Vidal vs. Mailer It Ain’t

By Neal Comment

For most of America, apart from occasional appearances on Hannity & Colmes, Ted Rall’s moment in the spotlight came in early 2002 with the infamous “Terror Widows” strip and went two years later when he besmirched the memory of Pat Tillman, though he did score bonus points shortly after that for suggesting the recently deceased Ronald Reagan was “turning crispy brown right about now.”

But in comicbookland, Rall has been pissing off his peers at least as far back as 1999, when he called Art Spiegelman a one-hit wonder, sneering, “Fortunately for Art, though, there will always be a place in New York for schmoozers who look out for their pals.” Nor did he win very many friends in 2003 when he said Chris Ware was typical of “trendy art comics types [who] work around their lack of ideas with a lot of dazzling artwork and typography.” The most recent kicker came last week, when Rall complained about the NYT Magazine “Funny Pages” by referring to Ware as “the dead worst graphic novelist in America,” adding that he was “fairly stupid [and] aggressively out of touch with the world.”

Well, the messageboards at The Comics Journal website lit up after that. Alternative comic strip artist Tony Millionaire started things off by calling Rall “a spiteful asshole jealous of anyone who can draw and write better than he can, in other words of everyone.” Scott McCloud, the creator of Understanding Comics, calls the tirade “payback, plain and simple,” for Ware’s defense of Spiegelman six years ago, while Fantagraphics publicity head Eric Reynolds dubs Rall “a bitter, bitter man living in Bizarro World.” Even Kim Thompson, who considers Rall a friend, says “[his] opinions on many of his fellow cartoonists are, frankly, out to lunch. I think they’re sincerely held,” he adds, “although the level of venom with which they’re expressed in some cases seems clearly driven by personal animus.”