rees is] the kind of guy where even if you don't always agree with him, he can usually make you laugh or at least consider his point of view. Is that stuff I did a parody or a ripoff? I don't know. He said he liked it, he liked the Wurtzel stuff.
Now, Tom Tomorrow called you a cartoonist, and you corrected him.
I did, didn't I? [Laughter] Well, it's just not true. This garbage, it's just cutting and pasting stuff somebody else drew and typing goofy shit over the whole mess. Then you slap it on the Web and ask people to check it out and be your friend. It's not cartooning. I'm not sure what it is, but it's not cartooning. Ivan Brunetti, Dan Clowes, Sam Henderson, Tony Millionaire, the list goes on. Those guys are cartoonists. Calling somebody like me a cartoonist is an insult to anybody who has devoted their life to it. Or at least, you know, can at least draw well enough so you can tell who everybody's supposed to be. Even people who get slammed for their drawing skills, like Scott Adams or Ted Rall, those guys at least draw that stuff themselves. It may not look like it's a new face they're drawing in each panel, but they do. I assume they do.
Speaking of Rall--
I mean, I consider, sorry, I consider what Chris Onstad is doing with Achewood.com to be cartooning, just so I don't sound like too much of a purist. It's cartooning, even if he never actually touches pen to paper. He's creating all the images himself. He might not draw the same image in each panel, but anytime a character moves or punches somebody or raises an eyebrow or something, that's him. It's also really funny and has great characters and he deserves to be famous for it. I want to see "An Achewood Christmas Special" on CBS every year for the rest of my life. I want a Lie Bot action figure that lights up and says 7 different phrases.
I'll have to check that out.
Back to Rall, though. You and several other people seem to have crossed swords with him pretty often.
Yeah. Yeah, let's talk about this, because not enough words have been expended on it already. Let's get Bob Woodward to write the book. Okay. Well, I'm not sure what to tell you. "Crossed swords," that sure makes it sound dramatic. Let alone interesting.
This is the Comics Journal message board thing, the Rall/Hellman thing.
Right. I'm just trying to think of what I can say that hasn't... Here's the thing. You put up a message board on the Web. Who knows how many message boards there are on the Web now, every topic you can think of. What's the purpose of these message boards? For a bunch of nerds to spout off, basically. That's all it is. If somebody... you know, using the Journal boards example, if somebody puts up a post saying, "I just read the new Frank Miller Batman comic, what did you guys think about it?" And somebody else says, "Doesn't he have enough money already?" Or "I guess Robocop 7 didn't pan out." Or whatever snotty thing somebody might say. Now, does that mean those people are out to destroy Frank Miller? Is there some sort of conspiracy against Frank Miller? No, it's just somebody expressing an opinion. Some people are better at expressing their opinions than others, and some people just can't handle it when anybody disagrees with them.
The second one meaning Rall.
Did I say I wasn't sure what to tell you? [Laughter] Yeah, meaning Rall, of course. Have you read any of his message board posts? I wouldn't expect you to actually read all of them, but just scroll down and see the sheer volume of, you know... sheer volume of verbiage spewing out of this guy. On the topic of his own, his own dissatisfaction with how he's viewed by others. That's what the whole thing boils down to.
You don't think he has any merit, his lawsuit has any merit?
I'm not even talking about the lawsuit. As far as I'm concerned, that's a separate matter. If he was posting all this stuff to defend himself against, I don't know, against whatever... It's the way the guy deals with his public. It's the classic self-fulfilling prophecy.
I've only skimmed through a few of those threads, but he does seem to have a "take on all comers" attitude.
Yeah, and then he explodes and calls you a liar and a Bushie when you don't agree with him. Or you make a joke about his total nonsense. At one point he was posting entire court transcripts, deposition transcripts, I don't remember exactly what they were. Danny Hellman on the stand, being questioned by lawyers. Just page after page of this shit. "Hey, look at this, Hellman! Look what you said here! Don't you think it's time you gave up?" Just out of sheer spite. He's like Lenny Bruce towards the end, going onstage and reading court transcripts. Except that was even more tragic because Lenny Bruce was actually funny to begin with.
