Saturday, October 31, 2015

Spooky Toons

Welcome to a special Halloween edition of Spookback Saturday! My cartoon this week was about an actual Halloween costume, but usually, we cartoonists mine this holiday for metaphors we can apply to whatever political story is in the headlines.

And I'm no exception. The charge that one's political opponent was attempting to scare seniors on the issue of social security was ready-made for a Halloween cartoon -- this one featuring the candidates for Wisconsin's 1st congressional seat in 1996 (Republican Mark Neumann and Democrat Lydia Spottswood).

Halloween and elections are made for each other. You can illustrate a charge that Candidate A is a Republican or Democrat in name only, for example, by having a donkey trick-or-treating in an elephant mask or vice versa. Just having kids dressed as political candidates and declaring that to be the scariest costume ever is overdone, I think -- I've seen way too many of such cartoons this season -- so the challenge is to find some way to turn that idea on its head.
I tried doing that in 2006 by portraying right-wingers attempting to be the very opposite of scary as they bemoaned Republicans' dismal chances in off-year elections. Fortunately, they did not succeed in convincing Democrats to stay home on Election Day that year.

Jumping ahead to 2013, these two persistent trick-or-treaters weren't being scary; but they were going to be disappointed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on the issue of marriage equality.

Another use for Halloween imagery is when there is some issue that "just won't die," as in this 1986 cartoon for the NorthCountry Journal about a dam on the Kickapoo River, started in the 1960's; the Army Corps of Engineers ended up leaving the gates open, however, yielding to environmental concerns. A Democrat running for Wisconsin State Assembly in 1986 wanted the project completed.
This cartoon actually ran in the November issue, so I had to frame it from the vantage point of being after Halloween.

A big problem with Halloween is that it is so prone to cliché. Do you think taxes, prices, or the rent is too damn high? Vampire cartoon! Do you think somebody doesn't realize how hopeless they are? Great Pumpkin cartoon! Do you think Tea Partisans are mindlessly reckless and bent on destruction? Zombie (or Frankenstein) cartoon! Do you hate Hillary Clinton? Witch cartoon!

I can't be sure whether this 1900 R. C. Bowman cartoon was drawn for Halloween, but it illustrates how old these spooky ideas are. There is very little new material without having to dig very deep (oh, about six feet) to find anything original on which to hang a cartoon.

The most famous Halloween editorial cartoon of all time was drawn in 1936 by J. "Ding" Darling, showing Harry Hopkins, James Farley and Franklin Roosevelt running off with a family's outhouse, labeled "Private Rights," with an alarmed John Q. Public peering out from inside. Darling hadn't actually meant the cartoon for publication, and his editor at the Des Moines Register thought it was in bad taste; but the wife of his syndicate publisher reportedly told the New York Herald Tribune editors, "If you don't publish it, I'll put it on the woman's page!"
If you're going to swipe an old cartoon idea from someone else, at least give them the credit for it.





Thursday, October 29, 2015

Q Toon: Costume Drama

One of  2015's crop of topical Hallowe'en costumes has drawn the ire of the transgendered community: for $29.95, you can dress up like Caitlyn Jenner's "Call Me Caitlyn" Vanity Fair cover.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
Oct 29, 2015
Spirit Halloween sells a costume consisting of a corset similar to the one Jenner wore on the magazine cover, plus a reddish wig; a version sold at Wholesale Halloween Costumes adds a sash with the words "Call Me Caitlyn" on it.

An on-line petition started in August demanded that Spirit Halloween withdraw the Jenner outfit.
"[I]f you follow through with production of a Caitlyn Jenner costume, cisgender people will purchase it to make fun of her and our community. At a time when trans women and GNC folx, especially black trans women, are being murdered at such a high rate, and homelessness, unemployment, and inaccessbility to healthcare run rampant in our community, making fun of one or all of us is utterly insensitive and deplorable."
(That word "folx" is a new one on me -- I'm familiar with the attempts to castrate words that contain the letters "man" or "men" in them, but I had no idea that "folks" was somehow trans/gyno/homo/whatever-phobic. I'll have to look that up.)

