Monday, July 31, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

Here are a couple of preliminary sketches for this week's cartoon... Par for the course.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Comic Caper: Part I

I usually like to have these Saturday posts planned out well enough in advance to have done the necessary research; but due to family matters, I've fallen a little behind schedule. Never fear, however. Serialback Saturday herewith begins the first of a series of my juvenalia.

Way back when I was drawing editorial cartoons for the UW-Parkside Ranger, I tried my hand at a continuity strip. It started with a murder almost foul.
Around the time of the bicentennial, the Racine paper ran a cartoon called Sgt. Stripes ... Forever!
Its central character looked nothing like this sergeant, but did favor ellipses.
The victim in this murder mystery was a not-particularly-well disguised character from a comic strip then running in the Racine newspaper, Brutus P. Thornapple. Brutus is the central character in The Born Loser, created by Art Sansom, and continued today by his son Chip. By the second episode, I began widening the story's reference material.

"The Funny Paper Caper" appeared every week in the UW-Parkside Ranger, a single strip until midway through the academic year I realized that I had paced the thing too slowly. Having such short episodes helped to get people to read the thing at first, and with any luck, get hooked on the story. Longer form cartoons would have run the risk of discouraging students with busy schedules from taking the time to engage from the beginning.

If I were drawing this same strip today, I'd probably try to mimic the comic noir style of the black-and-white Dick Tracy of the 1970's and '80's. The funnies of the time didn't use a lot of cross-hatching, save for those in which the syndicate would apply dot or hatching screens to areas indicated by the cartoonist. The serial strips, in the interest of appearing more realistic, relied less on that flat technique, although such as Captain Easy and Buz Sawyer were able to use mechanical shading while still maintaining the illusion of three dimensions. Color, of course, was for Sundays only.
Originally, Wilberforce Thornapple had a Little Lord Fauntleroy hairdo.

Well, there you have the episodes for the entire month of September. Tune in to some future installment as the plot, and the plagiarism, thickens.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cost Comparison

Mike Peterson posted this graph on his blog today. I can't tell where he originally found it, although the graphic includes his source's source material. (They don't work as links, however.)
Military Transgender Healthcare Costs, with Perspective
I've added a few graphics to the graphic just to save some readers from eye strain.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Q Toon: The Eyes of Texas

Here I thought over the weekend, as I settled at my drawing board to work on this week's Q Syndicate cartoon, that I'd be able to get ahead of the news cycle by drawing about Texas's "Bathroom Bill," which was passed by the state Senate late Tuesday night, 21 to 20.

Well, thanks to the Twit in the White House, there's a much bigger LGBT issue dominating the news cycle.

In a series of three tweets, written in more formal language than we are accustomed to seeing from him, mercurial American President Donald "Bone Spur" Trump abruptly halted the Pentagon's progress toward welcoming transgender service men and women in the U.S. military.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ... Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”
As others have pointed out, the "tremendous medical costs" of transgender service members are dwarfed by the medical cost in our military budget of boner pills. Since the estimates of the numbers of transgender service members vary widely, their "medical costs" to the military range widely as well -- but it's still only .001% of the Pentagon's overall budget.
By analyzing private health insurance data on gender transition-related expenditures, (such as hormone therapy or surgical treatment, for instance), researchers found that Military Health System costs could increase by $2.4 million and $8.4 million per year if it were extended to cover the estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender people in the military. This amount pales in comparison to the Department of Defense's $49.3 billion health care expenditures in 2014, for example, and would represent between 0.005% to 0.017% of the department's overall health care costs, according to the study.
Overall, the study estimated that only 29–129 service members would seek gender transition–related care per year, and 30 to 140 personnel would seek hormone therapy. Another 25 to 130 personnel would seek surgical treatment.
Perhaps Mr. Trump – or Mike Pence, or one of those hand-laying evangelicals from last week, or whoever had spoken to Donald Duce last – has his panties in a wad that once the U.S. military opens itself to transgender recruits, gender reassignment surgery will suddenly rocket in popularity from sea to shining sea.

Ahem. This blog post was supposed to be about the Texas Bathroom Bill, and I've practically ignored the topic altogether.

