Thursday, December 13, 2018

Q Toon: There's Bound to Be Talk Tomorrow

The Ghost of Twitter Past has been haunting the celebrity set again.

Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray apologized for using the word "queer" in a derogatory way in tweets when he was 14 and 15, saying "I used a poor choice of word that doesn't reflect who I am or what I believe."

Kevin Hart pulled out of hosting next year's Oscars ceremony after demands that he repent of old tweets and stand-up routines disparaging gays. At first, he refused to apologize, only to give in, grudgingly, after having quit the MC job.

In young Mr. Murray's case, it hardly seems fair to hold him responsible for every irresponsible thing he blurted onto the internets in his teenage years, but it does demonstrate to those still in that age group that yes, Virginia, there is a permanent record. Twitter never forgets.

As someone who fancies himself somewhat of a humorist, I find I have some sympathy for Mr. Hart as well. All humor is transgressive to some degree, and may become moreso over time. For example, in researching 100-year-old cartoons, I find many involving African-Americans and other ethnicities that I wouldn't dare repost today. Some people thought last Saturday's post of old Bush 41 cartoons was out of line; well, you should see the stuff I didn't include.

On the other hand, Mr. Hart's tweets and jokes didn't come from another century. President Barack Obama was ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Ellen DeGeneres had won over two dozen Emmys for her talk show. Same-sex couples could marry in Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia.

Moreover, a leading cause of suicide among LGBTQ youth, and a substantial factor in the higher rate of suicide among LGBTQ youth over their peers, is the fear of rejection by one's parents. Accordingly, the LGBTQ community just doesn't find jokes about how horrible it might be to have a gay son particularly funny.

It is a steep challenge in cartooning to get these song parodies to both scan and rhyme. In audio, one can get away with eliding a couple syllables or fudging a consonant or two; but in print, we cartoonists are at the mercy of how the reader happens to hear the words inside his/her/their head.

Even steeper is the challenge of reducing a five-minute song to thirty seconds, so I apologize for jumping ahead to the end of the song in panel four.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ripping GHWB

As promised, I'm rehashing cartoons of George H.W. Bush's political career for Desert Stormback Saturday today. I've posted some of these before, but I've made sure to dig up some previously unrereleased material.

And in case you thought Thursday's memorial cartoon whitewashed the Bush record, it shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with my work to discover that I was not much of a Bush fan in the 1980's.
Bush skipped from one government post to another throughout the 1960's and 70's, but most Americans only became acquainted with him when he ran for president in 1980. When he was vying against Ronald Reagan for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination, Bush famously labeled Reagan's promises to cut taxes yet balance the federal budget "voodoo economics." That all changed once Bush accepted the understudy spot on the GOP ticket, however.

For those of you too young to recognize 1980's technology, that's a reel-to-reel tape player hurriedly erasing in Bush's head. They didn't have a big "Erase" light, but one was necessary in the cartoon to show that he wasn't rewinding or fast forwarding.

Bush ended up sticking with the post of Vice President for longer than any other job in his career. Skipping ahead to the end of the Reagan administration, I drew this January, 1988 cartoon about Bush's role in Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal. In spite of his wide-ranging foreign policy experience, Bush was never directly connected to the complicated scheme of arms sales, pay-offs and funding of right-wing rebels, involving under-the-table dealings in Iran, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Nicaragua.

When it came time for Bush to name his own running mate, his choice of boyish Indiana Senator J. Danforth Quayle met with considerable derision. Quayle had a way to go, however, before he would catch up with some of George Bush's gaffes and malapropisms. In a speech to the American Legion on September 7, Bush mistakenly told the audience, "Today is Pearl Harbor Day — 47 years ago from this very day we were hit and hit hard at Pearl Harbor." His praise of the incumbent Governor of California overlooked the résumé of the incumbent President of the United States.

Fortunately for the Bush-Quayle ticket, their Democratic rival was Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, whose drab, wonkish demeanor just wasn't up to the slickly packaged Republican campaign. Dukakis's awkward photo op in an army tank stuck with voters longer than any harmless misstatements by Mr. Bush.

Again, you younger readers will be too young to remember "generic" grocery store products, which were a thing in the 1980's: cheaper versions of name-brand products sold in pointedly plain packaging. The ones where my mother shopped boasted feebly that while they might "vary in quality," they were "generally acceptable for household use."

As president, Bush had to deal domestically with a slowing economy. His campaign promise, "Read my lips: No new taxes," soon ran up against political and economic reality and broke. The pledge was the sort of thing that sounded good at the time; he needed to establish some bona fides with the ascendant wing of the party still suspicious that he wasn't sold on "voodoo economics."

Bush enjoyed greater success on the international front. The break-up of the Soviet Union left the United States as the world's only superpower. Quick and victorious U.S. military intervention in Panama established Bush's reputation as a bold, decisive leader.

