Cartoon world of shrinking violence

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The Independent Culture
Imagine the rampant cordiality of New Year's Eve infecting the rest of the year and you have the transgressive idea behind an exhibition running at the National Museum of Cartoon Art. "Random Acts of Kindness" includes work by 24 European artists commissioned to illustrate this Utopian dream.

Artists from Belgium, Sweden and France are represented in the show, which includes work by Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewitt and Javier Mariscal, the Spanish cartoonist responsible for designing the Olympic mascot Cobi. Mariscal's dog-eat-dog interpretation of natural born niceness: "You die so I can live, I die so you can live'' (left), figures what appears to be bloodthirsty cobis obeying Darwinian laws of survival. As well as imagining their own stories, each artist has contributed a single panel to a collaborative cartoon dubbed Outbreak of Violets. The story is written by Alan Moore, famous for filling the speech bubbles of 2,000AD, Judge Dredd and Swamp Thing. Given the dystopian slant of many comics and graphic novels, the concept of sudden and ubiquitous kindness is a clever conceit, and Moore's text provides the artists with bizarre ammunition for their diversely styled illustration. Hezbollah give their airline captives impromptu makeovers and "wife treaters'' feed their spouses with chocolate until they are forced to escape to refuges for "fattened women''.

In a country swamped by American cartoons, curator Paul Gravett seized the show as a way to introduce insular Brits to the cream of European graphic art. Gravett also hopes the exhibition will raise the profile of the museum, which is presently seeking to ensure permanent funding. "There are national museums of cartoon art in Istanbul and Macedonia. It's quite ridiculous that there isn't one here.'' So perform a random act of kindness and go and see this show.


`Random Acts of Kindness' is on show at the National Museum of Cartoon Art, 15-17 St Cross Street, London EC1N 8UN (0171-405 4717) 2-12 Jan 1996; the Museum is open Mon-Fri 12noon-6pm