George W. Bush has been good to Mikhaela Reid: the ex-president and his cast of cronies provided the self-syndicated political cartoonist with a reality ripe with targets for her weekly toon, The Boiling Point. But, as Reid notes in this interview, the increasingly troubled post-Bush era promises plenty of material for the Brooklyn resident, whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines (along with InTheseTimes.com!) since she graduated from Harvard in 2003.
The cover of Reid’s first book, Attack of the 50 ft. Mikhaela (2007) featured a giant version of herself squeezing a terrified and tiny George W. Bush on the White House lawn. She’s now contemplating the release of a second collection later this year, “once the new administration has settled,” she said in early February. For more about Reid, head to her website. You can find all of her cartoons archived on InTheseTimes.com here.
In 25 words or less, what makes you so special? (Keep in mind that humility, while admirable, is boring).
I’m loud-mouthed, argumentative, cynical, angry and charming. I draw funny pictures, adore cats and want the Bushies put on trial — what’s not to love?
Shamelessly plug a colleague’s project.
No matter how crap-ass the political situation, the one person whose work always make me laugh is my friend and fellow cartoonist Keith Knight, of “K Chronicles“ and “(th)ink“ fame. He mixes politics with semi-autobiographical slice-of-life adventures, and the result is always smart and food-through-the-nose hilarious. His latest project is the daily newspaper comic strip “The Knight Life.”
Describe your politics.
I’m progressive, feminist, anti-racist, left-wing, way, way, way to the left of the mainstream Democratic party, what-have-you. My beliefs are pretty simple really: greed is bad; racism is bad; homophobia and transphobia are bad; abstinence-only miseducation is bad; torture, unjust illegal wars and the murder of countless innocent civilians are bad, bad, bad. Feminism is good, economic justice is good, universal healthcare is good, public education should be good (and free). The so-called free market is a cruel, failed, not-so-funny joke. Impending, man-made, global environmental devastation is a Really Horrible Thing.
Come up with a question for yourself and answer it.
Question: The question I always hear these days is, “Now that Obama’s in the White House, what could you possibly still have to cartoon about?” The implication is that everything is cool now, no need to be angry. We’re instantly OK!
Answer: Sure, I teared up on election night (and not just because I was happy to see Bush go). But the tears have dried, and the romance is gone. I’m glad to see the end of Gitmo and the global gag rule, but … what’s with all the center-rightists and Republicans in the Cabinet? What’s with ramping up the war in Afghanistan? Bipartisanship is bullshit — it just means letting Republicans have their wrong-headed way. And, um, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our country is sinking into another freakin’ depression! So, no shortage of cartoon material anytime soon, if the current media climate actually leaves any newspapers alive to publish it in.
Pick your 5 favorite websites and tell us why.
(I’m excluding sites that prominently feature my own work, such as InTheseTimes.com, of course):
1. io9.com, Gawker Media’s science fiction blog. As a left-wing political cartoonist with a bleak and cynical outlook, I’m naturally a huge fan of science fiction, particularly of the dystopian strain. So I obsessively click on io9 for everything from “Battlestar Galactica” and “Doctor Who” spoilers to clips from old sci-fi B movies and fabulous old sci-fi pulp novel cover art.
2. Pam’s House Blend, a LGBT issues blog helmed by the fantastic Pam Spaulding. Somehow she and her contributors manage to find the time to cover pretty much every major national LGBT news story from all kinds of angles and from a perspective that incorporates feminism, anti-racism, social justice, etc.
3. Racialicious. This blog about the intersection of race and pop culture is just awesome. It mixes astute and serious political and cultural commentary with thought-provoking personal pieces. And the contributors and moderators tackle contentious issues that could get really out of hand on any other site in a levelheaded and compassionate and thoughtful way. Also, they are all about intersectionality.
4. Feministe. Awesome feminist blog, not to be confused with the also-totally-awesome …
Name 5 other websites you go to when you’re procrastinating.
1. The Cartoonists With Attitude blog. Cartoonists With Attitude is a collective of 15 kick-ass social and political commentary cartoonists that I helped found in 2006, and our group blog lets me see what fellow subversive, angry, alternative cartoonists (such as Jen Sorensen, Stephanie McMillan, Brian McFadden or Ted Rall) are up to in one handy place.
2. The Yarn Harlot and other assorted knitting blogs. Currently repetitive stress issues prevent me from knitting much, but I can always dream.
4. Wikipedia. It may not be accurate on the things that really matter, but for some reason I really enjoy reading detailed plot summaries of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Doctor Who episodes.” Have I mentioned I’m a major nerdgirl?
