Thursday, March 31, 2022

Q Toon: Definition on Condition

The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee — the ones without imminent retirement plans — worked hard to besmirch the integrity of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court nomination hearings last week. Josh Hawley blasted her for not sending a teenager to prison for ten years of hardening as some other inmate's bitch. Ted Cruz fulminated about racist babies. Lindsey Graham threw a hissy fit about the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

And Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) attempted to trap Judge Jackson into answering a Gotcha! question about transgender persons.

She then tweeted a quotation from the Constitution, except that it happened to be a quotation from the Declaration of Independence.

Republicans have decided that 2022 is the year to go all in on their war against transgender people, so Blackburn must have thought herself mighty damned brilliant to stump Judge Jackson with the question "Can you provide a definition for the word 'woman'?"

“Can I provide a definition?” Jackson replied, clearly bemused. “No. I can't.”

“You can’t?” Blackburn replied.

“Not in this context,” Jackson said. “I’m not a biologist.”

“So you think the meaning of the word woman is so unclear and controversial that you can’t give me a definition?” Blackburn said, obviously framing Jackson’s response unfairly.

“Senator, in my work as a judge, what I do is I address disputes,” Jackson said. “If there’s a dispute about a definition, people make arguments and I look at the law and I decide. So I’m not —”

“Well, the fact that you can’t give me a straight answer” — here Blackburn offered a wry chuckle — “about something as fundamental as what a woman is underscores the dangers of the kind of progressive education that we are hearing about,” the senator said.

I've read to scientific discussions about X and Y chromosomes, intersex persons, and so on; I've read transgender persons' attempts to explain feeling that they were born in the wrong body or couldn't accept the social constructs around being one gender or the other. I still don't completely understand what that must feel like, but I have tried to understand it.

I can guarantee you that Marsha Blackburn and her ilk have never tasked a single brain cell to consider why a person is transgender.

No, they're busy raising the alarm that allowing a transgender collegiate swimmer to compete against other women is the greatest danger to life on Earth since, well, Hunter Biden's laptop. That's a transgender swimmer who, by the way, is good, but has not been leaving every other female swimmer eating her dust, or her spray, or whatever it is that unbeatable swimmers leave the rest of the field eating. 

They're busy censoring and cancelling any transgender author who writes a book to explain to other transgender people, especially children, that they aren't alone. Or to urge cisgender people, even children, to be accepting and understanding of others. Republicans demand isolation and shame upon such crimethink.

And they're still busy making sure that transgender people aren't allowed to go to the bathroom anywhere. Or use public drinking fountains. Or sit near the front of the bus. Or swim at cis-only beaches.

Of... course...

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Steve Roper en français

Just something I ran across while looking for something else: the adventure cartoon "Steve Roper" in a Québécois weekly newspaper:

Steve Roper, created by Allen Saunders and Elmer Woggon, entered their comic strip, "Big Chief Wahoo," as a blond news photographer in 1940. Roper eased out the titular Seminole from the strip, and somewhere along the line he quit bleaching his hair, turning it black. Here in 1956, he and Clark Kent obviously have the same barber.

By the time I was old enough to follow the plots, Roper's temples had gone gray; and a crew-cut, blue-collar, often shirtless friend of his, Mike Nomad, was starting to have all the adventures. Roper actually vanished into the Bermuda Triangle for ten years, and I'm not making that up.

"Steve Roper and Mike Nomad," by then drawn by Frank Matera, was a wrap in 2004.

Monday, March 28, 2022

This Week's Quick Sketch

From the pre-cartoon sketchbook for this week's cartoon, and looking like she's ready to storm up on stage and slap me in the face:

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Ratification of the Four-Power Treaty

"It Went Through" by Winsor McCay for Star Company, by March 30, 1922

After defeating a series of amendments proposed by treaty opponents, the U.S. Senate ratified Four-Power Treaty among the United States, Great Britain, France and Japan, on March 24, 1922 by a vote of 67 to 27. The lone "reservation" to pass the Senate stipulated that nothing in the treaty should require the U.S. to commit to military action or alliance.
"Getting Rid of the Jinx" by Albert Reid in New York Evening Mail, March, 1922

The vote was bipartisan on both sides: twelve Democrats joined the Republican majority in favor, while four isolationist Republicans voted nay with with the Democratic minority. Quite a few of those Republicans voting aye had been against the international agreements brought home by Democratic President Woodrow Wilson; the Republicans who remained against treaties signed by Republican Warren Harding and Democrats who had been opposed to them all along were called "bitter enders."
"In Spite of All the 'Bitter Enders'..." by Elmer Bushnell for Central Press Assn., by March 29, 1922

If the era of U.S. isolation was over, its end wasn't accepted by all quarters of U.S. isolationism. Foremost among them in American media was the newspaper empire of William Randolph Hearst.