Another tweet, this one from comedian Mark Agee, brings the two topics back together:
"Sorry I was led to believe that trans people were so skilled in combat that I should fear being alone in a bathroom with them."
As the newsmedia cover Trump's ban, members of the Texas legislature might want to keep in mind that those manly guys being interviewed as representatives of transgender soldiers and veterans are the very men that Senate Bill 3 requires to use the ladies' room. Your womenfolk are not going to appreciate that.

The line for the ladies' room is long enough.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

Tune in later this week for this week's cartoon about a talking building.

And a rude one at that.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Reign in Spain

Taking a break from today's dismal headlines, Sovereignback Saturday returns yet again to a more innocent time: namely, World War I. In the summer of 1917, we find the crowned heads of Europe shaking in their boots.
"Help!" by Harry Murphy in Chicago Examiner, September 13, 1917
1917 is remembered as the year Russia threw off the yoke of Romanov rule, only to have its attempts at establishing a liberal democracy thwarted.

Political upheaval was not limited to Russia, however. The Greek King, Constantine I, had tried to maintain his nation's neutrality while World War I raged about the country on all sides. Constantine denied the Allied and Central powers permission to use Greece as a landing base, and stymied moves by his Prime Minister Venizelos to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Allies.

Allied leaders suspected Constantine of harboring sympathies for Germany. After all, his wife was Kaiser Wilhelm's sister — but then all the crowned heads of Europe were related in one way or another.
"Family Troubles" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, 1917
On June 10, 1917, backed by the threat of an Allied landing in Piraeus, Venizelos forced King Constantine to go into exile. But since the European Entente powers weren't interested in "making the world safe for democracy," they passed up the opportunity to return democracy to its cradle; Allied Commissioner Charles Jonnart opened casting calls for another member of the royal family to take the throne. Constantine's eldest son, Crown Prince George, was too pro-German for the Allies' liking; so after Constantine's brother (also named George) refused to take the throne out of loyalty to his brother, Constantine's second son, Prince Alexander, was chosen to become the new monarch.
"I Remember Those Boys..." by Rollin Kirby in New York World, 1917
After King Alexander died from an infected monkey bite (would I make something like that up?), Greek voters approved a plebiscite to recall Constantine — who had never actually abdicated anyway —to the throne in 1920.

At the other end of the Mediterranean, there were rumblings beneath the throne of Spain's King Alfonso XIII. Spain, too, maintained neutrality in the war, but Alfonso's sympathies leaned more toward the Allies than Constantine's had. Alfonso's queen, moreover, was British, a cousin of George V.
"Alphonse and Gaston" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Sun, 1917
Outside observers perceived democratic inclinations in the Bourbon monarch. The Washington Star editorialized that
"...liberalization of the government has been along definite and practical lines for years, and the republican party has grown until, since the Spanish-American War, it has been a powerful factor in Spanish politics. ...
"Complaints against the courts are bitter, especially in the matter of appointment of officers of the army. Favoritism is the rule. So insistent are the demands for reform that the government is at a crisis of decision."
"Another One of the Boys on the Run" by Billy Ireland in Columbus Dispatch, 1917
As it turned out, Alfonso remained King until 1930, his popularity eventually worn away by a six-year war to maintain Spain's territories in northern Africa, his support for the leaders of a military coup in 1923, and the worldwide Great Depression as the 1920s roared to a close.

Returning to the summer of 1917, Belgium's King Albert was in exile from his German-occupied country, as were Serbia's Peter, Montenegro's Nicholas, and Romania's Ferdinand. In Allied propaganda, the German Kaiser was due to be toppled from his throne any day now.
"Come, Junkers" by Jan Sluijters in De Nieues Amsterdamer, 1917

Cartoonists who did not accept the role of cheerleaders for their government saw no reason to presume that the havoc of war would limit itself to Europe's autocracies. Socialist Kenneth Chamberlain, drawing for The Masses, predicted the war dragging on for another three years, but the principal powers (including the U.S. — foreground) having spent themselves utterly.

"1920 — Still Fighting for Civilization" by K.R. Chamberlain in The Masses,  August, 1917

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Q Toon: The Trumperor's New Clothes

Memesters have been having fun with the photo, apparently taken by one of the participants, of a clutch of evangelical leaders "laying hands" on mercurial American President Donald J. Trump.

The picture has been photoshopped to show him being pushed into a prison cell, over a cliff, toward the Jaws shark, onto a Star Trek transporter, and all manner of  punishments cleverer than Ms. Griffin's foray into political commentary.

