Saturday, March 31, 2018

No Fool Like an Old Fool

It's Spoofback Saturday and April Fool's Eve to boot, so let's take a break from wallowing in the centennial of World War I just a bit.

This is not a Mike Peters cartoon. It's a parody I drew for my college newspaper's mock issue in 1979. In addition to scribblings by resident St. Olaf cartoonists, the Manitou Messenger ran Mike Peters's cartoons distributed by College Press Service. They were more dependable than my editorial cartoons were; but as irrepressible as Mr. Peters was and is, he didn't send us material for the parody issue in which we student journalists blew off steam.

So I mimicked his style as best I could in a cartoon buttressing up one of the conceits of that year's parody issue: that there had been some sort of nuclear accident involving Ytterboe Hall, a 79-year-old red brick dormitory that, in reality, the school administration wanted to tear down (over the objection of its residents and our "Keep Ytt Up" slogan. Ytt would be demolished a few years after I graduated, but St. Olaf eventually put the Ytterboe name on a new building more in keeping with the campus's limestone motif.)
One of my other Mike Peters parodies didn't involve campus issues at all. Ronald Reagan's first Secretary of State Al Haig was the John Bolton of the day, famously declaring after the president's attempted assassination by John Hinckley, "I am in charge!" I think, however, that the caption beneath this cartoon must have been copied from a real Mike Peters cartoon, because I don't remember inking it. I don't have the original of this cartoon, and it was a long time ago, so I could be wrong. On the other hand, I wasted a lot of time mimicking halftone with a Bic pen and a ruler on these things; the forgery of Peters's print style in the caption, if that's what it is, is considerably more true to Peters's handwriting than that of the word "France" on the map.

But how does one parody one's own work?

For one thing, I answered any reader who had told me "I don't get it" by drawing cartoons so impossibly dense, inside, and disjointed that nobody could possibly "get it." Except for Idi Amin (referencing an earlier cartoon that had him hiding out in the utility tunnels beneath the campus), most of the characters in the above cartoon were campus personages. And just to be as obscure as possible, Gwenellda's time-traveling friend was a character from The Uglies, a Manitou Messenger cartoon by L.K. Hanson, dating from a decade before any of us students had come to campus.

Having a time-traveling character in my cartoon would have been more impressive if I had somehow known to include the work of 2018 Herb Block Award winner Ward Sutton, who drew for the Messenger eight years later than I had.

But if I had had that power to see into the future, I wouldn't have been so cocksure that I'd never need to know Thing One about computers. And I might have made it to the Messenger's staff photo on time senior year.

For the UW-Parkside Ranger (renamed the Stranger) in 1984, I depicted the swearing in of the unnamed police detective in the "Funny Paper Caper" I was drawing that year as the 37th president of the United States (with a character from fellow Ranger cartoonist John Kovalic's "Wild Life" as Veep).

Various political figures and a few Ranger staffers populate most of the rest of the cartoon.

But there's more to a parody newspaper than cartoons. Photo editors liked to get in on the laughs, too. Holland Hall at my alma mater is blessed with the most massive urinals you have ever seen in your life, so some enterprising Messenger staffer depicted the school track team posing inside one.

Other memorable photos I remember involved an enormous abstract iron art piece called "The Spirit Also Helpeth Us" by Dorothy Berge (no relation as far as I've ever been able to tell), depicted in various situations such as addressing a convocation in Boe Memorial Chapel. Or gigantic mutant squirrels menacing the campus due to that nuclear leak in Ytterboe.

And in those days, they did it all without PhotoShop.

So did I, taking a file photo from 1955 that appeared to show Ronald Reagan talking to an empty space, and using it to illustrate a bogus story about Basil Wraithbone, a washed-up actor who used to be one of the Ghostly Trio on "Casper, the Friendly Ghost."

If PhotoShop had been around in those days, and if I had had the foresight not to be so snooty about eschewing computers, I could have made it so that you could still see the empty space behind Mr. Wraithbone.

That story is too long to include here in full; so here's another bit of Fake News I wrote.

It's too long, too, but short enough for today's post, and I got to use a couple names I picked up in Medieval History class.

Because being able to namecheck Frankish kings seemed so much more useful back then than getting into the vanguard of the computer revolution.

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