Then Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Bush had to weigh the costs and benefits of going to war against one of the Middle East's most formidable (on paper, anyway) military powers, whose previous malfeasance the Reagan and Bush administrations had overlooked because Iraq served as a check against Iran. (For that matter, the Bush administration had sent conflicting signals about whether it had any interest in Iraqi designs on the emirate.)

Do I have to explain references from the 1930's and 60's to any young whippersnappers out there? I do hope not.
For a time, it appeared that all other issues would take a back seat to the war in Iraq, but as it happened, Iraq's army quickly turned tail and skedaddled out of Kuwait. The Bush administration chose not to press on for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, even as the Iraqi military turned its attention to foes less able to stand up to it.

Were we going to go back in to stop Saddam from gassing the Kurds? And meanwhile, did some skittishness in the stock markets signal that the economy wasn't recovering from recession after all?
I've run the Double Dip cartoon before because, in spite of the stupid wordplay, it has always been one of my favorites. My husband thought it heartless of me to make it my Facebook ID photo on Sunday morning, but I think that Bush had enough of a sense of humor that he might have gotten a wry chuckle over it.

Now, anyone who thinks that kinder and gentler days prevailed during the administration of Bush père clearly doesn't remember his nomination of Clarence Thomas to succeed Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court. Out of some modicum of deference to the memory of President Bush (and because it's not the tone I want to close with), I'm choosing not to rerun my cartoons about that episode. I've run all the good ones before, and you're free to look them up.

I've also decided to skip the cartoons about the 1992 presidential campaign; again, I've dredged up most of the better ones before. Instead, I'll close with this cartoon from December, 1992, as Bush prepared to turn the White House over to a young upstart from Arkansas.

Friday, December 7, 2018

WisToon: That First Step Is a Doozy

In the wee hours of the morning, Republicans in an extraordinary session of the Wisconsin legislature approved hastily drawn-up bills to curtail the authority of the Democratic Governor-elect and Attorney General-elect. It's a blatant power grab by a legislature determined to safeguard minority rule in the state: Democrats consistently outvote Republicans in legislative races here, but 2011 gerrymandering has guaranteed lopsided Republican majorities in both the Assembly and Senate as well as our congressional delegation.

Assembly leader Robin Vos and Senate leader Scott Fitzgerald and their minions claim that the legislature has been considering these moves for a long time, and they probably have — at least since predictions of a "blue wave" began to cast its shadow over the un-gerrymander-able statewide races. As long as there was a Republican in the governor's office, they were happy to grant  him as much power as he could keep track of. Likewise with the past two Republican Attorneys General, J.B. Van Hollen and Brad Schimel.

But with Democrats due to assume those offices in January, Republicans rushed to make sure the new Governor and A.G. would have no power to shape the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (created by the GOP as a replacement for the Commerce Department), 2021 redistricting, or the Republican lawsuit against Obamacare.

Another of the bills they passed will move the state's 2020 presidential primary from April to March, between the nominally non-partisan February primary and April general election. Those bracketing elections will be for such positions as school boards, local sheriffs, and mayors; but most importantly to Republicans in Madison, for the state Supreme Court.

Republicans claim concern that it would be confusing, or unseemly, or gauche to have those non-partisan races on the same ballot as the partisan presidential primary.

Once upon a time, Wisconsin's Supreme Court was filled with respected, non-partisan legal judges; but in the past few decades it has become dominated by partisan stooges bought and paid for by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce lobby and the Koch brothers. A Scott Walker appointee is up for election to a full ten-year term next spring, and Republicans don't want him to have to run in an election likely to attract lots of Democratic voters eager to have a say in whom their party should nominate for President.

It's not as if the Republicans don't already hold a majority on the state Supreme Court. But with their latest power grab likely to come up before the Court next year, they don't want to take any chances.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


The first reports of the death of former President George H.W. Bush came late Friday night, interrupting Stephen Colbert's interview of Michelle Obama; so it might have been surprising that had memorial cartoons on line first thing Saturday morning. Those cartoons were all of Barbara Bush greeting her husband on his arrival in heaven, suggesting that they were drawn a couple months ago, around the time of Mrs. Bush's funeral.

Nick Anderson, former cartoonist for the Houston Chronicle, had drawn a full-page memorial cartoon for Mr. Bush years ago during one of the former president's health crises, leaving a corner open for any final details. The Chronicle terminated his position last year, but he contacted the current editors to let them know of the cartoon's existence. The Chronicle has run the finished cartoon, which is best viewed on Anderson's Patreon page.

Since I draw for the LGBTQ press, I wasn't sure that I would add to the abundant collection of memorial cartoons out there. As president, Mr. Bush did not have a remarkable record on LGBTQ issues. He made no move to lift the ban on the military service by LGBTQ personnel — this was before Bill Clinton's botched attempt to do so — and was against marriage equality. (In 2013, he was an official witness to the wedding of the lesbian owners of a Kennebunkport general store, however.)

