Monday, September 28, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

The past several weeks, I've drawn nonagenarian military generals, homely registers of deeds, peeping Coach Toms, and an elephant chef. Every once in a while, however, I feel the need to draw something the "bar rags" that run my cartoon might appreciate. Something for those readers who pick up the issue for the photos.

At the risk of annoying the editors of publications that take their journalistic mission more seriously, here ya go.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

After M*A*S*H*, the Deluge

I failed to get a Sinkback Saturday post in yesterday; I had wanted to post a cartoon I'd drawn during Pope John Paul II's first visit to the United States, and a subsequent complaint about the cartoon, but I can't seem to find them.

So instead and a day late, here's a follow-up to last week's cartoon, from 1983.

The CBS comedy M*A*S*H* ran for eleven seasons -- almost three times as long as active hostilities in the Korean War on which it was based. And frankly, it had jumped the shark well beforehand, but was a top-rated program for its network.

I didn't get to see the final program when it originally aired. (I was acting in a local theatre production. The crew had it on a TV backstage, so I did catch a few moments of it; but for the whole show, I had to wait for the episode to be rerun at the end of the summer.) Like the series itself, the final episode dragged on too long, trying to give each of its major characters a Emmy-nomination-worthy send-off.

And there was, in fact, an attempt to squeeze more ratings success out of the expired franchise with the series After-M*A*S*H*, in which Col. Harry Potter, Father Mulcahy and Max Klinger went home to run a rural medical clinic, but that show didn't last long. CBS was already running Trapper John M.D., a medical drama with barely any real connection to M*A*S*H* at all but with a greater degree of success.

China Beach would eventually come along to satisfy the viewership for medical war television, but it wisely had no connection to M*A*S*H* whatsoever.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Q Toon: Ossified Officers' Club

President Obama last week nominated Eric K. Fanning to be Secretary of the Army. Fanning, 47, has held a variety of Pentagon posts throughout the Obama administration. If confirmed, Fanning would be the first openly gay head of any branch of the U.S. military.

Presidential wannabe Mike Huckabee (R-1947) reacted to Fanning's nomination as if Obama had named Neil Patrick Harris to the post.
"It's clear President Obama is more interested in appeasing America's homosexuals than honoring America's heroes," the former Arkansas governor said in a statement released by his campaign. "Veterans suicide is out-of-control and military readiness is dangerously low, yet Obama is so obsessed with pandering to liberal interest groups he's nominated an openly gay civilian to run the Army. Homosexuality is not a job qualification. The U.S. military is designed to keep Americans safe and complete combat missions, not conduct social experiments."
Putting aside the detail that Veterans' Affairs is a completely different cabinet department these days, I'd like to address a few words to the former Arkansas governor.

Now, then, Mr. Huckabee, I lampooned you last week. You may be kind of fun to draw, and you may need all the publicity you can get, but I only get one opportunity per week to draw something for syndication. You don't get to be in my cartoon two weeks in a row just because you found something else to get your homophobic panties in a bunch about.

Try pacing yourself. Even if you have to drop out of the race before the Iowa caucuses, that's still four months away.

Let Rick Santorum throw one of these antigay tantrums. I haven't drawn him since 2012, and his campaign probably won't even make it to Columbus Day. Or perhaps Lindsey Graham, who, unlike all the other Republicans left in the race, has some military service in his record. I'm sure he would love the attention as well, although I hear he might be a little soft on the antigay schtick.

So anyway, Mike, I appreciate your kind consideration in trying to keep me supplied with fodder for my LGBT cartoons, but you really are in danger of becoming a Johnny One-Note, and after a while, that's just no fun to draw.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Donald on Line One

Okay, this still counts as the third installment in my series of caricatures of 2016 presidential candidates, because Scott Walker was still nominally in the race when I posted the one of him on Sunday.
I had another Donald Trump sketch that I'd been working on, on and off, for months without ever really arriving at something I was pleased with. Then, I started doodling in my notebook between events at the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning on Friday, resulting in this.

