Cartoon: Who Would You Rather Meet In The Forest?

This cartoon is by me and Nadine Scholtes.

As some of you know, a couple of weeks ago – which is approximately forty centuries in internet time – a question went viral on the web: Asking women if they’d rather be in the woods with an unknown bear or an unknown man?

A majority of women are choosing the bear. In one TikTok video, which was viewed 17 million times, 7 out of 8 women said they’d pick the bear.

When asked to explain their decision, many women responded that they know a bear would either leave them alone or kill them, whereas they fear the details of exactly what a man could do to them.

Many men in the internet were loudly angry with this.

Nadine emailed me, asking if I was going to do a cartoon about “the bear thing.” I hadn’t considered it, and my first thought was “nah.” As I told Nadine, “I’d only do a bear or man cartoon if it could be done in a way so that the strip will still make sense long after this current moment passes.”

But then on my walk to work (by “work” I mean, the coffee shop I do most of my drawing in), the idea for this strip jumped into my mind. And I realized that it explained itself – in fact, I think this strip will probably work better in a couple of years than it does now, because right now the reaction from many readers will be “wait, that was so last week,” whereas in a couple of years people will have forgotten the whole thing.

My sense of humor is very whimsical, which isn’t the traditional approach political cartoons take. One thing that makes working with Nadine fun for me is that she shares that love of whimsy, and this cartoon proved to be a perfect vehicle for whimsy from both me and Nadine.

In the original script, I had the two office workers magically transported to a forest for panels two and three (with a bear there, of course), returning to the office in panel four. That didn’t work for Nadine, and she suggested instead having a bear come up to a window and steal the honey, which I loved.

I love it when a cartoon develops that way, through collaborative back and forth.

I asked Nadine if she had any thoughts she’d like me to include here. She wryly admitted that part of the reason she suggested this cartoon is that she wanted to draw a bear. :-p But she also wrote:

I chose the bear too and I saw how badly people react to this question. And how those people react is proof of why I chose the bear.

If you are attacked by a bear (surviving or not) people will believe you, if you are attacked by a man, people will question you.


This cartoon has five panels, arranged as a four-panel strip, and then an “extra” panel below the bottom of the strip.


We’re in the break room in an office building. There’s a poster on the wall, a counter, a coffee maker. There are two people who both look to be in their 20s or early 30s, both wearing office-appropriate clothing. There’s a woman with pink hair, wearing a white blouse and a dark gray suit, and a man wearing a dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a dark gray tie. Both are holding coffee mugs.

There’s a bottle of honey on the windowsill.

The man is asking a question, just making small talk; the woman is looking a little surprised by his question.

MAN: So if you were alone in a forest, would you rather run into a strange man… or a bear?


The woman, looking a little pensive, speaks. The man replies to her with an angry expression and body language.

In the window behind them, unnoticed by either of them, a large brown bear is stealing the jar of honey, and watching the humans with a slightly surprised expression.

WOMAN: Oh, hmm… I think, the bear.

MAN: How can you SAY that?


The man is now full on yelling, waving his coffee mug. The woman winces back, holding her hands protectively over her chest. In the window, the bear looks frightened, and ducks away.

MAN: You’re demonizing men! It’s MISANDRY!!


The women walks away, her back to the man, an irritated expression on her face. The man doesn’t seem to catch that she’s being sarcastic; he’s smiling and calm, happy to have (in his mind) won the argument. The bear, and the honey pot, are both gone.

WOMAN: Good point. Why would I ever fear men’s reactions?

MAN: Exactly!

MAN: …where did the honey go?


The bear and the woman are talking. The woman holds out her coffee mug for the bear to put some honey in.

WOMAN: At least if you maul me, people won’t say I made it up or I’m misinterpreting.

BEAR: I hear you.


“Chicken fat” is a long-dead cartoonists term for unimportant but hopefully amusing details.

PANEL 1: A workplace-motivation style poster on the wall shows a cartoon raccoon wearing a striped shirt like a cartoon criminal. It’s holding a coffee mug in one hand, giving us a thumbs up with the other, and winking. The caption on the poster says “Long coffee breaks rob the company.”

The man’s coffee mug has “Nice Guy” printed on it.

PANEL 2: The motivational poster has changed It now shows The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland glaring at us and pointing to his oversized pocket watch. A large caption at the top says “WORK!” and a subcaption at the bottom says “don’t waste time reading posters.”

PANEL 3: In the first two panels, the man was holding a spoon in one hand (to stir his coffee). In this panel, we can see that in his anger he bends the spoon in his hand.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 6 Comments  

Cartoon: Free Speech on Campus

In the first draft of this cartoon, the first panel went out of its way to make fun of Emma Camp’s New York Times article about students being afraid to say controversial things. Camp described her own freedom of speech being threatened when Camp said something unpopular in class: “I saw people shift in their seats. Someone got angry, and then everyone seemed to get angry.”

Camp’s article was praised highly by centrists and conservatives who, I think it’s fair to say, are proud of themselves for their support of free speech.

That same week, the Times published an editorial which said:

Americans are losing hold of a fundamental right as citizens of a free country: the right to speak their minds and voice their opinions in public without fear of being shamed or shunned.

Years ago, I drew a comic strip for the University of Massachusetts student newspaper. One cartoon caused a bunch of students to get very angry at me – so angry that they circulated a petition condemning me and my strip, which is almost as bad as shifting in their seats. But it never occurred to me that what they were doing was a threat to my free speech.

(They eventually invited me to come talk; I think there were thirty or forty of them and one me. But they ended up being nice, as people sometimes are when it’s face to face. We never ended up fully agreeing, but we agreed that we all meant well and that was pretty much the end of it.)

I’d certainly like people to be kinder. But the Times editorial board, and Emma Camp, don’t seem to give enough weight to the fact that counterspeech and criticism – even if someone is shamed – is also free speech. No matter how uncomfortable it might have made me to have a petition against me at UMASS, they still had a free speech right to circulate their petition.