"'Con' and 'Bull'" by Harry Murphy for Star Company, by March 24, 1922

For all Hearst's accusation that the treaty put American interests subservient to those of Great Britain and Japan, by requiring its signatories to consult with each other in the event of any conflict in East Asia the Four-Power Treaty was in fact to America's advantage. American and Japanese interests there and in the Pacific had been in conflict before World War I, and were so again in places like Yap, the Philippines, China, and Siberia.

Under the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of 1902, had the U.S. and Japan gone to war, Great Britain would have been obliged to join Japan against the U.S. But the Four-Powers Treaty superseded the earlier bilateral one.

"Sammy and His Pals" by Frederick Opper for Star Company by March 23, 1922

Hearst's cartoonists nevertheless daily painted a picture of a hapless Uncle Sam tricked into an unwanted alliance, his negotiating team comprised of witless nincompoops bamboozled by wily furriners.

"Some Folks Are Never Satisfied" by Gaar Williams for Chicago Tribune, by March 20, 1922

Isolationism ran strong at "Colonel" McCormick's solidly Republican Chicago Tribune, so it's rather surprising to see one of his cartoonists touting the main advantage to the U.S. of the Four-Party Treaty.

"Post-War Dog" by Gaar Williams for Chicago Tribune, by March 30, 1922

Word must have come down from management that if the Tribune's cartoons couldn't stop the Senate from passing the treaty, they could complain about complying with its limitations on the size of our Army and Navy.

"We're Hardly Going to Hold Our Own" by Gaar Williams for Chicago Tribune, by March 31, 1922

The fact that it also limited the other countries' militaries notwithstanding. The numbers on Williams's rowboats reference the 5:5:3 naval ratio agreed to at the Washington D.C. Naval Conference.

"Those New Boots" by Magnus Kettner for Western Newspaper Union, March, 1922

Outside of the Hearst and Tribune empires, even Magnus Kettner, whose usual fare was the sort of genial, inoffensive slice of life cartoon beloved by circulation managers everywhere, expressed alarm at the treaty's limitations on the U.S. military.

William C. Morris for George Matthew Adams Service, March/April, 1922
William Morris probably correctly divined how Teddy Roosevelt would have felt about trimming the U.S. military, although Morris was one of the many cartoonists helping argue that it was time to do so a little over a year earlier.  
I also find it peculiar that Morris felt a need, only three years after Roosevelt's death, to label what appears to me to be an instantly recognizable caricature.

"He Will Not Bother Us Again" by Charles Kuhn in Indianapolis News, by April 13, 1922

In closing, this cautionary note: We can't all be as clairvoyant as this guy.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Q Toon: Free Brittney

I freely confess that I struggled coming up with anything to draw about Brittney Griner, the WNBA star and Olympic medalist who has gotten caught up in the international standoff between Putin's Russia and the rest of the world.

On February 17, one week before Putin's invasion of Ukraine but well after his troops were poised at the border, Russian police arrested Griner at Sheremetyevo airport, reportedly having found a vape cartridge and hashish oil in her luggage. Whether there is anything to the charges or if they were completely trumped up, none of us in the cheap seats may ever know.

Her wife has pleaded with everyone to honor their privacy, which also limits what one might say in a cartoon. Nor has her plight worsened to the level of so many citizens of Ukraine; a representative of the American embassy has been able to visit Griner in detention and reports that she is in good health and spirits.

As an American, a lesbian, and a black woman, Griner faces an uphill climb getting a fair trial in Russia. Instead of an American-style legal system in which a prosecutor presents one side of the case and the defense presents the other, in a Russian court, an investigator appointed by the government presents a case file that determines what can and cannot be argued in court. Her defense is free to conduct its own investigation, but concepts such as an impartial jury of one's peers and a right against self-incrimination simply do not exist.

If found guilty, Griner could face up to ten years in prison, or even in a labor camp.

Griner did not come to Russia as a tourist:

Ms Griner had a second job, and that was why she had flown to Russia — to play for EuroLeague team UMMC Ekaterinburg, where she had worked since 2014 during the US off-season.