I decided to go ahead with a memorial cartoon for Mr. Bush after coming across this speech of his from March 30, 1990 at a conference sponsored by the National Leadership Coalition on AIDS. They are nice words, even if funding for AIDS drugs was cut from his next budget. Still, some protections for People With AIDS were included in the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

In addition to the more traditional cartoon eulogies, there have been a few editorial cartoons this week lambasting the late Mr. Bush for the invasion of Panama, Iraq War I, the Willie Horton ad, the 1990-91 recession, and yes, his record on HIV/AIDS. If you are disappointed that I've been kinder and gentler than you think Mr. Bush deserves, all I can do is to welcome you to revisit this blog on Saturday, when I'll republish some of my cartoons from his presidency.

They were ruder and rougher than today's cartoon.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Toons for World AIDS Day

Seroback Saturday observes World AIDS Day with a look back at a rather limited selection of cartoons about HIV/AIDS drawn for the LGBTQ press.

This is by no means a comprehensive look at the complete selection of LGBTQ cartoonists. I'm not including the work of any of the character-driven comic strips, many of whom have introduced HIV+ characters either on a regular, occasional, or cameo appearance basis. Nor do I have any idea what was the first published cartoon about AIDS (although that might be interesting to find out someday).

I believe this cartoon from September, 1985 is the first one I ever drew about the AIDS epidemic; it's at a point when I felt it necessary to spell it out in the first panel and to put quotation marks around the acronym afterward. This was well before I began drawing for the LGBT press, however; this appeared in the student newspaper at UW-Parkside.

(Had the Homosexual Agenda added the "T" yet in 1985? I forget. I think folks were still squabbling about what order the first three letters should be in.)

There were other cartoonists contributing to LGBTQetc. media in the early 1980's, although few were tackling political subjects. But the advent of the AIDS crisis galvanized our community like nothing before. That is not to dismiss the Mattachine Society or Stonewall, or the fundamental first step of decriminalizing our relationships. But the issues up to the 1980's were predominantly lifestyle matters; the AIDS crisis presented us with a literal life-or-death issue.

And even the gag cartoonists couldn't avoid the subject.
"The Gay Side" by Tom Rezza in Wisconsin In Step, Milwaukee WI, January 23, 1986
Within the LGBT community, there was great resentment of President Ronald Reagan for not speaking about the AIDS crisis; he was not the only one guilty of silence (=death).
"Life at the Closet Door" by David Brady (freelance), ca. February. 1987
Even though consistent condom use has been proven as the best method for sexually active persons to avoid contracting the AIDS virus, network and cable television wasted years refusing to air condom advertising on the grounds that it would offend what they call "more sensitive viewers." But when Viagra and Cialis came along, the pharmaceutical companies' deep pockets helped the networks overcome whatever squeamishness they had about discussing sex during their commercial breaks.

"I'll Only Have to Rob Small Banks" by Angela Bocage in Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco CA, February 26, 1993
Speaking of the pharmaceutical companies: once treatments were discovered for HIV and AIDS, the issue became one of cost, as expressed in this Angela Bocage cartoon featuring Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Senator David Pryor (D-AR). Pryor's interest in controlling the escalating cost of prescription drugs came as chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Waxman's district included West Hollywood and parts of Los Angeles, so he had constituents vocal on the issue; his legacy includes the Orphan Drug Act of 1983, the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act of 1984 ("Hatch-Waxman Act"), and the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990.
"AIDS: Bearing Angry Witness" by Jennifer Camper (freelance), August/September, 1993
The death toll from AIDS devastated a generation in our community — as Camper's 1993 cartoon observes, in ways large and small. LGBTQ newspapers across the country, from the serious news outlets to the "bar rags," found that they needed to add obituary notices to report the loss of so many in their 50's, 40's, 30's and 20's. These obituaries often included pertinent details omitted from obituaries in mainstream newspapers: their life partners, their chosen families, or preferred or performance names by which they might be better known.
Uncaptioned cartoon by Ben Carlson in Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco CA, August 13, 1998
Ben Carlson's cartoon above appeared in the Bay Area Reporter's "No Obits" edition of August 13, 1998. A brightly colored banner headline on page one heralded the fact that for the first time in years, the San Francisco weekly newspaper did not have a single obituary in it.
"That doesn't mean that there were no AIDS deaths in the past week; next week's issue may have more obits than usual... After more than 17 years of struggle and death, and some weeks with as many as 31 obituaries printed in the B.A.R., it seems a new reality may be taking hold, and the community may be on the verge of a new era of the epidemic ... Perhaps."

By 1998, my cartoons were syndicated to the LGBTQ press, I'll close with a couple of my own scribblings from the past 20 years. The sketch above was commissioned in October, 1998 for AIDS Action's project AIDSWatch.

I didn't draw a World AIDS Day cartoon this year. It used to be that with newsmakers often on Thanksgiving holiday immediately beforehand, there frequently would be no distraction from the topic when I sat down at my drawing board. Thanks to presidential twitterrhea, that hasn't been the case lately.

Given the Corrupt Trump Administration's record on HIV/AIDS, I could simply have reissued this cartoon from January.