Saturday, August 12, 2017

Comic Caper, Chapter Drei

For this week's Sleuthback Saturday feature, I dredge up the November installments of a comic strip I drew for the UW-Parkside Ranger back in 1983-84. "The Funny Paper Caper" told the story of  the murder investigation of one Rufus T. Pornapple, who was also the victim of an unreported burglary, and romantically linked with more than one comic strip female. As we rejoin the story, the investigation turns to a little lady whose name was McGill, and who called herself Lil, but everyone knew her by another name.

One characteristic of "Nancy" in those days was that cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller avoided use of any and all punctuation, save for the occasional dash or unavoidable question mark. It may have been part of Bushmiller's minimalist approach to cartooning overall. He put nothing in the cartoon that wasn't essential to the gag du jour. I like Wally Wood's observation about the strip that "By the time you decided not to read it, you already had."

This tenth installment, however, requires considerably more commitment.

There's an inside joke in the first panel of strip #11. John Kovalic was a cartoonist colleague at the Ranger that year, drawing a comic strip which appeared just below mine every week. Carson the Muskrat in his current "Dork Tower" is a survivor of his earlier "Wild Life."
As promised earlier this week, Dick Tracy — er, Thelma — has entered the story line. After reading Tuesday's post here, Dave Brousseau reminded me that Dick Locher continued to script Dick Tracy's story line for two years after he stopped drawing the strip in 2009, which I did not explain on Tuesday. He also noted that there was talk on some message boards that perhaps Locher was still drawing some of the strip after 2009. I can't venture an opinion on that; there are signs of Parkinson's impairing his ability to draw in his late editorial cartoons, but comic strips such as Dick Tracy employ support staff (such as Locher himself, early in his career) to polish up, ink, and letter what may only be rudimentary sketches from the person whose name is attached to the cartoon.

You can compare, for example, the rough look of Doonesbury when Garry Trudeau was a student at Yale to its slick production values once the cartoon became a marketing juggernaut a few years later.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Q Toon: Soda Jerk

When I was drawing this cartoon this past Sunday, my chief concern was that before anyone would have a chance to read the cartoon, its subject, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, would become the latest Trump administration official to go down in history as having had the shortest tenure of anyone in his position.

By Tuesday, that concern was replaced by the prospect of nuclear war breaking out first.

I can't help but be distressed by Mr. Sessions's decree that his Justice Department will not defend the civil rights of LGBTQ citizens; but if Messrs. Trump and Kim goad each other into turning millions of human beings into radioactive ash, civil rights for anyone becomes a largely moot point.

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Aug 10, 2017

As for this cartoon, however, I made the conscious decision to keep most of the image in black-and-white, since I associate the pre-civil rights era with black-and-white photography. Googling and checking Time and Life coffee table books for images of Woolworth's lunch counters, my results were almost entirely limited to finding photos of sit-ins or empty counters. Several of the latter were color photos of counters now in museums or in long-closed Woolworth stores now converted to other purposes.

In no photo did I find Woolworth employees behind the counter.

Fifty years after the sit-ins, New Orleans Times-Picayune photographer Bill Minor explained why:
"The people working behind the counter at Woolworth's were afraid to serve anybody," Minor says. "They just let them sit there. They wouldn't serve them. That's what they were ordered to do--not serve any blacks."
It may soon be equally difficult to find photos of  Justice Department officials on the job.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dick Locher's Presidents