Monday, September 21, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

Anyone looking for beefcake in my cartoon this week will probably be sorely disappointed and should probably just check out the reportage about ABC reporter Gio Benitez proposing to his boyfriend in Paris. I can't promise any sort of sexual material in this week's Q Syndicate cartoon.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Rise and Fall of Darth Snotwalker

For a while there, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was flying high in neighboring Iowa, where they had heard nothing but glowing reports from Wisconsin media of how Walker had faced down all those uppity school teachers and cut the Democrats out of government. He divided! He conquered! He rode a Harley!

And yet, in the glare of national media attention, all his faults that had somehow escaped the attention of Journal Communications Inc. began to weigh him down. Local TV news might accept the notion of building a wall across the Canadian border, or that taking three positions on a single question does not constitute changing his position, but you can't Face the Nation and get away with that crap.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Cartoons Across the Millennial Divide

It's Swingback Saturday again! A couple more things I wanted to mention about this month's AAEC Convention: Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher moderated a discussion with Michael Alexander Kahn and Richard Samuel West at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on the cartoons of the political magazine Puck (1871-1918). Kahn and West have written a book of Puck's cartoons, chiefly by Joseph Keppler, Bernard Gillam and Fredrick Opper.
Chances are that if you've seen any colorized editorial cartoons from the period, they are from Puck (or its Republican rival, Judge). The most famous toons include "The Tattooed Man," in which Gillam satirized "Phryne Before the Tribunal" by depicting a disrobed James Blaine tattooed with various scandals, and Keppler's "Here I Am Again, What Are You Going to Do with Me," in which an enormous dragon labeled "Surplus" (with a tail labeled "Tariff Question") sits in the well of the Senate to the consternation of the legislators. (I should have bought the book, but I'm still reading the book about Jay N. "Ding" Darling we were offered when we arrived.)

One is impressed by the proportions of the cartoons, which could span two pages of the magazine, and by the process involved in making them: the cartoonist had to make separate prints for each of the colors that would go into the cartoon.

I was also impressed by a display among the Billy Ireland exhibit's of World War I cartoons of a Winsor McCay animation of the sinking of the Lusitania. The propaganda piece took months to complete and shows just about every second of the ocean liner's demise, with explosions, and victims tumbling off the wreck and bobbing in the ocean. The museum has it available to watch on a tablet if you have 20 minutes to spare. A very different experience from his "Gertie the Dinosaur" or his print comics.

Because of my interest, springing from the R.C. Bowman cartoons I've posted here, in the McKinley administration and the Spanish-American War, I also appreciated Steven Brodner's preview of his work for an upcoming book on American Presidents of the 20th Century. Brodner has an uncanny knack for pushing caricatures beyond what ought to work yet somehow rendering them instantly recognizable, and I'm definitely going to buy that book when it comes out.

But I don't have any pictures of those things, so here's a picture of a magazine in the Billy Ireland Library instead.

Last night, I went to the Kenosha Festival of Cartooning, where I was particularly interested in seeing Darrin Bell. Bell draws the cartoon strips "Candorville" and "Rudy Park"; he is also one of the very best editorial cartoonists in the biz today. I was going to say "young editorial cartoonists," but there really is no need to qualify that judgment with an age restriction, and Ethel Kennedy will back me up on that.
Tom Racine (above right) interviewed Bell on his career, and I was surprised to learn that Bell had actually given up on editorial cartooning for a while. It took the shooting of Trayvon Martin to renew his dedication to the editorial page (although it had occasionally shown up in "Candorville"), for which, I suppose, we must grudgingly thank George Zimmerman.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Money for Nothing and Your Chicks for Free

At this week's marathon Republican debate, Jake Tapper asked all eleven candidates which woman they would like to see replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Few of them could come up with any serious answer to what wasn't a terribly serious question to begin with, but New Jersey Governor Chris Christie opined that  "I think the Adams family has been shorted in the currency business."

By now, everybody who stayed awake that long has chimed in on the resulting internet meme; and since I made a graphic, too, why let it go to waste?

Donald Trump suggested putting his daughter on the bill, which figures. He would no doubt name son Eric as Secretary of the Treasury and Donald Jr. as Treasurer of the United States. Any way for that egomaniac to have his own name all over our currency.

I'm surprised he didn't suggest this:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Q Toon: In Chains for Christ

At long last, it's finally time for my Kim Davis cartoon. Now that every other editorial cartoonist in the country has taken all the good cartoon ideas and has moved on to last night's performance of A Chorus Line, I'm getting around to sifting through the ideas that are left.

