Cartoon: Triheads vs Squareheads

This cartoon is a collaboration between myself (script and lettering), Becky Hawkins (classroom scenes), and Naomi Rubin (Triheads vs Squareheads scenes).

If you like these cartoons, help me make more (and help me pay my swell collaborators!) by supporting my Patreon. Thanks!

I’ve known Naomi Rubin for many years. She’s a wonderful cartoonist and one of the best people I know, and I’ve always wanted to do a strip with her – but although she’s helped me as an advisor on countless strips, the right strip for her to draw never seemed to come up.

When I wrote this strip, I knew I wanted the two worlds of the strip, the storybook world and the classroom world, to be drawn in different styles. Having it actually drawn by two different cartoonists seemed fun to me, and then the idea of asking Naomi and my most-frequent collaborator Becky Hawkins to draw it appeared in my brain, shiny and bright and beautiful, and I gasped and fell to my knees and tears appeared in my eyes and my housemate Charles said “what’s wrong” and my other housemate Sydney said “oh geez, Barry’s being drama again, ignore him.”

(I’m always amazed that people support this patreon. But I’m especially amazed after writing a paragraph like the preceding.)

Anyway, Becky and Naomi were up for the collaboration; they chose to have Naomi draw the storybook while Becky drew the real world. After Naomi showed me her pencils, I loved them but thought they were looking crowded, so I made what had been a tall strip an even taller strip so the art would have more breathing room.

I’m very happy with how this strip came out. And also very happy that I’ve finally done a cartoon with Naomi.

As children (at least in America), we encounter many stories which paint racism as being two groups who are really just the same but are hung up on some trivial difference in their appearances and so hate each other. Even if one group is more powerful than the other at the story’s start, by the end we’re told that both sides are equally to blame, and all that’s required is for everyone to stop focusing on silly differences and just be nice to one another.

Examples include Dr Seuss’ story “The Sneetches” (in which the society is organized around who does or doesn’t have a green star on their navel), The “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” episode of Star Trek (in which aliens with faces divided in half, black and white, are at war because one group has black-left white-right, while the other group has black-right white-left), and the song “Savages” in Disney’s Pocahontas, which blames the Native Americans just as much as the armed invaders.

(Wow, has that movie aged badly).

I had noticed this, but not really put it together until I read a couple of viral tweets by the writer Christina Holland, back in August. Ms Holland wrote:

I think a big problem with kids’ allegories for racism is it’s like “the green people and the purple people hated each other just for being the other color, isn’t that silly?” and not “the purple people kidnapped the green people and treated them like livestock for 100s of years”

A lot of grownups learned about it more or less like that and that’s why they think “just ignore color” or “stop having hate in your heart” or “we need examples of opposite-color people being friends” will fix things, because it would, if it was the first kind of situation.

The thought really stuck with me, and I began mulling over how to illustrate it in a cartoon. I hope you like the result. (And if you’re on Twitter, please go follow Christina Holland!)

P.S. If you’ve never seen Lindsay Ellis’ video about Disney’s Pocohontas, it’s really worth a watch.


This cartoon has six panels. Each panel shows a schoolteacher reading from an illustrated children’s book; in some panels, we also see images from the book.


This panel shows a teacher, who is white, reading aloud from a book. Above her, we can see the illustration from the page she’s reading. The illustration shows a bunch of cartoon people, some of whom have triangle-shaped heads, some of whom have rectangular heads. They are smiling and shaking hands and putting arms on each others backs in a companionable manner. In front of them, two children – one with a rectangular head, one with a triangular head – kick a ball around in the grass.

TEACHER: “And when they saw Jumball Trihead and Bigapie Squarehead playing happily together, the grown-ups realized it was silly to hate each other just because they looked different!”

TEACHER: And  that, children, is how we can end racism! Any quetions?


The “camera” zooms out a little, and we can see that there are small children seated on the floor listening to the teacher. One small girl, who is Black, has gotten up and is handing the Teacher a book. The teacher accepts it cheerfully.

IMANI: Miss Martin? Mommy said to ask you to read this book, too. It’s a sequel!

TEACHER: I didn’t know there was a sequel! How marvelous! Thank you, Imani.


The teacher, with a concerned and slightly frightened expression, is reading aloud from the new book. Above her, we see an illustration from the book: A Trihead, speaking straight out to the reader with an angry expression, slams a fist into a palm. Behind him, in silhouette, several Squareheads are trudging along, bowed and weary, chained together chain-gang style.

TEACHER: “But then the head Trihead said, that wasn’t racism, that was just prejudice. We’ll show you racism.”

TEACHER: “And then the Triheads kidnapped the Squareheads and treated them like property for hundreds of years.”

TEACHER: “Oh dear.”


We see the children listening with wide-eyed, somewhat stunned expressions.

Above them, we see an illustration from the book. Two Squareheads lean against a gray wall, as if preparing to be frisked. A Trihead wearing a police or prison guard uniform glares at them. They all seem to be in a barred area. In front of the bars, another Trihead sits at a desk, reading a copy of “The Bell Curve.”

