Saturday, June 30, 2018

Gaze of Future Past

I'm only rewinding the calendar 25 years or so for this installment of Selfback Saturday. We're wrapping up LGBTQ Pride Month, which will serve to touch off this recollection of some cartoons I drew for the Minnesota LGBTQ press in 1993.
This is not one of them.

The previous summer, my dear friend Jeff Crump asked me to parody a syndicated editorial cartoon by Chris Britt that had appeared in the Fargo Forum July 25, 1992. The original had made fun of the LGBTQ community using various crude stereotypes; Jeff described to me the cartoon he wanted me to draw, replacing Britt's crude stereotypes with equally crude stereotypical features of Minnesota festival-goers.

My parody ran in Gaze Magazine, a predecessor to the current Lavender Magazine of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Running about 64 pages to the typical issue, it was printed on newsprint in black-and-white, save for some purple on the front and back cover.

I followed that cartoon up with a series of editorial cartoons. I didn't have a computer at the time, and I didn't have the relationship with Gaze's editors that I had had with other distant newspapers such as the NorthCountry Journal. Not being au courant with Minnesota LGBTQ news, my cartoons tended to deal with national topics.

The above cartoon from May of 1993 hints that maybe the country hasn't moved forward very much in the quarter century since. No, military brass were not being turned away from restaurants a la Sarah Huckabee Sanders; I concocted the scenario to spoof Pentagon worries that openly gay or lesbian personel in the military would be bad for troop morale.
Then as now, a five-to-four conservative majority on the Supreme Court caused no end of stress to liberals hoping to protect Civil Rights gains from the 1960s and 70s. What passed for the "liberal" wing of the Court were justices appointed by Nixon and Ford; the lone Justice to have been appointed by a Democratic president, "Whizzer" White, usually voted with the conservatives. He resigned on June 28, 1993, and would be replaced by Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the fall.

The above cartoon from July referred to a ruling that merely showing that a business or government had demonstrated a pattern of racial or gender discrimination was not enough to prove a specific instance of discrimination. No, said the Court, the aggrieved party must uncover a written policy or some other public confession that he or she was discriminated against.

What else is familiar from 1993? Well, we had a billionaire who told us he had all the answers...
...(just not necessarily with him right now)...

...And a sex offender as president.
Is it progress, then, that 25 years later, we've got the same guy fulfilling both roles?

Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gays in the military sparked many of the cartoons that I drew for Gaze, and for In Step and Q Syndicate after that. For all the dire warnings of the danger gays and lesbians would pose to troop morale, it's amazing how little troop morale is in the news ever since President Obama ended the policy.

We may yet discover how troop morale is affected when Donald Trump gets around to reversing that Obama action.

In spite of having next to no interaction with Gaze's editors, I did manage to send them at least one cartoon touching on a Minnesota topic. The spring of 1993 brought spectacular flooding of the Mississippi River and its upper tributaries. Traveling from Minneapolis to St. Peter, a bus I was taking to a convention was forced to take several detours to avoid flooded bridges that were no longer over the Minnesota River but under it.

We've come almost full circle from offensive stereotypes to offensive puns, so that will wrap it up for another thrilling episode of Selfback Saturday. Tune in again next Saturday to see what else I can find to distract myself from the Eve of DisTrumption!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Q Toon: Selective Service

Members of the Corrupt Trump Administration are enjoying more home-cooked meals these days.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Policy Adviser Stephen Wormtongue Miller were hounded out of Mexican restaurants (¿Qué tan irónico es eso?) over the administration's internment camps for refugee children. The staff at a Virginia restaurant refused service to Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the owner explaining that "the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation."

Next, Congressman Maxine Waters (D-CA) urged an audience to harass Trump cabinet members whenever they're seen at restaurants, department stores and gas stations. Called to task for that, she resorted to the same Whatabout tactic usually associated with Trump and his Trump l'oeilists.

I won't condone Rep. Waters's advocacy of shocking, shocking behavior, but at least she wasn't calling for people to commit physical assault, "Second Amendment solutions," or armed insurrection. Apparently that sort of thing is just fine with some people.

We are becoming the United States In Name Only. There are those who think it's okay to proclaim "F*¢k Trump" on live national broadcast television, while others are calling the cops to arrest Black Americans for the most innocuous activities. You boycott Chick Fil-A for being antigay, or Sara Lee for being antigun. Either you get all your news from MSNBC, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, Now Next and Colbert, or you get it from Fox, Sinclair, Newsmax, Breitbart, and Russian internet trolls. And promptly repost, retweet, or otherwise regurgitate the juiciest stuff.

That crazy aunt who used to send all those unhinged fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd: emails? She's everyone now.

My husband and I have relatives and friends whom we love dearly, but with whom we just can't discuss anything remotely political any more. It's no problem in the Real World, but becomes trickier on social media. He recently shared a 1947 film that was made to combat the racism, bigotry and divisive rhetoric of the KKK, Jim Crow, and what would later be named McCarthyism; someone then promptly told him it's all the fault of liberal Democrats who refuse to compromise on immigration so they can win this year's midterm elections.

(Trump, McConnell, Ryan and the Tea Party are always willing to talk compromise, you know.)

It is certainly true that a growing number of liberal Democrats see less and less point in compromise. Looking back at eight years of the Barack Obama administration, which started with his naming more members of the opposition party to the cabinet than any administration since World War II, what did his willingness to compromise get us? A health care plan that lacks the comprehensiveness needed for it to fulfill its promise. More arrests of immigrants than any previous administration. A centrist Supreme Court nominee that Republicans refused the courtesy of consideration for nearly a year so that Donald Trump could fill the seat with a doctrinaire conservative instead (and a solid majority who just ruled that hostility to Christians is unconstitutional, but hostility to Muslims is meh.)

