Monday, August 21, 2017

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Comic Caper, Holiday Edition

For this Swipeback Saturday wallow down memory lane, I need to explain that when these next episodes of "The Funny Paper Caper" appeared in December and January of 1983-1984, Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" was in the middle of a 22-month hiatus. At the time, it wasn't clear whether the comic strip, having been moved to the editorial page of some newspapers, was going to come back.

Fed up with drawing all those soundproofing dimples in the wall of the interrogation room, I switched to one of Trudeau's tricks and set the next episode outside the building its characters were in. It was the last episode of the year, and ran on a little longer than the previous thirteen had. If you're not in the habit yet, you'll definitely want to Click To Embiggen.

In the new year, it became increasingly clear that I would need to move the plot along in order to complete the story by the end of the school year. Kind of like Davos rushing to fetch Gendry from King's Landing so they could join Jon Snow's Magnificent Seven racing north from Dragonstone to the Wall while, presumably, Daenerys, Cersei and the Dothraki paused to get their hair done.

A purely technical note here: in the Ranger's Christmas gift exchange, news editor Bob Kiesling gave me a Koh-i-noor rapidograph set, which I began using for some of the drawing of this strip in the new year. The technical pens produce a steady, uniform line in india ink, but they clog up and become useless if you're not assiduous about cleaning them. I did find them superior to felt-tip pens for lettering; but sometimes a uniform line is not what you want, so I have never given up on hawk and crow tip pens.

On the topic of moving the plot along, I gotta post some of these midweek, or I'll have to cancel some retrospectives of other people's work I've had planned. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Q Toon: Loaded Response

I settled down in front of my drawing board last weekend after one of those weeks when LGBTQ issues just seemed insignificant relative to all the other news.

The week started with Donald Joffrey Trump responding to North Korean threats of nuclear attacks against the U.S. with overheated "fire and fury" rhetoric of his own. Nuclear war seemed so likely that even Wall Street suddenly snapped out of its giddy response to Trump's lazy faire economic policies.

Then fascists wielding semi-automatic rifles, swastikas, Ku Klux Klan banners and tiki torches marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, where one of their number ran over a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19. Trump blurted out that "many sides, many sides" were responsible, driving the Korea story right off the front page (to the relief of Wall Street).

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Aug 17, 2017

After two days, Trump begrudgingly read a statement assigning blame to the Nazis and Klansmen, but then stunningly revoked that statement at an unhinged press conference the next day. Beggaring credulity, Trump insisted that some participants in the march organized by the website The Daily Stormer, the Neo-Confederate League of the South, the National Policy Institute, and the National Socialist Movement are actually "very fine people." Perhaps those people were only Nazi sympathizers.

Why would Trump leap to the defense of the indefensible?

With his approval ratings down to 33% of the electorate, Trump can't afford to piss off Nazis and the Klan. As the sane, reasonable portion of the minority of voters who elected him slowly develop buyer's remorse, Nazis, Klansmen and their ilk become an evermore significant part of Trump's remaining base.

He is losing support among previously sympathetic corporate and labor leaders. Led by Merck chief executive Ken Frazier,  eight members of Trump's Strategy & Policy Forum and his Manufacturing Council resigned from them over his inability to distinguish a moral difference between his fascist base and anti-fascist protesters; Trump then disbanded the councils before any more businessmen could defect.

At this point, however, not a single member of Trump's Evangelical Council has resigned. They have no problem associating themselves with a Nazi sympathizer sympathizer.

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As long as I've brought up Bathroom Bills, let's pause for a moment to celebrate one gleam in the sh¡tstorm: the Texas legislature adjourned its special session without passing Senate Bill 6. A legislative priority for Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the theocratic right, the Texas Bathroom Bill was opposed by the Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, as well as by the Texas business community and the state's professional sports teams.

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On Monday, I invited you to guess who that was kibitzing over my shoulder in this week's cartoon. For the answer, look through the list of keywords at the end of this post.

And should you wish to share or link directly to this week's cartoon, throw some traffic to the news outlets which run my cartoon. Try here, here, or here.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Comic Caper, Chapter Drei

For this week's Sleuthback Saturday feature, I dredge up the November installments of a comic strip I drew for the UW-Parkside Ranger back in 1983-84. "The Funny Paper Caper" told the story of  the murder investigation of one Rufus T. Pornapple, who was also the victim of an unreported burglary, and romantically linked with more than one comic strip female. As we rejoin the story, the investigation turns to a little lady whose name was McGill, and who called herself Lil, but everyone knew her by another name.


One characteristic of "Nancy" in those days was that cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller avoided use of any and all punctuation, save for the occasional dash or unavoidable question mark. It may have been part of Bushmiller's minimalist approach to cartooning overall. He put nothing in the cartoon that wasn't essential to the gag du jour. I like Wally Wood's observation about the strip that "By the time you decided not to read it, you already had."

This tenth installment, however, requires considerably more commitment.