Roughly half of WNBA players compete overseas in the off-season. For most, it's a way to augment their domestic income: WNBA players receive roughly five times more in Russia than they do in the US.

"If she were Steph Curry or LeBron James, she wouldn't be over there at all because she'd be making enough money," [sports journalist Tamryn] Spruill said. 

After Griner's detention and arrest, I'm fairly sure that any remaining WNBA players moonlighting on Russian basketball teams are seriously reconsidering whether any salary is worth being set up to be a pawn in geopolitical brinksmanship.

Monday, March 21, 2022

This Week's Sneak Peek

I had some late-night TV on while cartooning last night — one of those channels our cable system puts up in the 900's — and a commercial by one of those Franklin Mint type companies came on. You may have seen them: they hawk silver or gold coins with the suggestion that they are somehow an official entity with the backing of the federal government, which they aren't.

This time, they were selling $2.00 silver coins "authorized by the 37th Treasurer of the United States, Angela Bay Buchanan." Surely President Biden never appointed Pat Buchanan's sister to the post, I thought, and sure enough, she was Treasurer of the United States way back during the Reagan administration.

(President Biden has not appointed anyone to the post yet, which has been vacant since January 14, 2020. Lengthy vacancies have been fairly common lately; over the last six decades, the post has been vacant a cumulative eleven years. Treasurer appointments used to require Senate confirmation, but that requirement was done away with ten years ago.)

What should be a dead giveaway that the $2.00 coin has no backing whatsoever from the United States treasury is that for some scarcely fathomable reason, Queen Elizabeth II's profile appears juxtaposed onto the Liberty Bell. The coin has instead the full faith and backing of the Cook Islands, a self-governing bunch of islands in the South Pacific near American Samoa. Tourism has been their major industry, but since homosexuality is punishable there by seven years in prison, I don't plan to visit any time soon.

If silver isn't your thing, they also offer the one on the right containing a half gram of gold. Current price $81US. Coins may not be to scale.

Perhaps more to the point of Cook Island coins, Wikipedia points out:

Since approximately 1989, the Cook Islands have become a location specializing in so-called asset protection trusts, by which investors shelter assets from the reach of creditors and legal authorities. According to The New York Times, the Cooks have "laws devised to protect foreigners' assets from legal claims in their home countries," which were apparently crafted specifically to thwart the long arm of American justice; creditors must travel to the Cook Islands and argue their cases under Cooks law, often at prohibitive expense. Unlike other foreign jurisdictions such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Switzerland, the Cooks "generally disregard foreign court orders" and do not require that bank accounts, real estate, or other assets protected from scrutiny (it is illegal to disclose names or any information about Cooks trusts) be physically located within the archipelago. Taxes on trusts and trust employees account for some 8% of the Cook Islands economy, behind tourism but ahead of fishing.

In recent years, the Cook Islands has gained a reputation as a debtor paradise, through the enactment of legislation that permits debtors to shield their property from the claims of creditors.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Marching Across the Decades

We've all been dealing with news of COVID-19, the War in Ukraine, inflation, the high price of gas, and Kanye West's feud with Pete Davidson for so, so, long now. How about looking back on my salad days for cartoons about something a little more pleasant?

in UW-Parkside Ranger, Somers WI, March 11, 1982
Er, maybe the heightened tensions between the two nations with the world's largest arsenals of nuclear weapons 40 years ago doesn't quite qualify as "something a little more pleasant."

Most of this cartoon was drawn with india ink on typing paper, but some of the shading utilizes that charcoal technique I described last month. In this case, the surface behind the paper had parallel ridges; it might have been a book cover or the back of a clipboard. I liked the effect, particularly with whatever that background was; other backboards with dotted and pebbled patterns came in handy from time to time. But india ink remained my primary medium.

In retrospect, I think shading the foreground characters — and, for that matter, the foreground ground — in charcoal instead of with straight ballpoint pen lines would have yielded a more effective drawing.

I couldn't get the same effect when I switched over to drawing on bristol board not long after this; smooth finish seems more accommodating to pen and ink than vellum finish as far as I'm concerned, but less useful for charcoal. So I still had the same charcoal pencil ten years later when the editors of the UW-Milwaukee Post asked me for some cover art for their "Adventures in Buying" issue. 