Given that Hillary Clinton got 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump in 2016, and Democratic Senate candidates totaled 6 million more votes than their Republican counterparts, and Republicans still won the presidency and Senate, some frustration was bound to appear. Republicans felt just as aggrieved over the 2008 and 2012 elections, and they had to resort to making up reasons out of thin air why they should have won. (And, by the way, they praised a baker who refused service to Vice President Joe Biden.)

Have we reached the point at which the center no longer holds? Have we been on this road for too long to turn back? Even people who want to blame Donald Trump for bludgeoning civility to death with his non-stop petulant churlishness can't really believe that civility will miraculously come back to life once he's out of office.

So our side will eat at the Red Hen. Your side can eat at Papa John's.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

East Side, West Side

It was too nice to stay indoors yesterday afternoon, so I took a quick walk around the neighborhood.

To one side, a busload of migrant workers were toiling in the cabbage field. Two children were sheltering in the shade of the port-a-potty. On the side of the bus, an extensive schedule of work sites with instructions on where to be and so forth; the first several rows of the bus were filled with boxes of personal effects.

To the other side, a helicopter was flying back and forth for hours on end over the site where Trump is coming for a campaign rally on Thursday.

Monday, June 25, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

This week's cartoon has something for everyone.

Well, almost everyone.

Some exclusions may apply.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Tsar-Crossed Rulers

This week has marked another crucial centennial or two from World War I, so here we go with another installment of Slainback Saturday editorial cartoons.
"The New Czar" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 30, 1918

Nikolai II Romanov, his wife and children, their doctor and three servants were summarily executed by their Bolshevik captors in the basement of Ipatiev house, Yekaterinburg (present-day Sverdlovsk), 100 years ago July 17 shortly after 2:00 a.m. News of their deaths reached the rest of the world some ten days later.
"Overthown" by Sydney Joseph Greene in New York Evening Telegram, June 29, 1918
The reason given by the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet of the Workers' and Peasants' Government for the execution of the deposed tsar and his retinue was that White Guard forces were closing in on the Ipatiev house hoping to free the royal family. Indeed, the Bolshevik government was not yet firmly established against royalist and pro-Kerensky counterrevolutionary forces which were very much active in Moscow and elsewhere. But Sydney Greene's prediction of an overthrow of the Bolsheviks would prove to be 74 years premature.
"Where Are You Running" in La Victoire, Paris, ca. June, 1918
The Nelson Harding cartoon at the top of this post is the only one I've come across to address the death of the tsar at all directly. The execution of his entire family was no doubt profoundly shocking to his royal cousins on the Hohenzollern and Windsor (until recently Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) thrones. Otherwise, many in the Western World had had little sympathy for Nikolai personally; he had been an ineffective autocrat with a bloody history. The Central Powers had planned to replace him with a compliant monarch after stripping Russia of its antebellum western territories from Finland to Ukraine.
"Nothing Can Move Me, Comrade" by Ibarski (?) in Mucha (Polish), Moscow,  ca. June, 1918
Neither did any outside government have any sympathy for the Bolsheviks. True, the international socialist community had high hopes for this infant Russian government, but everyone else from the crowned and elected heads of state to the ink-stained wretches toiling at their drawing boards expected that popular unrest and weak foreign policy would quickly doom Lenin and his cohorts.
"The International Squirrel Cage" by Jay "Ding" Darling, June, 1918
Things would settle down before long. The importance of the massacre of the Romanov family was that, for Russia, there was now no going back.
"Wilson der Demokrat" by Thomas Theodor Heine in Simplicissimus, Munich, August 13, 1918
Which didn't stop Thomas Heine at the relatively left-leaning Simplicissimus from encouraging Russian communists to vigilance against American imperialist meddling. The Phrygian cap worn by the Russian bear has been a symbol since Greek antiquity of liberty and republican government (Marianne, the embodiment of post-royal France, is always shown wearing one).

I have no explanation for the food-based idioms in this next cartoon. I've translated the German very literally; someone else will have to explain what Germans find so particularly distasteful about mushroom soup.
Detail of "Illustrierte Rückblicke vom 1. April bis zum 30. Juni 1918" by Gustav Brandt in Kladderadatch, Berlin, July 14, 1918
The above two panels from a two-page feature by Gustav Brandt will serve as a transition to the other major story at the end of June, 1918. You wouldn't know it from that lower panel, but the Italian army, with British, French and American materiel support, was finally making progress repulsing Austrian and German troops occupying much of Trentino, Veneto, and Friuli.
"L'Incubo di Carluccio" by Gabriele "Rata Langa" Galanta in L'Asino, Rome, July 7, 1918
Austro-Hungarian and German forces planned a full frontal attack at 3:00 a.m. on June 15; but the new Italian commander, Armando Diaz, learned of the enemy's plans and ordered the Italian artillery to open fire all along their front half an hour earlier. The Austrians suffered heavy casualties in their crowded trenches; some of their units retreated, but others managed to advance across the rising Piave River. This left them further exposed and unable to resupply themselves when Diaz renewed the Italian charge. Ultimately, Emperor Karl ordered a retreat on June 20; and by battle's end, Italy had recovered all lost territory south of the river.
"The Spirit of Garibaldi" by Sydney Greene in New York Evening Telegram, June 25, 1918
It was only natural for Sydney Greene, considering his newspaper's Italian-American readership, to cheer the Italian successes; but many other American cartoonists were happy to draw cartoons similar to the one above.
"Exceeded His Instructions" by Nelson Harding in Brooklyn Daily Eagle, June 25, 1918

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Q Toon: Red Card Warning

Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup, and let me just say at the outset that I know "futbol" is the Spanish name for the sport we Americans call "soccer." The rest of the world calls it "football," but we Americans use that word to refer to a game in which only one member of each team ever kicks a ball.

