Cartoon: Portland Is A War Zone!


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This comic is a collaboration with Becky Hawkins; I wrote the script, Becky did the art. More of our political cartoon collabs can be found here. And we create a webcomic together, SuperButch.


I find it so weird when people hear I’m in Portland and tell me to “be careful” or “stay safe.”

Portland is so friggin’ peaceful! Even the “bad” areas of Portland – and I’ve lived in a few of them (my neighborhood is nicknamed “felony flats”) – are quiet and calm.

Even those much-written-about conflicts between Proud Boys (or one of the other racist groups, they’re hard to keep track of) and antifa are mostly invisible.

I’ve been in downtown Portland and not seen a thing – then I get home and find out that the national news is reporting rioting here.

So thinking about that led to this cartoon. Hopefully it will amuse Portlanders while reassuring the rest of you that really, we’re all right here.

And thinking about drawing that final panel – which had to show not only a peaceful city scene, but to get across a specifically Portlandish vibe, including in the architecture – made me feel very intimidated, because I really struggle with drawing architecture.

So instead I asked Becky Hawkins to draw it, because she excels at that. And I’m glad I did, because whatever I managed to do with that panel wouldn’t have been as great as what Becky did. Will you look at that last panel! The bikers, the baby on the bike (very Portland), the building details… the level of detail is awesome.

Looking at the comic, I just now recognized the section of SE Hawthorne Becky based her drawing on. Becky knows this neighborhood very well, but used this image from google maps for reference.

See? No rioters.


Years from now, if anyone reads this cartoon, I bet they’ll be going “concrete milkshakes? What the heck is a concrete milkshake?”


TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

This cartoon has five panels. The first four panels are narrow, and show a tight close-up of a woman’s head and shoulders as she talks on a cell phone. The final panel is a long shot, showing a sidewalk scene.

Panel 1

A woman with blonde hair, and glasses pushed up on top of her head, talks on a cell phone. She looks frightened.

WOMAN: If you don’t live in Portland, you can’t imagine what it’s like. It’s a friggin’ war zone here!

Panel 2

She continues speaking into her cell phone, now looking a bit angry.

WOMAN: Every day we’re dodging tear gas and concrete milkshakes! Proud boys and antifa are everywhere!

Panel 3

She holds up one hand to cup by her mouth, as if whispering.

WOMAN: Don’t print my name…. I don’t want to become their next target.

Panel 4

She looks wide-eyed and panicked as she presses the button to hang up the phone.

WOMAN: Even talking to you like this– oh no! Someone’s coming! No, NO! Please, don’t hurt me! AAARGH!

PHONE: Click.

Panel 5

The “camera” has backed very far back, and we can now see that the woman is sitting with a friend at an outdoor table on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant or cafe. The friend is wide-eyed with shock; the woman is sipping her coffee and smiling as if she’s very pleased with herself.

We can also see almost a full block of the sidewalk they’re sitting on, and some of the street. It’s a peaceful street scene; diners sit at tables with striped umbrellas; a mom pushes a baby carriage; a parent bikes by with a toddler seated between the parent and the handle bars; two children play catch; further back, a woman in a black dress bikes, her black hair blowing behind her. The red brick building has green paint accents, and in the distance, trees and a mountain can be seen behind the city buildings.

WOMAN: God, I love out-of-town reporters!

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17 Responses to Cartoon: Portland Is A War Zone!

  1. 1
    J. Squid says:

    I recognized it as Hawthorne immediately. That’s quite an accomplishment. Congratulations, Becky Hawkins!

  2. 2
    Gracchus says:

    I think this is simply noticing-bias – Portland rarely makes national or international news for any reason other than antifa/fascist clashes, so for many people, when they hear the word “Portland” that is their immediate association, and they don’t stop to think that maybe their association doesn’t match the associations of people in the city.

    I have a similar experience living in Europe – many American friends (even those on the left who, frankly, should know better) often express concerns for my safety.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    I’m sure you’re right and it is noticing bias, Gracchus. I just find it funny, living in Portland.

  4. 4
    Gracchus says:

    Noticing bias can be positive too – I used to live in New Zealand, and people had the opposite belief, that everything was just fun and love and green skies and fantasy film sets. I found it equally annoying, which may well say something about me.

    Anyway, I’m glad you find it funny, not annoying.

  5. 5
    AJD says:

    Years from now, if anyone reads this cartoon, I bet they’ll be going “concrete milkshakes? What the heck is a concrete milkshake?”

    According to Bon Appétit, it’s a “thick frozen custard blended at high speeds and mixed with fruits, candy, cookies, nuts—you name it.”

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    It strikes me that you could easily create a very similar cartoon for Chicago, wherein people who don’t live within 100 miles of the place think people are being gunned down in the streets all over the city instead of mostly in about 6 or 8 of the 80+ neighborhoods (and trust me, no tourist will ever find themselves in one of those 6 or 8 neighborhoods).

    Then there’s the discussion I had with a couple of Dutch Scouters at the World Jamboree, who said that they were told as part of their briefing about America that they were not to smile or joke with American police as they are all very violent.

  7. 7
    Gracchus says:

    Honestly, you could make this cartoon about very many cities, regions, countries, you name it.

  8. 8
    nobody.really says:

    See? No rioters.

    Well … ok, no rioters. But the picture clearly shows that some gang bangers were around. How else would you explain that some hoodlum vandal spray-painted “SE Hawthorne” right on the street!?! (Bet that’s the name of their “posse”….)

  9. 9
    J. Squid says:

    RonF,

    It’s cool that you’re back. Can you take a look at Grace’s response to your comment on the open thread and then address the questions asked over at The MintGarden?

  10. 10
    Mandolin says:

    Becky! I love this! Your style really comes through in an easy, fluid way. I feel like this strip is really —you— more than some of the others (maybe I’m wrong!) and that shining through makes this really gorgeous.

  11. 11
    Ampersand says:

    Well … ok, no rioters. But the picture clearly shows that some gang bangers were around. How else would you explain that some hoodlum vandal spray-painted “SE Hawthorne” right on the street!?! (Bet that’s the name of their “posse”….)

    Everyone in Portland lives in fear of crossing the SE Hawthornes.

  12. 12
    nobody.really says:

    Everyone in Portland lives in fear of crossing the SE Hawthornes.

    Naturally; no one want to be the next one with a scarlet letter. People who have never been to the Wild West don’t appreciate how everyone has a license to carry a concealed thick frozen custard….

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    Is “SE Hawthornes” an inside Portland joke, or a real street gang there?

  14. 14
    Petar says:

    Is “SE Hawthornes” an inside Portland joke, or a real street gang there?

    It’s an overlay on the picture, from the map software. nobody.really pretended to believe that it’s actually graffiti on the asphalt.

    An augmented reality joke, of sorts.

  15. 15
    Mandolin says:

    It’s just the name of the street. I didn’t realize it was painted on there in places, but I guess it makes sense to have the name around in various different ways.

  16. 16
    Mandolin says:

    (You can see part of where it’s painted on the street on the right side of the photograph; it’s relatively easy to miss if you’re not expecting it.)

  17. 17
    J. Squid says:

    I think that’s just a label off the map image, Mandolin, and not actually painted on the street.

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