Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Week's Toon: Start Spreading the News



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jun 29, 2011

Good news is always hard to draw a cartoon about. Someone slipping on a banana peel on the sidewalk is funny. Someone finding a dollar on the sidewalk is not.

Such was the case with this week's cartoon, following the late-night passage of marriage equality in the state of New York. The obvious cartoon ideas were quickly taken by non-cartoonists: parade goers at New York City's gay pride parade sang all the New York songs, and numerous Facebook users changed their profile picture to the iconic "I (heart) NY" graphic.

So naturally, I was thrilled to come up with an idea well into Sunday evening that would require drawing a big crowd with a cityscape in the background. (As an added challenge, I had mislaid my smooth finish bristol board and had to use some vellum finish board I had once bought by mistake; vellum finish is fine for pencil and charcoal, but not the best surface for quill pen and ink.)

Drawing people is fun, although making them all look like they belong in the same picture can be a challenge -- especially if they're hoisting someone on their shoulders, walking arm in arm, etc. Drawing buildings, however, is flat-out boring. You have to draw lots and lots of identical windows (in perspective), straight lines, flat shading, and maybe even some molding, but not include so much detail that it all overwhelms the foreground.

It shows that it was after midnight when I finished inking all those people and turned my attention to the background. I finally put my pen down around 1:00 a.m., then went to bed and slept like crap for the next five hours, and spent the next day working very hard at not being mean and crabby to people. (I've suffered for my craft; now it's your turn.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek



Well, there goes what little modicum of suspense there ever was over what this week's cartoon might possibly be about.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This Week's Toon: On the Internet



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jun 22, 2011

While I was busy drawing last week's Weiner cartoon, the blogosphere was rocked by successive revelations that a Syrian lesbian blogger was actually a married American guy, and so was the lesbian blogger that outed him/her. "Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari," posting under the nom de blog "Gay Girl In Damascus" was unmasked as 40-year-old Georgian Tom MacMaster after questions arose whether Amina could possibly exist. One of the blogs to unmask MacMaster was "Lez Get Real," started in 2008 by "Paula Brooks"; and when news media came to Brooks for her version of the story, she turned out to be Paula's husband, 58-year-old Ohioan Bill Graber.

The whole thing became the stuff of Shakespearean farce.

In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.

This week's cartoon riffs on a famous 1993 Peter Steiner cartoon. I've set it in another popular setting for New Yorker cartoons, the psychiatrist's couch. New Yorker cartoonists have to submit hundreds of cartoons just one of them published, so it's no wonder that they feel a need for psychiatric help.

Other locales you're likely to see in a New Yorker cartoon are the patent office waiting room, a bar, a high rise office, and a courtroom. People share the New Yorker cartooniverse with talking animals, the Grim Reaper, famous works of art, and the occasional dread Gahan Wilson monster.

As far as I know, the cartoon framed on the psychiatrist's wall is not any actual New Yorker cartoon, just a likely one.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wisconsin toon: Voter fraud & the GOP


After state Attorney General (and chair of John McCain's Wisconsin campaign in 2008) J.B. van Hollen searched tirelessly for examples of the voter fraud his fellow Republicans keep assuring us is running rampant in Wisconsin, he managed to unearth scores of cases. Well, not scores, exactly. More like exactly one score.

From Rick Ungar's The Policy Page for Forbes.com:
"A study of the 2008 election conducted by the Wisconsin Justice Department has turned up just two instances of people 'double' voting, six people who engaged in voter registration shenanigans and 11 ex-cons who violated the prohibition on felons voting.

"In fact, there has been a sum total of 20 people charged with some form of voter fraud out of the millions of Wisconsin residents who voted in the 2008 election. And over half of them are already on voter denial lists as they are convicted felons."