5. The New York Times. Even when the most-emailed stories are ridiculous pieces about support groups for the girlfriends of laid-off investment bankers or brides forcing their attendants to get breast implants, I just can’t stay away
What’s a mistake the mainstream media always makes that really gets under your skin?
I don’t know where to start! Lending legitimacy, weight, authority, balance, what-have-you, to whacked-out bigots and foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing extremists is always a big mistake. In other words, I really hate the way the mainstream media is prone to treating fundamental civil rights (like, say, LGBT rights) or agreed-upon scientific principles (climate change) as things that are up for debate and giving 50 percent face time to views that are 100 percent screwed up. They’ll run two point/counterpoint pieces or have two talking heads and give equal time to the transgender woman and the rabid bigot who wants all transgender people sent to labor camps. Or they’ll give equal time to a scientist who studies evolution and some random Kansas school board member who says the little orange goblin living under his bed told him it was just a theory. That’s crap.
I really should watch the mainstream TV news more for cartoon-idea-gathering purposes, but my stomach just isn’t that strong.
What’s your favorite web-based tool for your job? Give us a quick walk through on how to use it.
I use Yojimbo to save my cartoon ideas — it’s a tool that lets you collect ideas, images and web pages as you surf the web using your F keys, and you can sync it to various Macs using Mobile Me.
What’s one piece of legislation (state or national) you’d like to see passed right now?
Universal health care — single-payer style, of course.
What’s one piece of legislation (state or national) you’d like to see defeated?
Proposition 8. I want to see Rick Warren cry.
My political awakening occurred when …
My Zadie handed me a stack of In These Times and The Nation and The Liberal Opinion back issues. Seriously — I had always had political opinions, but I’d never really had too much analysis to go with them. My politics were also heavily influenced as a young woman by the anti-Reagan ranting of my war-protesting, union-member parents. Not to mention their old copies of Our Bodies, Ourselves and 1984. Plus the music of The Dead Kennedys and Bikini Kill and the comics of Alison Bechdel (“Dykes to Watch Out For”).
Which liberal politician has disappointed you the most?
I can’t pick just one! Bill Clinton was the first heartbreaker in this division — NAFTA, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so-called “welfare reform” … how could he?! More recently, I was really bummed out by the downfall of Eliot Spitzer. I really thought that guy was awesome, and I loved the way he went after Wall Street. John Edwards, of course — the only major Democratic candidate in the last election who actually gave a crap about economic justice. Obama got the 2009 disappointment train rolling with his Cabinet appointments and inaugural invitation to Rick Warren.
I’m also disappointed, in retrospect, with FDR. Way to go with the New Deal, but screw you for rounding up Japanese-Americans in internment camps!
On the brighter side, I’m a big fan of Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick (I live in Brooklyn, but am originally from Massachusetts).
How do you get around (bike, public transportation, car)? Why?
After an unfortunate attempt to stand on one foot while pulling on my boots, I’m not getting around much at all. But as soon as this cast comes off, I’ll be back to riding the subway. I generally take public transportation or my feet pretty much everywhere, but it’s hard to feel smug about it because (A) I live in Brooklyn, and (B) I really hate driving. We need to invest serious dollars in cheap, widespread public transport. As ridership goes up nationwide, service is being slashed and fares are being raised. I’d love to see car-free city areas like they have in Europe.
What’s a lifestyle choice you’ve made recently to be greener?
We are so NOT going to stave off environmental catastrophe by encouraging individuals to switch to energy-efficient appliances if they just happen to feel like it. We need serious regulations and controls and social policy. That said, my husband and I finally started bringing reusable bags to the supermarket, and we live by the slightly weird light of compact florescent bulbs.
Name a historical figure you’d like to take out to dinner. Why?
Mark Twain. Because he was smart and funny and fearless and cutting, and I’ve always wanted to know what the hell was up with the wacky and depressing ending to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
What are five things you can’t live without?
Science fiction, punk rock, news radio, cats, seething anger against a world gone mad.
What’s the last, good film you saw?
Milk! That movie made me laugh, cry and want to take to the streets to hurl bricks at bigots all at the same time. And Let the Right One In, a haunting Swedish vampire teen romance movie that critics have hailed as an anti-Twilight, was totally shiver-worthy.
What is the last, best book you have read?
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. It’s been described as Studs Terkel’s The Good War (a direct inspiration), only with zombies. Which of course means it’s awesome.
What is your favorite work of art or artistic movement? Who is your favorite artist?
As a cartoonist, I’m all about the resurgence of graphic novels. So I’ll have to go with Alison Bechdel and her graphic memoir Fun Home.
What trend in popular culture do you find the most annoying?
The obsession with the so-called celebrity baby boom. Do gossip mag readers really need those big red circles to help them decide if so-and-so is pregnant or just bloated?
—February 6, 2009