Dick Locher, a long-time editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune, passed away this past Sunday at his home in Naperville, Illinois, at the age of 88. In a career stretching from 1972 to 2013, he won the Pulitzer Prize (1983), Fischetti Award (1987), Overseas Press Club Thomas Nast Award (1982 and 1983) and Sigma Delta Chi Award (1982).
"Shhhh! ... I Think I Hear Someone Coming" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1974
In honor of Mr. Locher, here is a quick sampling of his cartoons of American presidents during his career.
"Bug Spray" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1974
I had wanted to share here a September, 1974 cartoon showing a Chicago road crew filling potholes on the expressway with "marshmallow fluff." It is what I'm referring to with the term "pothole cartoon," meaning an evergreen idea that a cartoonist could leave with an editor for release during the cartoonist's vacation or family emergency. It's a hilarious image that I used to have on my bedroom wall before moving it into a scrapbook. Unfortunately, when I did so, I used rubber cement, which has since seeped through the newsprint, creating dark brown stains that I just can't Photoshop out.
"After All Those Promises You Made" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, February, 1978
Instead of any of Locher's editorial cartoons from the Reagan era, here is an episode of Dick Tracy in which the Gipper makes an appearance. Locher worked as an assistant to Dick Tracy's creator, Chet Gould, from 1957 to 1961, and returned after the death of Rick Fletcher to draw the strip with Max Collins from 1981 to 2009.
"Dick Tracy" by Dick Locher and Max Collins, 1983
Locher's son John also assisted in the drawing of Dick Tracy until the younger Locher's untimely death in 1986 at the age of 25. For the next 30 years, Dick Locher and his wife, Mary, have been at the helm of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists' John Locher Memorial Award for college cartoonists. Eligibility for the award was expanded in 2015 to include graphic journalists and web cartoonists age 17-25.
"But His Lips Aren't Moving" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1990
If you ever find yourself in Naperville, look for the statue of Dick Tracy, down by the river at South Webster Street.
"I'm Here to Arrest Mumbles" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, 1993
Current Chicago Tribune cartoonist Scott Stantis writes:
"In this world of snapchat vulgarity Dick was that rare breed: a courtly gentleman. When I was lucky enough to be named editorial cartoonist here at the Chicago Tribune one of the very first people to reach out and congratulate me was Dick Locher. I first met Dick years earlier at an Association of American Editorial Cartoonists convention. As a wet-behind-the-ears cartoonist I was in awe of this giant of our industry but, like a true gentleman, he put me at ease and we became fast friends. Dick has always been a font of encouragement, advice and good humor."
Read more encomiums of Dick Locher from his fellow cartoonists here. Then look up the word "encomium."
"We're Going to Hand Him His Lunch" by Dick Locher in Chicago Tribune, 2002
Parkinson's disease persuaded Locher to retire from cartooning in 2013. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary; a daughter, Jan Evans; a son, Stephen, a brother, Bob; a sister, Carolyn Holubar; five grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
"Obama Care" by Dick Locher for Tribune Media Services, 2012
P.S.: Totally by coincidence, I've got more Dick Tracy coming here this Saturday. Do tune in.

Monday, August 7, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

I may be accused
Of being confused,
But I'm average weight for my height.
My philosophy,
Like color TV,
Is all there in black and white.
-- Neil Innes, "Protest Song"

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Comic Caper, Part Dos

Stripback Saturday returns to an old comic strip I drew about a murder mystery in the funny pages. I drew The Funny Paper Caper over the course of the 1983-84 school year for the UW-Parkside Ranger (that's four years before Who Framed Roger Rabbit... but I'm not actively considering suing Disney Corporation at this point in time).

When we left our story, our police lieutenant narrator had begun his investigation of the murder of Rufus T. Pornapple. Having just talked to Mrs. Pornapple, who thought he had arrived to take report of a burglary at their home, our intrepid detective is about to meet the neighbors.
In addition to the occasional picture on the wall of some bit of cartoon history, I mimicked the balloons and printing of the cartoon characters. I somehow failed to incorporate a gargantuan sandwich or a bathtub into this part of the story line, however.
I'm going to need to explain here the inside joke that Strollin Bowlin' was a mascot who appeared in UW-P Ranger advertisements for the campus bowling alley.

Mimicking their cartoonists' lettering, it was so much easier to cram a lot of dialogue into Kathy's balloons than Mr. Dumpstead's.

