The Ruling Clawss: The Socialist Cartoons of Syd Hoff

New York Review Comics. May 2023. 184p. ISBN 9781681377414. pap. $24.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
A reissue of the original published in 1935, this book collects cartoons that Hoff drew (pseudonymously, as “A. Redfield”) for the socialist newspaper Daily Worker between 1933 and 1935. Best known for his 1958 children’s book Danny and the Dinosaur and for the cartoons he published in the New Yorker, Hoff put his real political views into his Daily Worker cartoons. Here he draws self-satisfied executives, war profiteers, army generals who have never seen a day of combat, society ladies leading exhausting lives of leisure, and pampered dogs ferried around by chauffeurs. These wealthy figures see themselves as workers and toilers, even as they abuse and neglect the real workers who facilitate their comfortable lives. A new introduction to the book, by children’s literature scholar Philip Nel, illuminates Hoff’s oversights (most of the cartoons’ subjects are white, even the workers). This edition also includes the rousing introduction to the original book, which argues that the fat cats and society doyennes of the cartoons aren’t meant to be hated or envied but laughed at; what Hoff wants to invoke in his readers is relief and gratitude at being superior to “people as fundamentally ass-like as these.”
VERDICT A smart purchase where New Yorker cartoons are popular, as these put a new spin on the bourgeois genre.
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