Since the 2010 election produced a Republican monopoly on power in all branches of state government, Republicans had no problem cranking out a Voter ID bill this year requiring voters to produce a photo ID: a driver's license, a passport, a military ID, a tribal identification or a student ID, provided that the student ID shows an expiration date -- meaning that the University of Wisconsin (for one large example) would have to redo all their student IDs, at a cost of $1.1 million. And if Grandma doesn't have any of the above, she can schlep on down to the Department of Motor Vehicles to spend the day getting a $28 voter ID card.

And you thought that Poll Taxes were a thing of the past.

As Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison) pointed out,
"Republicans know that their days of complete control over Wisconsin’s government are numbered, so they are rushing frantically to game the system to keep power,” Roys said. “They know that according to a 2005 study by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, about 180,000 Wisconsinites (23 percent) aged 65 and older do not have a state-issued ID, and about half of African-Americans and Latinos/Latinas lack a valid driver’s license – compared with 17 percent of white Wisconsinites."

The voter suppression law was originally set to go into effect in time for the 2012 elections, but with six Republican state senators threatened with recall elections this summer, the timetable was moved up to Right Away. Meanwhile, since those same Republicans were busy trying to jam the Republican agenda down our throats, they couldn't devote their full attention to defending themselves in the recall elections.

So the party recruited Republican volunteers to run against the Democratic challengers in Democratic primaries.

"Stephan Thompson, executive director of the state party, issued a statement justifying the practice because Republican senators have been too busy in Madison to prepare for the recall elections. 'The Republican Party of Wisconsin has advocated that protest candidates run in Democratic primaries to ensure that Republican legislators have ample time to communicate with voters throughout their districts after the state budget is approved.'"

Naturally, since those Democratic primaries will be the only races on the July 12 ballot, nobody seriously expects that only Democratic voters will be deciding who the Democratic nominees will be. And since the Republican party has disenfranchised so many members of the Democratic base, it shouldn't require quite as many Republican crossover voters to make the recall elections moot before they happen.

If only there were some Republican party primary which Democrats could cross over and mess up next year...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This Week's Toon: That Wascally Weiner



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jun 15, 2011

Well, after all that talk last week about not jumping on the Weiner cartoon bandwagon, here I go anyway.

My syndicate editor responded in a strongly worded e-mail to my cartoon proposal by saying that it is the attacks on Anthony Weiner that are shameful. Perhaps this cartoon's protagonist (who is supposed to be another patient at the Picklethorp Institute, in case that isn't clear) isn't far off the mark for most gays' response to l'Affaire Weiner. Gay people nowadays tend to be more open about their sexuality than the purveyors of straight mores, which is, after all, what National Coming Out Day (October 11) and Gay Pride Month (you're soaking in it!) are all about.

I was a little surprised by the force of my editor's response, however, since she is a lesbian, and presumably even less impressed by photos of Weiner tenting his boxer shorts than the straight gals to whom the Congressman was tweeting them. By the way, I thought Kristen Schaal's Daily Show observation that women do not share men's fascination with what penises look like was spot on. Could it be that homophobia is a by-product of straight men's realization that what they always thought to be their best come-on approaches probably appeal more to gay men than to straight women?

So, this week's cartoon carries that thought a little further.

Now that I've drawn it, I'm glad I've got that Weiner business out of my system. It wasn't so bad after all. I only regret that I didn't populate the background with Schwarzenegger, Edwards, Vitter, Ensign, Woods, and the rest of the lot.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Weiners in Cartoons

Yesterday, I discussed how a story like Anthony Weiner's boxer tweet spawns many very similar cartoons. It also inspires cartoon ideas that no responsible newspaper will ever print.

I guarantee you will not see this cartoon by Sandy Huffaker in your local newspaper:


Sandy Huffaker
caglecartoons.com
Jun 8, 2011

American editors are ever so careful these days not to offend. They're not so worried about the blue-haired ladies who might cancel their subscriptions in a huff as they are about advertisers who will cancel their advertising for fear of the wrath of Blue-Haired Americans for Decency Dot Org.

