David Rees author and illustrator of Get Your War On Introduction by Colson Whitehead
Publication Date: November 2002
In early October 2001, David Rees posted eight comic strips on his Web site, in which office workers discussed the War on Terrorism.
The response was overwhelming. E-mails proliferated around the country as people, alternately thrilled or disgusted by Get Your War On (as Rees entitled his depiction of the violence of the War on Terrorism begotten of violence of Terrorism itself) forwarded the URL to their friends. Since that night, more than eight million people have visited the site, and Rees continues to add material that responds to the events of the past months—including the anthrax scare, the Enron scandal, John Ashcroft’s detentions of suspected terrorists, the Office for Homeland Security, Israeli incursions and Palestinian suicide bombings, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision on the Pledge of Allegiance, to name a few.
Although the strip quickly became notorious—Rees received a great deal of both fan mail and hate mail—Get Your War On is not purely a parody of patriotism, nor is it a simple indictment of U.S. jingoism. Instead, in a voice that combines the indignant, stentorian tones of rapper KRS-1 with the cadences of David Mamet and the boldness of Tom Tomorrow, Rees zeros in on the deep psychic bruise that events in New York, Afghanistan, Israel and elsewhere has inflicted on our hearts.
The nameless characters are at turns skeptical about the War on Terrorism; scared for their own safety in an age of anthrax scares and terror alerts; hungry for revenge against Osama bin Laden; bitter about the exploitation of September 11’s horrors; and enthusiastic about the possibility of deadening their pain with alcohol. During a time when few were willing to share any but the noblest pieties with each other, Rees’s characters are reflections of many Americans’ true selves.
Working with a deceptively limited palette of color (red), graphics (clip art of cubicle workers), and language (much of it four-lettered), Rees succeeds in depicting a country of grieving, angry and confused citizens, feeling hatred for—and feeling the hatred of—the world beyond our shores. With Get Your War On, Rees has illustrated better than any artist, politician, or pundit the true state of America’s soul—its violence and its compassion.
The author’s royalties will be donated to Adopt-A-Minefield. Soft Skull Press will donate an additional royalty to the same organization. The website may be viewed at getyourwaron.
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