Law student Trevor Floyd wrote:

The truth is that when people like Camp and Youngkin argue for more free speech on college campuses by citing to the reactions and consequences of unpopular statements, they are actually arguing against free speech. Camp at one point cites an experience where she expressed a point of view that made her classmates upset, obtusely writing that she “can tell” when a discussion “goes poorly” for her. Camp also references a Republican peer who chooses not to talk about his politics openly because he does not want his classmates to react poorly. According to Camp’s essay, these and other similar stories amount to an assault on free speech and debate.

But what Camp seems to want is speech at any time without consequence. Perhaps students in class don’t engage in “debate” in the way Camp desires because they recognize they are there to learn, not to be the loudest person in the room. Perhaps students react poorly to a peer trumpeting conservative politics because they find those politics harmful. Nobody has threatened to imprison or harm Camp for exercising her speech, but she seems to believe that a reciprocation of that exercise is essentially the same thing.

When it comes to the possible chilling of free speech on campus, centrist and right-wing defenders of campus free speech have been exquisitely sensitive. The smallest things – a disagreement that is too strongly worded, students shifting in their seats – have frequently been described as serious threats to speech on campus.

Yes, as we’ve seen this year, many of those same critics see no free speech threat when police in riot gear swarm onto campus to arrest and drag away largely peaceful protestors against Israel’s invasion of Gaza. In fact, they’ve been excusing the arrests of protestors, pointing to “content neutral” rules and some Jewish students feeling uncomfortable.

Abdallah Fayyad at VOX points out that these excuses don’t hold much water:

In many cases, universities have alleged that the protests were disruptive and pointed to the fact that some Jewish students felt that the encampments created an unsafe environment for them on campus. While harassment and intimidation can be reasons to involve law enforcement, the accusations against these protesters mostly focused on their chants and campaign slogans — and in many cases wrongly conflate anti-Israel rhetoric with antisemitism. (It’s worth noting that the arrested student protesters have largely been charged with trespassing, not harassment or violent acts.)

One of the other problems with how many universities and officials have responded to pro-Palestinian demonstrations is that they have changed their protest rules since October 7, in some instances specifically targeting Palestinian solidarity groups.

At Columbia, for example, the university issued onerous protest guidelines, including limiting the areas students are allowed to protest and requiring that demonstrations be registered weeks in advance. Northwestern University abruptly imposed a ban on erecting tents and other structures on campus, undermining ongoing protests. Indiana University preemptively changed its rules one day before its students set up an encampment by disallowing tents and changing a decades-old rule. And in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order requiring that public universities change their free speech policies and singled out pro-Palestinian groups that he said ought to be disciplined.

“Content neutral” rules, when written especially for and enforced specifically against pro-Palestine protesters, are not content neutral, no matter how neutral the words used are.

I genuinely hate that some Jewish students feel unsafe because of protests and anti-Israel chants – and, of course, the few cases of actual assault and direct intimidation are beyond the pale. But the solution is not mass arrests of students who are largely peaceful and, in many cases, themselves Jewish.

(And the concern for students feeling intimidated is one-sided; no one is talking about Palestinian students being intimidated, or Jewish anti-war activists being intimidated.)

There are some hard, complicated things to think about when it comes to large-scale student protests.

Mass arrests of peaceful protesters isn’t a hard call, though. From a free speech perspective, this should be the easiest call in the world.

That third panel may be the most complicated single panel I draw all this year! There are around thirty five characters in the panel – although of course, a bunch of those are the cops standing in formation. I only drew two of those, then copy-and-pasted to create all the others. (I did draw individual faces on most of them.)

I made the first two panels as simple as they could be, to contrast with the ultra-busy third panel.

Right now I’m pleased with how this comic looks – but of course, I only finished drawing it a couple of hours ago. I hope I’ll still like it in a year or two. And I hope you like it now.


This cartoon has three panels. The first two panels are normal-sized, while the third panel is gigantic.


A man and a woman are walking together, the woman speaking. Neither of them are students, judging from their age and their professional dress.

The man has white-blonde hair and glasses, and is wearing a blue shirt with a black tie. He looks worried. The woman has a red blouse and a black skirt, and has her hair pulled up into a bun. She is holding up a finger in a “this is my point” gesture, and is calm but a bit fervent.

For this and the next panel, the background is blank.

WOMAN: Students have a right to speak their minds without fear of being shamed or shunned. free speech on campus is in danger of being wiped out!


The two continue walking. The woman, waving her arms a bit as she gets passionate and a bit angry, continues speaking.

WOMAN: At some schools, students protested and heckled speakers! We must protect free speech from woke student totalitarians!


The man and women have come to a stop, and are looking at a protest. The man, looking concerned, speaks to the woman. The woman looks over the protest with a pleased expression, her arms folded.

The main focus in this panel is the protest – and even more, the cops in full riot gear attacking the protest. A huge line of cops in formation are marching towards the protest. Cops are leading away handcuffed protesters; one protester is being held on the ground and beaten. The protesters who aren’t being arrested look terrified. Protest signs lie on the ground.

MAN: So is this a threat to free speech?

WOMAN: No, this is fine.

Free Speech on Campus | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Palestine & Israel | 6 Comments  

Cartoon: Deux Ex Machina, Suckers!

This cartoon is another collaboration with awesome cartoonist Nadine Scholtes.

One odd thing about being an atheist, as many atheists have pointed out, is that although we disbelieve in all gods, many of us extra disbelieve in a particular God – whichever God was dominant where we grew up.

In my case, even though I’m Jewish, the God I extra disbelieve in isn’t the Old Testament God – although I disbelieve in him too – but the mainstream American Christian God, the God of sending people to Hell if they haven’t gotten the good word and repented and sent in money and voted pro-life.

(And as I wrote the above paragraph I wondered if this would have been a better cartoon if I’d asked Nadine to draw Jesus instead of God. Aaargh. Too late now.)

There are other versions of Christianity, of course, many far kinder; and other religions than Christianity, as well. But mainline and evangelical Christianity has a power in American culture and politics that no other religion here can claim.