TEACHER: “It took a war to stop the Triheads from using Squareheads as property, and even then, Triheads used Jim Crow and prison and other things to crush the Squareheads while telling everybody that Squareheads are just naturally crushed.”


A close-up of the teacher, who now looks very frightened but keeps on reading aloud. Above her, we see an illustration from the book. A Trihead is lying on the grass, head leaning against a tree, crying a spout of tears from each eye. Next to the Trihead, a standing Squarehead rolls their eyes, arms folded. And next to the Squarehead, a second Trihead is talking to the Squarehead with an accusatory expression, while pointing at the crying Trihead.

TEACHER: “And whenever a Squarehead complained about all the racism, Triheads yelled “how dare you accuse me of racism! Stop imagining things!”


A shot of the classroom, no illustration. The teacher is turning towards Imani and asking her a question.  The teacher looks worried. Imani, now sitting cross-legged on the floor, replies with an “I don’t know” shrug.

TEACHER: “Another hundred years later…”

TEACHER: Imani, when does this story end?

IMANI: Mommy says we don’t know yet.

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Race, racism and related issues | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: Teaching Cops To Be Healers

This cartoon is a collaboration with Kevin Moore.

Help me make more of these cartoons (and to pay collaborators like Kevin and Becky!) by supporting my Patreon! Even a $1 or $2 pledge really matters.

I get a lot of suggestions for cartoons, and I take almost none of them. But once in a rare while…

Back in August, patron Brian Balk wrote:

Hey Barry, I hope you’re well. I’m just writing to share a cartoon idea I had, of police officers using CPR training dummies to practice choke holds.

I wrote Brian back saying, essentially, “maybe.” But the idea kept coming back to me, and I mentally played with structuring the gag a few different ways. When one of the ideas made me chuckle, I wrote a script for it and put it in my “to be drawn someday” folder.

I offered it to Kevin Moore to draw – his slightly grotesque style seemed to fit well with these slightly grotesque characters – and, happily, Kev said yes.


This cartoon has four panels. In addition, there’s a tiny fifth “kicker” panel under the comic strip.


A middle-aged politician-looking dude wearing a suit and tie, and with thick hair neatly parted in the middle, is standing behind a podium with microphones on it. Behind him, we can see a building with a large sign above the entrance saying “City Hall.” Let’s call this guy “Mayor.”

MAYOR: The protesters say the police cannot be reformed – that police culture is beyond saving. That we must abolish and start over.


A couple of hands are holding a tablet; on the tablet, the mayor, raising a finger and with a very serious expression, continues speaking.

MAYOR: The protestors are wrong! Nothing’s wrong with police culture. We don’t need major reform, just some slight adjustments!


Another panel showing the mayor at the podium. This is a wider shot, and we can see that the “City Hall” building behind him is just a flat image on a backdrop.  In front of him is a large professional looking video camera, and next to the camera a man with a mustache is grinning and giving the mayor a “thumbs up” signal. The mayor is grinning and pumping one fist victoriously in the air.

MAYOR: For example, the city just purchased new CPR dummies for police to train on. We will show people that police can be heroes and healers!


We’re in a new location – a large empty room with wood-paneled floors (or vinyl with a wood pattern, more likely), like some gymnasiums have. There are three men here, all wearing blue police tees and shorts. The nearest cop is holding a CPR dummy in a chokehold. Next to him, another cop, wearing a helmet and visor, is raising a nightstick to hit the CPR dummy with. In the background, a third cop is watching and taking notes in a little notepad.

FIRST COP: Okay, let’s train! I’ve got the dummy in a choke hold… Harry, you beat it with your nightstick.

HARRY: Can’t I shoot it instead?


The third cop from panel 4 – the one who was taking notes – is asking the mayor a question. The mayor looks at the cop with a somewhat distressed expression.

COP: Do CPR dummies come in Black?

Posted in Cartooning & comics | 1 Comment  

Cartoon: Now!

I can make these cartoons because of readers supporting my Patreon. Join us!

I hope all of us who celebrate it are having a good Passover. My household held our Seder Sunday night. There were six at our table, and we set up a zoom with some of the households who’d normally be sharing a Seder with us, so we could at least read the Haggadah together. And for the second year in a row, we finished the Seder by saying “next year in person!”

I’ve gotten my first vaccine shot, and so have a lot of people I know. A few people I know – teachers and older people – have gotten both shots. I feel a bit guilty for being an American (we’re getting shots so much faster than so many) but also a great deal of personal relief.

Despite this cartoon’s pessimistic ending, I’m optimistic that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel (those of us in the States and a handful of other countries – the New York Times has a tracker). But it would happen quicker, and with less death, if so much of the country wasn’t made up of people who think denying reality is a virtue. Some of those people are governors.

This cartoon doesn’t have a punchline, really – it’s less a gag, and more of an attempt to describe how the country feels to me, right now, in cartoon form.

This is one of very few cartoons in which I’ve drawn people wearing masks (I’ve instead acknowledged our new reality by drawing more cartoons in which people are talking on screens).

I’m hesitant to draw masked characters partly because most of my cartoons are intended to be “evergreens” that will still be relevant for years to come. But an even bigger reason is because I use “dot eyes” on my characters – which means that I rely on mouths to make my characters expressive.

