One William C. Smith had the unenviable task of capturing the singular Mr. Fish within the span of relatively few column inches for the new year’s first edition of the Philadelphia Weekly. So how’d he do?
“His work is nothing like newspaper comic strips,” Smith writes. “Booth’s work is even more radical, and more disturbing, than the standard fare in lefty ‘alternative’ papers like the one you’re reading now.” Getting warmer. —KA
Over the years, Mr. Fish cartoons have appeared in Harper’s, Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Slate, Huffington Post, Truthdig.com and—until a very messy departure—the LA Weekly. Booth has collected his favorite cartoons—both published and rejected—in a new book titled Go Fish: How to Win Contempt and Influence People (Akashic Books, $18.95). The artwork is interspersed with a short memoir—or, as Booth puts it, a “coming-of-rage story.”
Booth grew up in the Jersey shore town of Manahawkin, near Long Beach Island, the son of a “1950s housewife” mother, and a blue-collar stepfather. The town was choked with free-spending tourists all summer, but was desolate after Labor Day. The off-season economy was supported by “a single Dunkin Donuts, a porno shop, two and a half gas stations and a thousand bars,” Booth recalls. “It was suddenly the exact wrong place for tourists to come, unless they wanted to commit suicide in the dunes.”
In this manic-depressive milieu, boy Booth taught himself to draw on purloined classroom paper, sketching skeletons, elaborate battles between sharks and whales, and a 474-page opus on a giant, violent hog named “Suey Pig.” Booth never read comics as a kid, he insists. “I preferred monster magazines, because I pitied monsters. I saw them as victims of straight society’s thuggish refusal to tolerate outsiders.”