The mainstream Christian notion of Hell is simply incompatible with anything I can view as good. I’ve read many apologetics for it, none of which I’ve found persuasive, but the most common and the least convincing is what I think of as the “Job argument.” In the Book of Job, God has a bet on with the Devil, and as part of the bet God lets the Devil destroy Job’s life and kill Job’s family. When Job suggests this is unfair, God replies “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” The implication being that because God is so much bigger and smarter than us, we can’t possibly judge if what God does is just or not.

But this amounts to “might is right,” or perhaps “might and incomprehensible is right.” It suggests that we should worship and obey not because God is good, but just because God is God and has incomprehensible reasons for whatever God does. I can’t accept that.

Although I’ve thought these things for decades, the immediate inspiration for this cartoon was hearing a fascinating episode of This American Life called “Heretics,” which tells “the story of Reverend Carlton Pearson. Pearson, who died last year, was a rising star in the evangelical movement when he cast aside the idea of hell and, with it, everything he’d worked for over his entire life.”

Pearson was expelled from his church in 2004 because he just couldn’t reconcile his understanding of God with the existence of hell. And for a while, it seemed he’d lose everything. But he eventually joined the Unitarians and as far as anyone can tell had no regrets.

I’m an atheist and Pearson wasn’t, but I still have to admire his fortitude. Anyhow, if you enjoy listening to podcasts, I recommend this one.

If you prefer more political cartoons than this, don’t worry – the next couple I’ve got lined up are more overtly political! :-)

In the last couple of weeks, trying to find new outlets now that Xwitter has arbitrarily decided my cartoons are porn, I’ve been posting cartoons on Reddit and Dailykos. Reddit is organized into millions of sub-forums, called subreddits, each of which has its own editorial standards. And so I’ve been experiencing rejection – often for what seems to me to be arbitrary reasons (like the “politicalhumor” subreddit deciding that a cartoon about racism wasn’t sufficiently political).

It’s reminded me of how much I appreciate what my Patreon does for me – it gives me the freedom to to make cartoons about all sorts of subjects, without being subject to the whims and tastes of editors if I want to make a living. So those of you who support the Patreon, thank you all so much for that! You’re giving me a freedom that few political cartoonists have ever had.


This cartoon has six panels. All of the panels take place in a blue sky with fluffy white clouds.


A human man, with a beard and a flannel shirt, is standing on a cloud, looking up at God, who is on another, higher cloud. (And is also much larger physically than the human guy). God is drawn in the traditional way: He has a thick white beard and is wearing white robes, and there’s a halo behind His head.

God is grinning and spreading His hands wide in a welcoming manner.

GOD: Hi there, I’m God! Good news! Because I’m so infinitely loving, good and merciful, you get to go to Heaven!

MAN: Okay!


A close up of God, who as Nadine draws Him has very pretty eyes. He is smiling and pressing his palms together and looking in the direction of the off-panel human.

GOD: But if you don’t love me, I’ll throw you into a lake of burning sulfur where you’ll be tormented day and night forever!


God smiles down beatifically at the human, who has raised a finger to make a point.

MAN: But… That’s horrible! And it doesn’t make sense! A good god wouldn’t torture people forever!


A close up of God, with a wailing expression, as He presses the back of His hand to His forehead. He is dissolving into ash, and has already disappeared from the upper chest down.

GOD: Gasp! By pointing out a paradox you’ve defeated me! Now I must turn into ash and die like in that Marvel movie!


Nothing is left of God but a pyramid-shaped pile of black ash (the ash pile has a halo behind it). In the foreground, the human has mildly surprised body language, and is rubbing the back of his neck with one hand.

MAN: Um…


God, a merry expression on his face, has reappeared whole on His cloud. He’s crouching down and pointing at the human. Lightning shoots out of God’s finger, engulfing the human and instantly turning the human into a black, charred, and surprised looking skeleton.

GOD: I’m kidding! Have fun suffering in the abyss forever, loser! Hah hah!


Chicken fat is an obsolete cartoonists’ expression for unimportant but entertaining details the cartoonist slips into the cartoon.

In this cartoon, in panel one, on the lower left, we can see a little dog sniffing at the cloud it’s standing on. The dog is wearing white robs and has a halo and white feathery wings.

We can’t see the cloud the dog is standing on again until panel five. In this panel, the dog is gone, but there’s a yellow puddle on the cloud where the dog was.

Deus Ex Machina, Suckers! | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Dogs, Religion | 18 Comments  

Cartoon: Unions Have Always Done The Impossible!

The last week has been kind of a bummer for me, workwise – I pulled a muscle in my thumb. (Who even knew that was a thing?) Afraid of making it worse, I decided not to draw and to minimize typing until my thumb was better.

And, well, it’s not completely better yet, but it’s mostly better, so here we are. I’m going to try returning to drawing later today, but limit how much time I spend on it until after my thumb quits hurting.

Work aside, our household held a Seder, and that was nice as always. We had a new 20ish friend join us, and the 15ish year old insisted that new friend should read the four questions. (In my day, we sang the four questions in Hebrew. Kids today have it so easy!)

This cartoon was written as a reminder to myself. Very often, I mentally dismiss ideas like a normalized four-day work week, or universal basic income, not because I think they’re economically impossible to pull off, but because I just can’t imagine progressives making advances that big.

It’s useful to remind myself that even many ideas that are so normalized that I don’t even think of them as ideas – like weekends – would have once seemed like wild, impossible ideas.

This cartoon, which was done for Dollars and Sense Magazine’s annual labor issue, naturally focuses on labor issues. But it’s not just labor. If you had asked me in the eighties, I would have told you that I loved the idea of legally recognized same-sex marriage but it wouldn’t happen in my lifetime. If you had opened a newspaper to the help wanted section in the 1950s, the jobs would have been divided into “women’s jobs” and “men’s jobs” sections, and few people expected that to change.

Progress can happen even when it seems impossible. That’s good to remember.

I’m pretty pleased with the art for this one. Every individual panel looks good to me (although panel two is my favorite). The different settings and historical costumes were fun.