At the AAEC convention earlier this month, I was asked several times about the Kim Davis story, comments usually running along the vein of "Boy, you must be having a lot of fun with her!" And while three of my cartoons in July and August were on issues related to local clerks and so-called religious liberty, the cartoons I'd sent to my editors before leaving for the convention were on other topics.

So, while I was away from my drawing board, Davis went into and out of prison, greeted by an adoring throng waving their crosses. Just the sort of crowd someone seeking to be America's Evangelist In Chief would want to get in front of, so there was Arkansas Minister-Governor Mike Huckabee, who vowed to go to jail in Davis's place, now that she was being let out anyway.

Huckabee wasn't the only presidential contender there to bask in the adulation of the theocratic masses, but he was the only one getting onto that stage, if his folks had anything to do about it. And they did.

Monday, September 14, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

Now that looks uncomfortable.

Tune in later this week to find out who's kicking whom while whom is down, never mind the why and wherefore.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Hearing from the Old Pros

One of the things I appreciated most from the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists' convention in Columbus last week was the chance to hear from -- and to meet -- some of the cartoonists whose work I have admired since I was a pup.

Legendary Village Voice cartoonist Jules Feiffer was unable to join us in person for health reasons, so he addressed the convention from his home on Long Island via Skype. (That meant that interviewer Jeff Danziger had to face away from the audience toward a camera hooked up to a laptop on stage; Danziger also couldn't use a microphone, apparently, so I'm sure people in the back half of the room could only hear Feiffer's answers.)

Feiffer told us how his long-running Dancer character was modeled after a girlfriend he had once upon a time. She, too, was a dancer; their relationship didn't last long, but they remained on friendly terms and she didn't mind showing up in his cartoons year after year, slim and limber and lithe yet frozen in time.

He no longer draws his cartoons, concentrating instead on writing plays; one is currently in the works.

The irrepressible Mike Peters (Dayton Daily News, Mother Goose and Grimm) had so many stories to tell that his presentation time was almost over when someone called to him that he had barely even mentioned cartooning yet. He does have a great story about donning a Superman costume to bring his then-teenage daughter a paper she had forgotten to take to school.

He could not conceivably be any nicer; when I told him about having mimicked his editorial cartoons for the parody issue of my college newspaper in 1979, he seemed genuinely eager to have me send him a copy.

It made me wish I'd brought my copy of Win One for the Geezer to sign -- except that my editorial cartooning books take up over half of a bookshelf and I'd have had to bring them all. And then I'd have had to explain why I have one of Jack Ohman's books and none of Ted Rall's, or something like that.

Speaking of books I don't have, I never got a chance to talk to Ben Sargent, retired late last year from the Austin American Statesman and in the brown jacket in the background of this photo (the last photo I took before dropping my camera and busting the shutter button). He wasn't a presenter, panelist, or interviewer this year, but I would have liked to ask him about his intriguing drawing style.

Way back when I was a kid, I was given Pogo book for my birthday, having just bought myself the same book a few weeks before. I didn't do a good job of hiding my disappointment, so my policy ever since has been not to buy myself anything in July or December that I wouldn't be happy to have two of. The next July, I happened to see a book of Sargent's cartoons in a small bookstore in town, and I dropped some pretty heavy-handed hints at home about it.

My parents probably came up with a completely different policy regarding giving me cartoon books for my birthday, because they didn't buy me Sargent's book. And it wasn't at the bookstore when I went back to it in August. So my policy has a codicil in it about buying things for myself that are in limited number on the store shelf.

Well, that's enough for this Stripped Back Saturday. Having given this post a heading with the word "old" in it, I don't want to offend anyone else by including them in a category they're not ready to be in.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Another Nine Eleven

It has now been fourteen years since terrorists piloted four passenger jets into the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Osama bin Laden has been dead for four years, and Al Qaeda has become overshadowed by other terrorist groups.

It is almost cliché to hear that our men and women in uniform were inspired to go into the military because of the events of that one day. This fall's incoming freshmen, however, the newest crop of eligible military recruits and voters, probably have no memory of the original 9/11. I don't remember JFK's assassination, which happened when I was about the same age they were in 2001 -- but then, TV didn't devote a day every year to rebroadcasting every second of their assassination coverage. If some of these new adults do think they remember 9/11, it's only because they've seen Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble struggle to come to grips with what was happening that morning again and again and again, year after year after year.