The evangelicals' fawning over the boorish, self-absorbed, ill-tempered, insulting, rude, lying, envious, boastful, proud, man-child who is the complete anathema to 1 Corinthians 13 struck me just a little bit differently.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Meatless, Wheatless and Dry

Returning to cartoons from this week in 1917, our theme for Steakback Saturday is the food crisis that accompanied America's entry into World War I.
"The Dollar-American" by Joseph Cassel in New York Evening World, July, 1917
With food production in Europe already crippled by three years of warfare, the U.S. was already exporting a good share of its own food stores. But while there was no prospect of American farms being turned into mine fields and trenches, the draft promised to significantly reduce the agricultural labor force. The U.S., moreover, had to make sure that those American doughboys just now arriving into the theatre of battle three squares to eat every day.

Consequently, speculators drove up food prices, resulting in a call for Congress to pass a Food Control bill. Congress, as far as the nation's editorial cartoonists were concerned, proved slow to act.
"Her Afternoon Siesta" by James H. Donahey in Cleveland Plain Dealer, July, 1917
Nearly all the cartoons I found on this topic used pigs as the metaphor for "Food Speculators." One exception was Ray Evans of the Baltimore American, who devised a vulpine character to represent them in a series of cartoons.
"His Version of It" by Raymond O. Evans in Baltimore American, July, 1917
One of the stumbling blocks slowing congressional action was resistance to a growing Prohibitionist movement, which saw the Food Control bill as an opportunity to require that no agricultural production be wasted on liquor, wine and beer. Prohibitionists also wanted to take advantage of the association of breweries with the now very distrusted German-American community, greatly handicapping the beverage industry's political influence. In the end, the Lever Act (as it came to be known, after the bill's sponsor, Congressman Asbury Lever, D-SC), left beer and wine alone, but banned the production of "distilled spirits" from any produce that was used for food.
"But, Mister, Dis Is Crool" by "Bill" Sykes in Philadelphia Evening Ledger, July, 1917
The Lever Act went into effect on August 10. And on August 1, the Senate passed what would eventually become the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. You have to expect that was part of the deal to get the Lever Act passed, don't you?

Meanwhile, the Wilson Administration created the U.S. Food Administration to launch a propaganda campaign aimed at American housewives, exhorting them to conserve food and limit waste as part of the war effort.
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1917
To encourage voluntary rationing, the USFA, headed by Herbert Hoover, coined the slogan “Food Will Win the War” and promoted the idea of having "Meatless Tuesdays" and "Wheatless Wednesdays.” Recipes for wheatless "Victory Bread" anticipated the current fad of gluten-free diets for people who want to pretend that they have celiac disorder. Fortunately for American Catholics, Pope Benedict XV had greater things on his mind than whether Christ was capable of performing the miracle of transubstantiation via Victory Communion Bread.
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in  Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1917
During the first year of the USFA’s existence, Americans reduced their food consumption by 15%. That number may not sound like much, but can you imagine anything short of the complete collapse of civilization accomplishing that today?
"The Rectangle" by Frank O. King in Chicago Tribune, July 15, 1917

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Q Toon: Never Put Off Until Tomorrow

...what you can put off until December.

If you are transgender and are interested in serving your country, you're just going to have to wait a little longer, according to Defense Secretary General Mad Dog Mattis, who issued a memo at the end of June extending the deadline for producing Defense Department policy on the question.
Mattis' decision formally endorses an agreement hammered out last week by the leaders of the four military services, which rejected Army and Air Force requests for a two-year wait. And it reflects the broader worry that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks told the AP. 
If there is any good news in this for transgender patriots, it's that if you're one of the estimated 1,320 to 6,630 (according to a Rand survey) already serving in the U.S. military, you may continue to do so. Mr. Trump has not hit upon reversing that Obama administration policy.


This president is not a details kind of guy, and making the American military cisgender again isn't a high priority of his BFF in the Kremlin, so maybe this is a policy from his predecessor that he just hasn't noticed. Perhaps that Russia business can keep him preoccupied at least until December 1.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Seven and Seven

In belated honor of yesterday having been 7/7/17, Septback Saturday brings you a sampling of stuff I drew in July of 1987, 1997 and 2007.