I’ve just now noticed that panel three is odd, and now that I’ve noticed I can’t unsee it. Because although the art looks good by itself, the proportions of the characters in that panel are wildly different from the bighead proportions of the characters in the rest of the cartoon.

I just spent a minute considering redrawing panel three, but I decided that with each individual panel being a separate vignette, having the proportions be different in that panel probably won’t damage anyone’s reading experience. (And anyway, my thumb hurts. :-p )


This cartoon has four panels. Each panel shows a different scene with different characters.


On a city sidewalk, a line of workers is standing. They are wearing identical t-shirts with a drawing of a coffee mug surrounded by a circle, and lettering in the circle says “Baristas United.” One of the workers holds up a sign that says “NO JUSTICE NO COFFEE.”

Two workers talk; the first worker is excited and grinner, spreading her arms in the air, and the second worker (who is holding the sign) is a bit annoyed and cynical.

FIRST WORKER: If workers all pull together, we can accomplish so much! Living wages! Four day work weeks! Universal basic income!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


A large caption at the top of the panel says 1950.

We are in a mine. Mine cart tracks are on the ground, disappearing into a tunnel in the background. It’s dim here, other than the lights attached to the fronts of the miners’ hats.

Two miners, one carrying a bucket of stones, the other holding a shovel, are talking as they examine the aftermath of a rock collapse.

FIRST WORKER: Worker safety laws!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


A large caption at the top of the panel says 1930.

Two women wearing old-fashioned looking blouses are seated at the same long table. In front of each woman is a sewing machine; each of them are working on sewing a piece. They both have long hair done up in buns. A high pile of folded clothe is on the table in front of them. They look hot and sweaty.

FIRST WORKER: We could abolish child labor!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


A large caption at the top of the panel says 1890.

Two farm workers with broad-brimmed hats are talking to each other. They’re wearing plain, rough-but-sturdy-looking clothing. The first worker is holding up a palm in the air in front of her, “I have a vision” style. The second worker is making a dismissive gesture. There is a wheelbarrow and straw baskets, all filled with some sort of unspecifically drawn picked vegetation.

FIRST WORKER: Eight hour days! Two days off every week!

SECOND WORKER: Forget it! It’ll never happen!


“Chicken fat” is an old-fashioned cartoonist expression for unimportant but hopefully amusing details in a cartoon.

In panel one, a piece of paper littering the ground says “I’m listening to ‘Doppleganger’ as I draw this cartoon.” (And I was! It’s a recent book by Naomi Klein. I enjoyed it.)

In panel two, if you look along the bottom edge of the panel, you can see the feet of an unfortunate minor sticking out from under the rock pile.

And in panel four, the big straw bag on the ground in front of the first worker has the head of a rather bewildered looking bunny sticking out of it.

Unions Have Always Done The Impossible | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Union Issues | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: It’s All About Caring, Fatsos

This is one of those “I’m almost transcribing, but people will think I’m making it up” cartoons.

I have a bad habit of searching social media to see what people are saying about fat people and fat acceptance, and I’ve found that this sort of “critic” is distressingly common. “I’m saying this because I care” is to fat bigotry what “I’m just joking of course” is to antisemitism – a way for people to enjoy being mean and bigoted while denying taking any responsibility for what they’ve said.

When I drew this, I may have overdone how much movement the character does from panel to panel – no one in real life would ever move around this much while monologuing, particularly while staying in one spot. (Panel two, especially, seems unrealistic that way.) But I’m so afraid of being a lazy cartoonist – especially in a cartoon like this, where there’s nothing going on but a single character talking – that I think I overcompensated.

Anyway, drawing this was fun. The teeth were fun, trying to get the molded shape of the hair was fun, the framed Freds in the background were fun. What was most fun, though, was the cat. I usually find drawing cats very difficult. And because I find cats difficult, I usually wind up drawing felines that are realistically rendered and look nice, but are much less lively and fun than I’d prefer.

Here, for example, is some in-process art from a cartoon I’ve been working on gradually for months (I’ll get around to finishing someday):

For this cartoon, I managed not to freak out and default to realistic proportions. After looking at a ton of cartoony cats for inspiration, I just drew a cartoony cat. And it was easy! And fun! And I’m somewhat moderately almost happy with how it looks!

I wasn’t sure what book the cat should be reading; Mandolin reminded me of the “The Cat Who…” series of mystery novels, and that seemed like a good way to go.


This cartoon has four panels. All four panels focus on the same character, a cheerful young man standing in a what looks like a home office. There’s a desk, a lamp, an armchair with an ottoman, and a photo hanging on the wall in an oval frame. A cat is relaxing on the ottoman.

The main character has blonde-orange hair that’s neatly combed and kind of puffy. He’s wearing glasses, a red t-shirt with a big exclamation point on it (which is sort of what I defer to when I have no idea what to draw on a character’s t-shirt), blue jeans, and red sneakers.


The man is standing and talking directly to the readers. He’s waving at us.

MAN: I saw this fat woman on YouTube. I left a comment and said “maybe you should try jogging… away from the donuts!” Ha ha!


The man, still grinning, is holding up a finger in a “wait, wait, there’s more!” gesture.

MAN: Then I commented “obesity is linked to conditions like diabetes… and virginity!” Haw haw!


In a close-up panel, he raises his hands, palms out, as he continues to grin and talk.

MAN: Then I said “You’re going to die of a heart attack by the time you’re 35.” Hah!


The man, no longer grinning, is clasping his hands together as he tries to look very kind and sympathetic.

MAN: Of course, I said those things because I care so much about fat people’s health.


“Chicken fat” is an old cartoonists’ expression for unimportant but hopefully amusing details cartoonists slip in.

We can’t see the background in panel 3 because it’s a close-up. But in the other panels, we can see a framed photo on the wall in the background. In panel one, the photo shows Fred Flintstone; in panel two, Freddy Kruger; and in panel four, Freddy Mercury.

There’s also a cat relaxing on the ottoman. In panel one, the cat is just napping. In panel two, the cat is reading a book; the book has the title “The Cat Who Read A Book.” The author name is in print that’s probably too tiny to be read and says “Tiny Print, M.D.” And in panel four, the cat is sitting up like a human, one leg crossed over the other, and smoking a cigarette.