My readers are mostly Americans (Buon giorno, however, to my frequent Italian visitors here), but the characters in this cartoon would not call it "soccer." Anyway, "futbol" is a faithful enough transliteration of "футбол." So there.

Second of all, this idea would have worked better if there were no "penalty box" in soccer / futbol / футбол / calcio / whatever you want to call it. In the Beautiful Game, the area from which a player is entitled to make a direct free kick because of a foul by the opposing team is sometimes called a penalty box.

But on to today's actual topic: as the rest of the world gathers in Russia for the 2018 World Cup, LGBTQ fans have been warned that the Cossacks are on the march to punish public displays of same-sex affection.  Yes, Cossacks.
[I]n the city of Rostov, members of the religious and traditionalist Cossack communities  enlisted to help authorities secure the stadiums say they will will also be on the lookout for acts of same-sex affection.
"If two men are kissing each other at the World Cup, we will tip off the police, drawing their attention to it and the rest is a police matter,” Oleg Barannikov, a head coordinator of the Cossack volunteers with the police told Radio Free Europe-affiliate Current Time. “To us, values mean the (Christian) Orthodox faith and the family come first.”
Barnnikov did not elaborate on what Cossacks hope police will do upon learning about the kissing men. Homosexuality in Russia is not illegal, but recent legislation has banned many materials for public awareness of non-heterosexual relationships and  LGBT pride symbols from public display, equating them to adult content inappropriate for children.
The British Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), in partnership with the Football Association and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, warned its LGBTQ fans that public displays of affection at the Russia games could be hazardous to one's health. Indeed, a French couple was attacked and seriously injured before the games. Two Dagestani men have been arrested for the attack; OperSlil Telegram's account of the crime granted that “Even though the injured are homosexuals, it does not justify the monsters who beat him.”

Well, that's nice to know. I don't suppose, however, that the OperSlil Telegram people recommended a level of violence more acceptable against homosexuals.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Enviro-Stewardship: Butterflies and Milkweed

Once a month, I turn the blog over to Dad for the Environmental Stewardship column that he writes for local church newsletters. The rest of this post (including the footnote this time) is the July column by John Berge:

While I have told this story before, the recent announcements of decreases in the iconic Monarch Butterfly population make it worthwhile to retell it.

Several years ago, two little girls with newly gifted butterfly nets came up to me while I was working in the yard and plaintively asked where all the butterflies had gone. I showed them the little signs in a neighbor’s yard saying the lawn had been sprayed with herbicide and insecticide and then pointed to all the other similar signs in the neighborhood.  I then led them to our back yard and my wife’s “natural area” where we saw a couple of butterflies that were too quick to be caught.

My little “teaching moment” was mostly on insecticides. Butterflies and their wild looking, hairy or horned larvae (caterpillars) are insects and were being killed by those lawn sprays.

Collin O’Mara, President of the National Wildlife Federation, has recently quoted Mexican officials that the population of monarch butterflies over-wintering in Mexico dropped 14.8% over the previous year, continuing the trend that has seen a 90% drop over the last two decades. These estimates are based on the area covered by these butterflies, which can number anywhere from 10 to 50 million per hectare (2.471 acres).

Suggested causes of this precipitous drop include: hurricanes, which have always been present; degradation of habitat in the Mexican mountains due to lumbering; increased use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals, as I mentioned to those two young ladies; global warming; and loss of milkweed habitat in the United States. We, as environmental stewards, have some power over the latter three causes.

Many butterflies, in their caterpillar stage, are more finicky eaters than any child you have ever known. Monarch caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves*. So the indulgent parents lay their eggs only on milkweed plants (Asclepias species). If they can’t find them, there goes one of the several generations that make up the round trip from northern USA and Canada to Mexico and back.

We have two varieties of milkweed in our yard and do occasionally see the monarchs flying around. The plants don’t always grow where I want them, so I ignore the second half of their name and let them grow almost wherever they want. If all gardeners would include a few milkweed in their gardens and minimize their use of pesticides, two of the threats to the monarchs could be eliminated.

Another butterfly larva that is a finicky eater is that of the Karner Blue butterfly. It feeds only on the wild lupine that is found in open, sunny areas with sandy soil such as found in some areas of northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. I know of no Karner Blues in our area of the state, but people who have second homes up north containing such habitats should be good environmental stewards by planting and encouraging the native lupine.

* This is true for the first four instars (stages between molts) of the caterpillar's growth; but some people in Texas, where milkweed has virtually disappeared, have reported that fifth instar caterpillars, the last before forming a chrysalis, will in desperation feed on the skin of melons.

Monday, June 18, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

There's some sort of game going on somewhere that we Americans weren't invited to or something.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Fathers' Day 1918

It's Father's Eve, so Sireback Saturday brings you a selection of 100-year-old comic strips about Father. The dialogue is tiny, in part because comic strips were given much more space in the newspaper than they are today, so you'll have to beclickify these samples to embiggen them enough for eulegibilitizationness.