(This is a problem I have in real life, too. I rely on smiles to communicate with strangers all the time – smiling at a driver to acknowledge them stopping so I could cross the street in front of them, or to let someone who has accidently bumped me know I’m not mad. And I can’t do that anymore because I don’t leave the house without a mask.

(I still reflexively do smile at people in these situations, actually, but then another part of my brain points out that I might as well be waving at someone wearing a blindfold.)


Thanks to Frank Young for his colors here! This one looks to me like something I could have colored myself – Frank is definitely adapting his style to my style. Although there are still little things he does – like the fade at the top of the sky in panel  four, or the white mist in panel 3 – that I wouldn’t think to do. (Except now maybe I will, because they look good!)

Normally I wait a few weeks (or months) before posting a new cartoon in public, so the folks supporting my patreon get to see them way in advance. But in this case, I’m hoping the cartoon will be less and less relevant with each passing week, so I’ve waited less than a week to post in public.

Thank you to my patrons, as always, for making it possible for me to produce weird cartoons that use the “F” word and don’t even have a punchline. That I can make cartoons without having to worry about editors or publisher rules (aside from the Patreon Trust and Safety team) is such a privilege.


This cartoon has four panels. All four panels show two people, one bald and stubbled, the other with shoulder-length black hair and glasses, walking through a hilly park area. Both of them are wearing face masks. A third person – not with them but a little distance away – has neatly combed hair and is not wearing a mask.


Stubble and Glasses walk and talk. Glasses is holding up a finger to make a point, and Stubble is clasping his hands together and looking skyward in a hopeful manner. Well behind them, Combed is waving a hand and yelling towards them.

GLASSES: People are getting vaccinated! If we can stay safe for another three or four months, we can beat Covid!

STUBBLE: I dream of eating in a restaurant again!

COMBED: I want restaurants open now!


Stubble and Glasses walk on, Glasses looking a little worried, and Stubble glancing back over his shoulder at Combed, who is now definitely following them.

GLASSES: I wish it was quicker. But we can mask a little longer.

COMBED: I don’t want to wear a mask.


Now Glasses is glancing back. Stubble is facing forward and walking quicker. Behind them, Combed is jogging after them and yelling.

COMBED: I have a right to live like nothing has happened!


STUBBLE (quietly): Just keep walking.


In the foreground, Glasses and Stubble are walking on without looking behind them. Glasses is saying something to Stubbles; Stubbles is looking downcast, with his hands shoved into his jacket pockets. Well behind them, Combed is no longer following them, and his just screaming and railing at no one in particular.

GLASSES: We are so fucked.


Posted in Cartooning & comics | 4 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Quarter-Eating Mechanical Owl Edition

  1. Biden’s COVID-Relief Bill Is a Big F**king Deal
    “This is how progressives have been begging their party to govern for more than a decade: Ignore the Beltway’s fetish for bipartisanship and deliver big, clear gains to the American people. The Democratic leadership has now affirmed that counsel in both word and deed.”
  2. 5 Simple Things Restaurants Can Do to Be More Accessible to Fat People – Fluffy Kitten Party
  3. ‘I Miss My Mom’: Children Of QAnon Believers Are Desperately Trying To Deradicalize Their Own Parents
    Without any success. :-(
  4. Brazilian butt lift: behind the world’s most dangerous cosmetic surgery | Plastic surgery | The Guardian
  5. Opinion | ‘There’s No Natural Dignity in Work’ – Ezra Klein And an alternate link.
    “Bush’s comment was an extreme expression of a common — and bipartisan — sentiment: Work is good, more of it is better and policy should be a conveyor belt from the moral torpor of idleness to the dignity of wage labor.”
  6. …But see also this thread responding to Klein by Jill Filipovic on Twitter.
    “But while the argument that at-home work is just as valuable as paid work may be morally correct, in our capitalist reality, not working outside of the home leaves women incredibly financially and physically vulnerable.”
  7. Study of Racism and Confirmation Bias
    53 partners from different law firms were asked to evaluate a young lawyer’s legal memo. It was the exact same memo, except half identified the writer as Black, half as white. The “Black” writer’s work was consistently seen as less competent, by evaluators of every race.
  8. Raya and the Last Dragon’s Kelly Marie Tran Believes Her Disney Princess Is Gay | Vanity Fair
  9. The deadly cost of charging patients more for prescriptions
    “… the conventional wisdom in health care has been that charging patients small copays will lead them to make better decisions about what care to get (or not get), and their health won’t be harmed. But a new study suggests giving patients too much “skin in the game” can actually lead to the greatest health harm of all: death.”
  10. The Fed should give everyone a bank account – Slow Boring
    Everyone should have access to a bank account’s basic features – including electronic banking – even if they don’t have enough money to open an account at a commercial bank.
  11. The Most Ambitious Effort Yet to Reform Policing May Be Happening In Ithaca, New York | GQ
    “…calls for service will be evaluated to determine whether an armed or unarmed respondent is necessary, or another public agency altogether would be best to respond. Mental health calls would be outsourced to a standalone unit of social workers based on the CAHOOTS program pioneered in Eugene, Oregon. The goal, ultimately, is to have far fewer encounters between citizens and armed government agents.”
  12. Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them? | Science | AAAS
    “Brave” is an odd way to put it, but the article makes the point that cats are harder to study than dogs in part because cats are less likely to put up with being bored. “In the first study to directly compare how cats and dogs communicate with people, he and colleagues conducted the pointing test at pet owners’ homes. The cats performed as well as the dogs. But, foreshadowing a headache that would plague the field of feline social cognition, several cats “dropped out” of the study, according to the research paper. Some stopped paying attention. Others simply walked away from the testing site.”
  13. Immigration arrests have fallen sharply under Biden, ICE data show – The Washington Post
  14. What the GOP voting restrictions actually do vs. what proponents claim – The Washington Post
    What legitimate purpose is served by outlawing bringing water to people standing on long poll lines? The GOP would outright ban voting if they could.
  15. Supervision, once intended to help offenders, ups mass incarceration
    “Almost 25% of people entering prison in 2017 were incarcerated for a technical supervision violation, rather than a new offense.”
  16. Photos by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash

Posted in Link farms | 23 Comments  

Cartoon: Covid and the Moon, a true story

I can only make these cartoons because people support them on Patreon! Most only pledge a dollar or two – but collectively, they make these cartoons happen, which is awesome. Join us! One of us… one of us… one of us…

Many thanks to Jake Richmond (who also drew the Capitalism/Socialism cartoon back in April) for the great job he did with this strip. Jake’s a terrific cartoonist who knows me very well in real life, so he was a natural choice to draw this strip, and I’m very happy with how it came out.

Although it’s always a bit weird to see myself in a comic strip drawn by someone else.

I don’t do much autobiographical cartooning (although I did do this comic strip, “My Life As A Duck,” years ago).

What’s left out of this cartoon is the significant amount of chatting that went on before the conversation touched on Covid. This was someone I met (in the online way) on a board for discussing musicals. (As those of you who know me in real life know – which reminds me, welcome, Paul! Hi! Thank you! – I’m a complete freak for musicals.)

I don’t know what age or (at first) what sex they were, since unlike the comic strip, we were texting rather than video conferencing.  We talked about musicals (of course), Stephen Sondheim, food, movies, and other things… A pleasantly meandering conversation.  And I’d say, judging from that conversation, that this person seemed well-educated and was certainly smart.

We had been texting for over half an hour before Covid came up. So their belief in some seriously ridiculous conspiracies took me totally by surprise.

It goes to show that even smart people can be unbelievably stupid. And I still find it disturbing. The truth is, logic and facts often have almost nothing to do with what people believe.

The conversation died shortly after that, and I haven’t run into them again.




This cartoon has five panels. The first four panels are square-shaped, arranged in a two by two grid. The fifth panel is twice as wide as the other four.


Large, friendly lettering at the top of panel 1 says “A TRUE STORY.” Below that, we see someone’s hand pressing a key on a laptop. On the screen of the laptop is some sort of split-screen video conferencing, on which two people – a red headed woman and a dark-haired man with a beard, who is me, Barry – are talking. They both look cheerful.

REDHEAD: Hospitals made up COVID! Becuase they can charge more for COVID than for a flu.


We’ve switched to another room, where Barry is sitting on a chair in front of a desktop computer. On the computer screen we can see Redhead. Barry, smiling, has his hands in front of him in a “let me explain” gesture while he talks.

BARRY: But between nurses, doctors, and hospital administrators, there’d have to be tens of thousands people in the conspiracy!

BARRY: Something that big can’t be kept secret! Hundreds of people would have leaked it by now!


We see Redhead, sitting in front of her open laptop as she responds. She’s holding a cat in her lap with one hand, and with the other she’s holding up a forefinger in a “let me make this telling point” sort of gesture. She’s smiling cheerfully, almost laughing. The backside of the laptop is facing us, so we can’t see the screen, but Barry’s word balloon points to the laptop.

REDHEAD: I read a doctor saying it. So it hasn’t been kept secret.

BARRY: You can always find a few people saying anything! Some people say the moon landing was faked!


A shot of Barry at his computer; Barry looks very taken aback (open mouth, wide eyes). We’re looking at the back of the monitor, so we don’t see Redhead on the monitor, but her word balloon points to the monitor.

REDHEAD: Well, yeah. The moon landing was faked.


A complete change of scene. We are now out in a park, with trees and green grass and wooden picnic tables. Barry and a friend (not the same person as Redhead) are talking. They are both wearing masks; Barry is standing, and about six feet away, his friend is sitting at a picnic table.

Barry’s wearing a different shirt now, so probably at least a day has passed since panel 4.

BARRY: So that’s when I gave up on arguing with people.