As I joked earlier this week, I really dislike drawing architecture; but the "Adventures in Buying" issue was the Post's way of thanking its advertisers, and my approach was to draw a street scene featuring some of the advertisers the editors were especially keen to highlight.

in UWM Post, March 23, 1992

By the way, if there's one thing I dislike drawing even more than architecture, it's bicycles.

Charcoal is a particularly unforgiving medium. For one thing, you can't go back and erase any of the pencil marks left showing. And if you make any mistakes, india ink's problems drawing over white-out are minuscule compared with charcoal's, because the surface area won't match the rest of the drawing. (I had to paste a revision over the film titles on the Oriental Theater's marquee — probably to fix a perspective problem.)

One does acquire a true appreciation for the "Ashcan School" of cartoonists who used grease pencil or charcoal for their entire careers.

Here's how the drawing looked after a no-doubt unhappy colorist on the Post staff added some blue to it. The original, drawn full size to the page dimensions, was too wide for the office photocopier, so the sides got cropped off.

That was not one of my favorite drawings, but this is:

for Q Syndicate, March, 2002
If I had published a book of my own cartoons in the 'aughts, this would have been on the cover.

Since Roy and Silo, the same-sex penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo in New York City, were featured in national news reports, numerous other examples of same-sex coupling in the animal kingdom have come to light. In fact, homosexual behavior is well documented in many species, putting the lie to the old chestnut that same-sex attraction is "against nature."

It's so well documented that the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church preaches that the Russian military must stop the animal kingdom from achieving world domination. And the Florida legislature is crafting a bill to criminalize teaching about biology in their public schools.

Speaking of schools,

for Q Syndicate, March, 2012

I drew this cartoon after some pseudo-sincere apology from Rush Limbaugh in which he had excused whatever it was he had said that week — and I'm not interested in dredging it up again — by claiming to be an "entertainer."

What I'm interested in pointing out is that I used the map in the background as one of the cues to signal that the setting of the cartoon was set some 40 or 50 years earlier. I'm not sure whether a lot of people caught that, so dammit, I'm letting you know it was there on purpose.

Well, in light of current events, and boy oh boy do I detest drawing architecture, I'm going to wrap things up today by stepping outside of the Years Ending In 2 shtick. This 2014 cartoon showed up in my Facebook "Hey! Remember This? We do!" feed on Thursday.

for Q Syndicate, March 2014

Aw, heck, St. Patrick's Day falls on a weekend in two years, so I might just bring this one back for another Saturday retrospective post in 2024.

Who knows what Putin might be invading by then?

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Q Toon: The Kirilling Fields

Vladimir Putin may have a hard time finding support for his brutal invasion of Ukraine elsewhere, but he has the full-throated support of the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

And guess what: it's all about The Gayskis.

Giving his sermon on "Forgiveness Sunday," the last Sunday before the start of Lent, Patriarch Kirill said the war is about “which side of God humanity will be on” in the divide between supporters of gay pride events — or the Western governments that allow them — and their opponents in Russian-backed eastern Ukraine.

For eight years, there have been efforts to destroy what exists in the [Russian-controlled breakaway region of] Donbas. What exists in the Donbas is a rejection, a principled rejection of the so-called values that are now being offered by those who lay claim to global domination. Today, there is a certain test for loyalty to that power, a certain pass into that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of illusory freedom. Do you know what that test is? It’s very simple but also horrific: it’s a gay parade. The demand to hold a gay parade is in fact a test for loyalty to that powerful world, and we know that if people or countries resist this demand, they are excluded from that world and treated as alien.

It wasn't just a one-off thing; Kirill kept coming back to harp on gay pride: “Pride parades are designed to demonstrate that sin is one variation of human behavior. That's why in order to join the club of those countries, you have to have a gay pride parade,” he fulminated, as if gay pride parades were somehow the defining feature of Ukrainian culture and politics. (Hardly.)

If you're wondering why anybody should care what Patriarch Kirill says (well, you wouldn't be alone in that), he is the head of the entire Russian Orthodox Church — officially, "Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus' and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church." That doesn't make him the pope of all Eastern Orthodoxy (the "Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople" is the guy deemed the first among equals), but it does include the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. 

At least, it did until Forgiveness Sunday; his sermon understandably angered nearly every cleric and congregation in Ukraine. There has been ample objection from the patriarchs of Orthodoxy's other nationalities as well to Kirill's support of Putin's war.