In July of 1987, Congress was investigating the Iran-Contra scandal. In case that's ancient history to you, the Reagan administration was caught having sold arms to Iran, in violation of an embargo against that country since the hostage affair of 1979-81, and using the money from those sales to surreptitiously fund the right-wing militias fighting the government of Nicaragua.

This was America's introduction to Lt. Col. Oliver North, then an aide to the National Security Council, who was the guy who proposed the Iran-Contra link, and destroyed vital documents as the affair became exposed. Adopting an air of indignant moral impeccability, the future Fox News commentator insisted upon wearing his army uniform and medals when testifying before Congress, and pretty much whenever he appeared in public.

I was freelancing cartoons on local topics for the Racine Journal Times in those days. Cartoons involving court cases are usually unwelcome, but this one skirted the issue of prematurely convicting the accused. The particulars of the case hardly matter for the understanding of the cartoon thirty years later; in fact, I have no recollection whatsoever of how the case was adjudicated.

Ten years later, I was drawing for two Milwaukee newspapers. I illustrated the editorials of The Business Journal of Greater Milwaukee; here's one on one of the few topics that needs no explanation — although it might be useful to recall that in Bill Clinton's first term, he had put Vice President Al Gore in charge of a commission to review and streamline government regulation of business. You can pretty accurately imagine the Beej editorial on your own.

The other paper I drew for back then was a now-defunct biweekly, In Step, serving Wisconsin's LGBTQ community. Again, I doubt that this cartoon from July, 1997 requires any explanation.

Twenty years later, we're still waiting for Mickey Mouse to suffer an almighty smite.

Now, had I drawn this cartoon for the Journal Times, there would no doubt have been reader complaints that I was attacking religion. (Had I drawn it for the Business Journal, there would have been editor complaints that this wasn't what his editorial was about.) But at In Step, I was preaching to the choir — if you'll pardon the expression.

Finally, I'll circle back to another Fox News personality with this cartoon from July of 2007 featuring one Mr. Bill O'Reilly. We derisively called it Faux News back then — the precursor of Trumplestiltskin's "Fake News" epithet for all the other channels, newspapers and magazines.

Which brings up a topic having very little to do with this cartoon, but which has been bothering me lately. For all the media outrage at the .gif Mr. Trump tweeted showing him beating up a guy whose face is covered by a CNN logo, American media have been largely and curiously silent about the hamfisted efforts of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to force Qatar to shut down the Al Jazeera news network.

While not all complaints against Al Jazeera are baseless (concerning an allegation that an Egyptian president was an Israeli agent, for example), freedom of the press has got to be respected. It's one thing to call the integrity of Fox's Bill O'Reilly on the one hand, or CBS's Dan Rather on the other; it's quite another for any government to insist that someone else's government shut down the entire network.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Q Toon: Hans und Franz

It's high time that someone came up with some go-to characters for us cartoonists who have to draw something about Germany. The German parliament voted last week in favor of full marriage equality for same-sex and different-sex couples, which, of course, I applaud. But I can't credit the one German politician who would be recognizable in the U.S., Chancellor Angela Merkel, because she voted against it.

So whom could I cast as the principal characters in this week's cartoon? The most recognizable fictional German characters I can think of are Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schulz; but even though they are the closest thing in the American cultural vernacular to sympathetic Nazis, they are Nazis nevertheless. I just didn't want to freight this celebration of  Gleichstellung der Gleichgeschlechtlichen Ehe with the complicated relationship between the Third Reich and its homosexuals.

Saturday Night Live gave us Mike Myers's Dieter, the host of Sprockets, who, conveniently enough for this cartoon concept, turned out to be gay (Will Farrell played his lover Helmut in one sketch), and I kind of wish I had come up with an effective reference to this character.

Instead, I went with the more familiar pair of Hans & Franz, and opted to address their Austrian nationality head-on. Because, really, what real-life German pair comes to mind anyway?

Sigmund Freud and Erwin Schrödinger? Austrian.

Wolfgang Mozart and Franz Schubert? Austrian.

For that matter, Adolph Hitler? Also from Austria.

Where, by the way, same-sex couples still have only civil union rights.

