If you alone apperceive Robert B. Reich as a above secretary of Labor, common TV analyst and columnist of abundant books on bread-and-butter policy, you’re missing out. Turns out, he’s additionally got a arresting adroitness for wielding a Sharpie. His bread-and-butter cartoons are a basic allotment of such documentaries as 2013’s Inequality for All and Saving Capitalism, due out this month. Now he’s putting his aesthetic ancillary advanced and centermost in Economics in Wonderland: A Animation Guide to a Political World Gone Mad and Mean — and I batten to him about his cartooning activity (our account has been edited for breadth and clarity).
Reich tells me that as a kid, he consistently went beeline for the comics pages of the newspaper. “I’m dating myself, but they acclimated to accept accomplished comics [pages] that would appear with the Sunday paper! That was the age of 6 or 7, that’s the aboriginal affair I looked at.”
When Reich got a little older, he apparent the cartoons in the New Yorker: “I acclimated to accelerate cartoons to the New Yorker, and I was consistently rejected. I began to cardboard the walls of my bedchamber with bounce block from the New Yorker and I absolutely blood the absolute bank of my bedroom. I had New Yorker bounce block for all my cartoons,” he says.
In the book you say that, accepting accomplished two ancestors of academy students, you’ve noticed what you alleged a “subtle but apparent change in the way they blot information.” What’s the attributes of that change?
Young bodies today are abundant added visually astute than they were a bearing ago. They aces up beheld cues abundant faster. I anticipate a lot of that comes from watching films, and videos, and the Internet. I [could] sit abutting to a adolescent person, watching a movie, and they would see things that would absolutely escape me. One of my sons appropriate about bristles or six years ago, “If you appetite to ability my generation, Dad, you ability appetite to agreement with videos, and film, and alike cartooning.”
Was it adamantine to amount out how to draw bread-and-butter cartoons?
At first, it was absolutely a challenge. Bread-and-butter concepts don’t readily accommodate themselves to cartoons. [They] tend to be abstruse or complicated. I struggled for six months or so while I ample out how to best aback these concepts visually.
Macroeconomic concepts, in agreement of absolute accumulated appeal in an economy, the business cycle, bread-and-butter growth, the determinants of bread-and-butter growth, all of those things. Those are decidedly difficult, because it tends to be so abstract. It’s additionally a actual advancing breadth of economics, decidedly afterwards the banking crisis of 2008. There’s still a abundant accord of head-scratching about macroeconomics. Microeconomics concepts and accessible action issues are far easier because they’re afterpiece to home. Bodies accept added absolute acquaintance with them.
Why do cartoons assignment to aback these ideas? Is it article about seeing that little face there, that hooks bodies in?
Yes. A face that has a little bit of emotion, or a alternation of faces, and again some movement. Bodies acknowledge to faces and to bodies that are in motion. They’re analytical about what those little bodies are doing, why they’re accomplishing it.
Was there a accurate abstraction or area in the book that you had to appear aback to a brace of times to amount out the best way of illustrating it?
There’s one on the chat of the year. Every year, the association at Pictionary.com attending for a chat that trended during the year. Last year’s chat was “xenophobia.” That was a claiming — how to accurate ageism in cartoons? The aforementioned with “patriotism.” I capital to advice bodies accept that the abstraction of bellicism was not primarily about bouncing the banderole or singing the civic anthem, but had some added meanings. I struggled for a while about how to artlessly get that across.
On Page 12, Tax Expenditures, you go from big, simple shapes at the top to added complicated shapes at the bottom. How did that animation evolve?
Most bodies accept no abstraction what a tax amount is and they don’t apperceive that it’s the aforementioned as government spending. So what I had to do, both in the article and additionally visually, is accomplish that big point very, actual clear. Again to get added abundant about what that all meant: Why mortgage absorption is a tax expenditure. Why tax deferred pensions are tax expenditures. And then, what was the botheration with tax expenditures. The animation doesn’t explain it [all] in itself, but I approved to accord activity to the essay.
What symbols or assets serve as beheld cues for people, in some of your illustrations?
I’ve begin that you can actual artlessly accord a sense, visually, of an about absolute army by accepting a scattering of bodies in the advanced and again assuming they go far into the background. Bodies get it really, absolutely easily. [To show] the bank amid abbey and state, all you charge is a little [bit] of a wall, and again you can see holes in the wall. And you accept religious institutions on one side, and you’ve got somebody continuing there who’s captivation the American flag, but he’s a little worried. You can see how simple that animation is. The ambition is to aback a lot in that simplicity.
Do you plan on application cartoons in your assignment in the future?
In December I’m activity to do a actual continued cartoon, bisected of an absolute wall. I’m not abiding I’m activity to say anything. It may be aloof one very, actual ample animation that the camera follows, and so bodies can accomplish faculty of it as I go along.
What’s it activity to be about?
It will be about how we got into the accepted fix we’re in, economically and politically, and how we get out. It’s activity to charge an absolute wall.
You ability acquisition yourself axis the bend and demography up two walls.
That’s right, and the ceiling.
Etelka Lehoczky has accounting about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com. She tweets at @EtelkaL.
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