It seems only natural that we should start with George McManus's long-running strip, Bringing Up Father.
"Bringing Up Father" by George McManus, June 19, 1918
What strikes us immediately is that the typical father in 1918 was pathetically henpecked, subject to the violent mood swings of his mate, just because he was an idiot who blurted out any thought that happened to cross his mind. If anybody had heard of Asperger's Syndrome at the time, perhaps Jiggs could have gotten the treatment he so sorely deserved, rather than having to escape his home on the zip line installed expressly for that purpose.

Everyone had them in those days. I've seen the photos.

"Poor Mr. W." by Gene Carr, June 16, 1918
Gene Carr patterned his Poor Mr. W. (one of several short-lived cartoons by Carr) after Bringing Up Father, but molded its title character into a civic-minded, educated gentleman who was willing to admit his own mistakes in support of the War Effort as seen in this Fathers' Day episode. Note too the forward-looking attitude toward women in the workplace!

"When a Man's Married" by William Gordon "Jack" Farr for US Feature Service, June 15, 1918
The father in Jack Farr's "When a Man's Married" illustrates how getting married drives a man to drink. Sure it may start with an innocently medicinal daily teaspoon of whiskey, but one teaspoon soon becomes a tablespoon, and before you know it, the doctor has you chugging an entire barrel of the stuff.

You may think Mr. Farr's attitudes toward medicinal alcohol quaint. 100 years hence, your great-great-grandchildren will probably think the same about medicinal marijuana.

One thing that has been missing in our Fathers' Day strips so far has been anyone fathered by the title characters. Therefore, let us check in on Dad and the kids.
"'S'Matter, Pop" by Charles M. Payne for Bell Syndicate, June 16, 1918
The father in Mr. Payne's long-running strip has obviously been reading too many books touting the supposed benefits of permissive parenting. By not sternly correcting his son's anastic delusions, the son is put at risk of drowning, or worse. Pop could use a shave, too. I'll bet he's one of them bolsheviki.

"Doings of the Duffs" by Walter Allman for Scripps Syndicate, June 21, 1918
Walter Allman's Doings of the Duffs, I guess, confirms my suspicion that fathers in the Nineteen-teens had not mastered the element of water yet. Best leave them on dry land.
"Polly and Her Pals" by Cliff Sterrett for Hearst Newspapers, June 15, 1918
Sam Perkins' daughter Polly has joined the local police department in the above installment, further entrenching the proto-feminazi domination of American incels in the 20th Century. Fortunately for Pa, there is still a rump force of traditional male patriarchy meeting clandestinely under the cover of cigar smoke around a poker table. The resistance continues.

To the father-child relationship, this next cartoon by Charles H. Wellington adds the dimension of the relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law (a relationship that apparently fascinated him, because he drew strips with three other variations on this title between 1911 and 1942). This Sunday cartoon takes up an entire broadsheet page, which is not only bigger than the phone you're trying to read this on, it's bigger than any newspaper on the newsstand today. In an attempt to make it somewhat legible, I've broken it up into three pieces.
"That Son-In-Law of Pa's" by Charles H. Wellington for Newspaper Feature Service, June 16, 1918
See what Mr. Wellington did there? He very cleverly stepped on his own gag in the topper of the cartoon in case you got tired of reading it and missed the very helpful tip for spotting German spies in the final panel. Sure, it spoiled the joke, but the country was at war, dammit. No mere joke was more important than saving the country from the Boche!
"Doings of the Duffs" by Walter Allman for Scripps Syndicate, June 13, 1918
Returning to Tom Duff: I'll bet he pulled this same trick when he was called up to the draft board, too. (The U.S. raised the draft age was to 49 in June of 1918 as these cartoons were published.)

Now, I've read several episodes of Doings of the Duffs, and I'm not at all sure what Olivia's relationship to Tom and Helen Duff is. She lives in their house and sees gentlemen callers there; but she calls Mr. and Mrs. Duff by their first names, so she doesn't seem to be their daughter or daughter-in-law. She's not their maid (that's Daisy, an African-American woman). If she were Tom or Helen's sister, one would think Tom would be less rude to her beaux in the interest of getting her out of the house.

If she isn't a Duff, is she then, the prototypical DUFF?

Friday, June 15, 2018

Booed on Grant

First they came for the teachers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a teacher.

Then they came for the undocumented immigrants, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an undocumented immigrant.

Then they came for the pipeline protesters, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a pipeline protester.

Then they came for the editorial cartoonists—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Q Toon: Devil's Food in the Details

Sorry I'm late...

We're assured that the Supreme Court's 7-2 ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado does not give carte blanche to bakers, photographers, florists and lunch counters to claim a religious right to discriminate against customers.

No, the justices tell us that this case was all about how the Colorado Civil Rights Commission mistreated the baker after he refused to bake a wedding cake for a couple getting married. One of the commissioners charged that religious justification of discrimination has been historically "despicable." Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote,
"The commissioner even went so far as to compare Phillips’ invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. This sentiment is inappropriate for a Commission charged with the solemn responsibility of fair and neutral enforcement of Colorado’s antidiscrimination law—a law that protects discrimination on the basis of religion as well as sexual orientation.
"The record shows no objection to these comments from other commissioners. And the later state-court ruling reviewing the Commission’s decision did not mention those comments, much less express concern with their content. Nor were the comments by the commissioners disavowed in the briefs filed in this Court. For these reasons, the Court cannot avoid the conclusion that these statements cast doubt on the fairness and impartiality of the Commission’s adjudication of Phillips’ case." 
In their dissent, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor noted that the couple had not asked Masterpiece Cakeshop to include any pro-marriage equality text on their cake, and were turned away because of their identity as a same-sex couple. Justices  Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer noted as much in their concurrence with the court's conservative majority, but were swayed by that commissioner's going all Christopher Hitchens about the case.