It’s All About Caring, Fatsos | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Fat, fat and more fat | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: The Measure of Intelligence

This cartoon is by me and Nadine Scholtes.

Did you catch the interactions between the animals? That was entirely made up by Nadine, and I love it.

Donald Trump’s board game – and yes, that is a thing that exists – has this motto on the cover: “It takes brains to make millions. It takes Trump to make billions.” The implication being that Trump is like, even smarter than smart people, and we can tell this because he’s rich.

(The real secret to Donald Trump’s wealth is that his father gave him more than $400 million over the years; and also, his success as a game show host).

Unfortunately, it’s not just the Trump board game – real people believe this. I listened to an interview with an undecided voter, who explained that Trump’s wealth means he’s smart and competent.

And it’s not just Trump. Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, has publicly made a fool of himself paying $44 billion for Twitter and then dropped Twitter’s – pardon me, X’s – value over 70% through a mix of sheer managerial incompetence and believing his own hype about him being a genius.

Brian Klaas writes:

If someone is a billionaire, they must be a genius. But there are serious reasons to doubt that claim. Wealth is not normally distributed, like height. While there’s never going to be someone who is even 3x shorter or 3x taller than you, Elon Musk is about three million times richer than the average American. That means that the super-rich are extreme outliers, and that creates some major statistical irregularities that are not tied to talent. […]

Some billionaires are smart. All have been extremely lucky.

As Klaas says, this all ties into the myth that we live in a meritocracy. We’ve all seen examples of smart people doing well; it follows that if someone’s mind-bogglingly rich, they must have a bogglingly great mind.

It also ties into the myth that there’s such a thing as “intelligence,” by which I mean a single number or measure of how smart someone is. That’s not how it works. People can be wonderfully adept and smart at some things while being shockingly stupid in other areas.

Bobby Fischer was undeniably a genius at chess, and he was a Holocaust denier. Ben Carson was by most accounts a brilliant neurosurgeon, and also doesn’t believe evolution is real and dismisses the Big Bang a s a “fairy tale.” Aristotle famously wrote that women have fewer teeth than men.

Elon Musk is talented at some things, but running a social media company isn’t one of them. In fact, because Musk thinks of himself as a visionary super-genius, he doesn’t doubt his own ideas or listen to people who know what they’re talking about, which means he’s effectively much stupider than an ordinary person could be.

If I sound extra bitter about Musk, it’s only because I’ve sort of built a career around being able to find new readers by putting my cartoons on Twitter, and now this rich doofus has spent $44 million ruining Twitter because he wanted to troll the libs or something. It feels very frustrating and random.

Ah, well: Even if Twitter (X) never recovers, probably something else will come along. And if not, I can still have fun listening to “Que Sara Sara” on repeat.

Thanks so much for supporting these cartoons! Elon Musk sucks, but you all are awesome.


This cartoon has four panels.


A man wearing a brown jacket over jeans and a v-neck t-shirt is sitting on a park bench, staring at something in his hands with great concentration. Let’s call him JACKET.

A red-headed man in a red smiley face t-shirt is on the path in front of the bench, looking at the first man with a dubious expression. Let’s call him REDHEAD.

REDHEAD: Er… Excuse me. What are you doing?

JACKET: A lot of my genius ideas get lost when I lose focus.


A close-up on Jacket shows that his hands are filled with a stick, lumpy, gooey, dripping mess of green-gray ooze. He continues to stare at it with great concentration.

JACKET: So I invented “the idea net” by smooshing rubber cement, peanut butter, and used chewing gum. This way I’ll catch ideas before they escape.


Redhead is responding, with a rather grumpy expression. Jacket doesn’t even glance at Redhead, continuing to study the mess in his hands.

REDHEAD: That’s gotta be the stupidest idea I’ve ever–

JACKET: I’m a billionaire.


The scene has changed to an apartment. Redhead is seated on a sofa, mixing up some sticky goo in his hands. On the coffee table in front of him we can see an open peanut butter jar, an open bottle of rubber cement, and a bunch of little crumpled pieces of paper (presumably gum wrappers). He is staring at the mess in his hands and smiling.

Behind him, a blonde woman is watching what’s he’s doing with a very doubtful expression on her face.

REDHEAD: I know it looks stupid, but he’s a billionaire! His ideas must be good!


Chicken fat is an old cartoonists’ expression for meaningless but fun details in a cartoon.

In panel one, hidden from the humans by a bush, a squirrel in a slouch hat and trenchcoat is standing next to a magpie with a bag of nuts. The magpie and the squirrel have their backs to each other and are studious ignoring each other.

In panel three, we can see that the squirrel and magpie are looking at each other. The squirrel has opened his trenchcoat to reveal a small bag labeled “catnip.” The magpie is holding out the bag of nuts to the squirrel.

In panel four, in the background, there is an open window. The magpie has landed on the windowsill, holding the bag of catnip. Below the windowsill, a gray housecat is making the “shh” gesture with one paw, and with the other paw is offering the magpie a shiny necklace.

Also in panel four, there are a couple of framed pictures on the wall. One of them is of the blonde woman; the other one is of the cat.

The Measure of Intelligence | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Whatever | 38 Comments  

Cartoon: The Celestial Politics of Trans Bans

This cartoon is a collaboration with Becky Hawkins. And Becky wrote the text for this Patreon post, too! Take it away, Becky!

This script seemed like a natural fit for me since I’ve been doing autobio comics with a shoulder angel for almost 13 years (!!!).

Here was Shoulder Angel’s first appearance in a sketch from April 2011:

I started a multi-page Shoulder Angel/Shoulder Devil cartoon soon afterward.

But I had trouble with Shoulder Devil’s character design and outfit. What signifies the “evil” version? (Sexy? Corporate? Counterculture?) There are a ton of interesting things that could be explored with this, but…I didn’t. The sporty Shoulder Devil seemed to be the appropriate antithesis of Shoulder Angel and I enjoyed watching her wind Shoulder Angel up. That’s as far as I went with that idea.

