Of course, no one has a patent on the grotesque. As naturally as cartoonists like Valley and Gropper can apply it to the absurdities and banalities of American Jewish politics, female cartoonists like Aline Kominsky-Crumb could use it to reflect the abjectness ascribed to women in our patriarchal culture (in “Goldie: A Neurotic Woman” from the 1972 debut issue of Wimmen’s Comix, one typical panel has the title character puking into a toilet, thinking, “God I feel like shit”.) And, however upsetting it is, it’s necessary to note that US humor magazines like Puck and Judge employed a similarly grotesque style to dehumanize Jews, Black Americans, and other minorities in the 1880s and 1890s. These images visually instantiated white supremacist beliefs at the origin point of American comics and spun out images that continue to be circulated today.
Valley understands the seriousness of representing people this way, and he chooses his targets carefully. His indelible and monstrous caricatures can’t make up for the horrors and injustices caused by their targets, but at least they attempt, with their graphic intricacy, to hold people accountable. That’s why I’m always grateful when Valley shares a new comic on Twitter: Few other contemporary artists have devoted themselves quite so boldly to the idea that the people who say and do hateful things should look exactly as disgusting as their words and actions.