Posted in Cartooning & comics, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc. | 19 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, I Always Feel Like Clown Eggs Are Watching Me edition

  1. Butch lesbian opens up about ‘increasing harassment’ she faces when she uses public toilets
    “This hostility towards butch lesbians is believed to be borne out of people challenging the rights of transgender people to use single-sex toilets.”
  2. There was never a time when pink was just for boys and blue just for girls.
    Historically, either color was fine for either sex.
  3. Twitter NSFW Ban Possible Over SESTA-FOSTA Lawsuit
    “The lawsuit utilizes SESTA-FOSTA’s Section 230 exceptions and could theoretically force Twitter to purge sex workers and adult content creators, adult industry experts warn.”
  4. Q-Nuts: “It’s the Great Storm, Charlie Brown” | Boing Boing
    Brilliant Q-Anon/Peanuts mashup.
  5. 5 ways cursing can be good for you – CNN
    Fuck yeah.
  6. The Insurrection Was Put Down. The GOP Plan for Minority Rule Marches On. – Mother Jones
    “No one has benefited more from minority rule—and done more to ensure it—than Mitch McConnell. For six years, he presided over a Senate majority representing fewer people than the minority party, the longest such stretch in US history…”
  7. Life Inside a Pre-Release Center: Like Prison, But More Work
    “Months can pass where the inmate is working but has no money left from her check because it’s all going to pay for fees and expenses. Some inmates complain that their financial statements are hopelessly opaque or even flat-out wrong. ‘I don’t even know what they charge you for half the time. For breathing!’ Norman quipped.”
  8. I Regret to Inform You That My Wedding to Captain Von Trapp Has Been Canceled – McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
  9. The Democratic Party Has a Fatal Misunderstanding of the QAnon Phenomenon | The New Republic
    “Democrats should try campaigning on the truth: The Republican Party is controlled by intelligent, college-educated, and affluent elites who concoct dangerous nonsense to paper over a bigoted, plutocratic agenda and to justify attacks on the democratic process. That agenda and those attacks are supported by millions of reasonably intelligent voters…”
  10. Oregon Bill Would Enable People to Vote from Prison – The Appeal
    “The proposed bill would restore the voting rights of people incarcerated over felony convictions in Oregon—a population of at least 13,000 as of the 2020 election that is roughly 9 percent Black in a state whose Black population is just 2.5 percent.”
  11. Abigail Nussbaum — What color Big Bird is depends on where you live.
  12. The Federal Deficit is No Reason to Fear Biden’s Climate Plan – Bloomberg
  13. After Trump Failed to Overturn the 2020 Election, Republicans Are Trying to Steal the Next One – Mother Jones
    This is the sort of thing that terrifies me and makes me thing the GOP is going to win a permanent minority ruling party.
  14. There’s No Such Thing as Cancel Culture | by L.D. Burnett | Jan, 2021 | Arc Digital
    Although I think she could have used very nearly the same arguments to argue that cancel culture is everywhere and unavoidable.
  15. The Debate Link: The Antisemitic Quote That Wasn’t in California’s Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum
    “What does one do when one’s favored ogre appears to have turned over a new leaf? The answer, if a widely cited Tablet Magazine article by Emily Benedek published earlier this week is any indicator, is simply to lie about it.”
  16. Letter To President-Elect Biden on Central America Policy – The Americas Program
    “In a spirit of constructive criticism, we would like to underscore what we consider to be problematic aspects of past and current U.S. policy towards the governments and peoples of Central America. Drawing from our own observations and experiences, as well as those of our Central American partners, we also wish to offer our recommendations as to how we believe U.S. policy toward the region can be improved.”
  17. When Broadway Shows Resume, Should ‘The Book of Mormon’ Be One of Them? — OnStage Blog
    Just because it’s a comedy doesn’t mean it isn’t racist: “Yes, the show is satirical but its satire is directed at the Mormon Church while the stereotypical depictions of the Ugandan characters are just stereotypical depictions.”
  18. Does Dieting Work?
    I added my third (and final) letter to my exchange with Helen Pluckrose.
  19. Searching for Shelley Duvall: The Reclusive Icon on Fleeing Hollywood and the Scars of Making ‘The Shining’ | Hollywood Reporter
    Previous sources had given me the impression that Duvall, and actor I’ve always liked, is now miserable and completely incoherent; I’m glad that’s not (entirely) true.
  20. This Is Why Your Holiday Travel Is Awful – POLITICO
    “The long, sordid history of New York’s Penn Station shows how progressives have made it too hard for the government to do big things.”
  21. The fascinating reason why clowns paint their faces on eggs – BBC Future
    “The earliest egg registry dates to 1946, when Stan Bult – a chemist by trade, though not a clown himself – began painting the faces of prominent circus clowns on eggs as a hobby.”

Posted in Link farms | 50 Comments  

Cartoon: It’s Always The Sick Person’s Fault

Help me keep making cartoons by supporting my patreon!

Today’s cartoon is another collaboration with Becky Hawkins.

The conservative ideology of individualism and everyone gets what they deserve falls especially flat on its face when we look at health care – and, having fallen flat on its face, may require a trip to the E.R., where it will be faced with completely uncontrollable bills and fees that it will not have been able to anticipate let alone comparison shop.

Writing this was an interesting technical challenge to me – how much can I fit in each panel while still leaving Becky a reasonable amount of space for the drawings? It’s actually trickier than you might think – everything has to be pared down. I eventually made it all fit by using two bridging panels – one for the doctor and the insurance dude, and one for the insurance dude and the boss – which saved space by including the end of one encounter and the beginning of another in the same panel.