So let this be a lesson to all friends of the LGBTQ community, as well as all liberal-minded people in general. I appreciate that it's frustrating to live under the Corrupt Trump-McConnell-Ryan, Republican-gerrymandered-statehouses regime, but we all bear the burden of watching our tongues.

Go overboard criticizing a homophobic baker's religion, and it becomes all about you.

Hurl a sexist slur at Ivanka Trump after Roseanne Barr loses her TV show, and that becomes all about you.

Start your introduction of Bruce Springsteen at the Tony Awards with a four-letter verb plus "Trump," and even his locking immigrant children in cages, insulting our closest allies, and giving the Korean peninsula away to Kim Jong Un become all about you.

Gosh, I hope I haven't offended any right-wing snowflakes just now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Surprise, surprise. I'm finally getting around to a wedding cake cartoon. I'd have put this out sooner, but the Supreme Court hasn't been cooperating with my deadline schedule.

Timing can really trip a cartoonist up. A couple Saturdays ago, I pointed out an episode of Dick Tracy that struck people as being in bad taste when it appeared within a week of Robert Kennedy's assassination. I followed that up with a bizarre choice by the Cuero (TX) Record to publish a cartoon by Alfred Buescher of Robert Kennedy playing marbles, entitled "Good Shooting" —after Kennedy died.

Fault for the Buescher cartoon gaffe belongs entirely to the Cuero Record editors. Buescher's syndicated cartoons were the only editorial cartoons the Record ran in 1968, and I can imagine the editors deciding to find some cartoon — any cartoon — about Kennedy to run that day, and perhaps Buescher's take on the assassination hadn't arrived over the wire yet. Why they chose a cartoon that was at least two weeks old (judging from its reference to the Nebraska primary), let alone one with that unfortunate title, is simply baffling.

Just last week, Francesco Marciuliano, the cartoonist who draws Judge Parker, felt a need to address his introducing a plot twist involving the sudden death of a celebrity, appearing shortly after two real-life prominent celebrity suicides.
Many of you who read newspaper comics know that strips are written months in advance. Well, at the very least weeks in advance. But I completely understand why this is not common knowledge. And I bring this up to stress that because of such publication deadlines today’s Judge Parker is in no way a reaction to the utterly tragic, untimely deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain this week. To do so would be a complete dismissal of what it means to be human and humane.
Coincidentalism can run in the opposite direction, of course. Over The Hedge recently anticipated Rosanne Barr's fall from grace, for example. But every time I like a particularly pointed cartoon I've drawn criticizing Mercurial American President Donald Trump, I have to cross my fingers in hopes that nothing terrible happens to him in the four days to a week while my cartoon is waiting to hit the newsstands.

Well, I hope nothing terrible happens to him even when I haven't drawn a particularly pointed anti-Trump cartoon.

I really, really can't imagine anything nice I might conceivably draw about him if it did.


For the, er, record, the Record did print Alfred Buescher's post-assassination cartoon in its June 11, 1968 edition.
"A Tale of Three Cities" by Alfred Buescher for King Features, June, 1968

Monday, June 11, 2018

Toon: Staking the MeToo High Ground

It's hard to imagine how Bill Clinton thought he could make the talk show rounds chatting up his book, co-authored by James Patterson, without having to discuss in light of the #metoo movement the sex he did not have with that woman.

Or why James Patterson stuck with the tour past Interview #1.

Republicans can safely make the rounds of every show on Fox News secure in the knowledge that they won't have to answer any uncomfortable questions; but Democrats, for all the blather about "liberal media bias," have no such safe space. Seemingly blindsided by pointed questions in a "Today" show interview, Bill Clinton was afforded a chance to revise and extend his remarks on Stephen Colbert's "Late Night" the next day. But it meant having to spend an entire segment of the show repenting for the horndog behavior that got him impeached 20 years ago.

Up until the #metoo movement, Bill Clinton remained the Democrats' second-best Elder Statesman after Jimmy Carter. Al Gore had insisted that Clinton stay at arms length from Gore's 2000 campaign, and lost West Virginia and Florida as a result. Barack Obama sent Clinton to campaign for the Good Ol' Boy vote, and got just enough of them to break the Republican lock on the South twice.

Contrast that with the Republicans' relationship with their most recently disgraced president, Richard Nixon. They defended him in office until the Smoking Gun tapes came out, but unlike the Democrats and Clinton, never gave him a speaking slot at their conventions or sent him out to campaign anywhere. 20 years later, Nixon was studiously rehabilitating himself, cranking out scholarly tomes on foreign policy but still not invited to speak at GOP nominating conventions.

Donald Joffrey Trump is unlikely to be around in 20 years (does even Brian Kilmeade believe the notes from Trump's doctor?), so I don't expect him to be churning out The Art of the Treaty or Everyone Is Saying The President is Missed, That I Can Tell You in 2038. Assuming we have our democracy back, perhaps Republicans will have made a more honest assessment of him by then.