There's an inside joke in the first panel of strip #11. John Kovalic was a cartoonist colleague at the Ranger that year, drawing a comic strip which appeared just below mine every week. Carson the Muskrat in his current "Dork Tower" is a survivor of his earlier "Wild Life."
As promised earlier this week, Dick Tracy — er, Thelma — has entered the story line. After reading Tuesday's post here, Dave Brousseau reminded me that Dick Locher continued to script Dick Tracy's story line for two years after he stopped drawing the strip in 2009, which I did not explain on Tuesday. He also noted that there was talk on some message boards that perhaps Locher was still drawing some of the strip after 2009. I can't venture an opinion on that; there are signs of Parkinson's impairing his ability to draw in his late editorial cartoons, but comic strips such as Dick Tracy employ support staff (such as Locher himself, early in his career) to polish up, ink, and letter what may only be rudimentary sketches from the person whose name is attached to the cartoon.

You can compare, for example, the rough look of Doonesbury when Garry Trudeau was a student at Yale to its slick production values once the cartoon became a marketing juggernaut a few years later.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Q Toon: Soda Jerk

When I was drawing this cartoon this past Sunday, my chief concern was that before anyone would have a chance to read the cartoon, its subject, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, would become the latest Trump administration official to go down in history as having had the shortest tenure of anyone in his position.

By Tuesday, that concern was replaced by the prospect of nuclear war breaking out first.

I can't help but be distressed by Mr. Sessions's decree that his Justice Department will not defend the civil rights of LGBTQ citizens; but if Messrs. Trump and Kim goad each other into turning millions of human beings into radioactive ash, civil rights for anyone becomes a largely moot point.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Aug 10, 2017

As for this cartoon, however, I made the conscious decision to keep most of the image in black-and-white, since I associate the pre-civil rights era with black-and-white photography. Googling and checking Time and Life coffee table books for images of Woolworth's lunch counters, my results were almost entirely limited to finding photos of sit-ins or empty counters. Several of the latter were color photos of counters now in museums or in long-closed Woolworth stores now converted to other purposes.

In no photo did I find Woolworth employees behind the counter.

Fifty years after the sit-ins, New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer Bill Minor explained why:
"The people working behind the counter at Woolworth's were afraid to serve anybody," Minor says. "They just let them sit there. They wouldn't serve them. That's what they were ordered to do--not serve any blacks."
It may soon be equally difficult to find photos of  Justice Department officials on the job.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dick Locher's Presidents

Dick Locher, a long-time editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, passed away this past Sunday at his home in Naperville, Illinois, at the age of 88. In a career stretching from 1972 to 2013, he won the Pulitzer Prize (1983), Fischetti Award (1987), Overseas Press Club Thomas Nast Award (1982 and 1983) and Sigma Delta Chi Award (1982).
"Shhhh! ... I Think I Hear Someone Coming" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1974
In honor of Mr. Locher, here is a quick sampling of his cartoons of American presidents during his career.
"Bug Spray" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1974
I had wanted to share here a September, 1974 cartoon showing a Chicago road crew filling potholes on the expressway with "marshmallow fluff." It is what I'm referring to with the term "pothole cartoon," meaning an evergreen idea that a cartoonist could leave with an editor for release during the cartoonist's vacation or family emergency. It's a hilarious image that I used to have on my bedroom wall before moving it into a scrapbook. Unfortunately, when I did so, I used rubber cement, which has since seeped through the newsprint, creating dark brown stains that I just can't Photoshop out.
"After All Those Promises You Made" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, February, 1978
Instead of any of Locher's editorial cartoons from the Reagan era, here is an episode of Dick Tracy in which the Gipper makes an appearance. Locher worked as an assistant to Dick Tracy's creator, Chet Gould, from 1957 to 1961, and returned after the death of Rick Fletcher to draw the strip with Max Collins from 1981 to 2009.
"Dick Tracy" by Dick Locher and Max Collins, 1983
Locher's son John also assisted in the drawing of Dick Tracy until the younger Locher's untimely death in 1986 at the age of 25. For the next 30 years, Dick Locher and his wife, Mary, have been at the helm of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists' John Locher Memorial Award for college cartoonists. Eligibility for the award was expanded in 2015 to include graphic journalists and web cartoonists age 17-25.
"But His Lips Aren't Moving" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1990
If you ever find yourself in Naperville, look for the statue of Dick Tracy, down by the river at South Webster Street.
"I'm Here to Arrest Mumbles" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, 1993
Current Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis writes:
"In this world of snapchat vulgarity Dick was that rare breed: a courtly gentleman. When I was lucky enough to be named editorial cartoonist here at the Chicago Tribune one of the very first people to reach out and congratulate me was Dick Locher. I first met Dick years earlier at an Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention. As a wet-behind-the-ears cartoonist I was in awe of this giant of our industry but, like a true gentleman, he put me at ease and we became fast friends. Dick has always been a font of encouragement, advice and good humor."
Read more encomiums of Dick Locher from his fellow cartoonists here. Then look up the word "encomium."
"We're Going to Hand Him His Lunch" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, 2002
Parkinson's disease persuaded Locher to retire from cartooning in 2013. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary; a daughter, Jan Evans; a son, Stephen, a brother, Bob; a sister, Carolyn Holubar; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
"Obama Care" by Dick Locher for Tribune Media Services, 2012
P.S.: Totally by coincidence, I've got more Dick Tracy coming here this Saturday. Do tune in.