Monday, July 3, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

Being rather unsatisfied with this caricature, I'm pretty sure I can post this without giving away the slightest clue as to what this week's cartoon is about.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July, everyone.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Elements of Surprise, Part II

Smackback Saturday continues last week's essay on Surprise in Cartoons by some guy named Summerfield Butler, writing 100 years ago in Cartoons Magazine. Referring to cartoon conventions conveying shock, surprise and befuddlement as "symbols," Professor Butler had cited several examples of protagonists executing back-somersaults out of the frame, a cliché that has since been consigned to the dustbin of history. Today, Dr. Butler moves on to a cliché that managed to last a bit longer.
I confess myself somewhat at a loss to account for the origin of the surprise symbol which consists of the violent unsettling of the hat from its normal position on the top of the head. Is it the cartoonist's idea that the hair rises as forcibly as all that, or is it that the start of astonishment is so cataclysmic as to cause all loosely attached portions of one's habiliment inevitably to separate from one's person?
I still don't know who this Canadian cartoonist was.
A little of both, I dare say. Certainly when Mutt's hat flies off, there is always perpendicular hair visible beneath it. Certainly, however, this is not the case with Baron Bean. And the Baron is evidently so shocked that he not only loses his hat, but his cigar holder. Once I remember the saturnine Mr. Herriman caused only the top of the Baron's hat to fly off, and near by this extraordinary phenomenon were inscribed words to the effect that the new device was to satisfy the Anti-Hat-Flying-Off Chapter of Chronic Kickers. ...

"Baron Bean" by George Herriman
Petey Dink is also a habitual hat loser. So is Pa Perkins. So indeed are nearly all the comic characters. In that remarkably unconventional dénouement of Jerry on the Job which I mentioned above [see last week's installment], it should be noted that Jerry's hat has not flown off into the empyrean, but rests peacefully on his face. Just how it got there is not explained, nor is any explanation necessary.

Cartoonists who have a little more patience have devised somewhat subtler symbols than these. The face is, after all, the instrument upon which surprise is most commonly registered. But for some reason or other, the face of the ordinary comic character is not readily subject to exaggeration in this respect. That is why, perhaps, the cartoonists contrive so often to eliminate the face of an astonished character altogether.

[I already posted the article's illustration of a surprised Jeff last week. My bad. Here's a surprised Mutt.]
But Bud Fisher, when he set about to compiling his symbols for the character of Jeff struck off a masterpiece under the head of surprise. Those arched eyebrows, that fingered mustache, that utterly vacuous expression (heaven knows how he gets it) are classic in the literal sense of that word. Restrained, simple, every unnecessary detail removed, there is something about the countenance of a startled Jeff that sums up in itself the whole experience of the race, of the race that being blessed with half an angel's brain foresees dimly, yet is forever incapable of foreseeing clearly, and so is always subject to surprise and bewilderment.

Mr. Sterrett's Pa Perkins is almost as good as Jeff. The single hair rising on end, the helplessly rubbed baldness around it, the wide open eyes, the wrinkled old forehead have infinite symbolic value, but lack the simplicity that Mr. Fisher has achieved. . . .
"Polly and Her Pals" by Cliff Sterrett
[At this point, Professor Baldwin wanders off into a lengthy discussion of the phenomenon of comic characters getting hit in the back of the head by hurled bricks, cast iron skillets, flower pots, and like missiles. While one might well be surprised by such an assault, and the assault might indeed suffice to doff one's hat -- viz.:
-- your humble blogger considers this a needless tangent, insofar as the assault does not in and of itself serve as an indication of the victim's surprise (indeed, the victim ought to be instantly rendered unconscious prior to experiencing any surprise at all). It does, however, allow me to include a snippet of a more famous comic from Baron Bean's creator.]
"Krazy Kat" by George Herriman
Among the more amusing arbitrary symbols for surprise I have come across recently is a strip from the Petey Dink cartoons. Petey is at Palm Beach, but exceedingly anxious to go home. He is smoking a cigar and listening cynically to the conversation of his women folk in the next room. They are talking about their lack of new clothes, and in the next to the last picture, Petey says something about how he knew when their clothes ran out, they'd come along without a fuss.
"Petey Dink" by C.A. Voight
In the final picture, the scene has shifted, and Mabel is remarking to Henrietta how nice it is that they can get plenty of new clothes right there at Palm Beach, "although they are frightfully expensive." Through the curtain of the next room comes a cloud in which is inscribed in large letters the ominous symbol CRASH.

Poor Petey! He is ever doomed to the shocks of disillusionment. Of course, he had been leaning back in his chair . . . [sic] but still! Mr. Voight deserves congratulations for this bit of work.