Even in this ironic age, there are still certain images that serve reliably to incite and antagonize — unless their potency can somehow be subverted. Legendary cartoonist Sam Gross is doing his best to dismantle the force of the planet’s most powerful abstract symbol in his new collection, We Have Ways of Making You Laugh: 120 Funny Swastika Cartoons.
Variously thoughtful and plain silly, the drawings assembled in the book are just a fraction of the more than 500 swastika cartoons Gross has created since 1997, when a news story about swastika vandalism set him sketching (he was shocked the episode led the local TV broadcast). Amazingly, only one of the cartoons was ever bought by Gross’s primary employer, The New Yorker — which never published it.
But in truth, maybe the magazine was onto something: As a group, the cartoons are funnier and more meaningful. “If something is humorous, you can’t get angry at it,” writes Gross. “Nor can it inspire fear.”
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