I feel like the shoulder angel/shoulder devil dichotomy is usually between good/evil or rules/mischief. I liked the idea of a shoulder angel who’s motivated by varying things like safety and pleasure, giving advice with mixed results. So, Shoulder Angel stuck around.

If your characters are vastly different sizes and you have to draw them together, the smaller character will sometimes be tiny. This is part of why I simplified Shoulder Angel’s design over the first few years. She went from being a miniature Becky with freckles and ruffled clothes to being shaped like a tiny cone with wings, arms, and a head. I added a V-neck to her choir robe for a little detail.

I actually found it hard to do the character designs for this political cartoon since my Shoulder Angel is so simplified! I looked at how other cartoonists had handled this challenge with Kronk, Homer Simpson, etc. Their angels/devils pretty much looked like miniature versions of the character with different outfits. I’d originally planned for the governor’s angel and devil to be wearing matching blazers, but it didn’t look very interesting. Barry came up with the idea of a punk angel and corporate devil. He also suggested the different-colored clouds. I love how this one turned out!

Off the subject, if you supported Barry’s Patreon last month, you contributed toward these rad muted purple Doc Martens, so extra thank you!!

Shortly after emailing me the above Patreon post, Becky texted me, and we had the following exchange:

Fortunately, once it was actually done, Becky was extremely pleased with how the colors came out!


This cartoon has six panels.


A reporter is pushing their microphone right in front of the Governor’s face. The Governor is wearing a suit jacket over a turtleneck with a necklace on top of the shirt, and has obviously professionally done hair. She looks a little uncertain.

REPORTER: Governor, what’s your position on the gender affirming care ban?

GOVERNOR: The bill blocking doctors from treating trans kids? Um…


A close-up on the governor’s face. Next to the governor, floating in the air, a little angel has appeared with a “POOF!” sound effect and a little white cloud. The governor is looking at the shoulder angel out of the corners of her eyes.

ANGEL: This is an awful bill!


A close shot of the shoulder angel let’s us see her outfit clearly. She has light purple hair combed to one side, and her head is buzzcut on the other side. She’s wearing a white leather jacket with metal studs and a zipper on the sleeve, a white skirt, fishnets, and white boots. She’s also got little white wings and a halo floating over her head.

She has her hands fisted and looks a little angry.

ANGEL: This bill is pandering to bigots! It’s giving in to a moral panic! And it’ll do so much harm to trans kids!


A longer shot, allowing us to see the shoulder angel, the Governor, and – appearing on the opposite side of the Governor from the angel in a “POOF!” and a considerably darker cloud – a shoulder devil. The devil is a woman in a red two-piece suit over a yellow v-neck blouse, and heels to match the blouse. She has two horns, bat-like wings, and is carrying a trident.

The Governor looks thoughtful, hand on her chin, one eyebrow lifted, looking at the shoulder devil out of the corners of her eyes.

ANGEL: All to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist!



The shoulder devil, raising her arms as if cheerleading, speaks to the Governor, who is now looking more directly at the devil. The angel’s eyes widen in dismay.

DEVIL: Fearmongering wins elections.


Looking more confident, the Governor is now speaking into the microphone.  Her text is smaller sized and has no word balloon, indicating that it’s sort of a background detail. The angel has her arms crossed and is sitting (in mid air) with her legs crossed, looking at the Governor with annoyance.  The devil is holding her pitchfork above her head in both hands and practically dancing, a huge and evil grin, victorious.

GOVERNOR: …protect children from perverts blah blah blah…

ANGEL: Well, this sucks.

DEVIL: This is great! Next let’s do a law forcing teachers to out trans students!

Celestial Politics of Trans Bans | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Transsexual and Transgender related issues | 3 Comments  

Cartoon: Hey did you hear? Biden is old!

One of my occasional non-evergreen cartoons.

I’ve drawn “Media” as a guy with a TV for their head at least once before. But the design of the character is definitely evolving. And in this cartoon, a lot of that comes down to Frank Young‘s coloring choices, which I love. I had no idea he was going to do any of these wacky things (the pop art color patterns in the backgrounds, the static behind the face on the TV screen, the grayscale body) until he sent me the finished work!

Frank writes:

As colorist for Barry’s cartoons, I work with a set of stylistic expectations. Anything that might be dimensional in real life merits light and shadow; colors are a touch more subdued than often seen in comics. I am conscious not to repeat myself with each new cartoon, as I keep in mind the style that Barry and I have set, and which seems to work well.

This cartoon presented me with three “easy” panels: a literal talking head against an empty space. I felt the shrillness of the absurd message being hammered by the media influencer. That made me think of 1960s Pop Art and the cult 1980s TV series “Max Headroom.” Don’t ask me how I jumped to those random parallels; I couldn’t tell you. I have learned to trust these leaps-of-synapse; they’re my brain doing a lightning-round of free association and they often have real meaning.

To realize these two styles, I used Photoshop filters which I’ve learned to adjust and control: Color Halftone and Mezzotint. Used as is, both effects look gaudy and unpleasant to my eyes. These effects can be toned down and made useful. Against a Pop Art background of zingy patterns and lurid colors, the speaker, who’s in color on the TV screen, which has a background of bright signal noise, is monotone in the “real life” of these panels. This felt right to me to capture the brassy vibe media pundits often exude—and the circus-like tenor of much news reporting and analysis.

In the final panel, which takes place in a recognizable space—a coffeeshop—I decided the pundit should still be in monotone, to suggest his real personality was the media presence that gets into everyone’s ears with its shouty, hey-looka-me style. Color can be an effective shorthand to impart a mood or feeling to the reader. If I have succeeded in making a visual analog to the clamorous din of news media, I’m happy with my work here. And I always look forward to the next cartoon and its new set of challenges.


This cartoon has four panels, plus an additional “kicker’ panel under the bottom of the cartoon.