Either that, or his visage will be beaming down on the America Great Again Party Convention, between those of Emperor Putin and our Dear Friend And Ally Kim Jong-Il, as Don Jr. accepts renomination to a fourth term as CEO of the United States.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Covering LGBT Pride

It's time to take a break from world war and assassination, so Steppinback Saturday puts down the guns and digs up the cover illustrations I made for In Step's coverage of PrideFest in Milwaukee.
In Step Newsmagazine cover, May 29, 1997
In Step was a biweekly newspaper published in Milwaukee from 1984 to 2003, originally in a 5.5” x 8.5” newsprint booklet format. By the time I started drawing for them in 1995, it had expanded to an 8.5” x 11” magazine size.

With the 64-page May 29, 1997 PrideFest issue, In Step launched its 11” x 17” tabloid size newspaper format, splurging occasionally on a full-color cover. (More often in those days, In Step printed two-color covers — a black-and-white photo or drawing with the flag and headline in an accent color.)

The crowd scene includes a few of the acts scheduled to appear, and a couple of my friends from Milwaukee who were certain to see themselves below the fold. Knowing the design of the official PrideFest t-shirt, I included one in the foreground, although the colors are wrong. (I can't remember whether I had any hand in colorizing the drawing or not, but I think I would have colored in the triangle in my signature if I had.)
In Step cover, August 20, 1998
Milwaukee's PrideFest moved to August in 1998; the warm weather proved a welcome change from the generally cool temperatures at the lakefront on the first weekend of June. Folding its attempted monthly arts magazine, Q Voice, back into itself, In Step inaugurated full-color covers as standard fare with that year's PrideFest issue. I'm fairly certain I did not colorize this drawing, which, to Arts Editor Jorge Cabal's probable relief, was not of a crowd scene.

I still wanted to demonstrate inclusivity, but didn't include any real people this time. The drawing with the martini glass was a nod to the other on-staff cartoonist at the paper, Bob Arnold, whose single-panel "Life's a Drag" featured monologues by characters reduced to geometric shapes.

In Step cover, July 29, 1999
The following year, I went back to depicting a crowd scene, this time from a photograph I'd taken at the 1998 festival. I took some liberties in the name of diversity, and filled in the area above the fold with drawings from publicity photos of the featured visiting performers Kathy Sledge, Les Lokey and Men Out Loud.

Jorge didn't bother to color in each individual in the crowd, opting instead for abstract swaths of yellow, pink and blue. He, or whoever was in charge of layout for the issue, added the "Pride 99" headline and the "15th Year" logo.

I missed out on the next couple of PrideFest covers. When I was asked to draw a cover illustration for the 2002 issue, I eschewed inclusivity in favor of parody.
Wisconsin In Step, May 30, 2002
I believe I did the colorizing of the foreground characters in this one. Since I didn't have any CMYK capability at the time, I'm surprised that it came out as well as it did. (Standard photo-editing software saves color graphics in RGB format — that is, Red, Green, and Blue, the color of the light pixels on your screen — which is fine for photographs. It can be disappointing for cartoons, however, because RGB has no black. The colors of CMYK correspond to the four basic printer ink colors, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black.)

In Step would produce one last PrideFest issue in 2003 (two, if you count the cover story in the following issue about the festival's fiscal mismanagement that year, exacerbated by a weekend of rain). But the 2002 cover was my last for them.

Publisher George Attewell abruptly shut In Step down after the November 20, 2003 issue. According to the Milwaukee LGBT History Project,
Contributing staff had even been preparing articles for the next issue that never came about. The publisher is reported to have lost interest in the paper and it became more of a chore than a pleasure or passion. Although a last "wrap up" issue was promised, none ever appeared.
Wisconsin still had a "bar rag" published out of Green Bay at the time, but its focus was and is on the bar scene, not hard news. There were a few attempts by others to start another LGBT newspaper over the next couple of years, but nothing lasted until some disgruntled staffers from Chicago Free Press fled north of the border and launched Wisconsin Gazette in 2009.


Well, if you were hoping for insights into important historical events, I'm sorry to have disappointed you. But if you're jonesing for some World War I, I can point you to an insightful article comparing Kaiser Wilhelm II to King Donald of Orange in The New Yorker this week.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

One More RFK Cartoon

Maybe this belongs in the "Editors Who Don't 'Get' Editorial Cartoons" file.

On June 6, 1968, the same day that the Cuero Record of Cuero, Texas, ran this front page:
...a full day after running this front page:
...the editorial page editor, copy editor, editor-in-chief, and all the guys down in the composition room somehow let this syndicated cartoon by Alfred Buescher run on the editorial page:

Q Toon: For the Record

When I'm up late on Sunday night cussing at a blank sheet of bristol board that stubbornly resists becoming the editorial cartoon that I have to send to my editor by Monday morning, it would be really, really nice if I had some inside source on the Supreme Court who would leak to me that the justices were going to issue a ruling of particular interest to the LGBTQ community the next day.

Which is to say that this week's syndicated cartoon is not about the First Fondantmentalist Church of the Sacred Wedding Cake.

So instead, Buzz and Killer have noticed something remarkable about 2018 off-year elections. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, there are nearly 400 openly gay, lesbian, bi, transgender and queer candidates for local, state and national office — over 50 in Texas alone.
Former Dallas sheriff Lupe Valdez, another Texas-based candidate, already shattered a ceiling last month when she became the first Latina and openly gay nominee for governor in the state. ...
Valdez, 70, is no stranger to breaking barriers. Despite her family’s fear that her running for public office would ignite a homophobic backlash in Texas — where it is still legal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity — Valdez was not deterred. In 2005, she became the only Latina sheriff in the U.S. and one of the country’s few out LGBTQ public officials.
Elsewhere, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin has been targeted by right-wing PACs for defeat as she runs for a third term this year. Her TV ads focus on keeping American manufacturing plants open, but she has also opened up about her childhood with a mother who struggled with drug addiction. Colorado Congressman Jared Polis is giving up his seat to run for Governor, taking the risk of appearing in his TV ads with his husband and son by his side — standard practice for heterosexual candidates, but something most LGBTQ candidates have been counseled to avoid.