Editors in Europe are less prudish than their American counterparts. Here's a cartoon by Giorgio Forattini. The subject of the cartoon is Italian Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini, who was about to succeed himself as head of a second coalition government:

Editors, advertisers, and cable TV newspersonalities would be shocked, shocked, I tell you, to see that cartoon on the editorial page of an American newspaper. Would you believe that the cartoon ran on the front page of a prominent newspaper?
(front page of La Stampa, Turin, August 17, 1982.)

The Denver Post killed a 2000 cartoon by Mike Keefe depicting the state of Florida dangling from Uncle Sam's groin ("Electile Dysfunction"). The St. Petersburg Times spiked a Clay Bennett cartoon in 1994 showing Bill Clinton wearing an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt with the arrow pointing down at his crotch -- and the cartoon didn't even show any portrayal of anything penile. These, and other classics, found the light of day in David Wallis' Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression (2007, W. W. Norton & Company). It's a wonderful read, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Where's My Weiner?

A friend of mine asked me why I drew this week's cartoon about Roger Ailes's bomb-proof glass office instead about Congressman Anthony and his famous Weiner. After all, everybody is doing Wiener jokes this week.

To a significant extent, I thought that the Roger Ailes story, from an article in Rolling Stone, deserved more exposure than it has gotten.

The Weiner story, on the other hand, has gotten so much exposure that it's hard to find some angle that hasn't already been bludgeoned to death by cartoonists for daily papers. This is one of those stories where the cartoon practically draws itself -- which means that several cartoonists let it do just that. I've seen seven or eight cartoons of the congressman singing some parody of the Oscar Mayer Wiener song, for starters. "I can't say with certitude" is the punch line of a handful of others, and, of course, In more cartoons than one can legally shake a stick at, Weiner appears in his undershorts, flashing passers-by, and in the company of the crowded field of other male politicians who have been caught in sexual shenanigans.

Daryl Cagle calls this phenomenon a "Yahtzee" whenever it happens, and it happens a lot. Take the recent World Health Organization report that cell phones might contribute to cancer risk. That spawned several cartoons in showing Death (that hooded figure with a scythe) on a cell phone saying "Can you hear me now?" The other common approach was to draw someone talking or texting on a cell phone about the WHO report while driving, immediately prior to a car accident. As Editorial Explanations noticed, these cartoons were alike right down to the color of the car. (I have to wonder if the driver in the John Cole cartoon is receiving the text message sent by the driver in the Gary Markstein cartoon.)

We cartoonists also have to compete with the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and all the other late-night hosts, whose teams of writers can snap up all the easy jokes and have them broadcast before our ink is dry. I've rejected several cartoon ideas because one sounds like something Saturday Night Live would do, or another is bound to be on a graphic over John Stewart's shoulder.

Those graphics over John Stewart's shoulder really get me, sometimes. Why oh why can't they just settle on one over-the-shoulder joke? Why do they persist on some of the best stories in showing one joke after another there? At least David Letterman has the decency to pace himself, even telling the same joke night after night for months on end.

So, anyway, my apologies for disappointing all those readers who were relishing the prospect of another Weiner cartoon. I'll catch up on the Weiner jokes later.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

This Week's Toon: Security Measures



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jun 8, 2011

There is an old saying that any two separate items constitute an editorial cartoon.

This week, I try for three.

Monday, June 6, 2011

This Week's Sneak Peek

I guess this week's cartoon has nothing to do with New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

But if it did, it would probably be captioned "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dick."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Week's Toon: Pride Fest Time



Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Jun 2, 2011

It's June, which means it's time to crank out a cartoon about LGBT Pride. It's the month for Pride festivals in many areas of the country, where lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, questionings, inbetweeners, and fetishists of every stripe show off what flaunting one's sexuality really looks like.

We have families, too, and our festivals reflect that as well. The kids' area of Milwaukee Pridefest seems to feature incredibly earnest folk guitar singers for the most part, entertaining a few tween-to-teenagers. The older kids hang out by the lake, the same as the older kids at all the other Summerfest grounds festivals (who are just as embarrassed to be seen with their parents).