Now, I think what Hellman did was dumb, and I've said so whenever anybody has cared to ask me. It was a dumb mistake. He was pissed off about the Spiegelman thing in the Village Voice, like a lot of people were, and he made a mistake. Whether it's illegal or not, whether the case has any merit, I'm not a lawyer. I think the whole thing has been blown way out of proportion and it's just draining cash out of both of their pockets at this point, and I don't think Rall should have filed the suit in the first place, but I'm not a lawyer. Again, this shit has been hashed out over and over on that message board. But that's the point, why would you air this out on the Internet? A case that's currently in the courts? And then scream at anybody who disagrees with you or makes fun of you? If you don't want people to talk about it, you shouldn't bring it up. These people aren't invading your living room, they aren't uninvited party guests. They're responding to stuff you're saying in a public forum.
Rall seems to think you're something called a "Hellmanite."
The shorter list is who he doesn't think is... Again, if I make fun of somebody... I just started cracking on a guy and making fun of him because he was being an asshole on a message board. Because it's easy to make fun of angry, spiteful people with no sense of humor about themselves. That's not new. Look at the Daily Show or Letterman, comedians or people who think they're comedians throughout all time. But... saying something he doesn't like, that means I'm part of The Conspiracy, I guess. Well, I'm in good company, there are a lot of people I respect and admire in the same camp. COOP just joined up, it looks like. [Laughter]
COOP got into it? The guy who draws the devil girls?
Yeah, somewhere in there he somehow managed to displease Our Man Ted. This is all nerd-board shit, it's like Peyton Place. Melrose Place.
Look, here's the pattern: Rall makes an accusation, or responds to somebody who doesn't share his point of view, and he calls them a Bushie or a "Hellmanite" or whatever, they're obviously under Hellman's magical spell or something. Or they're Hellman himself posting under another name. Which they are, sometimes. [Laughter] He got banned, Kim Thompson at TCJ banned him. They're not friends. [Laughter] "Ted Rall is the best political cartoonist alive, though, so it's okay for HIM to..." And I'm also Steve Hogan, Rall thinks we're the same guy. But he just, Rall just throws out these nutty accusations. And then somebody else says, "Well, wait a minute, I'm not sure I agree with you there, Ted, this other guy made some good points," and tries to reason with him. So Rall bitches that guy out, and before you know it there's somebody else out to get him, in his own mind. And the more he does it, the more he just lashes out at people, the more true it becomes in the real world that exists outside his own little paranoid... you know? And the more vindicated he is in his own mind.
So, you know, now COOP is a "Hellmanite" or whatever. It's like Rall is recruiting for the next volume of Legal Action Comics. [Laughter] I mean, he called COOP a Bushie, a right-winger. Have you seen COOP's art? What, is he doing the banner for the next Republican Convention now? What the fuck is this guy talking about? The guy who wrote ANTZ, he's another one. Todd Alcott, he started posting to that board, and he's a "Hellmanite" now. [Sam] Henderson, [Michael] Kupperman, [Tony] Millionaire. Pretty much anybody who expresses any disagreement on the matter, you know, and doesn't appreciate being called a bunch of crazy names for it. Bullied into shutting up about it. They become "Hellmanites."
God, there have to be better things we could talk about. I'm just some nerd with some free time and an opinion. If people want to know more, do a Google.com search. All this stuff is on the Internet. More than you ever cared to know.
Fair enough. Do--
Although if I could just... Sorry. [Laughter] I know, sorry, I'm passive-aggressive. Just one last thing, on the idea that Hellman's prank and all the "Hellmanites" are somehow interfering with Rall's career? That's what he says this is all about, he claims his career has suffered as a result. Well, I didn't see anybody tackling him on his way onstage on Politically Incorrect. Somehow he made it on the air okay that night. Nobody ran up to snatch his book out of Bill Maher's hand when he held it up for the camera. You know? Maybe when Mulder comes back, he can figure out where the "Hellmanite Conspiracy" fell down on that one.