Consider the example of Gina Ortiz Jones, the Democratic nominee for Texas's 23rd Congressional District. The former Air Force intelligence officer is an out lesbian, but only to a degree.
“My girlfriend teases me sometimes for not sharing enough about myself on social media, particularly as I endeavor into an arena where people need to know the person before they want to hear the policies,” Jones wrote in October, referring to a partner she did not name. “I can’t help but think that some of that is still related to the precautionary steps I took as a cadet and officer. All this to say, there are effects to not coming out, or feeling as though you’re not able to come out.”
But if some candidates now feel confident running as openly LGBTorQ, other candidates have decided that it's safe to run as an open Nazi.
In Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, in the state’s northwestern corner, Democratic incumbent Cheri Bustos will face a GOP nominee named Bill Fawell, who believes, according to CNN research posted Friday, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, and that Beyonce and Taylor Swift are stumping for the Illuminati, a worldwide domination sect that some conspiracists insist exists.
In the same state’s 3rd district, comprising southwest Chicago and its suburbs, Arthur Jones, a Nazi — not a sobriquet, his preferred affiliation — became the GOP candidate despite being rejected by national Republicans and the state party for denying the Holocaust.
Party leaders have also gone out of their way to denounce Paul Nehlen, who is seeking the soon-to-be-vacated seat of House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin’s 1st, and Patrick Little, who is running for the U.S. Senate in California. Nehlen proudly attacks his enemies as Jews and Little is a white supremacist.
Mr. Little finished twelfth in Tuesday's "jungle primary," and Nehlen is unlikely to win in my home district (he's got carpetbagging Green Beret Nick Polce to split the pro-fascist vote with him).

Happily, there are hundreds of LGBTQ candidates and only eight seven Nazis running for office this year. If it's unlikely that any card-carrying Nazis will be sworn into office next year, however, there are plenty of Republicans running just to the right of Mussolini who will be. They may not call themselves Nazis — they may not see themselves as Nazis — but the Nazis recognize their fellow travelers.

As Patrick Little told MSNBC before the California primary, Donald Trump "dog whistled about globalists,” even if he "didn't understand he was talking about Jews until after the election.”

Radical right-wing candidates have had the wind at their back in 2010, 2014, and 2016. For all the talk of a "blue wave" this year, Trump has the bully pulpit (and his Twitter account) and a devoted following that believes any bullstool he, Fox News, Sinclair Broadcasting, or their Facebook friends from Smolensk tell them.

Besides, I seem to recall all the experts predicting a Hillary Clinton landslide not very long ago.

Monday, June 4, 2018

This Week's Sneak Peek

Killer got to be featured in the sneak peek the last time my good news/bad news bears were in a cartoon; so this time around, it's Buzz's turn.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

RFK, 50 Years On

This Tuesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Somberback Saturday brings you a round-up from the pens of cartoonists from half a century ago.
"New Kid in the Neighborhood" by Alfred Buescher for King Features, May, 1968
Just to put things in context: Kennedy and Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy had entered the 1968 presidential race as the more liberal alternatives to incumbent President Lyndon Johnson. When LBJ withdrew from the race at the end of March, his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey (who should have had plenty of liberal cred of his own, but was tainted by association with Johnson's war in Vietnam) stepped in as the favored candidate of the Democratic establishment.

The Democratic nomination was still up for grabs when Kennedy won the California primary on June 5. After giving a victory speech to his supporters in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, he started through the kitchen toward the press room but was shot three times by Sirhan Bishir Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian. (Yes, I know that RFK Jr. thinks that Sirhan was innocent. George Plympton is no longer with us, but someone can ask Rosey Grier or Rafer Johnson who it was that they wrestled the gun away from.)

Kennedy died of his injuries some 25 hours later at the age of 42.
"The Brothers' Tragic Reunion" by Cy Hungerford in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 7, 1968
America and the world were in shock. Robert's brother, President John Kennedy, had been assassinated only five years earlier; and this was the second major assassination in the U.S. in only two months — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's killer had not even been caught yet. (James Earl Ray would be apprehended in London a few days after Bobby Kennedy's death.)

"Bookmarks" by Bill Mauldin in Chicago Sun Times, June 6, 1968
I'm sure that Cy Hungerford was not the only cartoonist to draw the "Tragic Reunion" of two of Joe Kennedy Sr.'s sons, but Bill Mauldin's cartoon is more representative of the craft. What I'm finding is that by and large, cartoonists and editorial writers went to their drawing boards and typewriters to argue that RFK's assassination, as horrible as it was, bespoke a larger problem in the United States.
"He Must Be Stopped," possibly by Ted Shearer in Baltimore Afro-American, June 8, 1968
In the above cartoon, Ted Shearer (I'm confident that he was an editorial cartoonist for the Afro-American chain of newspapers, although I can only speculate whether he drew any particular cartoon) listed seven leaders murdered in just over five years. His scorecard leaves room for more, but there isn't enough space in the entire cartoon to list all the other victims of gun violence in the 50 years since.