But panel six kept being too cluttered, until I thought of having Bob’s boss break the pattern by phoning his appearance in rather than walking into the panel.  And writing that down makes it seem incredibly obvious, and honestly it is obvious, but it still took me weeks.

Becky did the drawings pretty much the way I would have – no surprise, we’ve worked a lot together. I know that Becky gets what I’m going for, and we’ve found a nice zone to work in where our styles overlap.

Becky asked what I thought for the background color, and I suggested a checkboard pattern. But making the panel where Bob gets fired a red panel, indicating the final catastrophic collapse of Bob’s house of cards, was entirely Becky’s idea. I was so delighted when I saw it! Surprises like that are a major joy of collaboration.

You may recall that this isn’t the first strip I’ve done with a central character named “Bob.” I’m not trying to pick on all the Bobs out there – not even Bob my conservative-ish friend I went to Oberlin with (who commented here a lot once upon a time). It’s just that when fitting lots of words into small panels, it’s helpful to use a name with only three letters in it. (I’ve used “Sue” for the same reason.)

Come to think of it, maybe I should start doing cartoons about guys named “Al.”


This cartoon has nine panels, all the same size, arranged in a three by three grid. The panels show figures on a blank colored background, mostly alternating between light blue and cream. Every panel features “Bob,” a white man in a blue polo shirt and tan pants. Bob has a mustache and beard, and wears glasses.


Bob addresses the reader directly, calmly, spreading his palms to make a point.

BOB: Whenever someone whines that they can’t afford medical care, they don’t deserve help. Because when I look, it’s always their own fault!


Bob continues speaking, but turns to the side to greet Dr. Jones, a woman wearing a white lab coat over blue scrubs, carrying a clipboard, and wearing a stethoscope around her neck, because Becky and I really, really wanted it to be really, really obvious that this character is a doctor. Cartooning!

BOB: Maybe they’re fat. Or they smoke. Maybe they didn’t save enough. Or maybe they—

BOB: Oh, hello, Dr. Jones.


In a closer shot, the doctor speaks seriously to Bob while pointing at something on her clipboard. Bob’s eyes have gone wide.

DR JONES: Bad news, Bob — you’ve got a serious condition that will require months of expensive treatment.


As the doctor walks out of the right edge of the panel, Bob nervously watching her, a gray-haired man in a suit and tie enters from the left.

DOCTOR: You should have gotten tested sooner. Or had better genes. Bye!

SUIT: Hi, Bob! I’m from your insurance company.


A close shot shows the man in the suit leaning close to Bob and pointing at something on a piece of paper. Bob still looks in shock.

SUIT: Good news! We found a loophole in your policy! Wo we only have to pay $20,000 of your expected $700,000 medical bill!


Bob leans towards the departing guy in the suit, yelling big with both his arms upraised. A sound effect pointing towards a rectangular lump in Bob’s pocket – “brring! brring!” – indicates Bob’s cell phone is ringing.


SUIT: Next time, read the 12th page of small print more carefully.


Here we see Bob, looking very lost and frightened in a close-up, holding his cell phone up to an ear as he listens. His boss’ voice comes from the cell phone. Reflecting Bob’s mood, this panel is colored completely in shades of red.

BOSS: Bob, it’s your boss. You’ve used all your sick leave and you still can’t work. We’re letting you go.

BOSS: It’s your own fault for not working while sick.


There’s no dialog in this panel. Bob, biting his nails and seeming very nervous, looks towards the readers out of the corner of his eye, as if just remembering that the readers are there.


Bob, having calmed down, returns to addressing the reader directly, with a somewhat smug expression.

BOB: Well, of course I’m virtuous and deserve help. But other sick people have only themselves to blame!

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Health Care and Related Issues | 4 Comments  

Cartoon: The Bullshit Tragedy

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Kevin Moore and I created this cartoon back in November. I started to post it in public yesterday, but on rereading, realized that in the two months since the cartoon had become outdated. So, with Kevin’s approval, I rewrote some of the dialog.


Although I’ve changed some dialog, the core of this cartoon hasn’t changed at all. What I wrote about this cartoon two months ago still applies:

There’s not much to say about the issue behind this cartoon. A great many Republicans have simply become unmoored from reality (which is how Donald Trump was elected). And they’re ready to take down the world with them – even at the cost of spreading a terrible disease that will hurt them just as much as it hurts us.

This cartoon is trying to get at the feeling of hopelessness I have about communicating with the extreme right wing (but can we really call them “extreme” once they elect one of their own President? They are now arguably the core of the Republican party.) Without any mutually-acknowledged reality, what possible base of communication is there?

This cartoon (in both versions) is also about how the extreme right wing – not just random people at the base, but also many of their elected leaders – are in effect conducting biological warfare on the rest of us.

Rather than joining the fight against Coronavirus, they help it by treating indifference to science and to human life as a political virtue. They are making a point of doing nothing to avoid spreading disease, and that’s killing all of us, not just themselves.

