Book Review: All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End: The Cartoons of Charles Johnson

All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End: The Cartoons of Charles Johnson by Charles Johnson. New York Review Comics, 2022. 9781681376738. 280pp.

I had no idea Dr. Johnson (Middle Passage) was also a cartoonist. I regret that I didn’t take one of his writing courses when I studied English at the University of Washington — something I told Dr. Johnson when I met him years later — but now that I know he’s a talented cartoonist as well I’m smacking myself in the forehead again.

This is a retrospective of Dr. Johnson’s cartoons with introductory text to each section, starting with the beginnings of his career, when he published illustrations in a magic company’s catalog while still in high school, and ending with comics he’s done more recently, many of them Zen-themed. The bulk of the book contains work from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Dr. Johnson was, as he explains, “…philosophically, a Marxist and a socialist.” They’re excellent single-panel gags, mostly political, and very much of their time. Many of the best concern the black power movement and responses to it. Reading the bulk of this book reminded me of reading Willie & Joe Come Home by Bill Mauldin, a collection of comics about the struggles of soldiers returning home after WWII, in that both that book and this reflect struggles I should know more about the context of. (In other words, great comics are once again sending me off to read about history I should already know.)


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