Just Us! Review

By | Monday, February 22, 2021 Leave a Comment
Just Us!
I mentioned a little over a week ago that I'd finally found a copy of Walt Carr's self-published collection of editorial cartoons, Just Us! I thought I might do a proper review now that I've received and read it.

As you might guess from the title and the selected cartoon for the cover, Just Us! has a lot of cartoons focused on racial disparities in the US. Not exclusively, but it's a definite theme. Carr is pretty open about that, noting in the Foreword (I suppose it's a Foreword? It's written like an Introduction, but he has another bit later that's expressly labeled as an Introduction.) that this book's target audience is African-Americans aged 20-65 with "left-leaning whites and independents with a social conscience" as a secondary audience. He's then broken the book down into sections, collecting comics on a specific topic together: sports, entertainment, crime, etc. While most of the cartoons aren't dated, you can guess about when many of them were made based on the content and context. Most seem to be from around 2015-2019, although I did find at least one that goes back to 2000.

Carr's talent for cartooning is on display throughout the book. He's got a good sense of design and composition, and his cartoons often have a lot of background detail that, while isn't strictly necessary to get his point across, add to the tone and flavor. His crowd scenes in particular are enjoyable to just pause on in order to see what all the people in the background are doing. Additionally, when he's lampooning a specific individual, he does an excellent job rendering them, whether as a caricature or as a more realistic portrait (in the cases of obituary-style pieces).

Interestingly, very little seems to have been done to level-adjust the images. Meaning that, instead of each cartoon coming across in a very definitive black and white, you're able to see when his a pen was running out of ink or when spotted blacks could almost pass for an ink wash because it wasn't applied quite enough for a solid black. Honestly, I can't tell if this was a deliberate stylistic choice or simply that Carr's artwork wasn't cleaned up sufficiently after being scanned in, but I actually kind of like the effect. It might not always present as "clean" as you might normally see in an editorial cartoon, I like that you're able to see Carr's craft more explicitly. Where he applied more pressure or less, where he might've switched from pen to brush, etc. That's one of the reasons I enjoy original comic art -- to see how an image was crafted -- and some of that is on display here.

Carr tackles many of the subjects you'd expect in a book like this. Most of his takes on things aren't surprising and what you'd expect from a Black man from the US in his late 80s, but his expressions of them are generally pretty original. I don't agree with Carr on everything (there were more than a few cartoons with a semi-ranting "these kids today" vibe) but his execution of the ideas was still interesting.

I wish Carr could've gotten wider distribution of his book here. It's a solid collection and easily worth the twenty dollar cover price. As of this writing, there still seems to be a copy left on Amazon. It took me about a year and a half to track down a copy myself; I'd suggest snagging that last one on Amazon so you don't have to spend that long hunting for your copy!
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