How do you communicate or compromise with people who who randomly kill any number of Americans while patting themselves on the back for being patriots?

(Here’s some supporting links; I could easily post many more).


This cartoon has four panels.


A man wearing a red baseball-style hat is in the foreground, yelling with brown spittle flying out of his mask. He’s yelling at two “Black Lives Matters” protesters, one holding a bullhorn and the other a BLM sign. The two protesters are wearing face masks; he is not.

MAGA DUDE: What about blue lives? All lives matter! You’re the real racists! If you can protest, why can’t we invade the capital? Double standards!

BLM DUDE: What? No!


The MAGA dude’s mouth has turned into a spout, shooting out foul brown liquid like a firehose, soaking the bullhorn protester (who has raised her arms to block it) while the other protester tries to shield himself with his protest sign.

MAGA DUDE: It was a stolen election! Everyone knows Trump won in a landslide! Real Americans won’t stand for this!

BLM WOMAN: Aaaah! Stop it!


As the MAGA dude continues yelling, the degusting, thick brown liquid is pouring out of is mouth in a torrent that is flooding the landscape. He seems able to stand in it fine; the two BLM protesters, however, are struggling to keep their heads above the surface, and are in danger of drowning.

MAGA DUDE: The violence was antifa in disguise! Trump was backstabbed by critical race theory wokes! Masks are totalitarian illiberal losers sad fake news…

BLM WOMAN: Help me!

BLM DUDE: Arrgh!


We’re looking at a smart phone being held by someone’s hand. On the smartphone, we can see a female newscaster with very carefully styled hair talking with a disturbed expression. A graphic in a box next to her head says “Holy Crap”.  Another graphic, at the bottom of the screen, says “ZNY News.” There are two horizontal scrolling chyrons at the bottom of the screen; the first says “…udy shows nobody reads chryon te…” and the second says “…ZNY news is your only real friend you…”

NEWSCASTER: Tragedy struct today as the public square was literally drowned in bullshit.

Posted in Cartooning & comics | Leave a comment  

Cartoon: Patriarchy is Everywhere

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This is one of the few cartoons that I just straight-up swiped from somebody else.

Well, sort of.

Almost two years ago, feminist writer Anne Thériault posted this tweet:

I love when women are having the I Won’t Take My Husband’s Name Because I Already Have My Own Name conversation & a dude pops in with “but you’ve already taken a MAN’S last name from your dad” and like how clever of you to notice that, yes, the patriarchy is literally everywhere.

I laughed at the tweet and, on an impulse, wrote her asking if I could swipe that for a cartoon. She kindly wrote back “yes,” and I sat down to lay it out and… Couldn’t figure out how it worked as a cartoon. So much of what makes it funny in Anne’s tweet is her sweetly snarky narration, and how does that translate into one of my cartoons, nearly all of which are dialog-based and have no narration?

So into the “I don’t know how to make this cartoon work” folder it went. And nearly two years later I thought of doing it with the characters in earnest; the feminist character earnestly having a realization (or at least, pretending to be earnest), and the anti-feminist character earnestly regretting pushing her into that realization?

That’s very different from Anne’s original tweet, but (at least for my tastes) it makes the cartoon funny. So here we are. I hope Anne likes it when she sees it!

This was fun to draw. I had fun with the characters, and the tiny screens, and figuring out how few colors I could use and still get the look I wanted.

The most fun part, though, was completely gratuitous.

I decided early on to give the feminist character an unnatural hair color, because it would enhance character recognition between the tiny character on the phone screen in panel one, and the character in panel 3, drawn much larger and at a different angle. (The striped orange sleeves on the male character serve the same purpose.)

Somewhere along the line, I thought “well, if she has pink hair, she’d probably have tattoos as well.” And then when I actually sat down to draw it, I had so much fun drawing tattoos that I took way longer than I should have and ended up covering her entire left arm. Her tattoo shows some made-up characters, Jack from Nightmare Before Christmas (Jacks’ partner Sally is on the other arm), and NoFace from Spirited Away (which is one of my favorite movies).



This cartoon has three panels.


A hand is holding out a smartphone; on the smartphone, we can see a split-screen showing two people, apparently having a Zoom or Skype call. One of the people is a slightly chubby woman with dyed pink hair; the other is a man wearing a striped shirt and glasses; he has a beard and mustache, and is either naturally bald or (more likely, since he’s doesn’t look very old) has shaved his head.

On the screen, we can see the man is reaching one arm out, towards the camera; presumably, he’s the person holding up the smartphone.

WOMAN: I mean, why would I take my husband’s name? I’ve already got my own name!

MAN: Ha! Feminists are so stupid!


A shot of the man inside a nice-looking home – there’s an arched doorway behind him, and through the doorway we can see part of a tidy kitchen – as he talk/laughs at the phone he’s holding up. The woman’s voice is coming from the phone.

WOMAN: Excuse me?

MAN: Newsflash, sweetie: “Your” name came from your father, and he’s a man!


A shot of the woman, inside her home. Behind her is a window, and through the window we can see a hillside with a couple of trees. On a table next to her is an open laptop, with the man on the screen, and a coffee mug. She has slapped a palm to the side of her forehead, as if having a revelation, and is looking up instead of looking at the screen. On the screen, we can see his face looking a little bit panicked as he tries to walk it back.