Kirill has been closely allied with Vladimir Putin throughout his patriarchate, and, like Putin, is a former KGB agent. When he's not obsessed with crushing gay pride, he has accused Ukraine of trying to "exterminate" Russians in Donbas.

Why else should we care?

Not long ago, many Americans took comfort in the apparent progress society seemed to be making toward justice and equality. This was the 21st Century! Sliding back into repression and prejudice might take place in places like Russia, but It Couldn't Happen Here!

Then the November, 2016 election returns came in.

Kirill has his mirror image here in the U.S. in such men of the cloth as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress, and their choir of Trump apologists. They, along with Rupert Murdoch, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and other American oligarchs, have brought right-wing extremism into the mainstream to the point where their storm troopers have actually assaulted the seat of government in order to overthrow the elected government of the United States. (You may have heard of it.)

We took a step back from the brink in 2020, but the forces of repression are definitely not giving up.

So, if fighting for progress, justice, civilization, reason, democracy and, yes, gay pride means sticking up for Ukraine, it's an easy call. Слава Україні!

Monday, March 14, 2022

This Week's Sneak Peek

 Have I mentioned before how much I dislike drawing architecture?

I have? Okay.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Пісня Залишилася Такою Ж

Some say that history repeats itself. Others say that it doesn't repeat itself, it just rhymes. 

In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I'm departing somewhat from my usual review of cartoons hitting their century mark in order to look at works from the period of Soviet expansionism immediately after World War II, now that history is doing whatever it is that history does.

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 erased Poland off the map of Europe, while assigning Lithuania to German control and Latvia and Estonia to the U.S.S.R.'s. By the spring of 1945, the USSR had occupied all three Baltic states and Poland. Viewing the Baltic states as errant parts of historical Russia, Stalin reincorporated all three into the Soviet Union.

The U.S. protested Stalin's move, but the Allies were preoccupied with the war's western and Pacific fronts. Opening up a new front with a supposedly allied nation was simply not going to happen. The U.S. never did recognize the USSR's annexation of the Baltic trio.

Likewise, Poland's fate was sealed before the defeat of Hitler. Once they were no longer of any use to Stalin, he had all of Poland's military officers summarily executed, and set up a puppet government in Warsaw. 

"Whose Move" by Walt Kelly in New York Star, 1948 

Stalin expected all of Germany would join the communist bloc as well. With Germany defeated, the Allies set up U.S., Great Britain, France and Russia zones of administration. Given the remarkable showing of the Communist Party in France's 1946 elections, Stalin figured that all he needed to do was subvert the British in their zone, and the U.S. would succumb to its isolationist partisans and withdraw out of his way.

"Blood from Turnips" by J.F. Meehan in Brooklyn Eagle, August 3, 1946

Ostensibly, what Stalin was interested in was war reparations from Germany and the weaker Axis powers. How he achieved it was by subjugating governments in Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania to control from Moscow. (Finland had German backing during its Continuation War against the USSR, 1941-44. But permanently reclaiming Finland for Mother Russia would remain just out of Stalin's grasp.)

"An Unlucky Day for the Traffic Cop" by Cyrus Hungerford in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 13, 1947

Alarm over rampant Soviet expansionism in Europe all but silenced any remaining isolationists in the U.S. The Truman Doctrine of speaking up for the sovereignty of smaller nations was useless without the military might and foreign alliances to back it up.

"The Foot Is Familiar" by Herbert Block in Washington Post, February, 1948

In Czechoslovakia, where Hitler's quest to carve up and conquer his neighbors had begun, the Soviets engineered a coup, overthrowing the elected government in Prague.

"The Speaker's Platform" by Edwin Marcus in New York Times, 1949

Soviet adventurism was not confined to Europe alone; the Allies were supposed to return occupied Iranian territories to control of Shah Reza Pahlavi's government, but Stalin refused to withdraw from areas taken by Russian troops. Instead, the USSR encouraged breakaway socialist republics in Azerbaijan and Kurdistan.

"Aw, C'mon, Joe, Let It Cool Off" by Dorman Smith for Newspaper Enterprise Assn., ca. March 17, 1946

With U.S. and British support, Iran crushed the Azerbaijani and Kurdish rebellions in 1946 and 1947 respectively.

Meanwhile, Truman responded to Stalin's push to undermine the governments of Greece and Turkey with substantial foreign aid that would have had Republicans of the 1920's howling in protest. Remnants of isolation still existed (notably at Hearst papers and the Chicago Tribune), but most of the protests to the Marshall Plan came from Moscow.

