It's a bird, it's a plane . . . it's C. Arnholt Smith!
Yes, there is a new set of comic book heroes and villains.
The latest underground comic book hot off the presses is called Corporate Crime, and it offers cartoon renderings of some of the more famous white collar crimes in history. Although a printed disclaimer admits that some of the details have been invented, it also says "the crimes are all too real."
Edited by 26-year-old San Francisco atrist Leonard Rifas, the 36-page book has a colorful glossy cover and black-and-white inside pages. It features the work of 15 different artists, mostly from the Bay Area. It is published by Kitchen Sink Enterprises, a division of Krupp Comic Works in Princeton, Wisconsin.
Rifas, a philosophy graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, said he was encouraged to edit the work by publisher Denis Kitchen, 31, whose firm has printed more than 100 underground comic books since it was founded seven years ago.
The young editor, who works full time as a map and chart maker a San Francisco economic research firm, first talked to Kitchen about the book after he says he was inspired by the following paragraph from Robert L. Heilbroner's book, "In the Name of Profit":
"We felt that readers might understand corporate irresponsibility better if it were presented in terms of humans beings rather than of economic institutions acting impersonally."
Often go unnoticed. In a cartoon often go unnoticed. In a cartoon-form prologue to the book, he explains, "I could be robbed or poisoned by corporate criminals and never know it until I read about in the papers . . . or maybe never know!"
Further, the prologue explains, "Corporate crime and consumer frauds cost Americans an estimated $40 billion to $200 billion a year. All the thieves, burglers and robbers in the nation together are only stealing around $3 billion a year."
The youthful editor defines corporate crime as "antisocial behavior by corporations for which the law provides penalties . . . fraud, pollution, tax evasion, price fixing . . . it's not the kind of stuff that makes you afraid to go out alone at night . . . but it can maim or kill you."
The book, which sells for $1, portrays 15 different incidents. Rifas said he first selected his contributing artists, and then allowed them each to pick their own crime to illustrate, after consulting him on their decision.
Among the stories chronicled are the Teapot Dome Scandal, the General Moters purchase and ultimate destruction of the Los Angeles Rapid Transit system in the 1930's and the case of Karen Silkwood, a young worker in a nuclear plant who died mysteriously while en route to a meeting with a New York Times reporter to whom she was allegedly planning to give documentation of plutonium contamination of workers at the Oklahoma facility where she worked.