Spirit Halloween spokesperson Lisa Barr told CNN: "At Spirit Halloween we create a wide range of costumes that are often based on celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes. Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and our Caitlyn-inspired costume reflects just that."

CNN offers some suggestions for Halloween costumes "you can get away with," although I'd caution white cisgender guys to be careful about dressing up as their #1 suggestion, Cookie from Empire.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sometimes a Sausage is Just a Sausage

The current fuss over whether smoked meats are bad for you is nothing new. Walt Kelly noted the concern in 1955:
from Pogo Peek-a-Book,"The Man from Suffern on the Steppes"

Monday, October 26, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek


Someday, I'm going to draw a cartoon in which the jock with the split-level hair and ripped t-shirt is intelligent and insightful.

But probably not this week.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The PostWar World: Back to the Future

With Back to the Future now set entirely in the past, Skateback Saturday returns once more to A Bird's-Eye View of the Postwar World, (Consolidated Book Publishers, 153 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago 1, Illinois. And no, I don't know whatever became of Chicago 2. But that's what it says on the front cover.)
Click on image to enlarge.
I'm posting some text-intensive stuff today, starting with the above riff on the postwar kitchen from none other than Gracie Allen (George Burns's better half, for those of you too young to remember, but old enough to know who George Burns was. For you millennials, she portrayed a ditsy female whose innocent misunderstanding of the world around her delighted radio and TV audiences in the 1940's and 50's. This piece doesn't really show off her style, which required having George there as the straight man).

Gracie's home planner was definitely overoptimistic about an antless future, but Gracie was not alone in her opinion of orange decor. The color I associate with a 1950's kitchen is white, which I assume looked better than orange on a black-and-white TV. Ugly colors came roaring back about the same time as color televisions came into general usage; avocado was inexplicably popular.

This next one, imagining the changes to be faced by the man of the house, takes up two pages. I had to look up who H. I. Phillips was; imdb.com reports that he was a Broadway composer and sketch writer who contributed to such memorable revues as "Life Begins at 8:40" (1935) and "Ziegfeld Follies of 1934" (1934).

Whether Phillips was writing for radio by 1944, or Colliers, I have no idea. There's nothing in his imdb.com credits after the mid-1930's.

At any rate, even though he failed to foresee gas supplanting coal and oil as the heating source for the majority of American homes -- and perhaps the toaster-sized furnace is yet to come -- it's kind of fun to see how some anonymous artist pictured the domicile of the 1950's.

Marty McFly would have felt right at home.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Q Toon: Office Space Cadet

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Oct 22, 2015
Campaigning at Drake University last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was asked whether it was right for someone to be fired from their job because he/she is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. Paul responded by lamenting that LGBT people these days have the audacity to be open and honest about their families and relationships:
“I think, really, the things you do in your house, just leave those in your house and they wouldn’t have to be a part of the workplace, to tell you the truth.”
Given the extent to which today's employers think they have a right to know everything about every job applicant and employee (and certainly Mr. LibertariAyn Rand Paul wouldn't want to prohibit employers from requiring you to give them the password to your Facebook account), Paul certainly hasn't given any thought to what it would take to "leave those in your house."

Face it, Senator, LGBT citizens just want the same rights every other American has to surrender their privacy.

Paul has since attempted to walk back his comments by saying that, sure, it's wrong to fire someone for being LGBT, but it's even wronger for the fired person to take the ex-employer to court, and wrongest for the federal government to protect LGBT rights in the first place. He thinks these things ought to be left to state legislatures -- where some people want your boss to be able to require you to friend him on social media.

If Paul still sees nothing wrong with that, all I have to say is: Ophthalmologist, heal thyself!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Great News for Cubs Fans

...as well as for fans of Queen Diana, cholesterol, and the Jaws film franchise.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The True North Strong and Free

Prime Minister-elect Justin Trudeau celebrates his victory
Last night, Canada overwhelmingly elected Liberals to a majority in Parliament, and as a result Justin Trudeau (left, natch) will replace ultraConservative Stephen Harper as Prime Minister.