Each panel features the same central character, who I’ll call “Media.” Media is a white man wearing a suit and tie, and carrying a microphone. But instead of a head, he has a flatscreen TV on top of his neck, and on the TV is a picture of a TV anchorman-type against a background of static.

In the first three panels Media is standing against a background of abstract and colorful pop-art shapes.


Media is leaning forward a bit and has a concerned expression.

MEDIA: Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden is old. Biden’s old. Biden’s so old. Biden’s old. Biden is old.


A closer shot of Media, now with a cheerful, chatty manner.

MEDIA: Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden is old old old. Biden’s old. Biden is old. Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden’s old. Biden is too old.

MEDIA: Trump’s old too.


Media now looks a little panicked, spreading his arms and almost jumping up and down.

MEDIA: Biden Biden Biden! OLD OLD OLD!


The scene now changes to a coffee shop. Media’s body is in casual clothes – slacks and a black polo shirt. (Although Media’s head and shoulders, on the tv screen, is still wearing a suit.) Media is sitting at a table, with a coffee mug in front of him, looking annoyed as he vents to a friend.

MEDIA: How can these people call me biased? Didn’t they hear me call Trump old, too?


Media is talking, a bit angrily, to Barry the Cartoonist.

MEDIA: I’m pretending you said I shouldn’t report on Biden’s age at all. And I’m appalled you’d say that!


“Chicken Fat” is cartoonist slang for unimportant details the cartoonist sticks in for the fun of it. In this case, all the chicken fat is in panel four. First of all, on the shelves behind the counter in the background is the decapitated head of Charlie Brown from “Peanuts.” (Poor ol’ Charlie Brown.) Secondly, on the wall is a framed picture of Zoidberg from the TV show “Futurama.” (I’m a big fan of both Peanuts and Futurama).

Media: Biden is Old Old Old Oldy McOldface | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Media criticism | 12 Comments  

Cartoon: Let’s Outlaw Being Homeless! That’ll Work!

This cartoon is drawn by the always-great R. E. Ryan.

I worked for many years at a historic church site in Portland, Oregon. The most fun part of the job was directing wedding rehearsals. (As a wedding coordinator, I helped with hundreds, maybe thousands, of weddings, and I can confidently report that “bridezilla” brides are actually very, very rare.)

The least fun part was occasionally having to ask homeless people sleeping in the church doorway to wake up and move on. We had put together some info we could hand folks – numbers and addresses of local shelters – but I got the impression that most of them were well aware of those options already, and had their reasons for not going. Plus, then as now, many of the shelters are full.

Homelessness is incredibly hard to address – and the number one (but not only) policy that can help, building more and more housing, isn’t simple either, and can’t do anything about immediate short-term needs.

So it’s hard. But laws banning sleeping in public – and other aspects of being homeless – are a terrible response.

It’s not just cruel – these laws are literally demanding the impossible. Human beings are, alas, embodied physical beings existing in a physical universe, and it follows that we will inevitably be somewhere while we sleep. And if you’re someone who doesn’t have access to a private place to sleep – by definition, you’ll be sleeping in public.

Not that these laws are enforced against someone like me if I doze off while working in a coffee shop (as I have several times) or while sitting on a park bench. They’re not really laws against sleeping in public; they’re laws against being homeless. And they actually make it harder for people to get out of homelessness.

Eric Tars of the National Homelessness Law Center writes:

The growing affordable housing gap and shrinking social safety net have left millions of people homeless or at-risk, and most American cities have fewer emergency shelter beds than people who need shelter. Despite this lack of affordable housing and shelter space, many cities have chosen to criminally or civilly punish people living on the street for doing what any human being must do to survive, like sleeping, resting, and eating – activities we all do every day and take for granted. […]

Criminalization policies are ineffective and, in fact, make homelessness harder to exit. Because people experiencing homelessness are not on the street by choice but because they lack choices, criminal and civil punishment serves no constructive purpose. Instead, arrests, unaffordable tickets, and the collateral consequences of criminal convictions make it more difficult for people to exit homelessness and get back on their feet. Criminalization of homelessness might mean that individuals experiencing homelessness are taken to jail, where they may remain for weeks if they cannot pay their bail or fines, perhaps losing custody of their children, property and/or employment in the process. Once released, they could have criminal records that make it more difficult to get or keep a job, housing, or public benefits. Moreover, fines and court fees associated with resolving a criminalization case can amount to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. Without the resources to pay, homeless people may be subject to additional jail time. Criminalization is the most expensive and least effective way of addressing homelessness and wastes scarce public resources on policies that do not work. A growing body of research comparing the cost of homelessness, including the cost of criminalization, with the cost of providing housing to homeless people shows that ending homelessness through housing is the most affordable option in the long run.


This cartoon has four panels. All the panels show a gritty commercial doorway – the kind that’s recessed a few feet into the building – on a city sidewalk. There’s litter and graffiti here.

There are two characters in the comic strip. The first character is a homeless man sleeping in the doorway, wearing a zip-up sweatshirt over a t-shirt and a dull red knit cap, and with a full beard.  The other character is a muscular-looking cop dressed in a police uniform and carrying a baton. In defiance of tradition, he is cleanshaven. I’ll call these two characters KNITCAP and COP.


Knitcap, covered by a brown blanket and with his head pillowed on some rolled-up clothes, is lying in a doorway, apparently asleep. The cop is using his baton to poke knitcap in the side. The cop has a somewhat sadistic grin.

COP: Hey, you! Get up! We’ve outlawed sleeping in public! You’re not allowed anymore!


Knitcap is sitting up, rubbing sleep out of his eyes with one hand. He speaks calmly. The cop watches, smirking, arms akimbo.

KNITCAP: In that case, I guess I’ll sleep in a hotel tonight.


A close-up of Knitcap. He’s stroking his chin with a hand, as if thinking through his options.

KNITCAP: Or should I sleep in my townhouse instead? Or my Hamptons place? I’ll call my butler and ask what he thinks!


Knitcap, grinning, is now holding a hand next to his face, thumb and pinky finger extended, pretending it’s a phone as he talks. The cop is glaring and slapping his baton against his palm.