WOMAN: I see your point! The patriarchy is literally everywhere! You’re right! I have to get more radical!

MAN: Er… No, that’s not what I…

Posted in Cartooning & comics, Feminism, sexism, etc | 18 Comments  

Open Thread and Link Farm, Canned Milk Edition

  1. Debt and Deficits, Yet Again – Center for Economic and Policy Research
    “The deficit hawks will be screaming that the Biden package will over-stimulate the economy, leading to rising interest rates and inflation. There is some truth to these claims, but we have to think clearly about what is at issue.”
  2. Black US doctor dies of Covid alleging racist hospital care – BBC News
    “”He made me feel like I was a drug addict,” Dr Moore said in a Facebook video. “And he knew I was a physician. I don’t take narcotics. I was hurting.””
  3. Jimmy Dore and the Left’s Naïve Cynics Have Turned on AOC
    The headline is about AOC, but I’m linking it for its discussion of the (non)viability of an immediate vote on Medicare For All. “If politics is a tool for minimizing needless suffering — rather than a theater for performing one’s personal convictions — then a tactic is only as morally sound as it is likely to succeed.”
  4. The anti-porn religious lobby just destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of pornographers | Salon.comThe headline is a bit misleading – the article itself has virtually no emphasis on the “religious” lobby in particular, and honestly part of what makes the anti-porn lobby so difficult to address is that it’s in effect a coalition of religious conservatives and anti-sex-work leftists. But despite that misleading headline, the article is very good.
  5. The top priority in America right now is getting vaccines into arms as quickly as possible. And we’re just not doing it.
  6. “I’ve had a long time to think about what I did when I was 13. That was how old I was when I ceased to be a daughter, sister, niece, student, and friend and became instead a murderer, super predator, killer, felon, criminal, and inmate.”
  7. Rejected Tintin cover design sets record for comic book art with €3.2m auction price | The Art Newspaper
    That’s $3,868,864 in U.S. dollars. “Like all markets, it’s a question of supply and demand and there is practically no supply.”
  8. Why immigration doesn’t reduce wages – Noahpinion
    “In this post, I’m going to explain why immigration doesn’t lower wages for native-born people (except possibly a little bit, in a few special circumstances). But before I do that, there’s one thing you really have to understand: No one is going to be persuaded by this post. There are two reasons for this.”
  9. Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing — ProPublica
    A great deal of this story is set in Westport, CT, where I was raised from fifth to twelfth grades. In some ways the story gives a false impression – the majority of Westport homeowners don’t live in mansions or on beachfront – but it’s nearly entirely on target.
  10. Mimi Choi – Google Image Search
    Choi is fantastic. I love this sort of illusion-based face painting, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do it better.
  11. Why $15 minimum wage is pretty safe – Noahpinion
    The best evidence indicates that raising the minimum wage to $15 won’t cause a significant amount of unemployment. I found the graph at the top of the post, showing how economists’ opinions on this have changed over time, to be very striking, and as someone who has been saying this for decades I admit it has made me a little bit smug(ger).
  12. The 1994 Crime Law Hogs The Legal Reform Spotlight. But A Lesser-Known Law Deserves More Attention. – The Appeal
    “…Reformers should focus on the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which restricts the ability of incarcerated people to protest their conditions of confinement.”
  13. A twitter thread from UK trans podcast “What The Trans” giving a history “on how absurd the UK is on transgender issues and how the UK got so transphobic.” (And an alternate non-Twitter version).
  14. In Poland, Protests Over Abortion Ban Could Revolutionize Politics – The New York Times (And an alternate link.)
    “Hundreds of thousands of women, teenagers and their male allies have been turning out every few days on the streets of cities and small towns across the country for weeks, braving tear gas, court orders, harsh police tactics and surging Covid infections.”
  15. A thorough (and thus lengthy) rebuttal of Kathleen Stock’s anti-trans arguments.
    “”If you really think I’m an ‘anti-trans’ activist you really had better spell out why, and with evidence,” she said on Twitter yesterday. I will do that here.”
  16. Lindsey Stirling – Crystallize (from Home For The Holidays) – YouTube
    Dancing and playing the violin while suspended from the ceiling by your hair may be a stunt, but it’s one I really enjoyed watching. I looked at it and thought “I guess that isn’t as painful as I’d imagine it to be,” but then I watched her vlog about learning to hang from her hair, and oh my god it’s so much more painful than I imagine. (CW for weeping due to pain.) I know some violinists sneer at Stirling’s violin abilities, but I think they’re missing the point – she’s not one of the best violinists, or one of the best dancers, or one of the best video makers, but she might be the greatest dancing violinist videomaker.
  17. I’m really enjoying Marvel’s new TV show WandaVision. Although I wonder what the show’s like for viewers too young to be familiar with 1950s and 60s sit-coms.
  18. Countdown to Biden’s inauguration. 2 days, 19 hours, 6 minutes, 47 seconds as I type this.

Posted in Link farms | 42 Comments