This cartoon was drawn by Becky Hawkins. who I’ve collaborated with several times before.
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Becky and I started work on this comic in December of 2014. I wrote a strip, liked it. I suggested to Becky that she should draw it – very possibly because I hate drawing cars. Becky did a rough sketch of the cartoon, and I emailed it to my editors at Dollars & Sense Magazine.
And they had a bunch of suggestions… all of which came down to, the idea of the strip wasn’t coming across to them.
We tried reworking it and resketching it, but the new version didn’t work either.
So we put this strip aside and did this one for Dollars & Sense instead. And every now and then I’d look at the drafts again, because I really liked the idea of this strip, it just wasn’t fitting together right.
Fast forward to February of 2019, when I looked at the two cartoons and realized that if we took the top two panels of version one, and the bottom two panels of version two, we’d have a strip that worked! How did I never notice that before?
Becky drew it, and – a first for Becky – colored it on computer.
I especially love that rabbit in panel 2 – but I have no idea which of us came up with that idea back in 2014. I do know for sure that having the car burst into flames in panel four was Becky’s idea (because she only thought of that last week!). And the amazing 1970s fashions in the first two panels are all Becky.
TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON
There are four panels in this cartoon.
Two youngish adults, a man and a woman, are thrilled as they look at a yellow sports car with a big red bow wrapped around it. Their clothes and hairdos both suggest the 1970s.
MAN: Wow! What a GREAT economy we’ve inherited.
The two of them are speeding along in the car, going so fast that the car is several feet above the ground. A rabbit flees in terror. He is grinning; she is throwing a fist into the air.
MAN: Zoom! ZOOM!
The same man and woman, but now looking in their 60s (and with updated wardrobe and hair), are standing by the now completely wrecked and smoking car. They’ve put a red bow on the wreckage, and they look very cheerful, maybe even proud. There’s a young man and a young woman, looking like they’re in shock. The older man holds out car keys to the young man.
MAN: Okay, kids, take the keys! It’s all yours now!
The older man and woman talk to each other. In the background, the yellow sports car wreckage has burst into flames; the young woman looks shocked, and the young man, unnoticed by the older couple, is giving them the finger.
MAN: Why don’t they drive like we did?
WOMAN: Millennials are so lazy.
Maybe I’m obtuse, but it took me too long to realise that the older couple in panels 3 and 4 are the same people as the young couple in panels 1 and 2.
It would have been more obvious if there were signs of aging between panels 1 and 2, so it was clear that time is passing between the panels. Or maybe giving each character a unique colour scheme or something. Right now, the young woman in panel 3 is quite distinct, but the millenial in panel 3 looks more similar to the young version of the baby boomer in panel 2 than the old version of the baby boomer does.
Once I got over my confusion, though, I found the cartoon very effective in making its point.
I got the concept of the cartoon right away. After all, on 72 occasions heading into the 2010 midterms, Obama accused the Republicans of “driving the car into the ditch,” refusing to help pull it out, and then wanting the get the keys back.
That said, I also had exactly Eytan Zweig’s reaction: At first glance, I think the young people in the bottom panels are supposed to be the same young people in the top panels. Alas, the very things that Amp celebrates—how the changing clothing styles both anchor the images in time and reveal the passage of time—also obscure the identities of the people in the lower panels.
(I’m reminded of stage productions of Beauty and the Beast: The audience spends two hours routing for Belle and the visually-dramatic Beast to profess their love for each other. At last they do—and the Beast is then transformed into some guy the audience has never seen before. Intellectually you know this guy is supposed to be the Beast, so yeah, the ending works on an intellectual level—but visually, you’re watching Belle profess her love for a stranger, and it’s hard to get emotionally invested in that.)
If political cartoons are, first and foremost, a way to convey a message visually, this one … doesn’t. It’s an intellectual exercise.
In any case, if you have an urge to laugh and cringe at privileged Baby Boomers complaining about young people these days, be sure to see the SNL sketch on this topic. It’s brutal.