Let's move on. So do you have any sort of Web design experience?
Not even. Obviously, just look at it. The whole thing is done with Microsoft Paint, Notepad, and an AOL connection. And some cherry Nyquil. And no life.
Right, DIY, punk rock. Somebody compared it to punk rock. Punk rock comics. Yeah, except for the sex and drugs and anybody giving a shit.
The cherry Nyquil.
For the drugs part, the Nyquil.
Oh, oh. Yeah, that's some good stuff. By the way, Ted Rall is about as punk rock as a back-up dancer on a Madonna tour.
I don't know, I just started putting stuff up there and fiddling with it. It's all cut-and-paste. Once you figure out how somebody else did something, like the little text pop-ups when you put your mouse over it and a little saying shows up, you just use that, paste it in and write your own, you know, whatever you want in there. Basic stuff. You don't need a big annoying animation or pulsating graphics or anything. Just put up a Web page, put some stuff on it. Tell your friends. 20 years ago, 10 years ago, you wouldn't see me at my kitchen table with a stack of photocopies, you know, a stack of clip art, and a pair of scissors and a typewriter. Pumping out comics with guys screaming about Elizabeth Wurtzel or whoever and mailing them to everybody in the whole world. But now you can pretty much do that. If you don't have anything better to do.
A lot of bloggers seem to like it.
Yeah, the bloggers! Man, that whole phenomenon is amazing. I don't know if people even know what that is.
I don't know if it was around before 9/11, but it's exploded since then.
Yeah. Yeah, it's basically just people putting up their own Web pages with a shitload of links to stuff they like, their own commentary, whatever. Weblog, blog. I haven't done one, but apparently the blogging programs just let you type in whatever you want, put in hyperlinks, I think that's just point-and-click. Then click a button, it's up there on the Web. No programming or anything. So that's just exploded. The first one I started reading was Ken Layne, Kenlayne.com. Great, funny writer. And everybody links to everybody else, all these bloggers, and there's a lot of ass-kissing going on. "So-and-so just posted a MUST-READ thing destroying the latest Whichever Newspaper's op-ed column about..." Lots of smooching of butts. So I jumped in there with both lips. [Laughter]
Some of these guys post like 20 times a day. Instapundit.com, man. That guy... he posts 20 times a day and he's got so many readers I thought my computer was going to melt when he linked to me, that Elizabeth Wurtzel thing.
A lot of people linked to that one.
Yeah. It's insane. Tom Tomorrow linked to me in his blog too, that was cool. After I e-mailed these guys with the Web address, of course. I e-mailed it to whoever I could think of because, just trying to get people to read it and hope they like it. Why not? "I'm probably gonna get evicted pretty soon, so I don't mind being shameless and asking you to be my Internet buddy."
Everybody and their mom will have a blog by this time next year, just you watch. There's left-wing blogs, right-wing blogs, music blogs, TV blogs, the kid who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek has a blog. I heard Shatner even has a blog now, but I haven't checked it out. So it's all over the place. One guy posts these great imaginary conversations with Anna Kournikova and Mariah Carey every day. Tonypierce.com. He'll have this picture of Anna Kournikova and a thing about how she called him up asking for his advice on her next match or whatever. There'll probably be 100 more great blogs by the time people read this. And they're all talking to each other all the time. It's a great way to get people reading your stuff, as long as you're not too obnoxious about it. Like I am. Go to Kenlayne.com and there's your, you know, your doorway to the wonderful world of blogs. Is anybody still reading this?
Anything else you want to add?
Please read Clip-Art Nonsense. I'll give you the Web address, send it to you. I'll type it out. I don't feel like saying it out loud because you have wearied me with your questions. I originally wanted to call it Clip-Art Bullshit, but I figured I should start SELLING OUT TO THE MAN ASAP. Please put that last part in all caps.