How National Lampoon Inspired A CBLDF Liberty Annual From Image Comics

CBLDFLA_covD.A.Cox writes from the editor's page of this year's CBLDF Liberty Annual from Image Comics…

If you were to ask me to name the greatest human achievements in printing since Gutenberg, I would have a pretty easy time naming a top three. In no particular order, I would give you the works of Charles Portis, Jack Kirby's KAMANDI, and the first five years of NATIONAL LAMPOON.

NATIONAL LAMPOON, in particular, was an incubator for not only many world-class cartoonists, but also writers, filmmakers, comedians, television personalities, and tastemakers of every stripe. LAMPOON was satire at its finest: deeply and beautifully sick, offensive, disturbing, wrong, and brilliant. It arguably changed the face of American comedy, and in doing so, changed the face of American culture. Most people haven't changed any faces of anything at all, ever. There's a bit of perspective for you.

Currently, some people think that being offended is one of the worst things a person can experience, and if someone says or creates something another person doesn't like, there is often an immediate leap to "they shouldn't be allowed to do that." Certain religious types think blasphemy is a capital crime. "Men's Rights" Activists think they are being personally attacked by anyone rightfully demanding equal rights for every gender, and legions of tender souls cry foul at any joke that might possibly be seen to offend anyone. There are angry accusations of bigotry and sexism, actual bigotry and sexism, threats of murder, actual murder, and a general epidemic of self-righteous finger-wagging.

color cover fegredo 2

Of course, that's not to say that being offended isn't ever an important and meaningful reaction to content. But the way we react to art says more about us as viewers than it does about the art itself, and what's offensive to one person may be an enlightening revelation to someone else. It's the most subjective way to interact with art, and reductive as hell, but it's not without value, particularly when it comes to having a conversation about ourselves as a culture.

The great Oliver Wendell Holmes understood this, and introduced into the Supreme Court the concept of a Marketplace of Ideas, wherein unpopular speech should be allowed to live in the public conversation, so that it can argued against, making the social dialogue stronger, smarter, and ultimately more moral. This means that when people say things you don't like, it's great to argue with them, and prove your point to the contrary. However, the minute you attempt to have their voices restricted or silenced, or turn them into a straw-man, you blew it. Sadly, Justice Holmes never predicted Twitter.

That's a long and winding road back to this: Satire can be harsh, and it can be offensive. There's nothing wrong with that. When done well, it's a great teacher, and it can change the world. When done poorly, it can (at the very least) start a conversation about important issues. Sometimes it's just a stupid way to have a stupid laugh at a stupid world, and that's okay, too. Satire is one of the great literary tools, and the first five years of NATIONAL LAMPOON were a game-changing stretch of satire. I love it dearly.

So we ripped it off.

-DAC

Three covers – "The Connoisseur" by Tom Fowler. "The State Of Things"  by Duncan Fegredo and "Seeing Red" is by Vanesa R. Del Rey. 

 

 

xxx

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.