"Advice from an Expert in Internal Affairs" by Clifford Berryman in Washington Evening Star, April 9, 1947

With nearly all of Europe reeling from World War II's devastation, the Marshall Plan stepped in to make sure that even the British Empire would be safe from the lure of Soviet domination.

"Great Expectations" by Edwin Marcus in New York Times, 1947

And the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was born: a mutual defense treaty that, again, would have been anathema to the American isolationists of the 1920's.

"Unintentional Cupid" by Richard Q. Yardley in Baltimore Sun, 1949

The founding countries of NATO in 1949 were Great Britain, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, United States, Canada, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland. Turkey joined in 1952, and West Germany in 1955.

"Observation Post" by Herbert Block in Washington Post, October, 1951

Stalin then, and Putin now, would characterize NATO as an offensive threat to Russia's existence. But for seven decades, Europe stayed at peace (for the most part) — possibly the longest respite from war the continent had seen since before the the cro-magnons met the neanderthals.

But it's all over now.

Housekeeping note: My source for the Walt Kelly cartoon at the top of this post dates it in 1946, but every reference I can find about the "Pogo" cartoonist says that he first began drawing editorial cartoons in 1948, for the short-lived New York Star that began publishing in July of that year. Although events could have made that cartoon appropriate in either year, I can find no source mentioning that Kelly ever drew political cartoons for the Star's predecessor, PM, or any other publications before 1948.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Q Toon: It's Also Her Verb

Congressloon Lauren Boebert (R-CO), whom you may have seen screeching at the President during last week's State of the Union Address, followed up that performance by tweeting "My pronoun is patriot."

As one of the more prominent members of the fascist wing of the Republican Party, Boebert's claim to be a patriot can only be respected while recalling Samuel Johnson's observation that "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

Others have pointed out that "patriot" is not a pronoun; but once one acquiesces to the practice of using "they/them/their" as singular pronouns, or argues that language is historically flexible, one has to concede that any word can be a pronoun if people decide that it is one. As soon as other people start actually using "patriot" and "Lauren Boebert" interchangeably in conversation, well, quod erat demonstratum.

Last year, Boebert publicly scorned Mr. Potato Head for coming out as non-binary. Does one dare to hope that "My pronoun is patriot" is meant to signal that Boebert has suddenly developed an understanding of the transgender, non-binary, and accepting community?

I do hope she — oh, I'm sorry, I meant patriot — doesn't have difficulty finding a public bathroom when patriot has to empty patriots bladder. Some places are fussy about folks using a bathroom that doesn't align with the gender on patriots birth certificate.

Monday, March 7, 2022

This Week's Sneak Peek


These days, I'm reading a mystery novel I had bought some time ago after chatting with the author at a book signing. It's set, for the most part, in St. Paul, Minnesota, featuring a detective originally from Colombia and three deaths that appear to have some connection to undocumented immigration from Mexico.

The author includes a lot of detail about St. Paul in the book — street names, the histories of some of the neighborhoods, etc. — but one thing stuck out like a sore thumb. Recounting the background of a deceased lawyer, one of the officers says that he had worked at one point in "the IDS Building in Minneapolis."

Someone from the Twin Cities would no more say "the IDS Building in Minneapolis" than a resident of New York would say "the Empire State Building in Manhattan," or a San Franciscan would say "the Golden Gate Bridge over the Golden Gate Strait."

Unless there's another IDS Building in Edina or St. Louis Park now.

All the same, I appreciate the author fleshing out St. Paul as a real place, and he clearly knows whereof he writes.

Oh, and is it really necessary to italicize "tortilla"?

Saturday, March 5, 2022

The Ladies Who Sketch

In celebration of Women's History Month, howzabout we check out some examples of women cartoonists of the 1920's?

from Cartoons Magazine, August, 1921

Cartooning has long had a reputation for being a male-dominated business, probably because of all those men hunched over drawing boards, but there have always been women among the ink-stained wretches. And not just to clean up after them.

Fay King was one of the most prominent of the bunch. She launched her career at the Denver Post at the age of 23 in 1912, drawing a regular cartoon panel and interviewing celebrities. A celebrity in her own right, her 1916 divorce from boxer and small-town mayor Oscar "Battling" Nelson was in all the papers.