They certainly don't remember what "Pre-9/11" was like. They don't remember that the Cold War ended and we had something called a "Peace Dividend" and even "the end of History," whatever that was supposed to mean. Sure, we sent troops to Kuwait and Yugoslavia and Somalia and Haiti; but those military actions weren't about us the way Afghanistan and Iraq would be (and they didn't drag on and on with no end in sight, either. Somalia did get worse instead of better, but we threw up our hands and left and paid no further attention to it). For a dozen years, we entertained the novel notion that mankind wasn't likely to bring civilization to an end just to prove a point.

Their generation has grown up with the fear that at any moment, some fanatic might commit mass murder right here in this country out of religious fervor, political desperation, or sheer spite. Yet perhaps that's only background noise to this generation; America's deathly infatuation with guns was cranking out one mass murder after another, and a steady drumbeat of stray bullets from drive-by shootings, well before that sunny Tuesday morning.

The Civil War gave us Memorial Day; World War I gave us Veterans' Day. Many of us remember December 7 as World War II's day of infamy, even if we have to Google when V-E and V-J Day were. Someday, September 11 -- Patriot Day as we now call it -- will recede from vivid memory. But for now, for those of us for whom the memories are clear, we take a moment to honor those people who were going about their Pre-9/11 business when their world came to an end and ours changed forever.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Q Toon: Intermural Drill

If you've ever considered the possibility that there might be some limit to how boneheaded our politicians can be, consider this news item from the Rapid City Journal of South Dakota:
A proposal by a state lawmaker could require that visual inspection be used as part of a process to officially determine a person's gender in South Dakota, including for high school athletes.
The battle over how to officially determine someone's gender arises from a controversy over whether transgender high school students can declare their own gender when participating in sports.
A high school athletic group enacted a policy last year that allows students to decide for themselves which gender group they will compete with. ... The proposal from Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, would rely on official birth certificates and visual inspections for determining gender rather than allowing people to decide and declare their gender on their own.
You had already guessed that Hunt was a Republican, hadn't you?

Only a dozen or so states have official policies either allowing or restricting transgendered students' participation in school sports.
In Colorado, for example, a student doesn’t have to sit through a hearing but is advised to submit documentation so the school can “render a decision,” like written statements from parents or friends or evidence of hormone therapy. In California, the language of a law passed in 2013 suggests the student need only say what their gender identity is and which team they want to play on, an approach that has drawn controversy. 
If you are wondering whether trans athletes are welcome in the state where you live, but you don't live in South Dakota, Colorado, or California, provides a state-by-state list of policies, or lacks thereof, regarding participation by transgendered students in public school athletics.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Cartooning's Front Lines

Cartoon by Atena Faraghdani
This past extended weekend, I attended the annual convention of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists. I've been trying to get to one of these things for years, but again and again there has been one scheduling conflict or another.

This year's convention was in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum. It also fell in the shadow of the assassinations of the cartoonists and editors at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and the attempted shooting at Pam Geller's Cartooning Mohammed circus in Garland, Texas.

Registration desk at the Columbus College of Art & Design
With that in mind -- as well as the presence of an exhibit of cartoons drawn after the Charlie Hebdo attack and of a panel of cartoonists who have been imprisoned in their home countries for their work -- the security level was quite high. In addition to campus security at the Columbus College of Art and Design, we had city police, county sheriffs, under cover officers, and Homeland Security agents.

And, yes, a bomb-sniffing dog. After having left my heavy briefcase up on some upended construction materials during my first few trips to the bathroom, I decided that it might be wiser to leave it on the floor within easy sniffing range of Offissa Pup.

Most of the cartoonists' rights panel
A panel discussion entitled "Free Speech or Hate Speech?" was highly informative, but could have been improved if there had been someone on the panel representing Muslim sensibilities. With almost everyone in the room passionately devoted to artistic license, it fell to one young man (Palestinian, if I heard correctly) in the audience to attempt to argue against absolute freedom of speech.

