Book Review – Haw! (By: Ivan Brunetti)

Haw! is a collection of “horrible, horrible (“indeed terrible”) cartoons” by Ivan Brunetti, a relatively influential person in the comic scene. I’ve read several anthologies (edited) by him in the past (though I couldn’t have told you that without looking it up first). This collection is a set of cartoons done in a similar style (they could almost be considered a “strip” if anyone had been crazy enough to publish it) done in Brunetti’s youth when he was “more angry”. So are they worth reading now?

No, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the book. There’s no reason to read this book, there’s nothing insightful, artistically relevant, or particularly moving. Indeed, it is just a collection of terrible, tasteless cartoons that should never really be shared with anyone (even worse than puns {that might be more funny if you read the book}). But they were funny, in the strict “a joke is leading the mind down a path and unexpectedly changing that path” sort of way. It’s the kind of book where I have to keep justifying the fact that I read it and wasn’t disgusted with it. I get the anger and the cynicism, and perhaps Brunetti goes over the line with the delivery with how explicit and graphic it is (certainly equally funny jokes have been told in more friendly ways) but it just becomes a parody of itself after a few panels.

I can’t really make a case for the existence of this book (though obviously I’m against getting rid of things because they’re uncomfortable, so I don’t have a justification to destroy it, either) and I’m not going to make the case for anyone to go out and buy it. The artistic style is interesting, but nothing terribly special, and the humor is like the good times in Cards Against Humanity (being like the jokes they cut up to put in the game so that most of the time you get garbled junk but sometimes you put the pieces back together and it’s funny). And there are even profuse apologies within the introduction and copyright pages to warn you the book might not be something you’d want. But if you were looking into reading you probably knew about those and ignored them anyway.

Basically you probably don’t want to buy it, unless you already knew what it was about and were looking into it, in which case make your own decisions.

Book Review – the Wall Street Journal Portfolio of Business Cartoons.

I’ve never read the Wall Street Journal, nor really any news publication. Those I have glanced at have always been for the cartoons. And when I get the chance to pick up a book collecting some cartoons from a respected publication I’ve possibly never seen before, I do it.


The cartoons collected in this book are limited when compared to the scope the publication. There are only a handful per decade, but they do convey the time they were from and are very funny. They are provided with no extra information or context, and nothing about he cartoonist themselves is recorded. The images still hold up on their own, most being easy to understand by almost anyone. They are well drawn and well reproduced on high-quality paper in the book.

There isn’t much more to say about them. It’s a to-the-point cartoon collection; a fast and enjoyable read that I would recommend to a fan of business humor.

Book Review – The Big Book of Weirdos

The “Big Book” series of comic books is weird one. I’ve seen a few, but only ever read this one in full. The Big Book of Weirdos is about various historical figures and their antics, which range from quirky to insane (it’s mostly insane). In general, the book goes by type of person (actor, dictator, etc) and in chronological order, though not always.


The book starts with Caligula (basically), which is never a good choice if one wants a book to remain nice and/or sane. Continuing on from there is a whole host of personalities: Hitler, Tesla, Ford, Kafka, Dali, on and on. Most of these characters get around 6 pages of harsh black-and-white drawing. Many don’t shy away from being repulsive in various ways, and the many artists who took part in the work all have unique ways of looking at things. Some are quite minimalist and attractive, where others are hard to follow, and in many the people just look ugly. I know this is by design in many cases, but there are ways of making people look insane without disfiguring them and disturbing the reader.

Some of the stories are interesting, some a gross, some slow, some fast, some well-known, and some untrue. Syphilis is blamed for many things, and alcohol is a demon. Overall, the storytelling is nice, but too vague, and one is simply told things. The other things that are going on are not even allowed to the imagination, and as I said many things are untrue. Facts weren’t verified entirely for the book, which is fine. It doesn’t try to present itself as a reference, and it shouldn’t be. Its art indicates that it was an exercise, like many of the books in the series, to have many different artists contribute to a common theme. And the art does work well together. The stories and pictures are not jarring, nor badly crafted. They both show the utmost of technical skill, if not the grasp of facts.