South of the 49th parallel, we can only envy Canadians for taking care of their election in a mere 78 days, though they thought even that to be a ghastly long time.

We can also be jealous that they will have a leader who is cover boy material. I dare say that none of the current crop of presidential contenders ought to consider appearing in public without a shirt. (Well, perhaps Jim Webb could still rock that look. Maybe Marco Rubio.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

There are only a select few politicians and celebrities who are recognizable from the back in cartoon. Richard Nixon flashing his V signs was one; various people with prominent ears also come to mind.

The question for this Monday is whether the politician in this week's sneak peek is one of them.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

October, 1985

It's Smackback Saturday again, and for this week's trip in the wayback machine, I've hauled up a couple of my cartoons from an October 30 years ago.

So there's no theme here, really. Back in the 1980's, one of the papers I drew for was the NorthCountry Journal, a monthly newspaper out of Poynette, Wisconsin, focused on environmental issues. Every month, the editor would send me the topic of the next issue's editorial, and I'd draw something to match.

Acid rain, not climate change, was the chief environmental concern of the era. Acidity caused by such things as burning waste products and fossil fuels, was raising the pH levels of streams and lakes, although industry and others which relied on burning stuff resisted calls for change.

The cartoon riffs on a slogan in a long-running TV ad about a masochistic tuna fish. The problem, of course, is that there are not now, nor have there ever been, tuna in Wisconsin's lakes and streams.

The cartoons for the NorthCountry Journal had to be send through the U.S. Mail, so I drew them on 8.5"x11" typing paper. In 1985, the ones I drew for the local UW-Parkside Ranger, on the other hand, are on 14"x17" bristol board, and don't quite fit on my scanner.

Like this Spaghetti Western themed cartoon, drawn after the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, a Mediterranean cruise ship seized by the Palestinian Liberation Army on October 7, 1985. The hijackers had shot and killed one Jewish American, wheelchair-bound retiree Leon Klinghoffer, forcing two of the ship's crew to dump his body overboard. They later agreed with Egyptian negotiators to give up the ship in exchange for safe passage to Tunisia, but the Egyptian plane carrying them was intercepted by the U.S. Navy and forced to land at a NATO air base in Sicily.

Italian Carabinieri arrested the hijackers after friction between American and Italian authorities over which country had jurisdiction over Air Station Sigonella. Italy released all but four of the terrorists, releasing the hijackers' leader, Muhammad Zaidan, a.k.a. Abu Abbas, over U.S. protests. Egypt, for its part, demanded that the U.S. apologize for forcing its airplane off course. Zaidan/Abbas remained a free man until U.S. forces captured him in Iraq in 2003, where he died in custody.

I've already posted a cartoon or two from October, 1985, in previous fits of nostalgia, so I'll wrap up with this one on a topic that never goes out of style. 1985 was when Tipper Gore founded the Parents' Music Resource Center and pushed for those explicit lyrics warnings that used to be pasted onto the covers of music, back when music didn't come to you by downloading it off the internet (which, as you know, was invented by her then husband, Tennessee Senator Al, Jr., which must have figured in their divorce some way or another).

"Why can't they be like we were: perfect in every way? What's the matter with kids today?" -- Bye Bye Birdie, 1963


Friday, October 16, 2015

Feel the Bern

Presenting the fourth of my caricatures of 2016 presidential candidates: Independent Socialist Democrat Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
People who viewed the first Kennedy-Nixon debate on television came away thinking that the youthful Jack Kennedy won the debate, while those who listened to it on radio thought that pasty, sweaty Richard Nixon won it. Likewise, people who saw this week's Democratic presidential debate on CNN thought that Sanders won the contest, while those who relied on Washington beltway pundits thought the winner was Hillary Clinton.

People who listened on radio thought it was a tie between Lincoln Chafee's father and the guy who shot Jim Webb.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Q Toon for LGBT History Month

When it came time to draw this week's Q Syndicate cartoon over the weekend, I just couldn't get enthused by any of the stories then in the news. Instead, I'm observing LGBT History Month and reaching back a little bit further in time.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Oct 15, 2015

So John had to settle for a fling with William Rufus King instead.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Will They or Won't They

The 2012 Republican and Democratic nominees for Vice President are currently being pushed to declare their candidacies for Speaker of the House and President, respectively. So, what the heck, let's pull a cartoon of the two of them out of the old portfolio and imagine spending four years of having them face off again.
What the hey -- they're kind of fun to draw. Count me in favor of it, then.

