I decided to make the comic I had always wanted to read
David Rees is not a cartoonist by training, though he now pays his bills as a cartoonist for Rolling Stone. The reason; he spent his free time making comic strips out of clip art while working as an administrative assistant and a temp at Harvard. Perhaps you've heard of My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable or My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable. But his crowning achievement is Get Your War On, a satirical obscenity-riddled look at America post 9/11. There are so many articles and interviews with him currently, I've gotten together the bones of it here.
My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable was made using Powerpoint, in 1999, two years previous to GYWO. Made with clip-art because it was readily available and quicker, MNFTIU was put together in irregular formats. Using absurd amounts of profanity and re-using images with new punchlines, Rees's self-referential comic made jokes of how stupid jokes are (that totally made sense). Set in a karate temple, MNFTIU was inspired by MC's freestyle rap, with more emphasis on the bizarre characters and their styles rather than any actual fighting.
I think it's funny because the dialogue is about such strange things... The fact that these characters discuss these phenomena using the same language the guys on my block use to discuss what a pain in the ass it is to hang Sheetrock makes the comic, in a way a little more believable.
With My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable Rees originally went through the hell of attempted self-publishing that many beginning authors and artists suffer through. First he made copies at Kinko's for his friends for Christmas and went broke. Once he discovered his book was being "file-shared" around Boston by illicit faxing, he begin a beer-for-book trade with a copyshop acquaintance. He managed to get a parental loan to self-publish with a sketchy Jersey publisher, and then finally got Riverhead Press to pick it up. By then he was getting letters requesting the book, and was selling thousands of them in different formats through many different outlets.
Original version: handmade, copied, tan cover, with an original iron-on transfer, $4 with Rees losing money
New version: perfect bound, tan cover, $10 with the artist being able to re-pay his parents.
Rees, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina native and guitarist/singer for the band The Skeleton Killers, proclaims that the internet was the only way he could have found his audience.
I wanted to cut through all the national self-denial about what was going to happen in Afghanistan. I also wanted to cut against the sense of aggrieved exceptionalism in the U.S. that was making it hard to have an honest conversation about our War on Terrorism...
He put the comic strip up a month after September 11, 2001, and just emailed the website to twenty of his friends he thought would be interested. Within a fortnight, hundreds of thousands of people had seen the comic. Get Your War On now appears in Rolling Stone and is regularly updated on mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/war.html, a book compilation of the series is available from Soft Skull Press (all proceeds go to Adopt-a-Minefield an organization that removes land mines in Afghanistan).
Rees's style is known for its clip-art origins, ("the images you inherit lead you to develop new stories"). Other tell-tale signs: profanity-use as a rhythmic as well as semantic element (rap inspiration).
For example, 'motherfucker' is a very satisfying word, rhythmically. Also, the creation and dissolution of crazy identities is also rap-inspired. (Note: Rees doesn't use the word "bitch" and rarely uses slang for genitalia)
Online - Most of Rees's comics can be seen online at http://www.mnftiu.cc/mnftiu.cc/home.html
Get Your War On - collection available in book form from Soft Skull Press, benefits Adopt-A-Minefield.
My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable - collection available from Riverhead Press, mid-2004
My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable - collection available from Riverhead Press, 2003.
Interview by Steven Heller, "David Rees, Creator: Get Your War On, PRINT, PrintLVII:VI 2003, pages 58-60, 354.