But technical skill does not make for pleasant reading, and while the book is a great reference for different art styles, in many cases the art is unattractive. Even the best-rendered visual of people being torn apart isn’t fun to look at (that doesn’t explicitly happen).

The book is interesting, both to read and to look at, but I’m not sure I can recommend it. The various historical figures explored don’t have the time to be more than one-dimensional, insane puppets. There is very little to attach you to them, which may be a good thing in many cases. It’s a fun read at times, and a crazy read, and an interesting read. But I can’t say it’s a good book. Beyond being on a coffee table to start conversation, it isn’t that great. Or perhaps (the reason I keep my copy) it can be used as a reference for different art styles and ways to tell a story.

Book Review – The Rejection Collection Vol 2

The second Rejection Collection is very similar to the first in that it is a wonderfully funny collection of cartoons that didn’t make it into the New Yorker magazine for various (and obvious) reasons. There are a few returning artists, and a few new artists featured, and one is bound to like quite a few of them. This makes it, cartoon-wise, a wonderful look at what cartoonists and editors think shouldn’t be published, and it’s hilarious.


My problem with this second volume is in the more “book” part. There is a questionnaire filled out by each cartoonist, and unlike the first book, where such a paper was very open-ended and allowed for a lot of creativity, this one seems more locked down and contrived. This is ironically (I used the word correctly here, just watch) because it is trying to do the opposite. In trying to intentionally create an open-ended and interesting form, the result is a form that makes the authors’ humor seem forced. Only those who really break all of the form’s rules are very entertaining to read. Only a few are complete duds, and in general they are a bit of fun. They also tend to provide a less-insightful look at the cartoonist, in my opinion. I guess the form had to be different, because some of the artists return, but I do wish that it was more like the original.

That being said, there are certainly some funny and informative moments in the book, and the paper and humor are of a high-enough quality that I don’t feel ripped off. I’d say if you came for the cartoons, the book is great, but if you came to get a closer look at the minds of some of the New Yorker cartoonists, some heavier considerations might be weighed, and the first collection might be better. It’ll take longer to read than the first, and it’s certainly funny, but I just don’t think it’s quite as good.

Book Review – The Rejection Collection – Edited by Matthew Diffee

I love cartoons of all types. While many people express dislike for the standard newspaper cartoons that are everywhere, I love them. But I also like cartoons featured in other places, like online or in magazines. And while I do appreciate the family-friendly, I’m not really a fan of censoring cartoonists. Which is where the Rejection Collection comes in.


Here is a collection of wonderful cartoons that couldn’t appear in the New Yorker magazine for various reasons. Most of them are wondrously funny, and those that I personally don’t like will definitely be enjoyed by others. And since most of these cartoonists do work for the New Yorker, the jokes that might be distasteful are presented in at least an appropriate and (almost) intelligent manner.

Accompanying the cartoons is a collection of forms filled out by the various artists to represent themselves. These forms are somewhat tedious, but in many cases you get to find out fascinating and funny things. In other cases it’s clearly a joke, but at least you find out the cartoonist’s sense of humor. Occasionally there is one who unfortunately takes it seriously (I would if the New Yorker sent me a questionnaire), and these can be skipped. The drawing and answers in this portion really make the book, in my opinion, as otherwise it would just be a collection of mostly obscene jokes done by New Yorker cartoonists. And while there is a market for that thing (I would buy it if I had a lot of money laying around, while I’d buy this with just a little more money than I currently have, as my copy was a gift). The cartoons are fun though quite fast, and the only thing that makes this a book and not a collection of cartoons are the forms.

This book is a wonderful insight into both the heads of cartoonists and what will and will not get published. It is hilarious and well drawn. The execution is what one would expect from the New Yorker: excellent.