Monday, October 12, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

The calendar is jam-packed today: It's Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida Day and Children's Day in Brazil; Thanksgiving in Canada; Independence Day in Equatorial Guinea; and Health and Sports Day in Japan.

Here in the U.S., you can celebrate Columbus Day if you're Italian-American or in the capital of Ohio, or you can celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day if you're in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Portland, Oregon; Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota; and Seattle and Olympia, Washington.

Or you can celebrate Thank Our Lady of Indigenous Italian Independent Children's Sports Day and piss everybody off.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

National Coming Out Day

This week's Spitback Saturday feature celebrates National Coming Out Day, which comes around every October 11. The day was created in 1988 to mark the anniversary of the second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights the previous year. It is meant, akin to making resolutions on the New Year, to provide that extra impetus to stop putting off coming "out of the closet" to one's family, friends, co-workers, or the world, as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. As more people have been made aware of their friends and loved ones who are LGBT, acceptance of what was once a castigated, persecuted minority has grown tremendously.


You might think that as a gay political cartoonist, I'd have drawn something for NCOD every October, in which case you'd be wrong. Congress is back from vacation, elections are just around the corner, the Supreme Court is announcing the cases it will take up for the session, and people are taking note of new television shows.

Tying NCOD in to current events usually turns out awkwardly, as with this 2001 effort:

This cartoon was drawn in September for October release, and if you remember the mood of the country at the time, many of us weren't sure we had permission to be funny yet. Nobody knew whether there would be another big terrorist attack, we were going to war in Afghanistan, and someone was mailing anthrax to NBC News and Democrats in Congress. I never particularly liked this cartoon; it just wasn't the right time for LGBT activists to push our issues. Nor was it the right time for homophobes to push theirs, so I quickly went back to criticizing them for trying.

Attempts like that cartoon to strike a serious note turn maudlin over time, and since that's not the mood I'd like to end this blog entry with, I'm going to skip ahead several years to a totally different approach to National Coming Out Day from 2010:

So have a very merry National Coming Out Day, all you last-minute shoppers! God bless us, every one.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Q Toon: Kim's Private Audience

While I was busy at my drawing board with last week's National Coming Out Day cartoon, a story leaked out that was a gay editorial cartoonist's dream topic. So, with apologies to editors of weeklies who would rather have seen this week's cartoon last week and vice versa:
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Oct 8, 2015

Liberals who have felt that Pope Francis was one of their own were dismayed when rumors began to emerge that Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis had taken time away from obstructing the duties of her office for a "private audience" with Pope Francis during his visit to the U.S. Could it be that this Pope, with all his talk of climate change, economic justice, and "Who am I to judge?" is but a cafeteria liberal?

First reports made it seem that Kim and Francis had met as the leaders of Roman Catholicism and American Apostolicism for intense discussions of strategic policy. We now know, of course, that Kim Davis's private meeting with Pope Francis was only private insofar as it was conducted indoors without a live broadcast feed. She met with the Pope along with a couple dozen other people who each had enough time to exchange "Hello, I'm so glad to meet you" greetings, arranged by some Vatican functionary in charge of deciding who the Pope gets to shake hands with.

We also know that Pope Francis did meet privately with a gay couple, half of whom was a student of his back home in Argentina -- a meeting which someone hastened to publicize after Davis started advertising her meeting of him. (And presumably, that someone was someone other than the functionary who invited Davis to that subsequent meet-and-greet.)

In the end, Kim Davis would probably have been better off wrangling an invitation to sit down with Robert Mugabe.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

This graph showed up on a friend's Facebook page after the Umpqua Community College shooting:

I can't tell you how relieved I am to learn that mass shootings are not a problem! So President Obama has had to find something to say to the nation about fifteen mass shootings during his presidency, and residents of our inner cities aren't safe from stray bullets from the street piercing their walls and children -- it's not as if murder is overtaking old age as a major cause of deaths in this country.

