Monday, April 20, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

I read a letter to the editor highly critical of a cartoon I drew at the end of last year calling it confounding, stale and -- with thanks for providing the letter writer with a new vocabulary word -- execrable.

Now, "execrable" is a word I might very well have used in this blog, but I don't believe I've ever used it in a cartoon, so he must have found it elsewhere in the magazine.

As far as the cartoon in their February issue being stale, that's an occupational hazard for monthly publications, and the editors must have wanted the two-month-old cartoon because it related to a feature article in the same issue.

I can only apologize that I sincerely regret confounding anyone.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

From the Archives: You Can't Win The Mall

Whaddaya know -- it;s Stretchback Saturday again! And instead of featuring some dead and buried cartoonist this week, I'm dusting off a few of my own from my Milwaukee Business Journal days.
My Business Journal cartoons were all (but one) drawn to accompany the paper's lead editorial, so very few of them make any sense whatsoever apart from the editorial. This set of cartoons all accompanied editorials about Milwaukee's shopping malls as they experienced market forces common around the country. The caption for the cartoon above pretty much sums up the point of that week's editorial, to wit: having some empty storefronts in a given mall isn't a cause for panic.

Jim Borgman has noted how much fun it is to come up with fanciful names for the stores in shopping malls, something I've enjoyed, too. When suburban shopping malls popped up all over the place in the 1970's and '80's and drove downtown shops out of business, they burst at the seams with all sorts of bizarre specialty stores.
But that was before the internet came along. The above cartoon, if I remember correctly, illustrated an editorial that lamented that Milwaukee's Grand Avenue Mall, which opened downtown in 1982 with great fanfare as a destination shopping center, no longer had any eateries.

It no longer had these little specialty shoppes, either, actually. You had to pass by several empty stores between the two anchor stores and the occasional resale shop, CD store, and scrunchie outlet.

Things were even worse at Northridge Mall on Milwaukee's North Side; the Time to Panic had come and gone:
Northwest of Milwaukee in Scott Walker's suburban hometown, Wauwatosa, Mayfair Mall was the scene of considerable vandalism in 2002 after its theatre showed a movie that appealed to Black youth; this was followed by rather predictable calls for the theatre not to show movies that attracted such undesirable demographics out from the unfashionably urban, melanin-rich districts of the dreaded Inner City.

Avoiding racist stereotypes on the one hand and offending a local business on the other in the cartoon to accompany that editorial was a challenge, but I came up with something I enjoyed drawing.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Q Toon: The Brainwasher Brigade

As promised, today's cartoon marks the return of someone I haven't drawn in a long time. The current President of the United States hasn't shown up in one of my cartoons since way back in March of 2013 (and then, in a crowd -- see at right).

That I would go nearly two full years without cartooning President Obama only seems weird until one realizes that I draw mostly about people whom I am criticizing, and I tend to agree with Mr. Obama more often than not.

The occasion for this week's cartoon is the White House's response to an on-line petition to ban "conversion therapy," especially when it is imposed upon gay, lesbian and transgender youth by pressure from their parents, guardians, or clergy.
When assessing the validity of conversion therapy, or other practices that seek to change an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation, it is as imperative to seek guidance from certified medical experts. The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm.
As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Apr 16, 2015
Credit for the White House response actually belongs to Valerie Jarrett, by the way. But I've gone this long without drawing any cartoons about Valerie Jarrett, and I'll probably make it through the rest of the Obama administration assuming that anything she puts on the White House blog has the full blessing of her boss.

The humor of the cartoon works better this way, anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trending 150 Years Ago Today

In case you missed it yesterday, here's what was trending across the nation 150 years ago today:
Now let's see if I understand Garry Trudeau's theory of satire correctly...

If a cartoonist for one of these papers drew a "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play" cartoon, that would be punching up against the Powers That Be, and that would be okay. But a cartoon showing John Wilkes Booth making his grand entrance at the Gates of Hell would be punching down at a defeated Victim of History, and you shouldn't do that.
Heck, just settle for Our American Cousin shedding a single tear, then.

Monday, April 13, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


This week's cartoon will feature the return of someone I haven't drawn in quite some time.

Tune in later this week to find out whether I'm punching up or down.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Oliphant on Ford

For Slouchback Saturday today, let's continue the discussion of the process of figuring out how to draw someone for the first time.

There are a lot of sources out there to take you step by step through starting with an oval or a rectangle or a figure 8, dividing the space up, adding ears and hair and voilĂ ! You can caricature passers-by at the fair! So I won't go in that direction.

Instead, here is an example from one of the masters in capturing a difficult face: Pat Oliphant's caricatures of Gerald Ford.

These are actually tracings I did as a kid in ballpoint pen and ink (even the imitation ben-day in a number of them -- well, for those I used a ruler rather than tracing the actual ben-day lines). I drew pages of Oliphant's LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan; I started with Nixon because of the drastic differences that evolved in Oliphant's caricatures of the 37th President. And of Oliphant's signature over Nixon's career.

When Nixon tapped Ford for the Vice Presidency after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, editorial cartoonists braced themselves for a challenge. Nixon and Agnew had faces that easily lent themselves to caricature (as did LBJ and Hubert Humphrey); many cartoonists were drawing Nixons that were barely humanoid yet instantly recognizable. Ford's face was by contrast, plain and unremarkable.

You can see that Oliphant quickly settled on the chin as the feature of Ford's face to emphasize. After about a year, he exaggerates the entire lower half of the face. Contrast the large one on the top row, drawn as Ford took office as President, with the third one on the middle row. In both, Ford's mien is thoughtful, but the effect is quite different. One trait that is nearly always present in Oliphant's drawings, moreso than in those of any other cartoonist, is that Ford's eyes are shut.

If you're interested in comparing other cartoonists' approaches to Gerald Ford (plus one of Oliphant's not included above), Vancouver cartoonist J.J.McCullough has posted 14 examples here. Which he probably didn't trace with ballpoint pen. See also Oliphant's Presidents: 25 Years of  Caricature.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Q Toon: Proportional Response

Usually, I try not to draw about the same topic two weeks in a row, but some stories just stick to the news like gum to a shoe.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) made news a couple weeks ago when he penned a letter to Iran lecturing them that the U.S. Senate would have to ratify whatever treaty the Obama administration and the European Union worked out with them, broadly hinting that of course, it won't. He was on CNN's Situation Room to discuss his strategy to blitzkrieg Iran into submission when host Wolf Blitzer asked him about the so-called "religious liberty" bill that Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson had sent back to the state legislature after the furor over Indiana's RLPA.

Apparently eager to steer the conversation back to his Iran talking points, Cotton pooh-poohed LGBT concerns about religious liberties legislation:
“I also think it’s important that we have a sense of perspective about our priorities. In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay. ...”
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Apr 9, 2015

Of course, gays' and lesbians' lives and liberties are threatened in many other countries besides Iran -- in some cases at the urging of American activists who purport to be Christians.

I should note here that Cotton did in fact acknowledge that Christians don't have it easy in Iran, either, continuing,
“They’re currently imprisoning an American preacher for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran. We should focus on the most important priorities our country faces right now, and I would say that a nuclear armed Iran, given the threat that it poses to the region and to our interests in the region and American citizens, is the most important thing that we’d be focused on.”
Cotton was not, however, suggesting that the plight of that American preacher (or, indeed, of the 150 Christian students slaughtered at Garissa University College in Kenya -- or the 14 killed in the Lahore, Pakistan, church bombing; or the 21 Copts beheaded in Libya;  or in Nigeria; or in Syria... ) was comparable to the gross human rights tragedy of having to play piano for a gay wedding.