How the Stephen Millers of the 19th Century Regarded Your Forebears

If I hadn't set the ball rolling on this Comic Caper nostalgia last week, I should probably have taken Trump's announcement of his No-Wretched-Refuse-Allowed immigration bill to present a more scholarly look back at 19th-Century editorial cartoons that warned against allowing your immigrant ancestors into the United States.

It's been done before, however. Here's an example that takes on almost every immigrant nationality, anyway (plus First Nations) (and even Canadians); and consider this your trigger warning that it's rather offensive.
"Please, Ma'am, May We Come In?" by Grant E. Hamilton in  Judge, 1893.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Q Toon: Playing an Uphill Lie

One of my colleagues posted the other day how much he hates drawing grass. There's a lot of grass in this week's cartoon, and all things considered, I'd rather draw grass than (see last week) buildings.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Aug 3, 2017

One thing newspaper editors hate about editorial cartoons is that there's no editing the things once they're drawn. News articles don't get to misstate the facts. Editorial think pieces don't get to distort the truth. If something in the fifth paragraph isn't totally on the up and up, it can be edited out, clarified, or corrected.

Editorial cartoons, on the other hand, constantly misstate and distort, albeit in the interest of getting at a greater truth. I readily admit that I had to do some of that this week. If I had wanted to be a stickler for just the facts, ma'am, the cartoon would be almost all text with a couple tiny little characters tucked into the corner.

You see, it's nearly impossible to come down with a dollars-and-cents figure for either the medical costs of transgender service members or Donald Joffrey Trump's golf trips — last Friday's chart notwithstanding.

Let's start with the medical costs.
[A 2016 RAND Corporation] report says gender transition-related health care—not just surgeries, but also ongoing care such as hormone treatment—sets the US military back between $2.4 and $8.4 million per year. That’s between 0.04% and 0.13% of its total medical budget.
As small a percentage of the Pentagon medical budget as that may be, most of us would consider the difference between $2.4 and $8.4 million huge. It's especially huge if you want to compare it to the cost of one presidential golfing trip. We don't know the cost of that either; the best estimate anyone has been able to come up with is based upon a golf trip President Obama had taken to Florida's Treasure Coast in 2013. With transportation, lodging, advance teams, security and whatnot, Obama's trip cost the federal government $3.6 million.

That's 150% of $2.4 million, but only 42% of $8.4 million. Politifact, moreover, rates using the $3.6 million figure as the cost of any Trump visit to Mar-a-Lago as only "half true," due to any number of variables in the cost of such a trip. Using the higher figure for transgender medical costs and a conservative $2 million for Trump's weekly golf trips, GQ suggests that "allowing trans men and women to serve in the military would cost about the same as four of Trump's weekend trips to Mar-a-Lago. Four!"

That's with the conservative estimate for Trump's trips to his own golf courses. One thing we know, however, is that Trump Inc. does not offer Trump Administration any discounts.

Trump loyalists will allege that their man has promised to reimburse the government for Mar-a-Lago expenses. Yet as we learned last year after he claimed to have raised $6 million for veterans' charities, Trump can be mighty slow to pay out on his promises. Nor can we expect him to suddenly stop fighting to keep his finances out of the public eye.

Monday, July 31, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Comic Caper: Part I

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cost Comparison

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Q Toon: The Eyes of Texas

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✵Jul 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

The line for the ladies' room is long enough.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Monday, July 24, 2017

This Week's Sneak Peek

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

And a rude one at that.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Reign in Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Q Toon: The Trumperor's New Clothes

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

The picture has been photoshopped to show him being pushed into a prison cell, over a cliff, toward the Jaws shark, onto a Star Trek transporter, and all manner of  punishments cleverer than Ms. Griffin's foray into political commentary.
Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✒Jul 20, 2017

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Meatless, Wheatless and Dry

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

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

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Q Toon: Never Put Off Until Tomorrow

Paul Berge
Q Syndicate
✍Jul 13, 2017

...what you can put off until December.

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


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