Cartoon: Time Travel

(This cartoon was first published on The Nib.)

Mandolin has been after me for ages to do a cartoon where the year 2000, pro-Nader Barry would be confronted by a Barry from the future. So this one’s for Mandolin. :-)

This is one of my few cartoons that comes from a place of “this is funny,” rather than a place of “I’m angry about this issue!” But there is a real underlying issue here, which is how Republicans have gotten so much worse in my lifetime. Reagan seemed so awful, and the first Bush seemed similarly awful. But then Bush Jr seemed unimaginably bad – until Trump came along and showed us how much worse Republicans can get. The kicker panel is my attempt to think of where this trend might be heading.

The art for this was interesting to draw – first of all, because it felt so odd to be drawing myself over and over and over again. And also, as a character design challenge – I had to do three (four, counting the kicker panel) designs, all of which are easily distinguishable from each other for readers, but all of whom nonetheless could be the same person.

My appearance isn’t 100% accurate, because I prioritized character design over accuracy. In particular, I don’t think I really looked like that in 2000; that’s more what I looked like in 1990. But from a character design standpoint, using that look was irresistible to me.

Transcript of Cartoon:

Panel 1
CAPTION: The Year 2000

The scene shows a park or college campus scene. A woman stands in front of a table, listening with an expression of skepticism; the table has a big sign that says “NADER” hanging off the front. Behind the table, talking to the woman, is BARRY2000, who is clean-shaven and has big messy hair. Behind Barry2000, BARRY2008 appears, transported to the scene by a glowing purple ring in the air. Barry2008 is yelling in a panic at Barry2000. Barry2008 is wearing a vest over a t-shirt, has his hair tied in a ponytail, and has a van dyke beard and mustache.

BARRY2000: Nader is our only choice that isn’t a vote for evil!
BARRY2008: Barry, stop!

Panel 2
A close shot shows Barry2000 and Barry2008. Barry2000 is puzzled, Barry2008 is still intense and panicked.

BARRY2000: Who are you?
BARRY2008: I’m you! I’m Barry from 2008. I’m using a time machine to stop you from making an awful mistake!

Panel 3
Close shot of Barry2008, who is waving his arms and still looks panicked.

BARRY2008: George W. Bush is much worse than you think he’ll be! There was a terrorist attack, and we invaded Iraq, and it’s all awful!

Panel 4
Barry 2008 continues to talk at Barry2000. Behind Barry2008 BARRY2016 appears in a glowing ring of time travel, tapping Barry2008 on the shoulder. Barry2016 is wearing a striped polo shirt, has his hair in a ponytail, and his beard is trimmed short.

BARRY2008: I literally can’t imagine a worse Pres-
BARRY2016: Excuse me, I’m Barry from 2016.

Tiny “kicker” panel at the bottom.
BARRY2024, an older, balding Barry in a v-neck shirt, has appeared and is talking to Barry2016, who looks very happy.

BARRY2024: Hi, I’m Barry from 2024. We’re ruled by giant alien roaches.
BARRY2016: So it gets better!

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12 Responses to Cartoon: Time Travel

  1. 1
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    This is very Bloom County-ish. I like it.

  2. 2
    Falstaff says:

    I have nothing profound to say here. I just really like this cartoon, especially the level of detail on the different Barrys.

  3. 3
    Ampersand says:

    Thank you! I’m glad you like it.

  4. 4
    Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I like it, too. And I’m fond of tiny kicker panels.

    I remember GWB trying to discourage Islamophobia after 9/11. A little clumsy, but I give him credit. *sigh*

  5. 5
    nobody.really says:

    This is inspired.

    The cartoon is visually interesting, of course. But once again, Amp’s dialogue is so perform-able. (This is again coming to the fore in SuperButch.) I read this cartoon out loud at breakfast; by the time I got to the kicker, my wife was laughing out loud. In other words, the cartoon is a hit even without visuals.

  6. 6
    Seriously? says:

    Eh. My self from 2021 was by last night. He told me that the 2020 elections were postponed because of fears of voter fraud, and that Trump won the 2022 midterm elections handily. No one dares suggesting that it may be due to him giving presidential pardons to every hero who guns down purveyors of fake news, traitors to Great America, illegal immigrants, and other subhumans.

    Well, at least now I am warned to stay out of the sun. I tan much too well.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    I actually met Ralph Nader once. I was on a flight sitting across the aisle from him. He wasn’t exactly inviting discussion, so I left him alone. When the plane landed and everyone was getting off he was trying to get out of his seat but people were just pushing past him. So I stood up and blocked the aisle (6′ 2″, 250+ lbs) and said “Have a good day Mr. Nader”. He thanked me and got off. That was it!

  8. 8
    Dreidel says:

    Off-topic, but for what’s worth: If you still have a full head of hair at your present age, you’re unlikely to ever go significantly bald.

  9. 9
    Ampersand says:

    You’re right about that, but baldness seemed the way to go from a character design perspective. :-)

  10. 10
    Ben Lehman says:

    In keeping with their cultural norms, the giant alien roaches force Barry, along with all other American men, to shave his head on top.

  11. 11
    Dreidel says:

    @ Ampersand
    On a more related note, how do you feel when I post specific feedback about your cartoon’s formats (“too many repetitive images,” “cluttered backgrounds,” “finally directly to the point,” “charmingly drawn,” etc.) — never mind the political content, just critiquing the art directly.

    Decades before you started drawing, I seriously considered going into commercial art instead of my current field, and I have definite (perhaps outdated) opinions about how effective political cartoons get their messages across.

    If all you want is positive feedback (99% of what you get), say so and I’ll disappear. If you want genuine (not crank and not politically motivated) feedback, I’ll continue to comment as long as you respond and indicate that my comments have been at least considered, and either accepted or rejected as valid criticism. Ignored comments will be considered unwelcome, and I’ll take the hint.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Dreidel, I’ve been really enjoying those comments – it’s refreshing to get non-political criticism, form someone who obviously cares about the craft side of comics. And I do really think about your critical comments (like about the background of the banquet table one), even if I don’t always comment. I’ll try to remember to acknowledge those comments more.

    “Decades before you started drawing…” You must be older than I’d imagined, then.

    Ben: LOL!