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Who are the super-rich in our society, and how do they have such disproportionate political and cultural influence on our lives? How did they acquire their wealth, and what are their lives like?

The super-rich are often portrayed as self-made, as if their wealth was created entirely by their own efforts. But is this true? In his latest book of graphic analysis, celebrated author Darryl Cunningham examines the evidence, featuring graphic biographies of media baron Rupert Murdoch, oil and gas tycoons Charles and David Koch, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Have these individuals enjoyed advantages, beyond their personal ability and attributes, that have aided their success?

Cunningham makes comparisons with the ‘Gilded Age’ (1870s to 1900), the last period in America in which a few individuals gained colossal wealth. Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and others made fortunes, but also helped
create the modern world of railroads, manufacturing, and finance. What essential elements have the modern equivalents brought us?

Despite the often reported disadvantages brought by the widening gulf between the poorest and the super rich, are such wealthy individuals necessary to finance technological progress? Would we be poorer without them?

Billionaires will be published in November 2019.

Darryl Cunningham is also the author of Supercrash (Myriad, 2014), Graphic Science (Myriad, 2017) and Science Tales (Myriad, 2019).

Morning Star

28 October 2019
Who in their right mind would entertain spending a minute reading about individuals who 99 per cent of humanity should treat with utter contempt? No doubt prompted by the motto "know thine enemy," Darryl Cunningham has. In Billionaires, he homes in on the odious individuals repackaged with a "celeb" veneer and force-fed to the population by a largely dumbed-down mass media to uncover their unscrupulous and often criminal deeds. The Cunningham spotlight focuses on a trio, all US-based, who have ruined - and continue to ruin - the lives of millions as they "globalise" their activities. Rupert Murdoch's gutter-media empire supported Margaret Thatcher in her class war against trade unions and later spoon-fed policy to Tony Blair as he abandoned the working class to its fate. The media mogul is an arch-manipulator, hell-bent on feeding the basest instincts and encouraging all manner of social prejudice - equally lacking in moral standards - Murdoch has found a willing sidekick. The Koch brothers are perhaps lesser known but their vast petro-chemicals empire is the world's single largest polluter. Their family eagerly supported nazi Germany and, for good measure, founded the ultra-reactionary John Birth Society, dedicated to supporting anti-communism and "limited" government. The Kochs father died of a heart attack in 1967 and his sons' spectacular orgy of back-stabbing over the inheritance is like a darkly comical King Lear. Jeff Bezos's Amazon takes the biscuit as a model of relentless and vicious exploitation of workers on zero-hours contracts and Cunningham makes good use of James Bloodworth's Hired, which details his experience of working in an Amazon depot, to disabuse any idea that such places are anything other than glorified labour camps. As a writer and illustrator, Cunningham excels and there's an irresistible symbiosis between the words and the minimalist drawings. The graphic characterisation of these betes noires are beautifully succinct, with the frame composition immaculate and the sparse use of flat colour adding clarity. This is a most timely book, particularly as rebellion against pollution of the environment ought to go hand in hand with the pollution of our minds.

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