KNITCAP: Smithers? Smithers old boy! My super fun street sleeping holiday is done. Which of my mansions shall I sleep in tonight.

COP (thought): Next step: Outlaw sarcasm.


Chicken fat are unimportant but fun details cartoonists sometimes sneak into comic strips.

In panel one, in the lower-right-hand corner of the panel, two rats are sitting, holding playing cards and apparently playing poker, or some similar card game. In panel two, a cat walks in, apparently stalking the rats. The rats look at the cat. And in panel four, the cat has been dealt in and is playing the game with them.

In all the panels, Knitcap is wearing a t-shirt with some words that are hard to make out. But what it says is “No, you’re Spartacus.”

In panel three, there’s a lot of mostly-unintelligible graffiti, but just below the doorknob someone has painted “BACKGROUND DETAILS RULZ.”

Let’s Outlaw Being Homeless! That’ll Work! | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Economics and the like | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists!

There’s something bizarrely fun about drawing myself as a cliche of a wealthy man.

Although at the same time I was drawing this cartoon, I was also working on a still-to-come cartoon which also involves lots and lots of panels of me, so the two of them together were making me feel a bit like Narcissus. It eventually got to me enough that I put the other cartoon aside for a while, but I’ll get back to it someday.

The two other most fun parts of drawing this cartoon: Drawing the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” pose in panel four. And: Fish!

When I posted a panel-in-progress from this cartoon on social media, a few different readers reached out to let me know that a tiny globe bowl like this is actually a very unhealthy environment for a fish. What can I say – apparently Rich Barry is kind of a jerk.

On my discord , “Tired” wrote:

Rich Barry is probably rich enough to have a new fish deposited in his bowl morning before he gets up. It’s like a milk delivery service, except it’s a living fish delivery service.

To which Charles replied with this disturbing anecdote:

I recently read an article about Hugh Hefner’s widow, in which the creepiest detail, out of many creepy details,  was that he had a pair of caged songbirds in his bedroom that died every few days and were replaced with a new pair of songbirds (eventually, someone discovered their water bottle was broken), so exactly that service except with songbirds.

Brrrr! The very rich really are different from you and me.

This cartoon is inspired by some of economist Dean Baker’s writings (his blog Beat The Press is essential reading if you happen to be a cartoonist who has to do at least six econ-related cartoons every year – and whom among us doesn’t that describe?). In particular, I referenced chapter seven of his 2016 book Rigged (which can be downloaded for free on Baker’s website).  Baker writes:

There is one final point worth mentioning in this discussion. Of course, many young professionals, especially doctors, have put in years of training and have incurred large debts to practice in a field that they expected to be financially rewarding. It is reasonable to have some sympathy for them and perhaps lessen the blow from market-opening measures by, for example, offering student loan forgiveness.

However, why apply a different standard to market openings for highly trained professionals than to market openings for textile workers and autoworkers? For less highly paid workers we take steps that increase efficiency and promote growth and pledge that we will help those left behind. (In most cases the help has not been especially useful.) It does not make sense to believe that the most educated workers in society somehow are in need of greater protection from the government than the millions of less-educated workers who have been displaced by trade openings and other measures. Sympathy might be appropriate, special protection is not.


This cartoon has eight panels.


This panel shows Barry (that is, me), wearing an expensive-looking three piece suit. He’s sitting in a big armchair, legs crossed at the knee, waving at us with one hand and holding a cigar in the other. Next to the armchair is a small glass fishbowl with a gold-colored fish in it.

BARRY: Hi! I’m Barry, and I’ll be your cartoonist today. You ever wonder why cartoonists like me make so much money?


Barry is holding out a big globe as he speaks.

BARRY: “After all,” you say, “There are well-trained cartoonists all over the world willing to take U.S. qualification exams and draw cartoons for much less.”


Barry is pontificating and looks pretentious, one hand holding a lapel of his jacket, the other holding a forefinger up in a “giving a lecture” sort of way. Behind him, the fish is watching.

BARRY: True! Luckily, the U.S. limits how many foreign cartoonists can work here. Despite the severe problems caused by the cartoonist shortage.


Barry is now in the famous “Uncle Sam Wants You” poster pose, pointing a finger at the reader, and wearing an Uncle Sam top hat.

BARRY: According to Uncle Sam, “free trade” and competition driving down pay isn’t for me. It’s for unimportant non-cartoonist people like you.


Barry and a woman are in the panel. Barry has grabbed her purse and is pulling cash out of it; the woman looks annoyed.

BARRY: All of this means cartoonists can charge more for cartoons. It’s like a tax you pay so I can be richer.


Still in the fishbowl on the little table, the goldfish speaks, with a slightly distressed expression. Barry is very shocked by this development, jumping up and eyes popping.

GOLDY: Hold on, that can’t be true!

BARRY: Goldy? You can talk?


A close-up on Goldy as she sticks her head out above the water to speak. She looks worried.

GOLDY:  Don’t change the subject. Does Uncle Sam really make us all pay more so you can be richer?

BARRY: Nah, I was fibbing. They don’t do that for cartoonists.


Goldy, smiling, is relieved. Barry shrugs as he cheerfully goes on.

GOLDY: I knew it! Protectionism for the rich would be totally against the U.S.’s ideas of fairness and free tra-

BARRY: They just do it for doctors, dentists, and lawyers.


“Chicken fat” is a cartoonist expression for unimportant but hopefully fun details in a cartoon that readers could easily miss.

In panel one, a little label pointing to Rich Barry’s cufflink says “gold cufflinks.” In panel two, when Rich Barry holds up a globe, a little caption pointing to it says “Golden Globe.” And in panel three, a similar little caption pointing to the fish says “Gold Fish.”

In panel two, if you look closely at the continents on the globe Rich Barry is holding, one is shaped like Pac-Man and two are shaped like Ghosts fleeing Pac-Man.

In panel six, when Barry’s glasses pop off in cartoon surprise, his eyeballs remain in the glasses rather than staying on his face.

Free Trade Is For Peasants, Not Cartoonists | Patreon

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Economics and the like | 1 Comment