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solid writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 3
total score 7
Net Profit
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Only Printing / 1974 / 36 pages / Ecomix for Project Jonah
In 1972, Joan McIntyre began Project Jonah as a non-profit organization to create awareness about the massive decline of worldwide whale populations due to commercial whaling. Based in Bolinas, California (north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge), Project Jonah soon established chapters in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It was one of the first organizations to publicize endangered whales and inspired many others to join the movement (Maris Sidenstecker's "Save the Whales" catchphrase, which evolved into a grass-roots phenomenom, was directly inspired by an article by McIntyre).

Soon after its founding, Project Jonah expanded its objectives to protect all Cetacean marine mammals (dolphins and porpoises in addition to whales), which led to the development of Net Profit. I imagine that McIntyre felt that an underground comic would help Project Jonah connect with their target audience: young adults who are passionate about environmental and world health issues. Net Profit is a mixture of mythical tales of dolphins, a lesson about the life of dolphins that slightly exaggerates their human-like traits, a disturbing story about tuna fishing, and a call to action that includes a tuna boycott.

The comic book is illustrated by Michael Becker and Shelby Sampson, most of it by Becker. His work may lack excitement and innovation, but it is expertly executed and serves the subject matter well. Throughout the book, the writing refers to porpoises, but in every instance the drawings actually portray bottlenose dolphins (just quibbling).

The most compelling story is "How I Became a Horrible Porpoise-Killing Monster," which relies on the accounts of two real-life former tuna fisherman (only "Alix" and "Tom" in the book's credits). The tale follows a young man as he joins the crew of a tuna-fishing boat and witnesses the slaughter of hundreds of dolphins and porpoises who get caught up in tuna-fishing nets. The story does not convey the most harrowing depiction of animal cruelty imaginable, but it is quite nauseating nonetheless.

In the final story of Net Profit, the authors mention the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972; one of the key legislative acts that established natural resource management and wildlife conservation in United States waters. The story claims that the Act was haphazardly enforced and ineffective in curbing the rampant deaths of dolphins by tuna fishermen. And from what I can gather, the authors were right. It was not until the mid '80s that the movement to protect dolphins reached critical mass and led to "dolphin-safe" tuna fishing and production. But in fact, the "dolphin safe" label on some tuna food products does not guarantee dolphin safety during tuna fishing. Newly designed fishing nets helped reduce the kill ratio, but only by as much as 50%. The only truly dolphin-safe tuna products are those made of albacore tuna, which are usually not caught with nets as are smaller tuna.

Net Profit earns a historical bonus in its review score for the semi-documentary format used to deliver its message. It predates all of the Educomics books produced by Leonard Rifas (All-Atomic Comics, et al) and follows shortly after Abortion Eve (November, 1973), which argues for women's choice in the same way that Net Profit argues for wildlife conservation.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.
In the same year that Net Profit was published, Joan McIntyre published Mind in the Waters, a book of articles, essays, and poems about the unrecognized powers inherent to marine mammals. In her book, McIntyre decries the notion that these animals are incapable of feelings, imagination, and consciousness: "It seems that in our craze to justify our exploitation of all non-human life forms we have stripped from them any attributes which could stay our hand.... Try to imagine the imagination of a whale, or the awareness of a dolphin. That we cannot make these leaps of vision is because we are bound to a cultural view which denies their possibility."
Subsequent research indicates that McIntyre was much more right about whales and dolphins than she was wrong. It can be argued that dolphins possess imagination, creativity, self-awareness and even cognitive intelligence (logic, reason, analyzing and prioritizing). For all the movies about a "Planet of the Apes," perhaps we should really consider a "Planet of the Dolphins." Except that dolphins have never displayed the type of fierce aggression and need for dominance inherent to hominids.
Michael J. Becker - 1-27, 36
Shelby Sampson - 28-35