Although, perhaps, if gun murderers get on the ball and boost their numbers up to rival All Cancers Put Together, the murder rate will start to eat into the NRA's profit margin enough that even Jeb! Bush will begin to show some concern.

(Meanwhile, here are some statistics from The Guardian that won't fit in this blog post.)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Another Day in America

This week's Stepback Saturday is sparked by yet another episode of America's Well-Regulated Militia run amok.

I could start this review of my old cartoons of previous gun murders anywhere, but I'm going to start with this one from March, 1996.
The National Rifle Association and its stooges in all levels of government often respond to any call for gun control with the tiresome and disingenuous trope that if we'd only just enforce the gun control laws that we already have, yadda, yadda, yadda. What action they have taken, however, is to repeal as many of those already existing laws as they can, and to defund enforcement of the laws that remain.

In April, 1999, two well-regulated militia high school students tucked an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons under their trench coats and put Columbine High School on the map.

Mass shootings at the workplace were already old hat by this time. If a sentence includes the word "disgruntled," you can be sure that it also includes a body count.

Numbers of casualties alone should not be the only thing that shocks us. This cartoon from March, 2000 was occasioned by the shooting of a very young girl by a very young boy. I forget whether the lad knew he had a real, loaded gun or not. If this had been the only time such a tragedy had ever happened, I'm sure that you and I would both remember the details.

When I first decided upon the theme of this blog entry, I thought I might only have a few cartoons to choose from, since most of the cartoons I've drawn in the current millennium have been for the Milwaukee Business Journal and the gay press, and gun violence isn't a prominent issue for either of them. Since the Beej no longer wanted my cartoons by the time a neo-Nazi shot up the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek in 2012, I drew no cartoons on gun violence for them; but it turns out that I've drawn too many cartoons for Q Syndicate about gun fatalities to include all of them today.

The inspiration behind this cartoon was a widely published photo of a middle school student who was shot at his school; in the photo, he had a caterpillar in his hand.  If a fellow student had not decided that bringing a gun to school and shooting a classmate in the back of the head was the most appropriate response to unwanted advances, Lawrence King would be 22 now.

My intention was not to include the names of the gunmen in these incidents, but I can't avoid it in the case of a drifter who claimed that a lifetime of teasing over his last name was the reason that he sought out a crowded Roanoke, Virginia gay bar and started shooting.
I bring up this particular case in part because of the coincidence that a shooting 15 years later in Roanoke, on live television, seems to have inspired the Umpqua Community College shooter to aspire to the same sort of lasting infamy. Yet, unless you have some close connection to the Roanoke gay community, I'll bet you had totally forgotten all about Mr. Gay.

There was no LGBT connection to the mass shooting at the Aurora, Colorado movie theatre...
...at least not for most of us. But some people are determined that guns have nothing to do with gun violence, and will blame anything, anything, ANYTHING else.

And the beat goes on.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Q Toon: Savings in the Costumes Budget

Occasionally, I like to draw something for National Coming Out Day, which is October 11. I haven't done an NCOD cartoon every year, because it's hard to avoid clichés after a while. But every so often, there's something new in the culture that seems like a good fit for the topic.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
∇Oct 1, 2015

It's also an excuse this time around to draw some beefcake.

Every cartoon has to be set somewhere (unless there is so much dialogue that there is no room for background). I could have drawn these two at breakfast, or at a bar, or at work, on the subway, or bungee jumping off the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, and the basic idea of the cartoon would not have been greatly changed.

There used to be a cartoon strip in one of the local LGBT papers in which the characters were frequently at the beach, no matter what the topic of the week might be. I often got the impression that the cartoonist had a bunch of already-drawn strips of Guys In Speedos waiting for him to add dialogue once he had a humorous gag to add to one of them.

Some of this cartoonist's later strips appeared to have been drawn on napkins with felt tip pen, which suggested that either he was doodling at a bar somewhere, or that his strip really was not paying for itself.