"Flu Stories" by Fay King in San Francisco Call, 1918

King wasn't shy about appearing in her own cartoons; that's her caricature of herself peeking in from the side of the frame in this cartoon during the "Spanish flu" epidemic of 1918-19.

"Women Now read Newspapers" by Fay King, May 1, 1928

Nor was she shy about self-promotion; her name appeared prominently in the headline over her cartoons. (And there she is again at the newspaper stand.) She wrote articles to accompany her cartoons – or maybe it was the other way around — letting everyone know what Fay King observed, advised, remarked or said.

"Women Made Valentino Noted" by Fay King, 1926

Think she forgot to include herself in this cartoon? Nope. There she is, right next to her signature. 

Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that there was a select society of other women who, like King, found in cartooning a "promising and lasting success for women." I'm sure King was not being desperate for company when she explained in the above advertisement for Federal School of Illustrating and Cartooning: 

"It does not matter if she gets to weigh 200 pounds, has three chins and fat ankles. While her work meets with popular demand, she can continue as long as her ability and ideas hold out."

"Cap Stubbs" by Edwina Dumm for George Matthew Adams Service, March 11, 1922

Edwina Dumm started her daily comic strip, "Cap Stubbs" in 1918 after a few short-lived cartoon projects. This cartoon, however, lasted until 1966. Along the way, Tippie the dog was added to the strip's name, then got top billing, and eventually Cap's name was dropped from the strip title. 

"Cap Stubbs" by Edwina Dumm, March 16, 1922

Trade publication The Fourth Estate paid Dumm, who signed her strip with her first name, this clumsy compliment in their May 7, 1921 issue:

When “Edwina’s” identity is revealed to anybody who has studied her comic strip, the usual comment is: “Impossible! A girl couldn’t draw such a good strip about boys and dogs!” “Edwina” has been drawing ever since she was a child. Although she has just passed her twenty-second birthday, she has had a great deal of newspaper experience, as her comic strip “Cap” Stubbs, featuring the funny dog “Tippie,” has been syndicated for several years by the George Matthew Adams Service and has appeared in newspapers all over the country. 

"Cinderella's Dream" by Juanita Hamel for Newspapers Features Service Inc., March 18, 1922

A female cartoonist drawing about a little boy and his dog may indeed have raised eyebrows a century ago. What those eyebrows had been expecting were cartoons like the ones Juanita Hamel drew for the "Women's Features Page" of major newspapers: romantic fantasies and other heart-tugging fare told here in a single panel above a very short story.

"Mother's Memory Babies" by Juanita Hamel, Dec. 14, 1921

Hamel started her career at the St. Louis Times and Chicago Herald before getting syndicated by Newspapers Features Service out of New York. "Frequently I have been asked how I happened to take up art," she told an interviewer in 1923. "As a matter of fact, art took me up. I was raised in an atmosphere of art. I remember the work done by my grandmother — paintings of the Civil War time, with the atmosphere of real romance, and this with the stories of adventure and hardships endured by the pioneers of the middle west imbued me with the desire to paint."

"The Triumph of the Green-Eyed Monster" by Nell Brinkley for International Features Service Inc., Jan. 1, 1921

If romanticism isn't your thing, Nell Brinkley here gives us an example of another topic open to the fairer sex: Sunday School morality tales. "Poor little Dan" in this story, pays the price for entrusting his safety to two adults and their pet dragon, Jealousy. 

Brinkley drew romantic vignettes, too, of course. But perhaps she was in a particularly foul mood that day.

This second cartoon topped a full-page story by Brinkley.

"Four Things Too Wonderful" by Nell Brinkley in New York American, Aug. 29, 1926

In addition to the ladies shown above, notable women cartoonists of the early decades of the 20th Century included Emma Gordon, Ethel Hays, Virginia Huget, Alice McKee, Lou Rogers, Eleanor Schorer, Edith Stevens, and Dorothy Urfer. Trina Robbins, author of The Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age, observes: 

“There’s this myth that women didn’t draw comics or that they had to change their names; this is untrue. If you were good, they published you. Women were drawing comics and people loved them. Just as many women read newspapers as men, and the editors were smart enough to carry the strips the women liked.”

P.S.: The New York Times yesterday printed a very belated obituary for "flapper cartoonist" Barbara Shermund (1899-1978), whose cartoons appeared in the New Yorker, Esquire, the original Life, Colliers, and Pictorial Review. Definitely worth a look-see.