Ray Nagin Satirized in Coloring Book

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin talks to a reporter after holding a news conference, Friday, Sept. 1, 2006, in New York, to launch the New Orleans Rebirth Economic Development Tour.
AP Photo/Diane Bondareff
New Orleans' controversial mayor is now officially a character.

The scathingly satirical Ray Nagin Coloring Book pairs the mayor's at-times baffling comments with illustrations that creator Karen Ocker hopes will do more than make people chuckle. "I hope people think carefully about the last eight years," she said, "and what they want for the future of the city."

The 24-page work touches on a swath of controversies, especially post-Hurricane Katrina. Its cover, with a chocolate milk drink, recalls Nagin's declaration that post-Katrina New Orleans would be a "chocolate" city. His plea to federal officials after the 2005 storm, to help fix "the biggest g-damn crisis in the history of this country," is juxtaposed with a drawing of a brass band and the date of winter elections and Nagin's exit from office next year. Term limits prevent him from running again.

Crime scene images accompany his statement that violent crime "keeps the New Orleans brand out there," to help keep the city's struggling recovery in the nation's mindset.

"I think people are fatigued, they're sick of hearing about problems at City Hall," said Ocker, a former New Yorker who moved to New Orleans in 2002. She said she supported Nagin's 2006 re-election but later became disillusioned with him. She illustrated a similarly satirical 2004 book about former President George W. Bush. "My hope is that people, through laughter, will pay attention to politics more," she said.

A Nagin spokeswoman didn't respond to whether the mayor had seen Ocker's book. Nagin has brushed off past criticisms. "I think when the dust settles and people look at the entire picture of what we've been able to do over the past eight years, especially after Katrina, I think they'll settle down," he said recently.

Nagin was little-known outside the region when Katrina and the levee breaches left 80 percent of the city under water in August 2005. He instantly became the public face of an angry, suffering, can't-keep-us-down New Orleans.

It was only a matter of time before merchandising began, though the tone has changed, over time, from solidarity to skewering.

Nearly 4,000 Nagin-related T-shirt and gift designs are available at the Web site CafePress.com, a figure that puts Nagin on par with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and indicted former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said Amy Maniatis, spokeswoman for the online marketplace heavy in political memorabilia. While she wouldn't discuss sales figures, Maniatis said Nagin remains a "big seller."

His 2006 chocolate city pronouncement - for which Nagin later apologized - made him a "cultural icon," she said.

At David Gordin's French Quarter specialty shop, key chains that play Nagin quotes have long been reliable sellers. At Britton Trice's bookstore Uptown, Ocker's book has been a big hit.

"It's timely and well needed," he said. Nagin "is an easy person to poke at, and a person who needs poking."

The level of mayoral lampooning is unheard of even in a city not known for restraint, said longtime local political analyst Clancy DuBos. "The man has become a caricature of himself," he said.