by Angele McQuade
Better Investing (April 2002)
I never expected to review a financial comic book in this column, but I'm delighted to discover one as well-executed as Titans of Finance: True Tales of Money and Business.
Co-creators Josh Neufeld and R. Walker leave little ambiguity in their profiles of seven citizens of Corporate America. Using a fraction of the words in most books, they deliver an awful lot of insight into a group of titans whose business morals are slightly suspect.
Titans of Finance isn't your typical comic book. For one thing, it's non-fiction. For another, it's well-researched; Neufeld and Walker will even send you a bibliography if you're itching to verify their stories. You don't even need to trek down to your local comics store it's available at online retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
Titans of Finance is an incredibly clever take on the typical corporate profile, and the drawings are just as witty as the text. Neufeld and Walker not only make their opinions of their subjects clear, but also use their combined talents to help readers catch on quickly.
Titans is a beautifully drawn and described hall of shame for some especially tantalizing displays of corporate misbehavior. As a bonus, it's also just plain fun to read. Neufeld and Walker tailor their content to the strengths of the comic book format. This isn't just an average critique of business greed with some extra pictures thrown in to keep things busy. Both the text and illustrations are on target as Wall Street figures such as Ron Perelman and Al Dunlap are skewered for their business misdealings alongside other infamous movers and shakers. Neufeld and Walker infuse their verbal and visual portraits with evidence of shaky financial schemes; overbearing, unyielding management techniques; and flat-out foolish business decisions. You'll find your-self shaking your head in disbelief while wondering what other secrets Wall Street types might be trying to hide.
My only complaint is that the profiles are too short. These sketches, in which no subject is taboo and sordid personal tidbits are included with tales of corporate blunders, left me wanting more. With commentary this scathing and ironic, it's not likely Neufeld and Walker are becoming close friends with other titans of finance. They'll have no shortage of prospects if they decide to create Issue No. 2. I'll be first in line to read it if they do.
by Hank Gilman
Fortune Small Business (February 2002)
Okay, actually I have another favorite columnist, and that's Rob Walker, who pens our Good Life column. That's why I'm going to shamelessly plug his new business parody, a comic called Titans of Finance. He produced Titans, available at places like Amazon.com, with illustrator Josh Neufeld. Catch a sample on page 23 in our Part One section. For more information, you can go to Rob's very own Website at www.robwalker.net. How are sales so far? "I keep hoping it will make me rich," says Rob. If not, he'll have to keep his gigs with us, at Slate.com, where's he's the Moneybox columnist, and with Money, where he's a contributing writer. We hope he doesn't get too rich.
by James M. Pethokoukis
U.S. News and World Report (September 2001)
Comic-book villains aren't always goggle-eyed scientists or multitentacled aliens. Sometimes the baddies wear suits and ties. In fact, corrupt World War II arms manufacturers were among Superman's first foes. But the Man of Tomorrow never pounded businessmen-gone-bad the way Rob Walker and Josh Neufeld do in Titans of Finance: True Tales of Money and Business, a new comic book out this week from independent publisher Alternative Comics. Walker writes and Neufeld illustrates Titans' dissections of executive arrogance and mismanagement. Among their Rolex rogues gallery: "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, the cost-cutting, employee-firing CEO; Jay "Jaybird" Goldinger, who advised caution as a market pundit while investing clients' money in risky derivatives; and billionaire Ron Perelman, who took over Marvel Comics in the early '90s, loaded it with debt, and unloaded his stake for a cool $200 million.
"The business press always has to be so serious, and they end up making these stories kind of dry," says Walker, who writes a business column for Slate. "But a lot of this stuff is just crazy, and we can present it in a totally different format." Walker and Neufeld do have some fun with the facts. One panel depicts Dunlap and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich on ABC's Nightline. Although Dunlap did indeed accuse Reich of advocating "socialism," he didn't actually threaten him with a power tool. Other jabs are subtler, as with Neufeld's depiction of Perelman's string of trophy wives, identically drawn blonds identified only as Wife No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4.
Hit parade. Neufeld hopes Titans will serve as a "propaganda tool to show people that comics can be about anything, just like books." That's an easier sell, given other recent comic-based hits. This summer's film Ghost World is based on Dan Clowes's teen-angst comic of the same title. Michael Chabon snagged a Pulitzer for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, about a fictitious pair of 1940s comic creators. Chris Ware's graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, TheSmartest Kid on Earth won raves.
"Superheroes will always be the base of the [comics] industry," says Gareb Shamus, publisher of Wizard magazine, which covers pop culture. But even if sales never approach those of New X-Men, Ultimate X-Men, or even X-Treme X-Men, Titans (printed in cost-saving gray tones) has already turned a profit for Jeff Mason, Alternative Comics' one-man-band chief, thanks to sales of 1,500 copies to Wall Street firms. Still, Mason's not about to quit his day job as a criminal-defense attorney. "I think it's important to publish good comics, but I also think it's equally important to defend the Constitution," he says. With Titans' initial success, more issues seem likely. The next likely targets? "The dot-com bust sure seems like pretty fertile territory," Walker says.
by Sean O'Neill
Kiplinger's Personal Finance (September 2001)
Corporate superheroes are satirized in a comic book that chronicles the rise of celebrated financiers and the unsavory events that undid their fortunes and their companies. In a single 24-page volume called Titans of Finance (Alternative Comics, $3.50; www.indyworld.com/altcomics), eight CEOs and traders get the funny-papers treatment from Rob Walker, a writer for Slate.com, and Josh Neufeld, an illustrator. On the block: Ron Perelman, of Marvel and Revlon, and "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap.
by Ken Kurson
Money Magazine (July 2001)
Perhaps the stories of America's premier business and investing heavyweights don't seem like competition for Spider-Man and the Hulk. (Sure, it's impressive that Wayne Angell began charging $100-a-[minute] consulting fees just minutes after his Federal Reserve job ended but can he talk to marine creatures?) Still, there's something about Titans of Finance, a comic book by Josh Neufeld and Rob Walker (a Money contributor) that makes perfect sense.
After all, the CEOs whose exploits are featured including "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap and Revlon's Ron Perelman served as our heroes and villains through the market boom. Wearing utility belts packed with ego, ambition and wads of cash, these characters were at least as colorful as their imaginary counterparts.
Titans, due in bookstores next month, gets a tad preachy at times. But when it sets its satirical sights on people like investment guru Jay Goldinger an outspoken advocate of conservative investing who is accused of running a highly leveraged "fraudulent trade misallocation scheme" the black-and-white morality of comics makes the ideal canvas.
Rob Walker, a New Orleans-based financial writer for Slate.com, has come up with a clever way to make the absurd world of finance more digestible to mainstream audiences. Along with New York illustrator Josh Neufeld, Walker spins harrowing tales of corporate America through his comic book Titans of Finance.
In it, Walker artfully details the tumultuous true-life tales of some of America's most famous and infamous CEOs, including CrossWorlds Software founder Katrina Garnett, "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap and Ronald Perleman, whose cataclysmic takeover of Marvel Comics Inc. is told with all the exhilarating detail of any Superman comic. To order copies of Titans of Finance, which cost $3.50, visit www.indyworld.com.
For the past two years, Walker has also kept a diary of local oddities, titled "Letter from New Orleans," on his Web site, www.robwalker.net. In it, he pens his observations of how to live life in New Orleans.