"Tell Me Again about Keeping the World Safe for Democracy" by Pat Oliphant in Denver Post, June, 1968
Pat Oliphant mused mordantly on what American soldiers fighting in the jungles of Vietnam must have thought of the violence back home.

Our soldiers were not the only ones overseas taking notice.
"American Folklore: Choose Your Candidate" by Rob "Opland" Wout in De Vollskrant, Amsterdam, June, 1968
Time magazine described the rest of the world's perception of the U.S. as "a blood-drenched, continent-wide shooting range where toddlers blast off with real rifles, housewives pack pearl-handled revolvers, and political assassins stalk their victims at will." "America dreamed of a government of judges, but it suffers the law of violent people," declared Le Monde of Paris, where violent protests mere days before had nearly brought down the DeGaulle government.

"Violence" by John Yardley-Jones in Toronto Telegram, June, 1968
As it turned out, the assassin was an immigrant born in Jordan acting on behalf of a conflict halfway around the world from the U.S. According to Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty, Sirhan Sirhan's diary revealed that he was determined to kill Kennedy by June 5, the first anniversary of the Six-Day War in which Israel had occupied the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Sinai peninsula.

"Always There Is a Black Spot in Our Sunshine..." by Stanley Franklin in Daily Mirror, London, June, 1968
Yet I came across no editorial cartoons illustrating the Mideast connection to the assassination; granted, I didn't check Ha'aretz, Ad-Dustour, or any other journal directly concerned. The Montreal Star glossed over the Palestinian connection and faulted U.S. racial injustices instead:
"It did not matter if Senator Kennedy's assailant was first believed to be a Mexican, and then a Cuban and then an Arab. The fact remains that in Harlem and Watts and every other Negro community... [assassins] exist as perpetual enemies, while the one figure who might have provided hope was removed forcibly from the arena."
Untitled, by Andy Donato in Toronto Telegram, June, 1968
Overwhelmingly, the Mideast Conflict and U.S. racial injustice took a back seat to The Gun as the root cause of America's tragedy. From within and without our borders came the demand for the U.S. to control its mass of weapons of destruction. And as has become depressingly predictable, the National Rifle Association, the 100,000-member strong enablers of our national nightmare, leapt into the fray to prevent any meaningful action from being taken.
"The Right of the People to Keep and Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed" by Frank Benier in The Sun, London, June, 1968 
Guns don't kill people, only outlaws will have guns, registration leads to confiscation — any argument against gun control you have ever heard was already cliché in 1968. Supreme Court precedent still held that the first half of the Second Amendment established that it was about a collective right rather than an individual privilege, so the N.R.A. concentrated on the amendment's second half. (Republican majorities on the Court have since erased that "well-regulated militia" silliness.)
"How's Business?" by John Pierotti in New York Post, June, 1968
Time estimated the American arsenal to include anywhere from 50 million to 200 million handguns, shotguns, rifles, plus "uncounted machine guns, hand grenades, bazookas, mortars, even antitank guns." 3 million more were sold every year, 2 million of them by mail order sales. Some of those sales were driven by white fear of the urban riots breaking out in the 1960's, to say nothing of the lucrative market selling directly to the gangs and criminals White America was afraid of.
"In Cold Blood" by Paul Conrad in Los Angeles Times, June, 1968
The National Rifle Association had successfully quashed every attempt to regulate America's unregulated militia even after President Kennedy's assassination. Congress did manage to pass a ban on mail-order handguns, but President Johnson scoffed that the bill was a "watered-down" half-way measure.
"I Just Don't Know What This Country Is Coming To" by Herb Block in Washington Post, June, 1968
A number of Senators who had bent to the N.R.A.'s will in the wake of Rev. King's assassination, such as Hugh Scott (R-PA), Warren Magnuson (D-WA), Bill Proxmire and Gaylord Nelson (D-WI), Ed Muskie (D-ME), Mike Monroney (D-OK), and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (D-MT), indicated support of a measure by Joseph Tydings (D-MD) to require licensing and registration for the purchase of a gun.
"So You Heard Another Shot..." by Bill Sanders in Milwaukee Journal, June 6, 1968
The Senate failed to pass the Firearms Registration and Licensing Act, and the N.R.A. successfully drove Tydings out of office in 1970.

Even among liberals, however, there was a recognition that America had a problem not just with guns, but with a culture that glorified violence.
"Make Your Move, Ringo..." by Jules Feiffer for Publishers-Hall Syndicate, June, 1968
As case in point — and because it's the only way to end this blog post on a somewhat lighter note — I have to bring you the climax of a story in "Dick Tracy" on the comics page that very same week. Sharing the page with Charlie Brown and Miss Peach, Chester Gould's police detective literally vaporized a criminal mastermind and a yacht full of henchmen and bathing beauties who had schemed to steal a shipment of gold bars from Diet Smith's mines on the moon. (You read that right.) Gould's moral in Friday's episode struck many readers, and not a few editors, as being the credo of assassins and terrorists:
"Dick Tracy" by Chester Gould in Chicago Tribune, June 7, 1968
Several papers, such as the Seattle Times and Greensboro News, deleted the strip that day or dropped the feature entirely.

Any counter-protests from the National Laser Association fell on deaf ears.


On second thought, there is a better way to end this post, and that is with a few words from Robert Kennedy's final speech to the crowd at the Ambassador Hotel:
"What I think is quite clear is that we can work together in the last analysis, and that what has been going on within the United States over the period of the last three years — the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society — the divisions, whether it's between Blacks and Whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or on the war in Vietnam — that we can start to work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country, a compassionate country."