In later conversations with my fellow ink-slingers, a few of us agreed that we had never had any reason to draw Mohammed before 2006 or since, and felt no compulsion to find an excuse to do so. The cartoon exhibit upstairs contained only one drawing of Mohammed, showing him commiserating with Jesus and Buddha over the murders committed in their respective names. My favorite was one by V. Cullum Rogers, depicting a religious fanatic with a smoking machine gun, standing over a slain cartoonist, while a voice from the dark clouds overhead says, "I don't get it."

At the banquet Saturday night, the Cartoonists' Rights Network International (CRNI) announced its Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award was going to Iranian cartoonist Atena Faraghdani, 29, currently in prison for drawing the cartoon at the top of this post depicting members of the Iranian parliament as cows and monkeys. The cartoon, protesting a vote to restrict women's contraceptive rights, has resulted in charges of "spreading propaganda against the system" and a 12-year-9-month prison sentence. Even her lawyer has now been arrested, just for shaking her hand in court.

All was not seriousness and warm-hued Threat Levels; I had a good time, gained some valuable insights, and met several fellow cartoonists whose work I admire greatly. I'll save some topics for Snoozeback Saturdays and other occasions.
Cartoons drawn after the Charlie Hebdo assassinations

Monday, September 7, 2015

This Week's Sneak Peek

I've been maintaining radio silence this weekend, but only because I was away at the annual convention of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists in Columbus, Ohio. Rest assured that there will be an editorial cartoon in this bandwidth this week.

Especially if Coach Ella here has anything to say about it.

About the convention; I'll have more to say about that in future installments.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Q Toon: Dukes to Watch Out For

This summer, Duke University recommended to its incoming freshmen that they ought to read Fun Home, a graphic memoir by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, eponym of the Bechdel Test. The book is about Bechdel's coming out, and her dad's closeted homosexuality. Duke recommends some summer reading every year to promote discussion when the school year starts, which seems like a reasonable enough thing for a liberal arts institution to do.

Upon learning that the book contains women masturbating and engaging in oral sex, one student, Brian Grasso, posted on Facebook that he refused to read Bechdel's book. Somehow, it turned into such a big deal that the Washington Post printed his explanation for himself.
[I]n the Bible, Jesus forbids his followers from exposing themselves to anything pornographic. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he says in Matthew 5:28-29. “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.” This theme is reiterated by Paul who warns, “flee from sexual immorality.” ... 
I will avoid any titillating content and encourage like-minded students to do the same. And I believe professors should warn me about such material...

Certainly, Grasso and any others worried about looking lustily at lesbians have every right not to read books they don't want to, and at no point was reading Fun Home required. On the other hand, as has been pointed out by everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Chris Rock to a growing list of university professors, we seem to be raising a generation of extremely delicate hothouse flowers.

And Grasso should have warned his readers that he was going to use the word "titillate."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Another Police Cartoon, Another Editor

There haven't been any new developments in the dispute between editorial cartoonist Ted Rall and the Los Angeles Times-Police Newsletter, but meanwhile, there has been a police union protest against a syndicated cartoon by Milt Priggee in the Florida Times-Union.

And a very different response from the editors of the paper.
A spokesperson for the Jacksonville chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has criticized the Florida Times-Union for an editorial cartoon that he said is offensive and puts local police officers in danger.
The cartoon by nationally renowned cartoonist Milt Priggee was published last Wednesday, and it compares the arrest of Dylann Roof, who shot nine black church members in a Charleston, South Carolina, sanctuary, to the shooting of a black man who was pulled over for a minor traffic infraction.
The first panel of the cartoon, captioned "To Serve and Protect," portrays a police officer asking Roof if he "would like fries with that'; the second shows two smiling officers, one with a smoking gun, behind a car with a bullet hole in the rear window as the officer with the gun explains, "Mr. Blackie tried to get away, so I had to shoot him."

FOP president Steve Amos is quoted as saying, “It infuriates me. It offends me. There is no truth in the nature of the cartoon at all.” That police officers did indeed bring fast food to Dylann Roof, and other officers did indeed shoot a black man who was driving without a license plate must be a truth invisible to the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police.

Without getting into any of the other merits of anybody's arguments, what I appreciate most is the final paragraph of the article:
[Times Union editor Frank] Denton said editors at the paper would not be issuing an apology to the FOP, because if they did so, they would be apologizing to someone every time they publish an editorial cartoon.