Monday, August 7, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

I may be accused
Of being confused,
But I'm average weight for my height.
My philosophy,
Like color TV,
Is all there in black and white.
-- Neil Innes, "Protest Song"

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Comic Caper, Part Dos

Stripback Saturday returns to an old comic strip I drew about a murder mystery in the funny pages. I drew The Funny Paper Caper over the course of the 1983-84 school year for the UW-Parkside Ranger (that's four years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit... but I'm not actively considering suing Disney Corporation at this point in time).

When we left our story, our police lieutenant narrator had begun his investigation of the murder of Rufus T. Pornapple. Having just talked to Mrs. Pornapple, who thought he had arrived to take report of a burglary at their home, our intrepid detective is about to meet the neighbors.
In addition to the occasional picture on the wall of some bit of cartoon history, I mimicked the balloons and printing of the cartoon characters. I somehow failed to incorporate a gargantuan sandwich or a bathtub into this part of the story line, however.
I'm going to need to explain here the inside joke that Strollin Bowlin' was a mascot who appeared in UW-P Ranger advertisements for the campus bowling alley.

Mimicking their cartoonists' lettering, it was so much easier to cram a lot of dialogue into Kathy's balloons than Mr. Dumpstead's.


How the Stephen Millers of the 19th Century Regarded Your Forebears

If I hadn't set the ball rolling on this Comic Caper nostalgia last week, I should probably have taken Trump's announcement of his No-Wretched-Refuse-Allowed immigration bill to present a more scholarly look back at 19th-Century editorial cartoons that warned against allowing your immigrant ancestors into the United States.

It's been done before, however. Here's an example that takes on almost every immigrant nationality, anyway (plus First Nations) (and even Canadians); and consider this your trigger warning that it's rather offensive.
"Please, Ma'am, May We Come In?" by Grant E. Hamilton in  Judge, 1893.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Q Toon: Playing an Uphill Lie

One of my colleagues posted the other day how much he hates drawing grass. There's a lot of grass in this week's cartoon, and all things considered, I'd rather draw grass than (see last week) buildings.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Aug 3, 2017

One thing newspaper editors hate about editorial cartoons is that there's no editing the things once they're drawn. News articles don't get to misstate the facts. Editorial think pieces don't get to distort the truth. If something in the fifth paragraph isn't totally on the up and up, it can be edited out, clarified, or corrected.

Editorial cartoons, on the other hand, constantly misstate and distort, albeit in the interest of getting at a greater truth. I readily admit that I had to do some of that this week. If I had wanted to be a stickler for just the facts, ma'am, the cartoon would be almost all text with a couple tiny little characters tucked into the corner.

You see, it's nearly impossible to come down with a dollars-and-cents figure for either the medical costs of transgender service members or Donald Joffrey Trump's golf trips — last Friday's chart notwithstanding.

Let's start with the medical costs.
[A 2016 RAND Corporation] report says gender transition-related health care—not just surgeries, but also ongoing care such as hormone treatment—sets the US military back between $2.4 and $8.4 million per year. That’s between 0.04% and 0.13% of its total medical budget.
As small a percentage of the Pentagon medical budget as that may be, most of us would consider the difference between $2.4 and $8.4 million huge. It's especially huge if you want to compare it to the cost of one presidential golfing trip. We don't know the cost of that either; the best estimate anyone has been able to come up with is based upon a golf trip President Obama had taken to Florida's Treasure Coast in 2013. With transportation, lodging, advance teams, security and whatnot, Obama's trip cost the federal government $3.6 million.

That's 150% of $2.4 million, but only 42% of $8.4 million. Politifact, moreover, rates using the $3.6 million figure as the cost of any Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago as only "half true," due to any number of variables in the cost of such a trip. Using the higher figure for transgender medical costs and a conservative $2 million for Trump's weekly golf trips, GQ suggests that "allowing trans men and women to serve in the military would cost about the same as four of Trump's weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago. Four!"

That's with the conservative estimate for Trump's trips to his own golf courses. One thing we know, however, is that Trump Inc. does not offer Trump Administration any discounts.

Trump loyalists will allege that their man has promised to reimburse the government for Mar-a-Lago expenses. Yet as we learned last year after he claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans' charities, Trump can be mighty slow to pay out on his promises. Nor can we expect him to suddenly stop fighting to keep his finances out of the public eye.